Edoardo Agamennone, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Levante Capital, an SIS (società d’investimento semplice) investing in Southern European technology companies and assisting them in their development in Asia.
Edoardo is also a Lecturer at the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (SciencesPo), the University of Turin and Université de Lausanne and Research Fellow at T.wai (Torino World Affairs Institute). He practised as an M&A lawyer in Rome, Milan, Beijing and Shanghai for 6 years and 8 years Senior Legal Advisor at EDF, first in Beijing and then in Paris.
Edoardo holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law at the University of Rome III, a Master’s Degree in Chinese business law at the University of Hong Kong and a PhD in Financial and Management Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London (SOAS).
You began your career in the legal departments of large corporates, and later, in 2020, you approached the venture capital industry and founded Levante Capital. Can you tell us more about your professional experience?
Edoardo: After a career as a lawyer, I moved into the corporate world, joining the EDF group in 2013.
My experience in venture capital dated back years before starting Levante Capital and took place in two parallel ways: at EDF, I followed investments made in funds and startups both in Asia and in Europe; while in Beijing, I also joined two of Levante’s founders, Francesco Lorenzini and Francesco Rossi, who had launched TechSilu, the first and to date only platform connecting the Italian and Asian technology and innovation ecosystems.
As a result, we helped more than 20 Italian startups raise funds from Asian investors and enter Asian markets. In addition to this, I developed personal expertise as an angel investor in several ventures in Europe, spanning from life sciences to sport and education.
Levante Capital is an Italian regulated vehicle that invests in the most promising Southern European technology companies and assists them in their development in Asia. Can you tell us more about the investment strategy? How do you support startups in their development in Asia?
Edoardo: We decided to structure ourselves as a fund seeing a great potential opportunity in generating more value as an investor, selecting the most promising Italian technologies, investing in them and helping them develop in Asia.
Our support takes many different forms, starting from our selection. The fact that Levante decides to invest in an Italian scaleup is per se a validation of its potential to become a multinational company in a short period of time. We believe Asian markets are an inevitable destination for tech companies, and only structured and technologically advanced companies can exploit/leverage for their benefit the size and fast-paced growth of these markets.
During our investment process, we discuss with the founders the development plans for Asia, and we propose to them the best candidate partners for such a growth process (most of the times Asian VC funds or leading corporates in the industry of the invested firm). We then guide the management in the definition of a business plan dedicated to Asia, the negotiation with local partners, and more in general with the local operations, leveraging our large business network in China, South Korea, Japan, and South-East Asia.
In July 2021, you announced the transformation of Levante Capital into an SIS (simple investment company – in Italian “società di investimento semplice”). Can you tell us more about this decision?
Edoardo: We decided to become a regulated vehicle in order to raise funds from institutional and professional investors, who need the safety and protection of structured funds supervised by regulators (in our case, the Bank of Italy). We compared various fund-friendly jurisdictions, starting from the most used one for funds (Luxembourg). Still, we decided to select the newly introduced legal form of società di investimento semplice also to signal our strong commitment to the Italian innovation and technological ecosystem.
For more details on Italian SIS, read: Simple Investment Company (SIS): the new investment structure for Italian startups and SMEs
One last question. As an investor, what do you think of the Italian venture capital industry? What factors are necessary for its development?
Edoardo: I think that the Italian venture capital industry has significant potential: the valuation differential between Italy (and more broadly Southern Europe), on the one side, and the US, Asia and Norther Europe, on the other side, is enormous.
This gap is linked to a series of factors: it is often said that the main one is the lack of funds, but we believe this is a consequence rather than a cause. The lack of distinctiveness is a primary cause: a significant portion of the startups and scaleups that we see on the market, mainly but not only in the digital space, are copycat ideas whose potential to grow internationally is structurally very limited.
This is linked with the second factor: the lack of access to markets. Many Italian pre-scaleups and scaleups have breakthrough technological solutions, but they are unable or unwilling to grow internationally, and as a result, they fail to turn into multinationals. Other firms, American, Northern European, Israeli or Asian, close the technological gap with them and often overtake them.
As for Levante, we want to turn this problem into an opportunity, selecting the most promising Italian scaleups, assisting them in their development in Asia and supporting them to grow as the multinationals of tomorrow quickly.
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For more info on Levante Capital, visit: http://levantecapital.eu/