[Marco Palombi, sequential entrepreneur. Photo by Shel]
Marco Palombi is perhaps the best-known and most successful Italian social media entrepreneurs. After stints with Proctor & Gamble, France, McKinsey&Co., Italy and a global enterprise that moved him to Brazil, he founded Tipic, Inc. an instant messaging pioneer company based in NYC with an Italian development team. Tipic developed Splinder.com, Italy's largest online community with 5.5 million unique visitors per month. Tipic also developed the first Jabber Instant Messaging Server for Windows in 2002 and the first mobile Jabber client for J2ME . Marco served on the board of the Jabber Software Foundation in 2003.
By the time I met Marco in Rome last October, he had sold Tipic and was contemplating his next step. He told me that he belonged on the leading edge of technology exploration and that the social media landscape was filling up. He wanted to move on to the "Next Big Thing". He is now planning to move to Silicon Valley with its richer entrepreneurial
Below are his answers to the SAP Global Survey.
1. How much of Italy is online and how much of the population has
adopted social media?
Italy has a population of approximately 60 million. Approximately 20 million people connect at least once a month. There are an estimated 7.5 million unique visitors to social media sites each month.
2. What's happening in terms of Italian/European business and social
media? Are they starting/joining/ignoring them?
I'll try to answer by giving you a "qualitative" overview of how social media is being adopted in Italy.
As opposed to the US, Italy is characterized mostly by: (1) some experiments of social media launched by incumbent media companies and telco operators; (2) "me too" start-ups; (3)corporate blogs (4) US-based services now available in Italian.
Italian media incumbents were slow to adopt social media, but now they are starting to understand that a big paradigm shift is happening and that their own existence is threatened if they do not invest in social media. An interesting example is the investment by Il Sole24ore (the leading Italian financial newspaper) in Blogosfere, a blog network. After il Sole24Ore unsuccessfully tried to go public on the Italian stock exchange, the word on the street was that analysts were unhappy about Il Sole24Ore lacking any social media activity, thus the investment.
Another example: last year, I sold Splinder, the largest blogging platform in Italy to DADA, part of the Rizzoli Corriere della Sera Group. This helped establish DADA as Italy's social media leader, which,in turn helped them with their market valuation.
Traditional Internet players have launched social media platformswith mixed results, but there is no clear leader in the market, as of today, except for Splinder, and the US players (Blogger, Flickr,YouTube, etc), which translated their services into Italian.Corporate blogs have been used mostly so far for advertising.
3. Who or what English speaking people and services are the most
influential on Italians and Europeans in terms of social media?
Italians who are fluent in English are influenced by the same services that are popular in the US. There is no site similar to Techcrunch or a community like Facebook in Italy, since the social media business ecosystem is not very developed.
Also, the most famous blogger in Italy, is probably Beppe Grillo, with a political/satirical blog. Having said that, there are a number of bloggers who have become famous and respected. They blog mostly about technology and social media. A few of note:
4. I'm doing this for SAP, so of course, so they want to know what, if
anything, is going on in terms of the enterprise and enterprise
software, smaller business, etc.
Following are a few start-ups, as blogger-journalist Alberto D'Ottavi points out. I have not had any contact with them, so I cannot really recommend them:
- mobango.com (Free user-generated content for mobile phones, now based in
- zooppa.com (User generated advertising)
- domainsbot.com (Domain name suggestions using social data)
- www.clipperz.com (password management)
- www.yooplus.com (wiki + Project Mngr platform)
- www.evectors.com (Consulting and integration)
5. How big a barrier is language to European social media entrepreneurs?
Can they work around it. If so, how?
If you look at language barriers as a European entrepreneur, it is a
problem, because you have to spend more money and time to service
different countries, compared to a US entrepreneur. I always tell the
story of Splinder, my latest bootstrap; when we were the leader in Italy,
we employed 5 people; in order to launch the service in France we would
have had to hire one more person (+20% cost) and I would have had to
spend more time.
I would say that the large majority of user tend to use services in their own languages.
6. What about young people? Are young people adopting social media
faster than older generations? How do you think that will impact Italy
More than 80% of Splinder users were under 30. That says it all about
the digital divide and different adoption rates. I think social media is a
big opportunity to create a more democratic media ecosystem in Italy
that will change society. I am optimistic.
7. Why do you think Italy has been slower to adopt social media than
other countries like France?
I really do not have any idea why France was so quick to adopt social media. Probably because a few large media incumbents adopted blogs (SkyBlogs) and spread the word much quicker than in Italy where all happened virally up until last year.
8. How is broadband connection doing in terms of availability and cost?
Unfortunately, broadband costs more in Italy than in other European countries,
because we have a de facto monopoly in Telecom Italia. Hopefully, things
will improve in the future; but it is a political decision that has to be made.
9. Tell me about your next start-up.
Right now I am exploring new fields. I am trying to understand more
about Biology and Artificial Intelligence; I am fascinated by concepts
such as Networks (in different fields having similar properties) and