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Magic & Simplicity: An Interview with Soft Potential Director, Giancarlo Stoppani

Originally Published as part of the International Digital Services Centre December Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/K6F4j

Soft Potential, a company set up to design and develop software solutions and IT services for Healthcare, Document Management, Money Transfer and Cloud-based solutions, was founded by Riccardo Stoppani, Roberto Stoppani, Elisabetta Dalle Mese and is run by Giancarlo Stoppani as a Director. They started working together in 1995 and their skills include software engineering, system engineering and workflow management in the healthcare.

Originally based in his picturesque homeland Italy, Giancarlo – with the professional assistance of the International Digital Services Centre – is lean scaling his business and relocating in Dublin, Ireland.

I met with Giancarlo to talk about the reasons behind his move from Italy, capital of the renaissance, to Ireland.

Leaving Paradise

In recent years Italy has become notorious for a host of negative connotations when it comes to business-deals, politics and economics. “Business in Italy today is highly complex” said Giancarlo, “the way everything has to be managed in business takes up an unnecessarily large amount of resources. At any one time multiple personnel must be dedicated to the sole process of bureaucracy.”

Italy has found itself restricted by a lack of a digital culture. Levels of digital confidence within the country’s population are among the lowest in the EU, at below 30%. This has left them using outdated methods, and confounded by administrative/bureaucratic red tape in their tax system.

It was not always this way however, “In the 1990’s it was different, better than today. Everything was simpler for business. Now it has become complex and overly-complicated”. This was the key impetus behind Giancarlo’s decision to relocate his business elsewhere.

Economic difficulties in Italy have seen worsening credit conditions and rising interest rates, making it harder for companies, particularly SME’s requiring vital funding, to secure much needed bank loans. Any application for funding from an Italian governmental body requires struggling through a long and tedious, drawn-out process.

A hard story for Giancarlo to tell, one where his much loved homeland of Italy: a country full of rich intellectual history, passionate people, iconic food and a beautiful profound culture, is no longer the right place to host his business. “It is a hard thing for me to speak badly of my country, I love it, but it is the truth.”
Scaling New Heights

Giancarlo was introduced to the International Digital Services Centre in April of this year, by Enterprise Ireland.

Asked for the reason behind choosing Ireland, a country which differs environmentally from Italy in almost every way, Giancarlo stated: “It is because it is simple”. The Irish business culture has provided him with a much needed breath of fresh air in contrast to the classic Italian way of doing things.

Through lean scaling his company and consultation with the IDSC Giancarlo was able to find a cost-effective solution and scale his business in an efficient manner.

The IDSC framework defines lean scaling as:
“The act of growing your business internationally, utilizing tried and tested scaling processes, using appropriate digital technologies and iterating effectively in response to local requirements on a global scale.”

This process of lean-scaling provides businesses with company incorporation, bank account set-up, a plug-in and go office space, directorships, and professional consultancy services for revenue operations.

“Business is so much easier. There is a better tax system, one which any business-person can understand.” Ireland currently enjoys a rate of 12.5% corporation tax. Italian corporations must pay up to 50% and even more, made up of a number of taxes, that drain out any possibility for investments. Moreover the 25% Irish tax credit on Research and Development expenditures is also a crucial help for software development companies who continuously innovate their products and services.

Italy’s rich, complex, layered history has meant that it has become convoluted over so many years, and it is now easy to get lost inside the system. Companies are made to process more than 15 tax payments a year, taking on average 269 hours to deal with.

When asked how this tax system compares to that which he experienced in Italy, Giancarlo described it as equal to comparing “Black and white”, or similar to comparing the differences between Italian and Irish weather.
Talent Pool

Ranked fourth in the world by the World Bank for the availability of skilled labour and openness to new ideas, Ireland also gives companies access to a young, vibrant, multilingual and well-educated workforce.

“English-speaking countries are pragmatic; they have a way of making something that appears complex simple and practical”. Although this meant that Giancarlo could quite easily have chosen to base his company in England, he decided against it. “In England the system is much more Aristocratic. Irish people work from the ground up. This attitude appealed to me because it is similar to my Italian cultural roots. In Italy we admire those who have worked their way up from the dust”.

On a more personal level Giancarlo describes the transition to Ireland as being “sweet and sour”. Looking back on his first big move Giancarlo said “In some way I have the same feelings I had when I was 18 yrs old, when I moved from Macerata (a small town in the centre/east of Italy) to Rome, to apply for university. The only difference is that at that time I was young and essentially without any responsibility. Now at 46, with a family and great responsibilities in the business, I have to take more mature decisions”.
Gateway to New Markets

Currently in the middle of the move and hoping to become settled by summer 2014 Giancarlo is aware of the benefits it will provide. “For the business opportunities I am obviously happy, because I understand that this is a great opportunity for the company and even for me, my family and my brothers,” says Giancarlo

The move has strengthened already existing ties with American companies and expanded the possibility of access to new international markets.

“However, it’s not straightforward to move from your home country, especially if you have a family with children and a thriving business… Luckily the fact that Italy and Ireland belong to EU makes a number of those points easier to understand and apply for”.

Ireland’s membership with the EU, and the availability of international travel from budget flight company Ryanair, means that Giancarlo is easily able to visit family and friends back in Italy, or other business contacts in other countries.

Once completing his move to Ireland Giancarlo’s dream is for his business to reach the international market. “Other countries may bog you down in the complexities of their internal systems, preventing you from any global potential.” But for Giancarlo and Soft Potential in Ireland, the future looks bright. Giancarlo and Soft Potential are ready to prepare themselves for business worldwide.