Italia Startup Open Day. May 26, 2012

Months ago, I had words of praise for a then-Minister in the French government, Eric Besson, for convening a start-up evening following an official government conference at Bercy, “Nouveau Monde 2.0”.

Today was better: Italy’s Minister for Economic Development, Corrado Passera (pictured here with rockstar entrepreneur Renzo Rosso, from Rosso’s own Instagram feed) sat outdoor in his shirtsleeves at the H-Farm campus, listening and taking notes for about three hours in a town hall meeting with entrepreneurs, investors, people from accelerators and incubators, and a good cross-section of the digital start-up scene in Italy (I was there with some of my co-investors at Italian Angels for Growth).

The contrast with Passera’s predecessors in style and interaction mode was striking. It was a winning idea to convene the event – or to accept the invitation by the Italia Startup organization – at Riccardo Donadon’s incubator, far from Rome. It felt – perhaps especially now that the Monti government’s honeymoon is over, and that Monti’s ministers need as much goodwill as they can get – like a breath of fresh air. There were startuppers from all over Italy, a lot them young.

But events and happenings alone do not change the world. Laws do. Before the summer is over, we should have a so-called “Digital Agenda package”, following an unusually wide-ranging public consultation. We’re out of time for inventing new institutional mechanisms, Passera said: let’s just copy what has worked elsewhere. Examples were brought out in droves on topics ranging from teaching kids about entrepreneurship in the US, to the UK’s Enterprise Investment Scheme offering tax relief to angel investors, to the Chilean government’s program to attract early-stage entrepreneurs from abroad.

There is a different buzz in Italy these days. Expectations are high, and this government doesn’t have a whole lot of time. Mr. Passera, do not disappoint the people you saw today.