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“Trust your crazy ideas” is Roberto Bonzio’s motto. Founder of Italiani di Frontiera, or Italians of Border, the Italian journalist once decided to make the bold move to move to Palo Alto with his family in 2008 to pursue a do-it-yourself-project.
As curiosity and serendipity became his engine, Bonzio decided to quit his stable job at Reuters, in Italy, to become an entrepreneur multimedia storyteller touring around Italy as well as abroad.
Invited to TEDx Genoa in Oct. 2015, Bonzio became well known to inspire people following their dreams. Not only does he that through public speeches, but also leading the namesake tour “Italiani di Frontiera” once a year.
April 2016 is the next date for Italiani di Frontiera to travel to the Silicon Valley. What’s in the agenda?
We will mainly meet Italians from Stanford, Berkeley, IBM, A3Cube, Google and Bay Area veterans during the Silicon Valley Italian Executive Council (SVIEC) event in Redwood City. As I always say, the real value of these trip is “to connect the dots” between the personal and professional stories of Italian talents living in California. The core of the experience is to gain inspiration from them. Having a look at the professional realities of those who have left Italy, often leads the curious travelers to a cultural shock. As a result, they are forced to rethink the work approaches they are used to have in Italy (no matter the industry.)
Among all Italian professionals you have met in Silicon Valley, who inspired you the most and why?
All entrepreneurs, scientists, managers I have met helped me better understand Silicon Valley, as well as the secrets of Italians talent. Even more inspiration came from stories from the past I discovered. Still, nobody like Federico Faggin, a physicist among the fathers of microchip, pushed me toward the right direction for my project. One thing I have learned is to explore different ecosystems and cultures in order to better understand yours.
As a big supporter of innovation and technology, how do you feel about the impact the industry is having on San Francisco that now ranks as most expensive city to leave in America?
At the beginning of my tours, I always remind people that not only San Francisco is a city of innovation and utopic thinking, but also a place where people fought for civil rights. I find quite impressive the way money, coming mainly from the tech industry, has changed the city forcing many to move out. Social justice is still a cause to fight for.
In your book “Italiani di Frontiera” you tell the stories of people, who left Italy with the goal of pursuing personal projects that they fully believe in. Can you tell us about the realities most of them face when first landing in dreamland, aka the Silicon Valley, before gaining any type of success?
I believe that the first thing is to manage the cultural gap. Even though the Silicon Valley can be seen as a land of opportunities, it is important to consider the strong competition. Therefore, it is key to understand the rules of the game and learn the different way of thinking. Once adapted to the new environment, Italians may start using their cultural assets as a card that could help them leading to success. Last but not least is to survive, while finding the right type of Visa.
More and more we are hearing about Italian successes in America, such as with gravitational waves detections, or Riccardo Sabatini’s latest TED 2016 performance. What do you think Italy should change in order to contain this type of loss?
First, we must learn to reward talent and see other people’s success not as danger, but as an opportunity of growth. We must improve with teamwork and manage what I call the “Palio di Siena Syndrome,” which is the philosophy of “no matter if I win, I am happy you lost.” Italy is still privileging the familiar and known.
Who inspired you and why?
The story of Amadeo Pietro Giannini, founder of Bank of America, had a great impact on me. Also Carlo Gentile’s inspired me. He was a photographer passionate about capturing the American West. As an innovator, Gentile even adopted an Indian child and named him Carlos Montezuma. Thanks to the adoptive father, Montezuma was the first Indian to graduate in Science and Medicine. He became a pioneer of Native American Civil Rights and an historic character. I find this story to be touching. It was my friend Cesare Marino, anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution that discovered it. He even wrote Gentile’s biography and we have planned on working together on a big multimedia project, which is dedicated to Gentile’s life and is going to be showcased in Italy, as well as abroad.