Start-up founders – how an Italian pensioner at 87 became a billionaire


    Giuseppe Crippa was to be pushed into retirement at the age of 60. Instead, in his wife’s kitchen, he started producing probe cards for chip manufacture. This made the Crippas one of the richest families in Italy.

    Giuseppe Crippa was supposed to retire at the age of 60. He got a severance package and left the semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics (STM) after 35 years. But instead of playing golf, he founded his own company with an idea that had occupied him for a long time. He built “test cards,” which are small discs with needles that are plugged into a microchip after production and connect it to a test system. He remained loyal to STM and sold the tickets to his old employer for 15 years.

    “The test cards that you can use to test the function of the chips were only produced in the USA at the time and had to be sent back to America for repairs. They came back weeks later. So I developed a process to make them in my kitchen. I’ve always suffered from insomnia, I’ve worked nights,” he told Corriere Dela Serra.

    The whole thing is incredibly delicate. On a card there are up to 50,000 pins at a minimal distance. He set up his first laboratory in the kitchen of his country house. After school, his then 19-year-old son Cristiano worked with him. The equipment soon occupied the entire villa. In 1996, Crippa moved to an industrial park with 10 employees and founded Technoprobe. The technology group is still managed like a family business today – another son and a nephew joined the company. The nephew has been running the company since Crippa retired as CEO.

    Twenty-seven years after its founding in the kitchen, Technoprobe is now one of the two largest manufacturers of these cards in the world. In 2021, Grippa made $136 million in profits. The IPO in February made the Crippa family one of Italy’s richest clans, worth $4 billion. Another special feature: Crippa financed the development of the company mostly organically from the profits, he still owns 75 percent of the shares. He himself doesn’t want to have changed much.

    “The truth? I didn’t find out about the billions until I read the Forbes rankings. Just so they understand how important money is to me. It’s needed, yes, but for investing, for research and for the to help the less fortunate. At the moment I have 10 euros in my wallet. Absolutely nothing has changed, “he told the paper.

    There is no end in sight to this growth. Chiplets are now being used. Small chips that are stacked on top of each other to build faster, more powerful devices, and these semiconductors too need to be tested. “Even cars now have computers and graphics cards… and all those chips need to be tested. That means more business for us.”

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