As of late, a great deal has been written about the Swiss startup ecosystem.
The DigitalZurich2025 initiative has the mandate to make Zürich a leading technology center in Europe.
With ETH, IBM, Google and Disney Research located in Zürich, there is a strong foundation to build upon. One article about startups that has recently gained lots of attention deals with the startup taxation policies of Zürich and other cantons.
From a startup perspective, lots of work still needs to be done in this realm. Of course, in a country as decentralized as Switzerland, not all cantons are the same. But certain policies tend to cross cantonal borders if they are perceived to bring the desired results.
These days, Zürich will need to weigh what is in its best interest: A vibrant and diverse startup ecosystem, or making higher tax revenues off of a few successful companies.
SICTIC Investor Day and Startup Grind
Taxes aside, I recently had the pleasure of visiting two startup events in Zürich that give me hope that the city (and Switzerland as a whole) are on the right track: SICTIC Investor Day at IBM, and Startup Grind at Swisscom.
These two events could not have been any more different. SICTIC Investor Days are opportunities for startups to present their businesses. Usually these young enterprises are already established and have traction, but require investors to continue growth or move on to a second, third or even fourth phase.
Startup Grind, on the other hand, interviews successful entrepreneurs about their businesses and personalities. What does it take to run a successful business? And which personality traits are needed to endure the trials and tribulations of starting ones own business?
At SICTIC, eight businesses had 90 seconds each to give the audience and investors their elevator pitch. If there was ever a reason to hone those skills, it would be for situations like this.
The four winners were then invited back to give an eight minute presentation about their businesses, and to answer questions. The eight companies presenting were: Adapricity, audiolingo, Inno-Motion AG with their limbic chair, Quantinum AG, Senozon AG, TailoredMotor, Teleport and TravelerFirst.
Four winning business models
The pitch winners were Adaptricity, Quantinum AG, Senozon AG, and TailoredMotor. Their presentations were interesting, and the companies were not simply chosen for their initial pitch, but because of the business model they were pitching.
Adaptricity seeks to find efficiencies in the power grid, and TailoredMotor wants to offer customized electric motors for the growing maker market but also for companies that set themselves on agility.
Quantinum AG and Senozon AG are Big Data companies. All have interesting business models that - given the right circumstances and correct execution - have a chance of making their investors’ money.
If you are a startup looking for funding or an investor looking for an opportunity, visit the SICTIC website or attend their next Investor Day on Monday, April 25, 2016 in Lausanne, or on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at the Impact HUB in Zürich.
(Photograph courtesy of SICTIC/Facebook)
Lessons for entrepreneurs
The last Startup Grind edition in Zürich featured Nicolas Durand from Abionic. This one-on-one interview, like a 60 Minutes talk, allowed him to share his story and what his product does.
What became clear is that Durand was a hesitant academic, wanting to build something. Abionic gives physicians the ability to run allergy tests for their patients directly in their office using nano technology.
Since the device launched this year, the company has already sold 150 units in Switzerland. What makes Abionic interesting is that it is a spin-off of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. It shows that not all medical technology firms need to come from the pharmaceutical giants.
For patients, it means faster results delivered in an easy to understand form. It is a tool to help doctors better service their patients. From a startup perspective, it was interesting to hear how Nicolas completed his PhD thesis in three years. The clue: He handed it in after four years, giving him a year to develop his machine and business without some of the stresses that normally plague startups.
Entrepreneurs need to be creative in their interpretation of the way things are done. And they need to be hardworking.
The SICTIC and Startup Grind events have made one thing clear: Switzerland is buzzing with entrepreneurial activity and startups.
We have yet to attract big names like Skype, Facebook or Google in the digital sphere of Zürich. But the foundation and support networks are being built. Events like SICTIC Investor Days give startups an opportunity to access funding, and Startup Grind the ability to share their knowledge with the world.
If you are a startup in Switzerland or abroad looking to get in on the developments in Switzerland and the Swiss market, listen up: Apply for the Kickstart Accelerator and potentially get CHF 25’000 plus a stipend for three months, on top of mentorship to launch your company.
Applications are open until April 30, 2016.