Switzerland to open its vaults for a few good start-ups

5 Feb 2016

Up to 50 start-ups from around the world are invited to compete for a place and over €22,500 in seed funding on a new Swiss accelerator.

Switzerland, that bastion of old money, precision engineering and trains that run on time, is calling on up to 50 start-ups from all over the world to compete for €22,546 each in seed funding if they win a place on a new Kickstart accelerator in Zurich this summer.

Kickstart is the largest and most ambitious start-up programme to launch in Switzerland and it aims to bring international start-ups to Zurich to help foster an appetite for entrepreneurship and innovation in that country.

Backed by DigitalZurich2025 and the Kick Foundation, the accelerator will offer participating start-ups mentorship, workshops and guidance from leaders in four major Swiss verticals: fintech, internet of things, food and future tech.

Not only will each start-up qualify for 25,000 Swiss Francs (€22,546) in seed funding but the accelerator will not take equity from any of the start-ups.

The Swiss business ecosystem has been rated by the World Economic Forum as No 1 for innovation in the 2015/2016 Global Competitiveness Report.

‘Switzerland has phenomenal resources and expertise in areas like wealth management and, when it comes to fintech, is quite advanced in areas like Blockchain security’

“The city and canton of Zurich banded together with 15 large corporations and decided that it is critical that we strengthen digital innovation around three pillars: start-ups, talent and digital transformation,” explained Sunnie Groeneveld, one of the leaders of the Kickstart accelerator.

“The accelerator – which may choose between 50 and 60 start-ups from around the world  – is our biggest flagship initiative under DigitalZurich2025.

“The plan is to accelerate the start-ups for three months during the summer of 2016.”

Groeneveld said that the aim is to select between eight and 16 start-ups each across four key verticals: fintech, internet of things, food and a broader future of tech category.

Accelerate like clockwork

Groeneveld said that the key objective is to see start-up nous rub off locally in Zurich, where there is an abundance of old money and large established businesses, particularly in finance.

“One of the curiosities of the Swiss start-up ecosystem is that the Swiss are a risk-averse bunch. It is an ecosystem where there are more people who are willing to support entrepreneurs than there are actual entrepreneurs.

“That said, Switzerland has phenomenal resources and expertise in areas like wealth management and, when it comes to fintech, is quite advanced in areas like Blockchain security.

“Fintech is the next era for Switzerland. But also, because of Switzerland’s pedigree in engineering and areas like watchmaking, smart and connected machines are also the future. Switzerland is well-positioned in terms of the internet of things, thanks to Google having its largest engineering outside of Mountain View here and, in the food vertical, we have industries like Nestle and lots of experts in food tech available.

“So we are well-positioned across industries like fintech, internet of things and food tech and we are opening our doors for anyone with an idea to drive forward and who is willing to spend three months over the summer in Zurich and build relationships.”

On the relationships front, Groeneveld said that there could be significant investment opportunities for the start-ups who win places in Zurich this summer.

“We have quite an amount of old money here, as well as business angels and financial industry expertise and so it is also very much about opening up people in Switzerland to great ideas that deserve support.”

Zurich mainstation at Goldenhour image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years