Switzerland, the land known for its scenic locations, chocolates and luxury watches is now boasting to be a popular spot for new startups ecosystem. Strong engineering schools and positive scenario for funding have kicked up the startup scenario alive and thriving. This growth in the successful startups in Swiss is because of many healthy incubators that offer valuable support for the startups, are found in the area. Johannes Reck, co-founder and CEO of GetYourGuide said, “I do not know any other country on Earth that is so good at seed funding. In Switzerland you have a lot of institutions who provide money, literally for free, very early on,” when asked about Switzerland’s startup ecosystem.
Swiss-based incubators provide extensive mentorship from academic specialists. This is because many Swiss incubators are focused in niche subject areas that require and benefit from specific types of infrastructure and guidance. Also, they offer feasibility and look at long-term growth. Looking at the work, the number of successfully graduated startups and their offerings, a list of top incubators in the chocolate country have been compiled. Apart from the business incubators, the list also includes two national associations.
Founded in 1991, Fongit is a startup incubator known to be the Switzerland’s first incubator that offers support and guidance for young entrepreneurs in the areas of Cleantech, IT and Medtech. Located in Geneva, the incubator has excellent track record for developing successful startups. It is a private organization and non-profit foundation that aims to build social and economic value for the Geneva region. It incubates startups with innovative and disruptive technologies and business models by offering them full furnished office-space, business coaching, administration and access to needed funds.
The incubator offers a favorable environment to build their business plans, prototypes and commercialization partnerships that are key to securing seed funding, angel investing and venture capital. The foundation also offers access to seed capital through fund matching where its sister concern Fongit Seed Invest (FSI) offers series A capital to the deserving startups. It invests up to 500K CHF of equity financing through that fund matching. To run the show, FONGIT gets financial supports from the State of Geneva and from the Swiss Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation.
Fongit has so far incubated more than 40 top performance startups that include Augurix, InvestGlass, CombaGroup, TVP Solar, Energy8, Antesis, ProtonMail, BioXpress, GTSA, aptissen, greenoffice, Red Tape and others. One of the recently incubated company is One Drop One Solutions that is designed in Italy and engineered in Switzerland and focuses on innovative smart gardening solutions. It aims to effectively decrease the impact of domestic irrigation on potable water reserves.
Founded in 2008, ImpactHub functions as a workspace and social incubator that inspires, connects and catalyzes entrepreneurs that look for deep social and environmental impact. It works a platform for entrepreneurs from different sectors to collaborate. The HUB offers the startups the needed infrastructure, incubation programs, necessary coaching and consulting and entrepreneurial leadership trainings and workshops. The members gain access to the global network of entrepreneurs and active schedule of monthly activities like exhibitions, lectures, debates and workshops. With a network in various countries like London and Amsterdam to Johannesburg, Singapore and San Francisco, it is composed of over 50 hubs around the world, over 7000 members.
ImpactHub Zurich targets at the young entrepreneurs who commit to pursue their startup as their full-time main occupation. It is open to non-profit and for-profit ventures. The members are expected to spend at least 50% of their time in Impact Hub Zurich’s Incubator. The incubatees once selected are awarded with 4-8 month incubation stipend and full on networking support from Impact Hub Zurich and social impact. The incubator has various specialized programs to various startups – SAFT program is for early stage startup to boost in the field of sustainable energy, Factory for management oriented startup and so on.
Some of the successful companies incubated in ImpactHUB Zurich are BUYECO which is a Swiss Renewable Energy marketplace allowing customers to pick where, how and by whom their energy was produced, ENSEA, which is a new exchange platform in the energy market and many more startups.
Couple of months ago, Colab Zurich merged with Impact Hub Zurich to build ImpactHub’s global netowrk to another 65 additional creative cities. Colab brought its network of startups in the information and communications technology sector and in creative industries, to the partnership while ImpactHub Zurich brought its entrepreneurs and freelancers. Workshops and sponsorship for startups are another important aspect of the incubator partnership.
Founded in 2012, the new incubator BlueLion is an initiative to increase the success chances of early stage ICT and Clean Tech Projects. Though being just three years old, it has already established with success cases, a unique in-house coaching programme and an extensive partnership network. The unique coaching program is based on agile methods, fully accepting the Lean Startup approach, to ensure high quality outcome and boost the growth of young startups companies.
The BlueLion Foundation was developed by the City of Zurich, ZKB Zurich Cantonal Bank, Swisscom, the foundation effort for Zurich and Dr.Christian Wenger and in partnership with ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich. The state-of-the-art facility offers completely furnished desks or offices, shared office services like personal secretarial team, meeting and events room and networking events promote a creative and productive environment for product development.
The startup teams in the BlueLion receives in-house coaches who tailor-make coaching sessions for them. The structures coaching process guarantee high quality and accelerate projects towards the goal of market entry within three or twelve months after joining. It also celebrates “Demo Days” in partnership with series of media partners that allow the startups to present their market-ready products to investors to raise funds or to create awareness among the masses. It has teamed up with various investment networks like CTI Invest, business angel groups, crowd-funding platforms and business plan competitions to help startups raise funding.
The unique teaching methods and approach of BlueLion is the reason behind the success of the organization. In the first 12 months since the opening, startups from BlueLion have won several prizes, were able to successfully raise funds or achieve an exit. Right now, the incubator incubates more than 30 startup companies. SmartWatcher, Shared Electric, C-Crowd, IQUEST, Mandelkind, FashionVestis are few of its successful startups.
*Swiss Startup Factory:
Founded in 2014, the incubator Swiss Startup Factory focuses only on digital service startups. The incubator is known for their three-month accelerator program which consists of mentoring, coaching and networking. Founded by Mike Baur, Max Meister, Mark Berger and Oliver Walzer , it also offers entrepreneurial network for the startups to achieve ambitious goals. Their networks not ends with Switzerland but has links all over the world.
The three-month program consists of intensive coaching by experienced mentors, work on the product and the business model and the use of a globally operating network. Swiss Startup Factory has a structured syllabus and schedule which helps the members to gain practical, hands on experience and allows them to develop innovative digital products and services. Made so fit, the startups can ask at the end of the course of a round of potential investors and hope for a generous funding. Some of the successful startups from the incubator are Bloom Star, FitOffice, Diabird, Hello Vegan, and few more.
Early this year, Swiss Startup Factory joined hands with Young Entrepreneurs Club, at the University of St.Gallen to support young entrepreneurs. The collaboration is focused on the latest project, the YEC Incubator, a pre-stage program for students to prune their entrepreneurial skills. This also provides a chance for the students to preset their prototype and business idea in front of leading business angels and investors. Also, the Swiss Startup Factory AG will also support the Cofoundme platform, a joint venture of the YEC and the ETH Entrepreneur Club, that matches startups with potential cofounder/ team members.
Founded in 2000, SwissParks is a national association of incubators and technology parks. The association comprises of around 40 members which includes 27 full members hosting over 1000 innovative companies and a fast growing number of associated members. The association’s mission is to develop networking activities, bring together startups across the country, bring it new initiatives and business models and methods and to evaluate the impact and the influence of the incubator on the economy.
Many of the business incubators on this list are part of the association as it functions as Think Tank and a platform linked to political authorities. Bio-Technopark, Biopole, Blue Factory, E-Tower, Blue Lion, Creapole and lot more are members of this association.
From 2012, Swisspark.ch, the Association of Swiss Technology Parks and Business Incubators, awards its best startups with the title Startup of the year. This award is sponsored by the Swiss Business Group and the Association of Italian Entrepreneur and endowed with CHF 10,000 in total. It is the members of the SwissParks.ch General Assembly that will vote the winners among the nominees.
Founded in 2011 and located in the heart of Y-PARC – Swiss Technopole, the business incubator Y-START offers a full range of packed infrastructure and services, allowing startups to optimize resources and boost their development. It supports all sectors of the industry. Its goal is to promote ideas of the public interest and thereby as a public incubator Y-Start provides active support to ideas that boost business opportunities in the area.
Y-Start offers its startups infrastructure, coaching services, workshops and networking to young startups for a time period of 2 years. They have partnered with Innovaud and CTI Startup to offer expertise and support from their partners. Also, it offers access to industrial companies and to the institutes of HEIG-VD, a member of the University of Applied Science in Business and Engineering of the Canton of Vaud. The Swiss Engineering-Vaud association membership is offered to its members for free of cost. Specialist partners conduct thematic workshops for the benefit of its membership.
Some of the successful startups from Y-Start are Sysmosoft, Objectis, Tabrasco, CombaGroup.
Founded early this year, Fusion is the first Swiss fintech incubator. Created by Temenos and Polytech Ventures, the incubator makes use of their knowledge of the banking IT sector and developing startups, will help to network, mentor, refine, advise and offer syndicated funds and support startups fintech startups. Headquartered in Geneva, it selects around ten fintech startups all over the world for a 12-month acceleration program.
Polytech Ventures will offer funding for the startups, on a case by case approach, while an ecosystem of corporate members and partners will offer expertise, mentoring and sponsorship. The corporate partners include leading banking software firm Temenos and asset manager Notz Stucki and its resource partners include CapCo, Kudelski Security, Arcanys, id est avocats and Interactive Data. The incubator’s ultimate goal is to reinforce the position of Switzerland as a worldwide financial hub and make Switzerland one of the top fintech capitals.
Fusion will be supported by an operational team that will include a dedicated project manager and community manager. The members will have mentors to offer technical or business advice helping them to boost their product development and commercialization. Its current members include Acebanker from China that offers wealth management mobile app, Biowatch from Switzerland that makes authentication more secure using wearable device, Funds from Holland ,Edge Laboratories from Swiss, Wecan.Fund from pan-Europe that offers loans for SMEs. It only focuses on startups dealing with wealth management, risk management, commodities trading, insurance, data privacy and cyber security.
Headquartered in Bern, Swissnex is an initiative of Swiss Government that brings together the most innovative hubs around the world. Collaborating science and technology counselors based in Swiss embassies around globe, this incubator take an active participation in strengthening Switzerland’s leadership as a world-class location for science, education and innovation.
Swissnex promotes public and private ventures. The organization receives financial support from its partners, donors and sponsors. The organization aims to offer business opportunities to young entrepreneurs, researchers, policy-makers and leaders around the world connecting them through transdisciplinary projects. It operates in various countries like USA, China, Europe and India. Promoting and simplifying knowledge exchange and academic programs, with the support of Swiss embassies around the world, the network plays an active role in the business industry and economy sector in Switzerland.
Founded in 2011, the incubator Grow which functions in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, offers endless opportunities and mentorship to niche startups in the areas of life sciences, facilities management and computer sciences. Located in the same premise as the ZHAW, the incubator makes use of its infrastructure and highly specialized devices for the startups to develop. Being a small startup center, it is very conscious to not take more than 25 companies so they could spend enough time and offer opportunities for the company to grow.
Being a non-profit organization, Grow has supported more than 35 companies as members grow. The incubator offers favorable environment that provides abundant opportunities for the startups to network with peers and other top entrepreneurs and give leads to access financing for the company. Apart from identifying great ideas, it also emphasizes the importance of feasibility, growth and success.