I have to be honest here; when Sebastien asked me to write a blog post about Swiss startups and if Switzerland exists on the European startup scene, I was a bit puzzled: I didn’t have any Swiss startups in the top of my mind. I made a research and I came across some very interesting results.
First and foremost: there ARE Swiss startups. The two most popular of them are paper.li and Doodle. Paper.li is a service that goes through all your social network accounts and creates an online & interactive magazine with the most interesting articles, videos and photos. Doodle is the easiest way to create polls and share them among specific friends and colleagues. Although it may sound like a simplistic idea, you have to know that it is very popular in the corporate world.
My second finding about Swiss startups is that they are technologically advanced and they are focusing on R&D. Zurich is the city of ETH, one of the best universities in Europe when it comes to science. It is not a coincidence that Google chose Zurich as the center of their engineering headquarters in Europe. Contrary to common belief, startups are not only about fancy social networking services, cloud and big data. Startups can produce actual and tangible products. In that sense, Swiss startup scene is Europe’s equivalent to what Elon Musk is trying to build in the States.
However, Swiss startups face the same problem that all non-Berlin startups are facing: they are not based in Berlin! And that is a big deal as everything in the European startup scene is happening there. Sure, Amsterdam has a unique vibe and London is.. London.But still, when it comes to European startups, the place to be is Berlin, with its extremely vibrant and developed ecosystem. Founders’ clubs, conferences, seed investors, VCs and some of the most successful European startups are based there (e.g. SoundCloud). Practically, this works as a setback for all of the Swiss startups that have not yet relocated.
The other problem of all the newly-bred startup ecosystems is that an amazing startup is needed to attract the lights. If a Swiss startup gets bought from Apple or Google for a billion or two, then there will be more and more Swiss people that will try this entrepreneurial path. This shining example will create a huge traditional media buzz and more Swiss people will be “jealous” of this success. This “jealousy” will fuel the people to become more creative and question themselves “Why not me as well?”.
The last, but probably the most difficult problem that Swiss startups are facing is the lack of communication with the rest of the European startups. Contrary to the US, which has only one startup ecosystem with numerous hubs (e.g. Silicon Valley, NYC), in Europe there are many ecosystems; actually, one per country. The many different languages and the diversity of people in Europe works more against the Swiss startups rather than in their favor.
However, Swiss people have a great advantage as most of them talk 3-4 different languages, so they could easily communicate with people around Europe. Swiss startupers have the unique ability to become the connectors of Europe; this will beneficiate both the local startup scene but it will also give a great boost to the whole ecosystem in this side of the Atlantic ocean..
Swiss people, European startups need you, please help us!
After one week interruption (sorry for that), I have the pleasure to publish the third post of the serie (you can read Part I and Part II).