On March 9th, an article was published on Zürich-based Sonntagszeitung, surprisingly attacking the founder and CEO of famous Institut für Jungunternehmen (you can find the whole story here – in German). IFJ is a company that Beat founded 13 years ago and which won the public tender in 2004 to launch the federal entrepreneur education program venturelab (were organizing 4 different education workshops, but didn’t participate to the last tender, as described here). Beat is a successful entrepreneur (he was active in the company jobs.ch, which was sold for a massive price of CHF 390M back in the early 2000’s).
What are the criticisms against Beat Schillig? Alongside his job of promoting startups and educating entrepreneurs, he’s also a business angel and investing in startups. What a shame!
He’s pointed to have insider knowledge. Insider knowledge? Yes, Beat knows a lot of entrepreneurs. But there were, for instance, more than 28’000 participants to venturelab’s workshops in 10 years and Beat doesn’t know everyone! And the mission of IFJ/venturelab is absolutely not “to keep startups for themselves”… quite the contrary! Their mission is to educate entrepreneurs for their journey and make the most publicity as possible for startups, to attract what they need: money from investors, business partners, qualified employees, etc.. I don’t know any single entrepreneur who goes through the workshops and who hasn’t learnt… a lot! venturelab’s and Beat’s involvement in the Swiss startup scene have massively changed the ecosystem. It is still not perfect, of course. We lack smart investors (…).
It’s up to everybody to get in contact with a startup. You can go to venture ideas, organize your own event to attract startups for a presentation, follow venturelab news (subscribe to their newsletter for instance) and contact entrepreneurs directly. But you need to be truly interested by startups, not just to the “fame” of getting in touch with startups (otherwise, you just make entrepreneurs waste their most valuable asset: time!).
It’s true that Beat invested in some startups (he doesn’t hide it). Even if you’re in contact with the best entrepreneurs and the most promising projects: you can invest and lose everything. That’s part of the game, as everyone really interested in startups knows. Everybody can invest in startup! You just need to really want to do it and have the money for. In my previous life (working for a technology park), I was hunting promising startups. Did I had access to venturelab’s data base of entrepreneurs? No. Did I get help or recommendations from venturelab to get in touch with the best entrepreneurs, or at least the entrepreneurs I had selected (in the areas we were looking for and looking promising)? No. Was I famous? No again. Did most of the entrepreneurs respond to my meeting requests? Yes. Entrepreneurs are open to talk to anyone who have a serious desire to invest in their startup!
This affair is quite ridiculous. It’s a shame. Beat Schillig is attacked because he’s investing his own money in startups.
Scarying? Yes. We want more people investing their own money in Swiss startups, not the contrary! Investing in startups needs guts, especially in Switzerland where (almost) nobody is ready to take any risk.
The CEO of Startups.ch, Michele Blasucci, also jumped in and was cited in the article. His company is competing with IFJ (…). Hey man, do you think that’s how you’ll grow your own business, by trashing people? Or did your words have been misunderstood? Behave with other as you’d like they behave with you! Be constructive or… shut up?
Do these 2 guys really know what they are talking about (startup business)? Or are they just jealous? But why? Every startup activist is trying to improve the national startup scene in a whole!
The whole Swiss startup scene is with you, Beat! Even entrepreneurs you’ve not invested in. You tell entrepreneurs honestly what you think, it’s probably often hard for entrepreneurs to hear this, but you do respect people. And entrepreneurs, even if they don’t agree with you, value honest constructive feedback as you give. I’m pretty sure of it. It’s a shame that such a newspaper attacked you for your work, but… Move on, entrepreneurs know who you are and how do you behave with them! You’re one of the most active business angel and startup activist of Switzerland. This article won’t change it!
If I would have the chance discussing with Mr Rutishauser. I would ask him following questions:
- What did you in the last 10 or 20 years to foster Swiss startups?
- With how many startup entrepreneurs did you talk before writing this article?
- Why did you ignore what Beat told you and his calls?
- Who is taking advantage of this affair? (in French: “A qui profite le crime?”)
I think we should show our support to Beat and to venturelab in a whole. Here are my ideas on what we should do:
- share this article (with the title “Stand up for one of the smartest startup guy in Switzerland: Beat Schillig!”) as widely as possible, with hashtag #StandUpForBeat
- write an email to the ombudsman of Tamedia or tweet to Arthur Rutishauser directly (don’t be stupid, don’t insult him). Ask them public excuse for this, or at least, explanations. If you don’t get any answer to your email, should we start a boycott of Sonntagszeitung?
- send Beat a few supporting words (send it to IFJ with the title “Stand up for Beat”)
- if you need to incorporate your company, do it on IFJ rather than on the competitor cited above… at least as long as they don’t give any public excuses
After having the whole Swiss startup scene mobilizing itself for Beat, the pressure on Sonntagszeitung and its editor-in-chief has worked out. An interview of Beat Schillig has been published on March 31th and shows the truth of Beat behaves. I hope this will be the ending point of this strange story (even if the reasons behind the attack is still not really clear) and Beat can again focus on what he does best: supporting/training entrepreneurs and investing in startups!