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Swiss Start-up Monitor And Alpine Entrepreneurs

If you want to study a nascent startup scene you turn your attention to… Switzerland? Great chocolate, neutrality, safe banking, and Roger Federer all leap to my mind if I’m asked to free associate on Switzerland. Can’t say startups made the list before. But while the startup scene might not vie for the most attention, like so many things Swiss, it does have a number of excellent qualities worth consideration.




For anyone interested in growing an ecosystem for entrepreneurs or launching a startup, here’s what Switzerland has to offer.


Lots of Support

Institutional funding. Government-backed banks work like regional venture capitalists. There’s lots of seed funding to be found, at the national and local level. Knowing money is available encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas seriously.


Government help. The Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) is a government funded program that works to link investors with entrepreneurs. There’s start-up coaching and investing advice to be had as well.



Educational Help. Schools take a keen interest in nurturing entrepreneurs. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in both Zurich and Laussane, and the University of St. Gallen serve as outstanding examples. Such top notch technical schools have helped found startups like the immensely successful GetYourGuide.



Projects connected to universities enjoy assistance from the federal government as well as the private sector. VentureKick a national program that has awarded over 220 grants of up to 1300,00 francs since 2007. Venturelab provides targeted training for entrepreneurs enrolled in Swiss universities.



It’s easy to travel to Germany, Italy, and France from Switzerland. An efficient transportation system and short distances to other cities facilitate international relations. It’s easy to cultivate a dynamic networking community. The population of the country itself is only eight million, so getting to know people isn’t so difficult either. Of course, history, culture, and proximity all play a role in Swiss people speaking multiple languages. To become viable within the country, most startups are first prepared for local markets in English, French, German, and Italian.


Not Another Silicon Valley

Stories of dropping out of college to work on a startup aren’t so common. Who can blame the citizens? I’ve already mentioned the help that exists within the university environment. The Swiss also enjoy a high employment rate, which creates a safety net for entrepreneurs. In the worst case scenario of a startup failing, there’s likely work to be found.


There is perhaps less emphasis on social media than found in California as well. Instead, a strong infrastructure for high-tech, research-led products exists. We should applaud the Swiss adult behavior, yes? C’mon, is running up the steps of a bank in a bath robe really sound business strategy?


So, why should you think twice about enrolling in French lessons?


Sticker Shock

Switzerland is expensive. Developers expect a high salary to cope with the cost of living. Of course this potential deterrent can be turned into a lure as well. If your company can afford the talent, the quality of life in Switzerland is a great incentive for retaining workers. Just ask Google. Their largest engineering office outside the U.S. is in Zurich.



For a more thorough analysis of the Swiss startup scene, visit the Swiss Start-up Monitor. Check out their maps of where companies are springing up, in addition to networking and funding data. You may want to start up an exercise regime before developing a taste for Apfelküchlein.


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Author : Keith Liles

Keith Liles is a freelance writer who loves travel, music, wine, hiking, poetry, and just about everything. He practices saying "yes" to life vigorously, rehearsing for the phone call when he's asked to tour with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Follow Keith on Twitter @KPLiles.

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