Swiss Startup Secrecy

The Swiss startup scene is hidden away. It’s secret to the wider world and also within Switzerland.

Switzerland heads the global innovation index. So where are the big disruptive ideas and new companies being created?

Well for a start, it’s not being reported:

Just this week, Techcrunch announced the $13 million series A VC round for Urturn. No single mention of “Lausanne” where Urturn is based.

Apple buying Siri in 2011: again no mention of the Swiss connection unless you dig deep:
“Decades of SRI research in artificial intelligence, including leadership of the largest known artificial intelligence project in U.S. history, as well as joint work with EPFL, the Swiss institute of technology in Lausanne, led to Siri’s development. “

Ebay/Paypal buying Zong: no mention that it was founded in Geneva and there for most of it’s life

There is plenty more to add to this list. But I guess it doesn’t help that a lot of the successful Swiss startups move part or most of their operations to a more high profile place? Typesafe (home of the Scala language used by Twitter etc.) has moved it’s HQ to San Francisco, Housetrip has gone to London and Get Your Guide to Berlin.

Does Switzerland exist on the European tech startup scene?

Sebastien Flury has a series of posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) on his blog where he’s asked guest bloggers outside Switzerland to answer this question and there’s some pretty good observations including “the Swiss startup scene is Europe’s equivalent to what Elon Musk is trying to build in the States

Europe’s next billion dollar tech businesses

When Saul Klein at Index Ventures pronounced his list of European billion dollar businesses in the making there were no Swiss businesses on there.

Should Swissquote be on his list?  Started by Marc Bürki and Paolo Buzzi in 1999, market cap today about $500m, Swissquote is bigger than a lot of the companies he lists. Index Ventures (where Saul Klein works) was founded in Geneva and it’s still one of their bases, so shouldn’t he have a bit of knowledge of the Swiss tech ecosystem?? But then Swissquote doesn’t seem to have ever wanted to be part of the recognised startup ecosystem – it hasn’t filled in it’s crunchbase profile. Yet Swissquote is as much of a tech business as Wonga or Betfair who are on his list.

More recently Swiss Space Systems raises $265 million . Will we see that on the next list?

Who’s problem?

Is it Switzerland which doesn’t want to be part of the international tech startup ecosystem?

Or is it the international tech startup ecosystem that doesn’t want Switzerland?

The answer seems to be a bit of both

Switzerland is discrete by nature. High profile people (like rock stars and racing drivers) live their lives undisturbed. Similarly tech startup successes are not really celebrated.

Many of the best high-growth startups are serious B2B companies who don’t want buzz and recognition is a distraction: they already have a list of who their serious customers will be.

Martin Coul of the Coul Room observes that “when you make a list of countries which need help of any sort, Switzerland is last on the list“. Maybe this explain why Seedcamp, StartupBootCamp and other international incubators tour the whole of Europe but haven’t come to Switzerland?

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