The Swiss innovation acceleration program is looking for promising growth ventures in EdTech, FinTech, FoodTech, Smart Cities, HealthTech and Cybersecurity – and is founding its own company.

The application phase for the fourth Kickstart program in Zurich has started today. Kickstart fosters innovation through partnerships between successful startups and established companies and organizations. The Swiss acceleration program is now accepting applications from national and international tech companies. Kickstart’s focus is on deep technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Big Data across different verticals: EdTech & Learning, FinTech & Digital Assets, Food & Retail Tech and Smart City & Technology as well as, for the first time, Cybersecurity and HealthTech. In the program, the selected startups will meet and work together with leading corporations and organizations with the purpose of launching innovation partnerships and pilot projects.

Building bridges in order to make innovation happen

The Kickstart program aims to initiate successful partnerships and pilot projects between later-stage startups and corporations and organizations such as AXA, Coop, Migros, Swisscom, Mobiliar, Credit Suisse, ETH Zürich, Gebert Rüf Foundation, Mercator Foundation Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy SFOE, the cities of Zurich as well as St.Gallen and others. During the first three programs, more than 75 business partnerships were established. “Deep technologies have a great potential, which can only be fully exploited through the cooperation between different partners”, says Kickstart Co-Lead Katka Letzing. “These new technologies can contribute to solving some of the biggest challenges of our time. Established players are increasingly looking to work with tech startups. Successful innovation doesn’t happen in isolation – it needs cooperation. That’s what Kickstart stands for.”

Swiss retailer Migros has been supporting Kickstart’s Food & Retail Tech Vertical as a partner since the first edition and has launched a variety of partnerships with startups: “With our development fund Engagement Migros, we have been one of the very first partners of Kickstart and thus Migros group also has been benefitting from the beginning. Three years have passed and the platform has developed into what we consider a key element linking our own innovation initiatives and the ecosystem,” says Stefan Schöbi, Head of Engagement Migros. “We are building on this success story, now bringing it to a newly established HealthTech Vertical, launched together with Swiss Healthcare Startups SHS and other partners.” Additionally, Kickstart is launching a new Cybersecurity Vertical in partnership with SATW, Mobiliar, and other organizations.

Entrepreneurial and independent

Meanwhile, Kickstart is developing further: The initiative, which was launched as Kickstart Accelerator by digitalswitzerland in 2015 and has since successfully been operated three times by the Impact Hub Zurich team, will become an independent company this April. As a spin-off of Impact Hub Zurich, Kickstart benefits from its network in Switzerland and worldwide, while digitalswitzerland remains on board as an important founding partner.

Deep tech companies wanted

Tech startups from Switzerland and all around the world may apply for Kickstart 2019 until May 17. Up to 50 startups will be accepted in the program. In addition, intrapreneurship teams (innovation teams from companies, cities or universities) can register for the program. Participants will get direct access to key decision-makers of Kickstart’s partner corporations and organizations, support in cooperation with these partners and access to a broad network of experts. Kickstart covers up to CHF 10,000 of business development expenses during the program and grants access to a dedicated partnering fund. As in previous years, the program will take place at the innovation space Kraftwerk in Zurich.


35+ collaborations resulted from Kickstart 2018, 10 of which in the EdTech & Learning Vertical, that  took place for the first time in Zurich. 7 of the PoCs in this new vertical were launched together with Kickstart’s University Partners ETH Zürich, University of Zurich and ZHAW. Time to ask them some questions.  

3 Questions to Prof. Michael Hengartner, President of the University of Zurich

In what way will the digital transformation change the way we teach and learn?
Digital transformation has a profound impact on how we set priorities in research and teaching at the University of Zurich. Research with large datasets is already today found everywhere, from the natural sciences to medicine to the humanities, and the demand for talents with data science proficiencies will increase even more. We are observing a similar development, but with a lag, with machine learning and AI. The promotion of digital skills and digital literacy is thus becoming a key element in our portfolio of courses and curricula. And this is even more true in the area of continuing education: the ongoing technological revolution dramatically increases the risk of de-skilling and makes life-long learning all the more important. The digital transformation also changes the way we teach, in offering us new tools, from MOOCs to VR to AR, and helping us personalize the educational support that we can offer our students. E-learning and online courses make it possible to study virtually at any time and from anywhere, creating new opportunities for cooperation and exchange.

Are you –personally – a “Techy”?
I am not an early adopter, but certainly very interested in the benefits that new “tools and toys” can offer. I recently moved to running an almost paperless office – but still have a lot of “legacy paper” lying around! (laughs)

Which technologies in the field of EdTech excite you?
Personally, I find the potential offered by intelligent virtual and augmented learning
environments (VR and AR) particularly exciting. Virtual environments allow students to
experiment and learn in ways that would have been impossible before. In a simulated laboratory, for example, students can conduct experiments that would be financially prohibitive in the real world. Or they can train a particularly tricky or perhaps even dangerous experiment or intervention first virtually. Virtual learning environments have a great potential for providing new insights in almost every discipline. In the future, it might be possible to simulate social settings of past centuries or distant geographic environments.

I am also a great believer in the value of personalized learning. Here I do see however a major challenge in how to secure the protection of these highly personal data, and this possibly over a very long time. Overall, it is clear that EdTech can greatly improve the quality of our education, especially whenever there are structural limits, like large student numbers or limited financial resources.

 

3 Questions to Stephan Loretan, Member of the Executive Committee of ZHAW School of Management and Law

In what way will the digital transformation change the way we teach and learn?
New technologies will lead us to didactic possibilities, some of which are still unimagined today. For example, the use of virtual reality in case studies will lead us to even greater practical relevance. Imagine you are running an assessment as part of your leadership training with (real) cases represented in the virtual world such as salary or contract negotiations. In this case, the digitization opens up the possibility for students to improve their skills regardless of time and place. Furthermore, in the case described above, the unlimited use of digitization can also save costs.

How and why is ZHAW working together with startups?
The ZHAW cooperates with startups in various fields. This already begins with the offer of modules on the Bachelor level in the field of “Entrepreneurship”. We also carry out training for start-ups on behalf of Innosuisse. Furthermore, we support startups in picking up speed, especially at the early /seed phase in our RUNWAY Incubator. We select the startups according to the criteria high level of innovation, respectable market chances and strong founding team with high commitment.

Why is ZHAW supporting Kickstart Accelerator?
The ZHAW is convinced that aspects such as new learning experiences (i.e. Gamification, mobile learning), digital / blended teaching formats, customized / individualized learning strategies and products, collaborative learning platforms and lifelong learning concepts will become more and more important in the education sector. The Kickstart Accelerator offers us the opportunity to get to know startups that focus on these aspects and, if possible, to launch a collaboration with them.

 

In the EdTech & Learning Vertical, the following 10 collaborations were agreed on: 

Details can be found here. Pictures: UZH / ZHAW

We’re delighted to announce the collaborations between the #kickstarters18 startups and established organizations. More than 35 PoCs and partnership projects have resulted from the program.

Kickstart, a program of Impact Hub Zurich, launched in 2015 by digitalswitzerland, bridges the gap between later-stage startups, corporations, cities, universities, and institutions to accelerate deep tech innovations with positive impact. For the third edition, 30 Swiss and international tech startups had moved into the collaboration space Kraftwerk in Zurich, where they met with leading corporations and organizations aiming at launching joint projects. More than 70 such partnership projects have emerged from the programme since its inception. 

Here is the overview of the 2018 pilot projects and partnerships:  

(Details in the Media Release)               

The EdTech & Learning Vertical saw 10 collaborations:

 

 

In the Fintech & Crypto Vertical, 10 collaborations with Kickstart partners were agreed on:

 

 

The Food & Retail Tech Vertical saw 9 collaborative projects resulting from the programme:

 

 

The Smart Cities & Infrastructure Vertical Vertical resulted in 6 cooperations:

 

 

“It is exciting to see such a great number of collaborations between the startups and the partners that are growing the Kickstart Community,” said Kickstart Co-Lead, Katka Letzing. “This shows that Kickstart has the potential to truly connect technology startups from all over the world with the Swiss innovation ecosystem.”

Next to the cooperation between the startups and the large partners, some of the startups have also initiated partnerships with each other: For example, Sharing Academy (Spain) and TEACHY (CH) agreed on a PoC to combine their forces of business and software development with the purpose of improving education in Switzerland. In the FinTech Vertical, ResonanceX and Altoo AG  are teaming up for a joint exploration in providing next-generation post-trade information for structured product investments to wealthy individuals. Kickstart alumni PriceHubble and Altoo explore possibilities on real estate valuation based on machine learning for comprehensive digital wealth management. And YUKKA Lab AG has entered into a partnership with the Kickstart alumni AAAccell.

In addition, Mondays has partnered with Diversify to offer corporates and startups the opportunity to tangibly deliver on their top level diversity goals, by providing women’s essential products in the workplace. In the meantime, Kickstart supported the startup AVUXI from UK in closing a partnership deal with 3 Swiss online travel companies, including Nezasa and Bedfinder. Swiss startup vlot. got support to work on closing two partnership deals in the field of InsurTech.

Furthermore, during the few weeks of  Kickstart 2018, the startups have raised 6.5 million CHF funding from international and Swiss investors.

 

New Cybersecurity Vertical in 2019 in cooperation with SATW

In the coming year, Kickstart aims at tapping into new technology areas: Together with the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences SATW, the program will launch a Cybersecurity Vertical in order to foster innovation in the fields of IT-, information- and data security. Additionally, Kickstart is in advanced conversations for a vertical on health technologies in Zurich.

The program has already agreed on several partnerships for the 2019 edition: Coop, Swisscom, Stiftung Mercator Schweiz, Axpo, Stäubli, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, CSEM,  and others have been confirmed as partners for next year’s program.

 

Fotos by Anja Wurm, Ringier

Next to the 30 finalist startups, also five intrapreneurship teams participated in the 2018 Kickstart program – more than ever before. We notice a growing interest in the topic of intrapreneurship. Here is what it’s all about.

Did you know that the post-it sticky notes you probably use every day, were invented by an intrapreneurship team? The same applies for Gmail, the Sony Playstation, and other famous inventions. The term “intrapreneurship” is composed of “intracorporate” and “entrepreneurship” and was first used by the US entrepreneur Gifford Pinchot back in the 1980s. Pinchot described intrapreneurs as “dreamers who do”, employees of a large company with extraordinary creativity, courageous ideas and entrepreneurial talent, who work autonomously and dedicatedly on their own projects, next to their “normal” tasks at work. Intrapreneurship is a bottom-up approach to enable innovation within a company. To get back to the famous post it note; the self-sticking paper to make notes was invented more than 40 years ago by scientists at 3M. The idea itself was actually born by chance, and could have easily been forgotten after some time. However, as 3M gave their employees the possibility to dedicate a certain amount of their work time for their own projects, the idea was developed further – and turned into a product that should not be missing on any office desk today.

Innovation as top priority – and biggest challenge

Not only 3M, but also Google and other companies have recognized the value of giving their employees the flexibility and time to work on own projects next to their daily work. A reason for this is the rising pressure to innovate: Enterprises across all industries are confronted with the effects of digital change. In order to stay competitive, innovative ideas are constantly in demand, which makes innovation a top priority, but also a great challenge for companies. The larger and more international a company is, the more complex its organizational structures become. This implies a certain lack of flexibility, which makes the implementation of new ideas becomes more complicated and time-consuming. That’s why companies look for alternative ways of innovating,  such as collaborating with startups, or, as an alternative, fostering “entrepreneurship within the organization”, thus enabling intrapreneurship.

Growing interest in intrapreneurship

Kickstart puts its focus on both topics: On one hand, we make collaboration between startups and large companies and organizations possible. On the other hand, we support intrapreneurs coming from our partner companies. The interest in the latter has grown noticeably. While, in the first two editions of Kickstart, we supported one intrapreneurship team each, in 2018 already five intrapreneurship teams took part in the program. Credit Suisse, Swisscom and Migros were all bringing intrapreneurship teams into the program. “The pressure to be innovative, to meet changing market needs and to prevail against the competition has increased,” says Kickstart Program Lead Katka Letzing. “This makes intrapreneurship more and more important.”

The intrapreneurs batch of 2018.

Out of the comfort zone

The 2018 intrapreneurs worked on various projects; the OLIQ team from Mibelle Group (Migros), for example, works on an oral vitamin spray, while Menu Casa (Migros) is specialized on home delivery service of healthy and delicious meals for people in the prime of life. At the same time, Robo VC, an intrapreneurship team from Swisscom, applies Artificial Intelligence to support investors in the venture capital industry making their investments. As diverse as their projects are, at Kickstart all intrapreneurs are confronted with very similar challenges: “The pace is high; intrapreneurs have to develop new models, develop their products, process a lot of information and at the same time cooperate with their organizations in the right way,” Katka Letzing says. In workshops and together with a great pool of high-class mentors and experts, the intrapreneurs learn classical innovation methods, identify their target group, improve their product and define their go-to-market strategy. Michael Meier from the intrapreneurship team from Club School Migros is well aware of the fact that “there are many tasks that lie outside our comfort zone. But our project had reached a point where it needed new inputs. Now we are presented with so many ideas, that it is challenging to free up sufficient resources in addition to your daily work. We see the time at Kickstart as an opportunity to push the project forward intensively.”

Samer Alshamkany & Colin de Silva from BankPay with Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch.

Samer Alshamkany from BankPay, an intrapreneurship team from Credit Suisse, says: “At Kickstart, we are able to experiment, learn, change direction, experiment and learn again in a short period of time with as much flexibility as possible”. Also, the intrapreneurs get the unique opportunity to pitch their projects in front of C-level representatives of their own company, for example during the Opening Ceremony or at the CEOs and Founders Dinner.

Many of the Kickstart intrapreneurship projects are still up and running, such as the car-renting-and-sharing service UPTO, which initially started at Kickstart in 2017. In the meantime, we cannot wait to see a new intrapreneurs batch coming in for 2019 and to continue this success story.

Fotos by Anja Wurm & Thomas Meier, Ringier

The deep technology age requires much more collaboration between unlikely allies. Yet, collaboration is hard. The book “Kickstarting Collaboration” is building on research from ETH Zurich and University of St. Gallen, case studies from Kickstart Accelerator, as well as many more experiences from digitalswitzerland, University of Zurich, corporates and startups to provide hands-on recommendations for partnering between deep tech startups and large organizations.

 

 

Kickstarting Collaboration – How to create successful partnerships between high-growth startups and established organizations

Published in November 2018 by Kickstart Accelerator and digitalswitzerland

Download “Kickstarting Collaboration” (pdf) here!

 

 

 

 

Content:

Contributors:

Dr. Christoph Birkholz, Kickstart Accelerator & Impact Hub Zürich; Nicolas Bürer, digitalswitzerland; Daniel Ginter, digitalswitzerland; Prof. Dr. Gudela Grote, ETH Zurich; Katka Letzing, Kickstart Accelerator; Dr. Maria Olivares, University of Zurich; Lukas Peter, Swisscom & University of t. Gallen; Dr. Jennifer Sparr, ETH Zurich; Katrin Winiarski, University of Zurich; Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler, Swisscom.

Design by Grafik2.

The Kickstart Accelerator 2018 startups are selected! 30 promising tech companies from 12 countries will come to Zurich this fall to work together with Swiss corporations, universities, cities and foundations in order to drive deep technologies. Next to them, also 5 intrapreneur teams will participate in this year’s program – more than ever before.

Kickstart Accelerator has chosen 30 technology startups for its 2018 program. The companies will come to Zurich for seven weeks this autumn, where they will meet with Swiss corporations, cities, universities and foundations aiming at initiating successful innovation partnerships and joint pilot projects. No other program in Switzerland is bringing together as many established organizations with technology startups as Kickstart Accelerator.

The following startups participate in Kickstart Accelerator 2018:

EdTech & Learning

CodeAll (Poland) is a coding-platform that addresses people that want to get the first steps in programming in general and master the basics of programming and algorithmic, connecting software with sensory hardware in a similar way to Lego Robots.

Differ (Norway) brings your classes, study groups and professional networks closer together, so you can learn more, teach better and get things done with a little more fun – based on AI. 

Gnowbe (Singapore) is a mobile micro-learning platform that enables enterprises to onboard and train employees more efficiently and effectively with over 60 clients in 17 countries.

Labster (Denmark) has developed revolutionary life-sciences (VR+ Desktop) simulations, customizing learning programs with the world’s leading universities and licensing globally, potential applications as well in leadership training.

Potential.ly (UK) is a skills-driven continuous-professional-development platform with smart career readiness features.

Sharing Academy (Spain) is a peer-to-peer tutoring marketplace that allows students to offer and to find peer tutoring classes from any course within his degree and university.

TEACHY (Switzerland) helps apprentices & pupils to increase their grades at school significantly by providing a completely new kind of personal or online 1-1 tutoring.

WriteReader (Denmark) is a global literacy platform that enables children (3-10 years) to become creators and authors by using 21st-century skills.

FinTech & Crypto

Altoo (Switzerland) empowers wealthy individuals and their families to consolidate and interact with their total wealth in a simple and intuitive way, including crypto. 

Asteria (Sweden) automates cash flow forecasting and give feedback to understand clients’ business cash flow and help make more data driven business decisions.

Fintechdb (Norway) is a service that helps FinTech buyers to understand the FinTech market, so that they can make the right choices when it comes to finding partners, analyzing competition and trends, or just getting a broad overview.

Gauss Algorithmic (Czech Republic) combines internal and external data to understand the motivation behind users purchasing financial products like loans and using advanced analytics methods like machine learning to find new “similar” customer. 

Reportix (Germany) helps businesses to bring real contracts into Blockchain technology – legally sound, for humans, machine processable. 

ResonanceX Ltd. (UK) is a digital platform enabling the end-to-end automation of the price discovery, issuance and administration of Structured Products.

Trakti (UK) is the first contract negotiation and management platform enabling the possibility to run deals/contracts negotiations using different protocols and interaction models on a self service base and automate the obligation management of the contract via smart contract and blockchain. 

vlot (Switzerland) is a B2B2C platform opening up an agile and integrated world of risk analysis, coverage and life planning.

YUKKA Lab AG (Germany) is a technology leader in the field of Augmented Language Intelligence and context-based text analysis for the financial industry.

 

Food & Retail Tech

Alver Golden Chlorella (Switzerland) aims to improve consumers’ health as well as our environment by offering foods that are healthy, tasty and sustainable containing plant protein and the micro-algae Golden Chiarella®.

Besso (Germany) is an unconventional socially-minded brand, created by a barista to give to tea the attention it deserves.

Mondays (Switzerland) is a monthly subscription service delivering 100% plastic free period products to your door.

LuckaBox (Switzerland) is a cloud-based platform for on-demand deliveries and warehousing to provide retailers with what their customers increasingly demand: on-demand deliveries.

microPow (Switzerland) is an all-natural delivery system for aromas and flavors which drastically improves the storability and enhances the release of contained aroma and flavor compounds.

Yarok Microbio (Israel) provides a new fast testing technology for the food industry. Detect & count bacteria (E.coli, Listeria, Salmonella, etc.) in 45 minutes instead of days.

 

Smart Cities & Infrastructure

AVUXI (UK) is working on the conversion of geo big data for indexing the popularity of every place on earth.

Block Dox (UK) is working on occupancy and indoor environmental tracking sensors and data analytics.

Fleco Power AG (Switzerland) is a technology platform for decentralized energy systems consisting of control system and IoT-based hardware.

Hivemind (Switzerland) is an IoT platform including a collection of web services to connect, manage, and maintain IoT devices.

Kido Dynamics (Switzerland) is a data analytics platform with reconstruction and forecast techniques for smart cities focussing on mobility patterns.

Pedius (Italy) has developed a text-to-speech/ speech-to-text solution for deaf and hard of hearing people using voice recognition and speech synthesis.

The Energy Audit (Italy) is an AI-based energy management software with real-time data acquisition and predictive models for energy consumption.

 

In autumn, the selected startups will come to the innovative premises of Kraftwerk located in the centre of Zurich, where they will work on accelerating their projects in close exchange with Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros, Swisscom, Department of Education of the Canton of ZurichETH Zurich, Gebert Rüf Stiftung City of St. Gallen, City of Zurich,  Mercator Foundation Switzerland, Mondelēz InternationalSwiss Federal Office for Energy SFOE, University of Zurich, ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences and many more partners of Kickstart Accelerator. 

 

Intrapreneur Teams

Next to the 30 startups, also 5 intrapreneur teams will participate in the program – more than ever before. Intrapreneurs are “entrepreneurs within a company”; although being integrated in a corporation, they act as autonomous teams on innovative projects – very similar to a startup. Credit Suisse, Migros and Swisscom are bringing intrapreneur teams into the program:

Credit Suisse: Open banking project to enable efficient and secure payment processing for e- and m-commerce.

Menu Casa (Migros): Home delivery service of healthy, varied and delicious food for people in the prime of life who are not able or willing to cook for themselves.

OLIQ (Migros): Innovative and liquid supplements combining vitamins, minerals and natural plant extracts, e.g. for strengthening the immune system or boosting the energy level.

Migros Klubschule: Online coaching platform for personal and professional development with more than 7`000 teachers and experts of Migros Klubschule.

Robo VC (Swisscom): Software as a Service based on Artificial Intelligence to support investors in the venture capital industry in planning and making their investments.

Kickstart Accelerator is operated by Impact Hub Zurich, which is the largest local community within the global Impact Hub network worldwide. The program, which was launched 2015 by digitalswitzerland, takes place from July to October, including a one-week Planning Sprint in September and a six-weeks Collaboration Sprint from October 1st to November 9th, during which the international teams will be on site in Zurich.

Photos by Anja Wurm, Ringier. 

We have just extended our deadline for applications! Startups and scaleups from Switzerland and all around the world can apply until June 10th. Still wondering whether or not apply for Kickstart Accelerator 2018? Here are the reasons why you should.

As one of the 30 selected startups for Kickstart Accelerator, you will get the chance to enter into innovative collaborations with leading Swiss corporates, cities, universities and foundations. We will support you every step of the way to make this happen! Your benefits include:

Access to senior executives: Kickstart gives participants the opportunity to connect with its partners‘ senior executives. More than 30 CEOs, decision-makers, movers and shakers of Swiss corporations and institutions have confirmed their participation to one of Kickstart’s main events. Find out more about our C-level engagement here.

Quarter of a million in partnership budget: Participants get the chance to access funding for successfully initiated collaborative projects with Kickstart partners.

Bringing together founders and C-level executives. 

Collaboration training and facilitation: Kickstart is actively fostering collaborative projects between the startups and the accelerator’s partners.

Program stipends: Kickstart participants can expect a program stipend of up to CHF 10’000 per startup.

Your Personal Mentor and access to Experts: Entrepreneurial mentors are at the center of Kickstart Accelerator. We think of mentoring as building a relationship with someone who accompanies and inspires you along your journey and helps you to navigate within the Swiss market. In addition to mentoring, startups have access to a wide network of experts in varied industries, for 1:1 sessions.

Focused access to investors: Kickstart facilitates connections with national and international investors.

Free office space and infrastructure: Kickstart provides office space and infrastructure to all participants at an extraordinary innovation and collaboration space: Kraftwerk. The rebuilt, former electronic transformer station lies within a few minutes from Zurich’s main railway station. Kraftwerk offers various event-, workshop- and meeting rooms; as well as a large special event space and a lively café, spread over 1200 m2.

Collaboration and Innovation Space Kraftwerk. 

Networking and Community events: Weekly networking events at Kraftwerk and external locations allow participating startups to fully emerge themselves into the Swiss innovation ecosystem. Community building events throughout the program aim at establishing strong bonds between the vertical cohorts in order to enable peer-support across the program.

Media exposure: Startups get the chance to be covered in various local and national media outlets, newsletters and on social media.

Startup and Innovation Ecosystem: Overall, participating startups can benefit from a fast-track access to Swiss startup and innovation ecosystems.

And the best part: Kickstart Accelerator takes zero equity and charges zero fees.

Have a look at these great examples of successful collaborations that were initiated within the last two years: Next to 30 PoCs and partnerships that resulted out of last year’s program, a couple of weeks ago we were able to announce another PoC between the AI-startup DCBrain and our partner Swisscom. Additionally, the insurance company AXA and Veezoo, an alumni startup from our very first program in 2016, announced that they have deepened their relationship and established a successful partnership. We are looking forward to making these kind of stories possible again this year – together with amazing partners such as Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros, Swisscom, Department of Education of the Canton of Zurich, the cities of St. Gallen and Zurich, ETH Zürich, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Mercator Foundation Switzerland, Swiss Federal Office for Energy, University of Zurich, AXA, EY, Stäubli, Swisslinx, PwC Switzerland, Helbling and more.

If you are a startup or scaleup with a promising technology, product or business idea in the fields of EdTech & Learning, FinTech & Crypto, Food & Retail Tech or Smart Cities & Infrastructure, then apply until June 10th and become a #kickstarters18.

In case you have any questions, feel free to contact our Vertical Leads: Katka Letzing for FinTech & Crypto, Tim Lehmann for EdTech & Learning, Christina Senn-Jakobsen for Food & Retail Tech and Ruth Armalé for Smart Cities. We are looking forward to working with you!

Switzerland’s largest innovation acceleration program, Kickstart Accelerator, brings together startups with established companies, universities, cities and foundations in Zurich to promote deep tech innovation and its impact on the future of humanity.

Zurich, April 3, 2018 – Kickstart Accelerator opens the application phase for the third edition of its program. Switzerland’s largest innovation acceleration program focuses on deep technologies – science and engineering driven technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Blockchain and others – across different sectors, bringing together key actors in these fields. Promising later-stage startups will meet with partners such as Credit Suisse and Swisscom in the area of financial technology. Retailers Coop and Migros aim to work with startups in the area of food and retail; while universities such as ETH Zurich and University of Zurich will focus on education and learning technology. The City of Zurich and AXA Winterthur will seek out and support pilot projects and proof of concepts in the area of Smart Cities.

Collaboration between civil society, industry, government and science as key to innovation

Kickstart Accelerator aims to initiate successful partnerships and pilot projects between the participating startups and the partner companies and institutions. “The first two programs resulted in over 30 ambitious proof-of-concepts (PoCs) and collaborations,” says Kickstart Co-Lead Katka Letzing. “In our view, genuine and sustainable innovation is only possible through cooperation across sector and company boundaries. That’s why we are focusing even more on these partnerships this year”.

Later-stage startups preparing to accelerate their technologies, business models and market access with the help of such collaborations can now apply for the program. The application period will close on 27th May. 30 startups and intrapreneur teams (innovation teams from companies, cities and universities) will have the opportunity to take their products or technologies in the areas of EdTech & Learning, FinTech & Crypto, Food & Retail Tech as well as Smart Cities & Infrastructure to the next level in Zurich this fall.

Internationally connected and widely supported

Kickstart Accelerator is run by Impact Hub Zürich, which is part of a wide international network of entrepreneurship and innovation centers. The program was initiated by the cross-sector association digitalswitzerland in 2015 and counts on key partners such as Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros and Swisscom as well as AXA Winterthur, City of Zurich, ETH Zürich, EY, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Mercator Foundation Swit

zerland, Stäubli, Swisslinx and University of Zurich. The commitment of and value for these partners has increased since Kickstart’s launch: “Looking back at the success of the past two years of Kickstart Accelerator, Credit Suisse has benefited tremendously from the ideas and technologies generated through this program”, says Thomas Saler, Digital Solutions – Head of Fintech Partnerships at Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd. “This year, we are excited to commit again to continue our support to the innovation ecosystem.”

Coop, one of Switzerland’s leading retailers, will again be a partner in the Food vertical: “Being a Global Partner for three consecutive years, we have come to appreciate the work with the startup teams”, says Benedikt Pachlatko, Project Manager Kickstart Accelerator at Coop. “We look forward to gathering new ideas for innovative projects and to collaborating on concrete Proof-of-Concepts with some of the startups.”

New program structure with focus on Proof-of-Concepts and collaborative projects

The kickoff for the four-month program will be a two-day Selection Bootcamp on 9th and 10th of July 2018: The 60 most promising startups out of the applicant pool are invited to pitch in front of a jury of experts. 30 of them will make it into the program, which consists of a one-week Planning Sprint in September and an intense six-week Collaboration Sprint from October 1st to November 9th in the innovation and collaboration space Kraftwerk located in the centre of Zurich.

Kickstart ​Accelerator, ​Zurich-based ​technology ​accelerator ​programme ​ends ​tonight with ​the ​announcement ​of ​numerous ​Proof ​of ​Concepts ​and ​other ​partnerships

Over 30 Proof of Concepts (PoCs) and partnerships have been secured at Kickstart Accelerator, one of Europe’s largest no equity, multi-corporate accelerator programmes that culminates today – most of them with leading corporations. Coop, Credit Suisse, Empa, EY, Helsana, Migros, PwC Switzerland, Raiffeisen, Swisscom as well as UBS have entered into partnerships ​with ​the ​entrepreneurs ​participating ​in ​this ​year’s ​acceleration ​programme. At tonight’s grand Closing Ceremony the established PoCs and other partnerships will be announced in addition to the winners in each vertical, who will receive a 25`000 CHF grant. The accelerator – an initiative of digitalswitzerland and operated by Impact Hub Zurich – saw 29 startups as well as an intrapreneur team from AXA Winterthur and Swisscom working in collaboration for 11 weeks in the specially designed co-working space Kraftwerk. Their goal was to develop, scale and promote their business in the Swiss innovation ecosystem with the guide of industry experts and unparalleled access to internationally recognized corporations. The programme also supported by C4DR and evitive, focused on the fields of FinTech, Food, Smart Cities as well as Robotics & Intelligent Systems, which ​is ​reflective ​of ​Switzerland’s ​heritage ​innovation ​sub ​sectors.

Foto: Philippe Rossier

PoCs ​to ​deliver ​better ​air ​quality, ​blockchain-based ​e-voting-systems ​and ​ways ​to ​avoid ​food ​waste.

In ​the Fintech ​vertical, ​14 ​PoCs ​and ​other ​partnerships ​were ​secured ​with ​Kickstart ​Partners:

Credit Suisse and Swiss-based Startup PriceHubble are exploring a cooperation in the field of mortgage ​business.

Credit Suisse is looking into how to use ​Adjoint’s blockchain technology to improve compliance processes ​in ​their ​FX ​operations.

 Credit Suisse is discussing potential for a cooperation in the field of compliance with Zurich-based Apiax.

Credit Suisse and Blocko are collaborating to explore opportunities in the field of blockchain-based ​e-voting ​systems.

EY ​and Apiax ​are ​going ​to ​intensify ​discussions ​about ​a ​possible ​partnership.

EY is collaborating with US-startup Adjoint to develop a PoC in the field of blockchain for a global insurance ​client.

Helsana insurance and Fjuul are joining forces to further improve functionality and user experience ​of ​the ​new ​Helsana+ ​App.

PwC Switzerland has signed a Letter of Intent with Zurich-based Apiax to intensify the discussion about ​joining ​forces ​to ​work ​on ​digitising ​compliance ​processes ​in ​the ​financial ​industry.

PwC Switzerland and Finnish startup Fjuul have signed a Letter of Intent to further evaluate the option ​of ​jointly ​bringing ​exciting ​digital ​solutions ​to ​insurance ​companies.

Swisscom is planning a PoC to integrate services that PriceHubble offers into their existing banking ​service.

Swisscom ​cooperates ​with Apiax ​as ​well ​as SoBA ​on ​a ​PoC ​to ​work ​in ​the ​field ​of ​Open ​Banking.

UBS and AAAccell, a University of Zurich spin-off working in the field of risk- and asset management, ​will ​start ​a ​PoC ​project ​to ​build ​a ​smart ​risk-based ​engine.

UBS and PriceHubble, a startup offering innovative real estate software-as-a-service solutions, agreed ​on ​a ​common ​PoC ​to ​further ​develop ​UBS`s ​offering ​in ​the ​mortgage ​business.

UBS and CityFALCON have worked closely together to explore different opportunities on how to leverage a potential partnership. Nothing has been agreed yet, however, it can be confirmed, that UBS ​sees ​value ​in ​exploring ​CityFALCON`s ​offering ​in ​a ​potential ​PoC.

The Food ​vertical ​saw ​four ​PoCs ​resulting ​from ​the ​programme:

Coop has announced a collaboration with Swiss company KITRO. The two firms plan to test KITRO’s ​solution ​to ​prevent ​food ​waste ​at ​several Coop ​restaurants ​within ​a ​PoC ​next ​year.

Raiffeisen Bank has acquired a Living Farming tree by the Italian Food startup Hexagro Urban Farming ​as ​the ​first ​step ​of ​a ​PoC ​and ​will ​validate ​a ​potential ​use ​in ​Raiffeisen ​offices.

Coop and Migros have both agreed on individual PoCs with FlavorWiki. Their technology allows food producers, retailers and others to collect detailed data about consumer taste preferences. Coop ​and ​Migros ​will ​both ​test ​this ​technology ​internally.

The Smart ​Cities ​vertical ​resulted ​in ​seven ​PoCs ​and ​other ​collaborations:

Swisscom Broadcast will work together with Zurich-based startup Antavi on a PoC to develop a smart ​tracking ​solution ​for ​public ​safety.

Swisscom has signed a PoC with uHoo. The ICT-provider will integrate the indoor air quality device ​by ​the ​Singapore-based ​company ​in ​the ​Swisscom TestLab ​in ​Biel.

Swisscom and Hawa Dawa have signed a PoC to develop a real-time data model of air quality in Zurich. The German startup is leveraging open data from the city of Zurich and is using big data analytics ​and ​machine ​learning ​algorithms ​to ​model ​the ​air ​quality ​in ​the ​whole ​city.

– The city of Bern provides Hawa Dawa in a PoC with data to establish a profound data model and to ​calibrate ​their ​instruments.

Swisscom starts a partnership with BikeLook: The Irish startup will use Swisscom’s Low Power Network ​to ​have ​an ​improved ​battery ​lifetime.

Empa will be launching a PoC with Zurich-startup Parquery that is working in the field of smart parking ​management.

– The cities of Zurich, Bern and St. Gallen, are discussing further collaboration and sharing of knowledge ​with ​different ​startups, ​e.g. ​with BikeLook ​from ​Dublin.

The Robotics ​& ​Intelligent ​Systems ​vertical ​saw ​one ​confirmed ​partnership:

Coop has defined a PoC with Indian startup iFuture Robotics to test the startup’s autonomous robots ​to ​automate ​certain ​processes ​within ​Coop’s ​retail ​warehouses.

In addition to the cooperation between the startups and corporate partners, some of the startups have also started to cooperate with each other. For example, the intrapreneur team Rent’n’Share has partnered with the UK/Switzerland based startup Spark Horizon to offer a sustainable mobility solution. The FinTech startups AAAccell, Blocko and Coincube confirmed partnerships to work on two individual blockchain pilots. Zurich-based Apiax is going to work with South African startup Libryo in the field of legal and insurance solutions. Meanwhile, CoinCube and CityFALCON will be working together on AI/blockchain solutions and London-based startup Nivaura, that took part in the 2016 programme, is starting a joint project with Adjoint from this year’s batch focusing on blockchain solutions.

“It is great to see the number of partnerships between the startups and the corporates has increased significantly compared to last year,” said Patricia Schlenter, Programme Manager at Kickstart Accelerator. “This shows that Kickstart Accelerator has the potential to truly support international startups ​to ​gain ​access ​to ​the ​Swiss ​innovation ​ecosystem.”

International ​tech ​companies ​anchor ​in ​Switzerland

Several of the participating startups have already or are planning to bring units of their businesses to Switzerland. For example, the Ghana-based food tech startup Farmerline is planning to base their third office in Zurich and US-startup RADiCAL is opening the first office outside New York in Zurich to attract talent in the areas of AI and autonomous systems, with the Zurich office expected to serve as the company’s research and development lab. In addition, US-startup COINCUBE is incorporating in Switzerland ​to ​implement ​projects ​in ​the ​digital ​asset ​space. ​More ​incorporations ​are ​being ​planned.

International ​and ​local ​funding ​floods ​in: ​More ​than ​8 ​million ​CHF ​raised ​in ​5 ​months

Furthermore, since the start of the programme in July this year, the Kickstart Accelerator startups all together have raised more than 8 million CHF funding from international and Swiss investors.

“At the beginning of the programme, we set ambitious goals – and we are overwhelmed to even have exceeded them. Besides the promising cooperation agreements, several of the startups are also hiring Swiss employees or even plan to open a new office here,” Programme Manager Patricia Schlenter said. “In addition, the quality of this year’s startups was exceptionally high – as for example shown by the investor funds raised since the programme started. We are convinced that Kickstart Accelerator 2017 has ​once ​again ​contributed ​to ​strengthening ​the ​Swiss ​innovation ​ecosystem.”

Kickstart Accelerator 2017 ends tonight with the official Closing Ceremony. It will be live streamed on Kickstart ​Accelerator’s Facebook ​page ​today ​from ​4:15 ​PM ​to ​7:15 ​PM ​CET.

Read the official press release for more information about the PoCs ​and ​partnerships ​in ​detail.

 

Redefining the insurance industry

The insurance industry is going through a digital transformation, and technology is offering many new possibilities while disrupting established business models. IoT data, public data, open data gathered by governmental bodies and customer data gathered by search engines and companies are bringing digitization to the forefront of many businesses. Nowadays it is not only important to collect those insights, but also to understand the data and be able to make data-driven decisions that are applicable to your company and industry.

In this rapidly changing environment, insurance companies have identified the need to adapt quickly. Here is where speed, innovation and the collaboration between large corporations and startups come into place.

Win-Win partnerships

At Kickstart Accelerator, we foster such partnerships, which are both beneficial for startups and our corporate partners. An example that clearly illustrates this mutual collaboration is the PoC agreement reached by AXA and Veezoo, which was announced last week for the first time during the Kickstart Accelerator Opening Ceremony.

Veezoo and AXA are working together to make the information hidden in the company’s data easily understandable. In this proof of concept, Veezoo learned how to answer lots of different questions about AXA’s data on Sales and Distribution. For example, if they want to know what is the average duration of the contracts that got extended, they don’t need to wait until a data analyst queries that data for them – they can simply ask Veezoo and it will answer with a chart in a matter of seconds. Veezoo has acquired knowledge about that domain and can now help decision makers identify new sales opportunities by answering their questions.

The goal of the proof of concept is to show, how Veezoo can reduce their reporting backlog by hundreds of hours per month, while at the same time enabling the management to take more informed decisions. The project will take three months until completion and involves multiple stakeholders from both sides. The next steps after a successful PoC is to roll out Veezoo into AXA’s productive systems and expand to other domains, where Veezoo can add value.
Veezoo, the first conversational Artificial Intelligence to explore and visualize data, participated in the first badge of Kickstart Accelerator. Veezoo presented its solution to AXA for the first time during the Kickstart Accelerator program in 2016. By the end of the program the conversations started and they developed into a formalized proof of concept agreement.Katka Letzing, Fintech Lead and mentor at Kickstart Accelerator, helped Veezoo to connect with AXA. She also took part of the process in order to accomplish the proof of concept partnership.

Fotos: Philippe Rossier f. Kickstart Accelerator, 7.9.2017, Zürich, EWZ Unterwerk Selnau, Official Opening

Proof of Concept

Ivo Streiff, Head Innovation Management at AXA Winterthur: «With Veezoo, we are exploring ways of making it possible for employees to access complex data in a straightforward way, and this allows us to engage intensively with the topic of machine learning on a real-life basis.»
Marcos Monteiro, Monteiro, Co-Founder and CEO of Veezoo: “We expect to show how Veezoo can reduce the reporting backlog of AXA’s data analysts by hundreds of hours each month, while at the same time enabling the management team to find new strategic opportunities in the data themselves. We are very thankful to Kickstart Accelerator for the critical role it has played in facilitating a great corporate-start-up partnership.”

“Our mission is to foster collaboration in many ways, including helping to setup Proof of Concepts for our startups as well as helping corporations get access to new technologies as it fits. It is great to see Veezoo and Axa in a partnership to use machine learning in real life that can make a real difference.” – Katka Letzing, Fintech Lead, Kickstart Accelerator.

More details about the PoC can be found here.

Wenn Startups und Grossunternehmen zusammenarbeiten, dann ist das oft eine Win-Win-Situation. Was ist es, das solche Kooperationen derart fruchtbar macht? Wir haben mit Veronica Lange und Andreas Kubli von UBS über den Wert von starken Partnerschaften und die Einzigartigkeit von Kickstart Accelerator gesprochen.

[English Version]

Wieso interessiert sich UBS für Startups?

Andreas Kubli (AK): Uns wurde sehr früh bewusst, dass uns Fintech-Startups helfen können, den digitalen Wandel in der Bank zu beschleunigen und inzwischen haben Kooperationen für uns Tradition. Wir müssen nicht alles, was wir unseren Kunden anbieten, selber machen. Wenn ein Startup eine tolle Lösung hat, insbesondere in einem Bereich, welcher nicht zu unseren Kernkompetenzen gehört, sprechen wir gerne über eine mögliche Kooperation.

Veronica Lange (VL): Startups sind durch ihre Organisationsstrukturen häufig sehr viel agiler als ein grosser Konzern wie UBS. Dadurch können sie die Time-to-Market für neue Innovationen extrem reduzieren. Zudem haben sie oft spezifisches, technisches Know-how, welches für die Anwendung im Finanzsektor sehr interessant ist.

Was kann UBS Startups bieten?

VL: Kooperationen bieten eine typische Win-Win-Situation. Startups profitieren von einer etablierten Plattform mit einem grossen Kundenstamm und der Sicherheit einer vertrauenswürdigen Grossbank. Ausserdem bringen wir sehr viel Know-How mit: Bankerfahrung, kompetente Beratung, umfangreiches Fachwissen, persönlicher Kontakt, langjährige Beziehungen und exzellente Finanzprodukte.

AK: Zudem haben wir in den letzten Jahren viel Erfahrung in der Zusammenarbeit mit Startups gesammelt. Das ist sehr wichtig, denn wenn ein Startup mit einem Konzern zusammenarbeitet, besteht immer die Gefahr, dass es von den komplexen Strukturen und Prozessen “erdrückt” wird. Wir haben aber sehr gute Wege gefunden, damit das nicht passiert und so erfolgreiche Kooperationen, beispielsweise mit bexio, DSwiss oder SumUp lanciert.

VL: Entscheidend für Startups ist sicherlich auch der Zugang zu Kapital. Hier können wir Start-ups, beispielsweise den Teilnehmern des Kickstart Accelerator, beim “Pitch” für Kapital bei Investoren unterstützen.

Wieso soll ich mit meinem Startup in die Schweiz an den Kickstart Accelerator kommen und nicht nach London, Singapur oder New York gehen?

AK: Der Kickstart Accelerator ist einmalig auf der Welt und eines der grössten firmenübergreifenden Startup-Förderprogramme Europas. Einmalig ist er deshalb, weil er von über 15 Grossunternehmen getragen wird und die Partner alle an einem Strick ziehen, um das Schweizer Innovations-Ökosystem zu fördern. Wir konnten aus dem letztjährigen Programm heraus sowohl mit Notakey als auch mit Zoa je einen Proof-of-Concept machen, an denen wir zurzeit noch arbeiten.

VL: Für die Schweiz spricht die hohe Kompetenz als Finanzplatz sowie ein starkes Bildungssystem, gepaart mit hervorragenden technischen Hochschulen, begabte Talente, ein sehr hohes Bildungsniveau und sehr viele potenzielle Investoren im Land. Auch globale Investoren schätzen die Schweiz. Viele von ihnen reisten im Januar an den Investor Summit nach Zürich, wo sie mit Schweizer Startups in Kontakt kamen.

AK: Das bereits angesprochene kooperative Element kenne ich von anderen Märkten weniger. Die Schweiz ist aufgrund der überschaubaren Grösse prädestiniert dafür.

Was war euer bester/überraschendster Moment bei der ersten Durchführung des Kickstart Accelerators im letzten Jahr?

AK: Mit Eric van der Kleij konnten wir einen ausgewiesenen Experten für den Aufbau eines Accelerator-Programms gewinnen. Die Art und Weise, wie es gelungen ist, in kürzester Zeit eines der grössten europäischen Programme zu etablieren, hat mir sehr imponiert. Das Zusammenwirken von verschiedensten Partnern mit einem gemeinsamen Ziel hat eine einzigartige Dynamik hervorgerufen.

VL: Ich war beeindruckt von der Qualität der Bewerber aus aller Welt. Zudem spürte ich intern ein grosses Interesse und riesiges Engagement der Mitarbeitenden den Accelerator und die Startups zu unterstützen.

Was erwartet ihr für den diesjährigen Accelerator und Startups aus welchen Bereichen würdet ihr gerne sehen?

AK: Das letztjährige Programm hat in Sachen Reichweite, Aufmerksamkeit und Projektstudien die Erwartungen übertroffen. Ich hoffe, dass sich dieses Jahr noch mehr Startups anmelden und wir noch mehr PoCs sehen werden. Ausserdem wollen wir den guten Ruf der Schweiz noch weiter in die Welt hinaustragen. Im besten Fall können wir ausländische Startups überzeugen, in der Schweiz ansässig zu werden. Auf bestimmte Bereiche möchte ich mich nicht festlegen, aber wenn ein Startup einen kollaborativen Spirit verfolgt, freue ich mich auf den Austausch.

VL: Dem kann ich mich anschliessen. Toll wäre eine Projektstudie in den Bereichen Distributed Ledger, Smart Contracts oder WealthTech. Aber ich bin auch sehr offen für andere Themen und lasse mich noch sehr gerne überraschen, mit welchen neuen Ideen Startups aus aller Welt zu uns kommen.

Many startups have a fixed time horizon within which they need to attract funding. Their own resources may enable them to get quite a long way. To develop a demo, an app, a website, a business plan. All of course informed by a vision, talented team and a customer need to solve for. So isn’t this enough? Simply put the startup in front of an investor, articulate the vision and the startup can then obtain the funds they need to start and to grow?

It is unfortunately not that simple. Investors will demand to see current users and to understand how quickly the startup is growing. If the startup’s answer is “I don’t have a use case or user base, that’s why I need the funding” – the feedback will not normally be positive for the startup. Usually it will be that they are not ready to raise venture funding before the validation of the technology, which often requires investment for development and runway – a vicious Catch 22.

Furthermore, many potential customer companies are conservative by their nature. They often like to see evidence of a direct or indirect peer company having worked with the startup, before they engage / become customers of the startup. This process is time consuming if starting with smaller customer companies and gradually increasing the size of the customer company to achieve any market capture.

So, to kick-start development and market validation, an accelerated path can start with a Proof of Concept (PoC) with an established company, as part of the startup’s journey to developing customers and attracting investment.

Moreover, as Andrea Alunni, Senior Advisor at Oxford University Innovation, states, it will also significantly benefit the startup as they focus and improve their product or service:

“PoC is instrumental to take novel ideas into practice, supporting inventors’ business confidence and releasing drivers to innovation embedded in the tacit knowledge of the inventors. The ultimate outcomes of proof of concept investments depend on the ability of the supported technologies to reach the market and generate returns”.

Link to relevant article:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/crucial-role-proof-of-concept-funding-start-ups-creation-alunni

The PoC should be correctly framed and agreed up front with the partner(s). What’s the agreed specification? How long is the development period? How is it to be funded? What are the conditions around the use of the resulting IP? What are the startup’s rights to publicise the association with the partner company and the resulting developments? How does the longer term engagement get structured after a successful PoC?

At the Kickstart Accelerator, startups benefit from access to many of the largest and most successful companies in Switzerland and beyond. These companies can also benefit by deploying the startups’ ideas and agility onto commercial challenges they are facing. In addition, the programme is also supported by leading, global Management Consultancies who can facilitate access to their numerous clients. And so provide potential win-win-win opportunities for the startups, the consultancies and their selected clients.

Successful PoCs are a key part of a startup’s journey and are also fundamental to their stakeholders. We believe that we will see numerous PoCs progressed from the Kickstart Accelerator programme. A key statement of the progamme’s value and results.

Would you like to see your startup grow at a faster pace, get mentorship from industry experts and the chance to attain an initial investment? The Kickstart Accelerator is back, stronger than ever!

Kickstart Accelerator is one of Europe’s largest multi-corporate accelerators with intensive innovation processes for joint Proof-of-Concepts (PoCs) between global corporate partners and selected startups. Backed by experienced entrepreneurs, investors, academia and top companies in Switzerland, Kickstart Accelerator offers a unique opportunity to bring your startup to the next level in just 11 weeks!

Start your company off on the right track: Apply for a chance to be one of the selected startups!

The program will take place between September 4th and November 17th, 2017. We are looking for international startups and intrapreneurial teams operating in the following areas: Food, FinTech, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, Smart Cities (in Zurich) and Healthcare (in Basel).

Did you know that Zurich is one of the fastest-growing startup hubs and one of the world’s leading financial centres? Kickstart your career in Switzerland and live in Zurich or Basel for three months.

Benefits at a glance:

Apply at kickstart-accelerator.com for an opportunity of a lifetime and scale your startup in 11 weeks!

Find out more about why you should join the Kickstart Accelerator during our Q&A webinars.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, spread the word using the hashtag #kickstarters17 or sign up for our mailing list to get updates and news about the program!

A Pandora’s box of challenges offering a Cornucopia of opportunities.

Is it difficult to know where to start when trying to write a useful post about some key activities in Blockchain and Bitcoin, because the world consists of the widest range of reader, including investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, the deepest technical and business experts right the way through to the ordinary person on the street and those that are only just discovering Blockchain or distributed ledger technology for the first time.

Also because the potential impact could be so profound, any writing (especially as short as this) will rarely do it justice. Even the terminology can be confusing (which I am not going to address here and keep it simple by using just ‘Blockchain’), but for the purpose of this article I have decided to offer some short answers to a few questions I am often asked by those new to Blockchain, and then share some observations on some of the exciting conversations taking place in and around the Kickstart Accelerator and the wider Swiss and UK Blockchain community.

And so to the first question:

What is Blockchain? Upon reflection I decided not to take up space answering that question here, partly because I think the average reader of this particular blog probably knows quite a lot already, but if you are relatively new to the topic then a simple search will produce a lot of excellent primers, but here are a couple of useful links: (No affiliation – just liked the clarity of the description).

A short video from the World Economic Forum, here.

Investopedia has some useful definition paragraphs here:

(Note: – not all definitions on the page are relevant such as “Block Trade” but most are).

What will the impact of Blockchain be?

In my view – two words sum it up: – utterly profound.

But both in a really good way as well as in some surprising, challenging and unintended ways. If we consider for a moment that one of the key ‘useful’ things being introduced with Blockchain is the concept of moving from ‘centralised trust at a price’ to an agreed, shared ‘distributed truth’ with potentially greatly reduced repeating (and costly) need for a central trust authority, it really is a potential cornucopia of astonishingly useful opportunities. But what these opportunities will require (particularly from those that are building or even regulating these new opportunities), is a whole new level of understanding and capability, both technical, legal, business, regulatory, and not forgetting the need for great capability around the ethics around some of these opportunities. We need that in order to ensure that the purposeful or accidental misuse of Blockchain doesn’t unleash a true Pandora’s box of unintended consequences.

The other important point to make is that the pace of change is fast. And those that are predicting 10 to 20 year adoption timeframes are forgetting the drive of the “unreasonable entrepreneur,” backed by bold risk capital and the incredibly low digital barriers to entry nowadays. Also the flight of some of the best talent, fed up with fighting fires and supporting legacy, as well as almost weekly announcements of senior executives heading up or advising some of the boldest new startups.

I was asked what I thought some of the key examples were of interesting developments we have seen over recent years in Blockchain, Bitcoin and Ethereum:

One of the questions we are most often asked (by government, corporates, investors, and startups) is “when or how long will Blockchain take to enter the mainstream and what are the barriers/things we should be thinking about.”

I will take a stab at a qualitative answer below, but first let me share an anecdote:

A few months ago I was chatting with one of the members of our team in London during our preparations for the Kickstart Accelerator in Zurich and he asked me the same question. Bear in mind this is someone who during their interview told me that they had read the original Satoshi Nakamoto white paper and had written a paper on the subject. My answer at the time was: – “when it becomes as transparent to us as TCP/IP, and we can just enjoy the benefits of Blockchain technology and all its applications in business, government and society.”

His reply was interesting because it actually made my point perfectly: He said:- “what’s TCP/IP?”

So there you have a simple answer: The equivalent young person in a reasonable number of years who are “digital natives” will hopefully automatically assume they can enjoy the benefits of things like:

And many more use cases as we experiment and test the technology as it applies to the widest range of industries and uses.

So how do we get there? Well one way is that we continue to encourage the major corporates to engage with some of the most innovative startups such as those in the Kickstart Accelerator, and push to test and try these new solutions together.

Another thing that needs to happen sooner rather than later is that national regulators need to really grasp what Blockchain really means. Challenging concepts such as trans-national distribution of data, stateless domicile, unclear place of supply and use, trustless trust, more on this here and a whole new grasp of fifty shades of “identity” in the new world.

Some are getting there, such as the UK through its regulatory sandboxes and the sharing of knowledge between countries. And I for one am rarely pushing for regulators to be asked to do more; but this stuff is so important, and rather than knee jerk reactions to try solve problems once they have happened we need to encourage them to engage and embrace the technical, geographic, operational and even ethical parameters of this fast emerging field, so they know what to encourage and not regulate, and what to protect.

One-third of the world’s food is being wasted; that’s equivalent to one trillion dollars – it’s as huge as the Brazilian economy. To understand this problem even deeper a young team of entrepreneurs went to an importer in Germany to learn that they are throwing 27 tons of Bananas every week –  just because they turned yellow during shipping which is already considered ripe and not fit for distribution. Retailers and also farms are throwing away tons and tons of fruits and vegetables because they are spoiled or they look ugly and this means massive disposal costs for companies as well as an enormous environmental impact on the world.

This very team of entrepreneurs, a food startup named FoPo Food Powder is currently being accelerated at Kickstart Accelerator in Zurich, Switzerland. It’s  Europe’s largest multi­-corporate technology accelerators and the home to 30 international startups, which have been chosen from 850 applicants and are now based in Zurich until November for the 11-week accelerator program.

FoPo Food Powder aims to solve food waste and malnutrition by saving food from being wasted. They collect fruits & vegetables from farms, groceries, and importers, dry them through spray or freeze drying and pulverize them. Like this, they can extend its shelf life from 2 weeks to 2 years. This process also maximizes logistics for transportation and saves nutrition by up to 90%. FoPo Food Powder can then be used as an ingredient for baking, flavoring, drinks, as well as for humanitarian aid purposes as it is easy-to-use and easy-to-deliver.

FoPo Food Powder and the other startups from the Kickstart Accelerator’s Food Vertical are strongly supported by the sound practical and scientific competence of local universities and food innovation leaders in Switzerland. The ETH in Zurich with its renowned World Food System Center is supporting the program with its research facilities, while major Swiss food retailers such as Migros, Coop and multinational food and beverage companies are providing cutting-edge technology, infrastructure and mentors to the startups to accelerate all these promising business ideas.

Another cutting edge technology is coming from EntoCube, another startup at the Kickstart Accelerator. EntoCube is fixing the broken food system with insect farming technologies. Their microclimate control system ensures rapid growth and higher yields, while automation reduces labor costs and fluctuations in production. With these technologies, the environmental and culinary benefits of insects can be harnessed by the masses, which is more and more becoming necessary!

With the Earth’s population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, there is an urgent need for new sustainable sources for food. For both, Coop and Migros, sustainability has long been an integral component of their strategy as well as taking into account the economical, social and ecological objectives.

While resources like arable land and fresh water are growing increasingly scarce, there is an urgent need for more efficient food sources to be discovered and exploited. The world’s eyes have already turned to a group of edible insects as a very sustainable food source: they are efficient to produce, environmentally friendly and highly nutritive human food. Over two billion people already eat insects and this number is on a trajectory to grow further as insect are popularized in the developed world.

Well, both City and Canton of Zurich, Switzerland have recognized the potential of the Kickstart Accelerator and its Food Vertical and are thus, together with the preeminent economic umbrella organisation Economiesuisse, facilitating a fruitful exchange between the startups and the Swiss ecosystem.

“This year’s Sibos is Fintech’s coming of age, evidenced by youngest Fintech companies ever seen at a Sibos, and the huge interest and time freely given by all experts and executives during our Office Hours 2016. The feedback from both the startups and the experts has been outstanding.” – Eric van der Kleij, Special Advisor, Kickstart Accelerator

Sibos is one of the largest and internationally renowned financial services conferences held annually, organised by SWIFT. 2016 took Sibos to Geneva. This had us thinking – what if we could bring our startups together with the c. 10,000 executives, representing the titans of the financial services industry? So after two months of planning, as well as the generous support of some of our Global Partners, we formulated a bold and ambitious plan, our ‘Mission to Sibos’.

Below, Swisscom’s Digital Lab as part of a tour of EPFL’s campus and visits to some of our Global Partners’ innovation branches on Monday 26/09:ctsyq9ewyaa5n2v

And Credit Suisse’s Innovation Lab:whatsapp-image-2016-09-29-at-09-08-21

Sibos kicked off for KSAcc when Eric van der Kleij shared the Innotribe Stage with Fintech influencers Alexandre Gaillard,  Brigitte Baumann and Johann Gevers. The group educated the audience about Fintech Hubs in Switzerland.  To fully immerse the audience into the uniqueness of the accelerator space in Zurich, Eric was helped by the amazing visual design team at Sibos!

unbenannt

A core part of our Mission to Sibos was ‘Office Hours 2016’ in collaboration with Innotribe. We managed 40+ meetings in a space of 2 days! Some of our companies also got the opportunity to meet with journalists.

 

Day 2 begins…

…for the Mission to Sibos Team!

 

“Beware the Temptation of Technology!” – Futurist Gerd Leonhard speaking at the Innotribe in his session Man and Machine: The Future of Technology and Humans. A thought-provoking talk analysing the evolution of technology and its impact on human behaviours. Ultimately we must recognise that there will always be a human role to play and the real question is how comfortable are we with the change?

Technology is exponential, while humans are linear, as such our lives will change more in the next 20 years then they have in the last 400 years. We will witness the end of dying. Or at least our grandchildren will live to be 100-150 years old and may in fact never die but ‘upload’ themselves onto a cloud. And as such in 2050 there will be one computer with the power of all human brains!

Gerd closed with this advice for being a successful business: “is about staging experiences, for humans this means: value, trust, relationships with a layer of technology to support this e.g. Facebook owns no media, uber owns no cars, air bnb owns no rooms, they are all providing a [superior user] experience. Finally, that websites and apps will become obsolete, if we look at Amazon echo, a speaker which is permanently listening in your living room and will act on/recommend goods and services, it already has, 3m users in the U.S. after only a few months!

 

Some of our startups tell us of their Sibos experience:

“Our first meeting at Sibos resulted in a planned proof of concept!” – Marcos Monteiro, CEO – Veezoo

“At first sight, Sibos is overwhelming – impressive stands, 1,000s of delegates and panels featuring CEOs of multinational corporations… however, if you know where to start and where you want to get to, it becomes much easier to navigate. The Kickstart team did a great job connecting us with all the right people right from the moment we arrived at Sibos”. – Jānis Graubiņš, Co-Founder – Notakey

“The amazing Sibos provided us with an intimate audience with many investors and advisors who gave invaluable feedback on our business model, in particular how to make us a more attractive prospect for European investors. We talked to a range of companies about some fascinating topics including risk control, online payments, credit management and blockchain, all very insightful discussions to help us improve our products and services in Europe.” – Juliette Xu, COO – Surong360

We brought Vlado Petrushev Founder & CEO of Minebox (Smart and Connected Machines) along for the ride and asked how Sibos was for him? ‘Excellent! I had a great time with the Fintech vertical and I learned a lot about the finance industry from them. Some fantastic news, as a result of an introduction by one of the KSA team, Minebox is now a Partner company of Cloud28 (an open community of Cloud Service Providers, Cloud Resellers, System Integrators and government entities dedicated to accelerating enterprise cloud adoption across Europe, the Middle East and Africa)!’

 

Mission successful!
David Bufka from EY joined the Kickstart team at the conference, he told our team, ‘The ‘Mission to Sibos’ exceeded our expectations. The startups from the Kickstart Accelerator were introduced to EY’s global Fintech leaders and our clients at Sibos, where valuable contacts were made to further international cooperation.’ Sascha Gysel from UBS, another one of the sponsoring companies of the Mission to Sibos, emphasised: “We are very glad to have supported this unique opportunity for the start-ups, as there is no better place to meet banking industries leaders.”

Katka Letzing, Kickstart Accelerator’s Fintech Programme Lead summarised our Mission to Sibos:  ‘It was great to see our startups connecting with big ecosystem players at Sibos, as well testing their business models and getting feedback from the network of corporate partners, investors and many others.’

The question left for Katka and the Kickstart Accelerator Team is where our Mission to next year is? A huge thank you to the following Partners who made our ‘Mission to Sibos’ possible: Credit Suisse, EY, Raiffeisen Switzerland, Swisscom & UBS.

 

Startup insights into the life at Kickstart Accelerator

Life at Kickstart Accelerator is heating up and some of the #kickstarters16 are feeling the burn with Midterm Demo Day looming less than a week away. With backstage access to the action, we decided to find out how the entrepreneurs are holding up and get a more personal perspective of life at Kickstart Accelerator.

Luis and his team from Mergims, a Rwandan start-up in the Fintech vertical, are feeling positive about the upcoming deadline especially with the “needed push” they received from the experts to transition from “proof of concept to viable business model status.”  Life at the #kickerstarters16 hostel has them feeling like they are back in their college days spending late nights dreaming about possibilities.

Unlike their African peers Piomic, a local startup in the Future and Emerging Technologies vertical, knows Zürich well and was excited to discuss the lunchtime food trucks that arrive each day to feed the throng of hungry entrepreneurs. Piomic’s unanimous favorite: the Sri Lankan Kottu Roti. When not discussing the superlatives of Kottu Roti, Piomic is pushing to finish the clinical prototype of their device. This will allow them to take the next step in being granted permission to test their device in clinical trials based in Switzerland.

Equally busy, Viscopic, from the Smart and Connected Machines vertical, is a startup on the move. We were able to secure few minutes with them to discuss their focus for the Midterm Demo day. Presenting well is their first objective as they hope to impress important, potential contacts who could help further and improve their pilot project. Viscopic appreciates the cohesive work environment created by like-minded people all striving to accelerate their innovative ideas.

Social entrepreneurs Project Aqua, from the Food vertical, couldn’t agree more about what an incredible ecosystem Kickstart Accelerator has created by bringing together 30 startups – that’s over 90 entrepreneurs! They are enthusiastic about the opportunity the Midterm Demo Day gives them to share their business model with influential people and scale it with the intention of helping more people. “Time is flying” and the startup plans to use the midterm date to look back on what they have achieved and project what they want to achieve in the remaining time left. Project Aqua has been particularly thrilled that the Zürich Street Food Festival coincides with their time at Kickstart Accelerator.

Sound interesting? Come and have a look for yourself! View days left to sign-up for the exclusive Midterm Demo Day Morning Session at ewz-Unterwerk Selnau, Selnaustrasse 25, 8001 Zürich. Space is limited, see you!

About the most innovative country and it’s journey to become an excellent place to start a venture today.

The Global Innovation Index ranks the innovation performance of 128 countries and economies around the world, based on 82 indicators. Switzerland is the most innovative country in the world – for several years in a row now.

So one would think that Switzerland then is the startup hub par example!  Well, one is for sure – innovation alone is not enough, but that’s why there are programs like the Kickstart Accelerator.

Switzerland and its innovators

Let’s begin from the start. Back then when Switzerland, a small, poor country full of mountains, lacking raw materials, had no choice but to be innovative, continually. When innovation was a must to develop alternative sources of income, such as agriculture, tourism and the service sector. When Switzerland freshly established as a liberal, federal state would attract political and other refugees who then helped make Switzerland famous for its watches, the financial center, highly ranked school system and the universities of today.

That’s when Switzerland became the innovation-driven country. So Switzerland’s high ranked positions today rely on the heritage of well-educated people and the legacy of the strong and significant business, banking and research sectors – not to be forgotten, also on the openness towards foreign business partners, investors, workers and entrepreneurs.

Nothing major has changed about these facts. Switzerland is still this innovation-driven country, even has been the most innovative country for the last six years. But if Switzerland is to maintain its top position internationally, it must ensure that the necessary conditions for innovation remain in place.

Only now, in the time of digitalisation, Switzerland and particular Zurich realizes the lagging when it comes to boosting young and new innovators too, especially compared to other European cities. Clearly a tremendous opportunity here.

Where in Switzerland the majority of all innovations come from the established institutions it’s the startups and young entrepreneurs driving innovation in other countries mostly because of political and economic difficulties. In the Bloomberg interview Marc Walder, CEO Ringier and initiator and chairman of the board of DigitalZurich2025 rightly said that Switzerland did not have any major crisis. Therefore there had not been any particular need for supporting startups until now nor an important aspect of inviting local organizations to invest in new ideas.

So let’s quickly change this. There is enough resources in this country and a lot of capable supporters when it comes to innovation, thus a real stable soil for young innovators, right?

Right, but to becoming the most preferred place to start a venture today requests more than that. For example business-friendly regulations, a reasonable system of taxation, as well as free access to foreign markets and their innovators.

So far, Switzerland attracted international talent mostly at the top-ranked Swiss universities. And when talented students graduate, they are either recruited by large corporates or leave the country again. Switzerland loses out on what is a key factor for Silicon Valley’s success story. Some same scenario with local talents.

Programs like the Kickstart Accelerator help to build these strongly needed bridges to the international entrepreneurship scene and also bring local organizations close to new, different innovations.

“The Kickstart Accelerator program allows EY to identify innovation from startups at an early stage. This way, we can add to it through the expertise of our EY experts and mentors,” says Marcel Stalder, CEO of EY Switzerland. “The unique approach of the Kickstart Accelerator, where even competing companies join forces, will allow for bigger innovation to come through. Advisory companies such as EY act as a platform, a facilitator, that helps connect the dots between the new solutions and the needs of the corporate partners. This increases the overall innovation power of the Swiss economy,” elaborates Stalder.

So Switzerland is the startup hub par example? Well, we’re definitely getting there!