Switzerland is ideal for startups

Collaboration between startups and corporations often is a win-win situation. Why can such cooperations be this fruitful? We spoke to Veronica Lange and Andreas Kubli from UBS and wanted to know about the value of building strong partnerships and the uniqueness of Kickstart Accelerator.

[Deutsche Version]

Why is UBS interested in startups?

Andreas Kubli (AK): We realized very early on that fintech startups can help us accelerate digital transformation at the bank, and in the meantime collaborations have become a tradition for us. We don’t have to do everything that we offer our customers ourselves. If a startup has a great solution, particularly in an area that is not part of our core competencies, we are happy to discuss a potential collaboration.

Veronica Lange (VL): Owing to their organizational structure, startups are often a lot more agile than a major corporate group, such as UBS. This enables them to significantly reduce the time-to-market for new innovations. They also often have specific technical know-how, which can be applied to very good effect in the financial sector.

What can UBS offer startups?

VL: Collaborations offer a typical win-win situation. Startups benefit from an established platform with a large customer base and the security of a trustworthy major bank. We also bring a great deal of expertise to the table: banking experience, sound advice, extensive professional knowledge, personal contact, long-standing relationships and excellent financial products.

AK: In addition, we have gained a lot of experience in collaborating with startups over the past few years. That is very important, because when a startup collaborates with a corporate group there is always the danger that it will be “crushed” by the complex structures and processes. However, we have found very good ways of preventing that from happening and have launched successful collaborations—for instance with bexio, DSwiss and SumUp.

VL: Access to capital is certainly also a decisive factor for startups. We can help startups, such as the participants in Kickstart Accelerator, with their pitch for capital to investors.

Why should I, with my startup in Switzerland, approach Kickstart Accelerator rather than look to London, Singapore or New York?

AK: Kickstart Accelerator is one-of-a-kind globally, and one of the largest multi-corporate startup support programs in Europe. It is unique because it is supported by more than 15 major corporate partners, which all pull together to promote the Swiss innovation ecosystem. From last year’s program, we were able to make a proof-of-concept with both Notakey and Zoa, which we are currently still working on.

VL: Arguments in favor of Switzerland are its expertise as a financial center and a strong educational system combined with excellent technical universities, gifted talents, a very high level of education and a large number of potential investors in the country. Global investors also rate Switzerland highly. Many of them traveled to Zurich in January to attend the Investor Summit, where they met with Swiss startups.

AK: I haven’t come across the aforementioned collaborative aspect as much in other markets. Switzerland, however, is ideal for collaboration because of its manageable size.

What was your best/most surprising moment when the Kickstart Accelerator program was run for the first time last year?

AK: With Eric van der Kleij, we were able to bring on board a recognized expert to help develop an accelerator program. I was really impressed by how we were able to set up one of the largest European programs in such a short time. The interaction between a wide range of partners with a common goal created a unique dynamic.

VL: I was impressed by the quality of the applicants from all over the world. I also sensed a great interest and a huge commitment internally on the part of the employees to support the accelerator program and the startups.

What are your expectations for this year’s accelerator program and from what areas would you like to see startups come?

AK: Last year’s program exceeded expectations in terms of scope, attracting attention and project studies. I hope that even more startups will sign up this year and that we will see even more PoCs. We also want to keep spreading Switzerland’s good reputation around the world. In a best-case scenario, we may convince foreign startups to come to Switzerland. I wouldn’t like to specify any particular areas, but if a startup demonstrates a collaborative spirit, I look forward to the exchange.

VL: I can go along with that. A project study in the areas of distributed ledger, smart contracts or wealthtech would be great. But I am also very open to other topics, and I would really like to wait and see what new ideas startups from all around the world approach us with.