On August 22nd Zurich witnessed the opening of the Kickstart Accelerator Program – digitalswitzerland’s flagship initiative 2016 – in Zurich’s EWZ Unterwerk Selnau, With 30 start-up teams and more than 90 founders participating, the program rightfully laid claim to being Europe’s largest accelerator program. Uniquely and most conducive towards truly disruptive innovation – the program united four diverse industry segments under one roof, including verticals such as FinTech, Food, Smart & Connected Machines and Future & Emerging Technologies and an impressive group of 20 sponsoring partners.

Since their arrival in Zurich, the teams and founders from 19 countries have been working diligently and with great enthusiasm on further developing their tech innovation and business models. They sought and found ample support and coaching opportunity thanks to the group of experienced entrepreneurial mentors, the large number of experts from corporate partners and special advisor to the FinTech program, Eric van der Kleij, all of which were available 24/7 throughout the program.

Additional highlights of the past three months included the welcome reception hosted by Zurich’s mayoress Corinne Mauch at the old-established guild house ‘Zur Waag’ and the mid-term Demo Day on September 21st at University of Zurich’s prestigious auditorium. In these rooms, famous not the least for Winston Churchill’s memorable ‘Let Europe Arise’ speech, the young entrepreneurs had the first opportunity to present their startups and concepts to a broader audience.

Also, and for the first time, digitalswitzerland’s board meeting took place at the Kickstart Accelerator with Philipp Rösler, member of the board of the World Economic Forum and recent digitalswitzerland member, participating.

Moreover, the Head of State and President of the Federal Council, Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann joined the startups on 11 October for a breakfast meeting. Not only did he point towards the many good reasons for considering Switzerland as a great place to locate and further develop their new businesses, but also shared many practical insights from his own experience as both an entrepreneur and investor.

All startups, and particularly the Fintech-related ones, had several opportunities to pitch and present themselves to business communities whilst attending a number of conferences such as world renown SIBOS in Geneva. Numerous private meetings with corporate investors and corporate leaders as well as Venture Capital firms provided further networking opportunity with future clients and investors.

It speaks to the quality of our participants as well as to the genuine commitment of our corporate partners, that a significant number of teams have received offers for a further “Proof-of-Concept”. These so called “PoC’s” are an additional period where founders can pilot and test their developments in the live setting of an operating business.

Last week Friday, 4 November, the first ever Kickstart Accelerator program officially closed with a final Demo Day, which saw many Swiss and international investors attending the pitch presentations and subsequent one-on-one discussions. Needless to say, that the Closing-Party in the evening was not only well attended but most-deserved. Joachim Schoss, founder and investor in the Scout24 group delivered an inspiring keynote and more than CHF100’000 of grants were distributed amongst the most successful teams.

The Kickstart Accelerator has been a great success for all involved and it has demonstrated the ability of digitalswitzerland and its members to join efforts, funding and forces in developing the increasingly buzzing Swiss innovation ecosystem. We are happy to announce, that next year’s Kickstart edition is already in the works, including a Life Sciences satellite in the Basel area.

A special Thank You goes to the Kickstart Accelerator Team, Impact Hub, DV2C and our members and global partners Coop, Credit Suisse, EY, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Global FinTech Association/Leonteq, Migros, PwC, Raiffeisen, Ringier, Swisscom, Swiss Life and UBS as well as supporting partners ABB, Accenture, AXA, ETH, Helbling, Helsana, KTI, Maxon-Motors, Metall-Zug, SIX-Group and Stäubli.

Stay tuned on our social media channels for the next big announcements!

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Natascha Tummeley

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