A few days ago, ZKB invited us to an interesting panel discussion concerning the sharing economy in Switzerland in the Büro Züri, ZKBs free working space in the heart of Zurich (see image above). The panel consisted of the CEOs of the Swiss startups Mila and Sharoo, the head of startup finance of ZKB and myself as Head of Communications of digitalswitzerland. The panel was moderated by Deloitte.
Deloitte opened the event with a short presentation on the effects of the sharing economy on the world and on Switzerland.
Key takeaways from the Deloitte presentation on sharing economy
- In only a few years, Airbnb has become the most valuable hotel chain worldwide – without owning one single room.
- The same thing with Uber: without owning one car, Uber has become the biggest taxi service provider in several cities – even in NYC, the city of taxis.
- There are already 17 companies of the sharing economy worldwide, each worth more than 1 billion US dollars (so-called unicorns).
- Every sector will be affected by the sharing economy. You can find an overview of this here.
- The number of Swiss startups in the sharing economy is growing.
- The same is true for crowdfunding in Switzerland.
- Regarding regulation, calls for a level playing field between businesses of the sharing economy and existing companies are increasing.
- The political framework for startups in Switzerland is positive, thanks to good infrastructure, a well-functioning labor market, qualitative education and low regulatory hurdles. Yet we need to make further progress in these areas fast, so as not to fall behind other growing innovation hubs (see also my blog on education in the 21st century).
- According to Deloitte, however, there are three areas in which Switzerland is losing ground: taxation policy, talents from third states, market size
Most of the issues raised by Deloitte are covered by digitalswitzerland initiatives. For instance, digitalswitzerland is promoting political conditions and regulatory frameworks that are conducive to the development of new technologies, new business models and the respective influx of capital and talent. Furthermore, we are addressing the need for more digital education through the platform educationdigital.
Discussing challenges for startups and political frameworks
During the subsequent panel, which was moderated by Deloitte, the two CEOs were questioned on reaching critical mass in Switzerland. Both agreed that Switzerland is too small to pursue a profitable business model in their respective field, which is why they are currently looking at the possibility of international expansion. Mila is even looking to jump across the pond.
As far as the financing for such an international expansion is concerned, both CEOs admitted that Switzerland is not very well suited to receive “bigger tickets”. On the question from Deloitte, whether Switzerland encourages startups, the ZKB head of startup finance summed up the current situation perfectly: At the moment, Switzerland is a very good country to found your startup in due to many reasons. Even capital to kickstart your startup is well accessible. Nonetheless, it is true that bigger sums, for example for international expansions of existing startups, are not widely available.
This statement is in line with what digitalswitzerland is pushing forward with our Digital Manifesto for Switzerland and many other initiatives.