DigitalZurich2025 partnered this year with START Summit and organized the panel “Switzerland as a Tech Hotspot?” with panelists Patrick Warnking (Country Director Google Switzerland, Steering Committee Member DZH2025) and the three founders Alex Ilic (Dacuda), Rasmus Nutzhorn (Kessel Solar) and Patrik Künzler (Limbic Chair). Sunnie Groeneveld (Managing Director DigitalZurich2025) moderated the panel.
After outlining Switzerland’s location advantages, the discussion got more personal, and panelists shared some valuable pieces of advice with the up and coming student entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts. Here are the top five:
1. “Don’t wait for the perfect idea.”
Alex Ilic founded ETH Spin-off Dacuda after completing his post-doc at MIT. Today he’s the company’s CEO and teaches as an assistant professor at HSG on the side because he wants to encourage students to just “go for it”. It’s more important to start working on an idea, than to wait till the perfect idea hits you because no matter what idea you work on, it will teach you the ropes of entrepreneurship. To become a successful entrepreneur, it’s best to start learning those ropes early on.
2 “Your life’s purpose is not pleasing others.”
Patrik Künzler is trained as a medical doctor. The past ten years he has dedicated his life to researching, creating and launching the Limbic Chair, a journey that has taken him from doing neuroscientific research at the MIT Media Lab to Technopark Zurich. At the Summit he explained how our brains are wired to please others, especially when we are young. He made a passionate call to not spend the best years of life simply pleasing others, parents, bosses, professors. Yes work hard and do what it takes to succeed, but “your life’s purpose is not pleasing others.”
3 “Don’t put your desks more than 35m apart.”
Rasmus Nutzhorn has been a key figure in building up the internationally-renown Danish startup community Founders House. He shared the early beginnings of the hashtag and how it became a transformative grassroots movement that put Copenhagen on the map as a startup ecosystem. It all started at an appartment. Then it was founders’ house and today it’s embedded in startup village, a complex of several buildings filled with startups. One of his top rules: “Don’t put your desks 35m apart.”
4 “Failure is not failure. Failure is a battle scar, a badge of honor that you tried something.”
Sunnie Groeneveld, Managing Director of DigitalZurich2025, and an entrepreneur herself, talked about what it was like to work for a Y Combinator incubated web startup in Silicon Valley. One big difference between Silicon Valley and Switzerland is cultural. She said you see it in how people view failure,: “In the US failure is perceived as a battle scar. A badge of honor that you tried something. If anyone of you in the audience wants to make a significant contribution to Switzerland as a tech hotspot, make a pledge that you will not judge your peers for their failures, but for the number of times that they tried to put an idea into this world.”
5 “Call your parents tonight and thank them.”
Patrick Warnking heads Google Switzerland as a Country Director and closed the panel with some encouraging words of advice, reassuring the student audience that trying to make an idea happen is a brilliant thing in itself. It shows commitment and dedication, and that’s what matters in the end from Google’s perspective. And no matter what you end up doing, being young when so many great technological developments are in their beginnings (i.e. the internet of things, blockchain, ) is a huge opportunity. “So call your parents tonight and thank them. It’s a great time to be alive.”