We have asked KITRO, a food waste reducing solution  for the food and beverage industry and probably one of the most potent seed-startups in Switzerland, to share their experience. With KITRO, they have won funding and support from all kinds of institutions like Climate KIC, MassChallenge, START summit and recently digitalswitzerland’s Kickstart Accelerator.

About founding their own company, they said: “Working for our business doesn’t feel like work– It’s our passion”. For the two female founders, Anastasia and Naomi, both former students of the world’s best hospitality university, the École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), the doors are open to the world-class gastro companies. Motivated by making an impact on both, the industry and the environment, they do not mind foregoing a job in a corporate structure with high certainty and income. They actually embrace a different lifestyle, constant change, flexibility to master their schedule and teaming up with their best friend. The founders and flatmates state that even though their intensive collaboration sometimes “feels like a marriage to the co-founder”, they have never experienced more fulfilment anywhere else.

But how does one get there?

How to find an idea

Many people struggle with finding a brilliant idea for a startup. But sometimes you just have to solve the problem right in front of you. For KITRO’s founders this was the case, when both worked in hospitality and were appalled by the enormous amount of untainted food wasted. Coming up with a food waste reducing solution may seem obvious, however, a tool that automatically measured the food waste has not been invented yet.  The transformation from a problem’s solution to a business idea for KITRO happened in a competition offered by SAVIVA and the Food and Beverage chair at their university. With the initial “crazy ideas of moving robots that would separate waste automatically” they won the challenge for the best vision for a sustainable restaurant.

How to get the money

Mostly, startups first invest their own money. But for KITRO’s founders, their savings could not cover higher expenses than their living costs. And even covering these expenses was feasible only when avoiding restaurants and bars and crashing on friend’s couches. Thus, higher investments are needed to finance product development. In order to receive this high funding, it appears obvious to approach investors. While KITRO personally has not experienced it, they have heard that one of the biggest challenges for some female founders is finding an investor that will take them serious. However, KITRO has been lucky with many other opportunities as “Switzerland is a very supportive environment”. They are intending to apply for institutional funding  in Switzerland and they are about to incorporate their company in Vaud, in hopes to receive a governmental grant.

How to make it big

What is the best business idea worth when there are no clients or no suppliers to work with? A business needs to be embedded in an environment. And therefore, incubators and accelerators are key. KITRO has already benefited from institutional support, such as Climate KIC and now is looking forward to the Kickstart Accelerator 2017. The Kickstart Accelerator is a particularly startup-friendly accelerator, as it does not take equity in exchange for the CHF 15k scholarship. KITRO applied because “Kickstart has a very good credibility in Switzerland and also because of its specialized food vertical”, which is highly beneficial for them as a foodtech startup. Also they chose the program because of the network with the leading corporate partners, in particular Migros, Coop and Swisscom.

From the founders’ perspective , there are many reasons to start a business. Start with the idea. Workshops to work on your idea, funding and a network of potential partners, experts and mentors can be provided all-in-one by the accelerators.

The current batch of nominated startups for the Kickstart Accelerator 2017 will start in September and we hope this experience will be highly advantageous for KITRO and help them to make it big.

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Author Naila Malemusa

Summer Intern

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