As part of our strategy 2018-2019 at digitalswitzerland, we are developing new activities in the area of international visibility and connectivity. We aim on one side to increase the visibility of the Swiss digital innovation ecosystem abroad, on the other side it is also about connecting with other digital and innovation hubs and developing collaborations. We believe in increasing the attractiveness of the Swiss ecosystem with these international objectives and help our members to also profit from such activities.

But first, we had the opportunity to do two conference visits at the Wolves Summit in Warsaw and the EU Startup Summit in Barcelona.  The Wolves Summit is with more than 2’000 participants one of the most important tech conference in Eastern Europe. This summit focuses on tech and innovation, mainly with participants from Eastern Europe. Very positive was the quality of speakers and panellists on stage but also the possibility to conduct many 1:1 meetings during both days, a very efficient way to get to know many interesting people. The EU Startup Summit, now in Barcelona but previously held in Berlin, gave a very good perspective about the Western Europe Tech Ecosystem. Many startupers, investors and accelerators met during one day and showed their perspectives and visions. Main attends were from Spain, France and Germany I would say.

Now what are the insights and interesting matters from both trips and compared with our Swiss digital ecosystem?

Insights from Poland

Poland is great for building strong IT or industrial products. Good and committed workforce, average cost of producing compared to many other countries. Also, the people have developed a very good sense for product quality. Poland seems to have affinity with the blockchain technology with many startups in this sphere. The ICO topic is also in all mouth, nevertheless uncertainty remains rather high due to lack of clear regulations.

On the other side, and maybe because the market is pretty big with its 38Mio users, majority of startups are not able or not willing to scale internationally. Reasons are mainly due to the fragmented CEE and Europe in general, but also because many startups think that the market is big enough to build successful ventures, which is somewhere true.

Digitalpoland, a similar initiative to digitalswitzerland but in Poland, is doing great progress since their launch about one year ago. Besides developing their member base, they are launching new initiatives (digital shapers, hackathon) and it seems that they have very good traction so far. Bundling forces in this digital revolution is the best answer to deal with current challenges.

Finally, good news for Poland is the fact that the government is investing much money, about €300Mio, in many different existing or new funds to invest in Polish startups. These €300Mio are completed with about €200Mio from the private sector. A very high amount of money which should boost the ecosystem. Although if the structure is different from the Swiss Entrepreneur Fund, the vision is very similar.

Insights from Spain

In my opinion Spain has a pretty different focus so far. Majority of startups, as I could see, are focus on B2C business model, more consumer goods or consumer services. Of course also with a strong tech in the background, but for sure Spain has a good momentum in consumer-facing business models. Spanish startups, although the country is big enough, tend to quickly go international, either in Western Europe or even in LATAM.

Spain is also lacking Venture Money as we do in Switzerland and startupers have to pitch abroad (Mainly France, UK and Germany) as soon as they raise their Series A, B or C. Also I could not meet any startups in deeptech topics like robotics, IoT, VR, etc and I have not the impression blockchain is a main focus of the tech ecosystem so far.

Anyway, Barcelona acts as magnet in the region with a strong growing startup ecosystem, since many of the startups are consumer-oriented, they are strong in marketing and visibility, helping for sure the entire ecosystem also abroad. Several European VCs are interested in investing in Spanish startups, which shows the current quality growth of the business models.

How good is Switzerland known in these two tech ecosystems?

Switzerland as a tech and innovation hub is rather known and respected when speaking with participants at the conference, but for sure not really appreciated for its quality. People knows at best the Crypto Valley and our affinity to Blockchain, or sometimes our high quality in robotics or deeptech topics in general. Almost no one knows we have raised almost 1Mia in capital for Swiss startups in 2018, positioning the country in the 5th position in Europe. This shows that we have much work ahead in order to strengthen Switzerland’s position and visibility as an innovative and tech hub, especially by explaining and showing our assets.

2 final remarks for today:

  • If you are looking for the most important tech & startup conferences in the world, look at this article : Unfortunately Switzerland does not appear on the list, yet, we are working on it. J
  • I’ve heard several times that the innovation ecosystem in the Czech Republic is developing very well, the tech community is quickly growing, the entrepreneurs are risk-oriented and very open-minded. If anyone can tell us a bit more about the Czech Ecosystem and link us with some people there, please contact us on!


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Author Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director digitalswitzerland

Managing Director

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