The winner’s circle of the first challenge race saw a crush of contestants and winning bet teams savoring this long-awaited moment. While not quite prancing for joy, Riva Digital and C-Shares bet teams deserved taking a victory lap after they were crowned winner and runner up, respectively, of the first challenge race among a field of 11 determined contenders. Read full event coverage here.

Looking on were the “new arrivals,” those intrepid enough to enter bets for challenge round two via the crowdsourced open challenge platform. These are men and women who answered challenge Steering Committee chair, Stefan Schöbi’s call for, “new recipes, new answers, new ways,” of finding innovative digital solutions. Go check them out and join one to if you wish to learn the recipe for creating innovation.

Innovation alchemy

During a recent conversation, Stefan elaborated on his challenge Steering Committee’s thinking, “Pursuit of innovation is very simple, because there’s no such thing as alchemy (seemingly magical process of transformation) to create innovation. It’s the combination of already known things.”

It’s too soon to tell if open challenge bets will uphold Stefan’s firm belief that, “it’s right to get people together. They’re more creative, they’re a lot more powerful in finding new solutions for existing problems.” But the results of challenge round one are strong evidence the challenge recipe for innovation creation works.

Opportunists’ mashup

Take the winning e-health bet, Riva Digital, for example. It began life as an opportunists’ mashup. Everybody who was anybody in the health industry jumped on its bandwagon. Crowding around its initial round table were commercial interests like TopPharm, mega-corporates like Migros, venture capitalists, hospitals, lawyers, elite Swiss universities, consultants and rocket scientists at CSEM – to name only a few of its 27 collaborators (at last count) – led by a table Captain, Claudia Pletscher, from Swiss Post.

With so many diverse self-interests at the same table, Riva’s bet could have easily devolved into something like the dysfunctional United States’ Congress and its egomaniac President, unable to agree on anything or get any meaningful work done. Yet the opposite transpired. Riva’s partners combined their own (known) resources in novel ways, and executed, iterating a plan together on the fly.

Speaking with Riva Digital team members, Thomas Guggi and Tobias Pforr, before the winners were announced, Tobias said, “I find it really amazing what this team has accomplished in one year. But it’s not finished. We have a lot more to prove in the next stage.”

Fire and failure

A few hours later, Riva’s bet was named overall winner. I asked Tobias if their smart phone blood pressure app would make a difference in the world and stimulate more Swiss innovation. In a measured voice he said, “The people behind the bet, they’re going to have a tremendous impact on people’s lives.” The look of wonder on his face reveals he still finds it incredible what Riva has accomplished. He continued, “Seeing what is possible, with just a few people catching fire, and going for something … I hope that will ignite other people to dare to do something with a high risk of failure.”

Soon after C-Shares team returned from their victory lap, Luka Müller, partner in MME Legal and mastermind of its blockchain framework, took time out to explain what this new innovation means for Swiss innovation. “For the first time in history, a Swiss share is being printed and transferred from one person to another, without any transactional intermediary. This is the world’s first … and that is sexy.”

Sexy crazy bet delivers world’s first

As I was trying to align ‘sexy’ and ‘world’s first,’ Luka doubled down, “It’s one of the sexxxxiest bets you can actually think of. It’s a crazy bet! When you start with a crazy bet like DAURA, you never THINK of what work you have in front of you. But luckily, it is a challenge, and it is a bet, with a clear-cut timetable. Because without a bet, it would not have worked out so well as it did for DAURA.”

The crowd milled around us as Luka continued, “When you’re in a project like this, you’re never completely sure you’re on the right track. As a venture, you do something that’s never been done before. You have these doubts … but if you have a savvy team and a community (like digitalswitzerland), telling you, ‘hey guys, you’re on the right way,’ well … it makes you happy!”

Execute in spite of the risks

The Fintech roundtable has placed a new bet for round two of the challenge. I asked Luka what lies ahead for his Fintech bet collaborators and their MVP “DAURA”? He said, “A concept like a Swiss C-Share is very new. You have a lot of traditional entrepreneurs and owners of companies. You need to convince them that this is ‘Stage 2’ of investment life. You can only convince them this is good for them with a very very good product, which on a price level, is very sensible. This is our challenge in the next 12 months.”

With his focus already shifted to creating the next tranche of digital innovation, Luka’s outlook reminded me of something Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director, digitalswitzerland, told me. “At the end of the day, the (challenge) strategy is about showing to the world that we can, as a country with such a collaborative approach … execute projects.”

Twelve bet stories and six months ago, I began this assignment looking to validate the challenge conviction, “Innovation has always been and will always be the key factor for Switzerland’s prosperity.” As I file this last story, I’m proud of the women and men who answered the challenge call. Who had the audacity to conspire and declare crazy bets. Who accepted the likelihood of failure, but executed in spite of the risks — to help ensure our prosperity.

If you’re inspired to create Swiss innovation, join the open challenge