Tech startups in Switzerland are on the rise. The number of companies founded in Switzerland has been steadily growing and so are the investments in startups. Further studies show that Switzerland is poised to become a deep tech nation. According to research published by Wavestone in 2018, investors focus primarily on talent when it comes to investing in deep tech startups. And on this topic, Switzerland is considered very attractive. But what exactly makes technologies deep? Deep technology is an umbrella term for new, science-based technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain. Their potential is vast: in our (digitised) world, deep tech innovations could contribute to solving some of today’s greatest challenges – be it autonomous logistics in cities or financial services in developing countries. One should however note that truly innovative solutions are rarely developed in isolation.

“Dreamers who do”

Interest is also increasing when it comes to intrapreneurship, a way of fostering innovation within a company. ”Intrapreneurship” is composed of “intracorporate” and “entrepreneurship”. The term was first used in the 1980s by Gifford Pinchot, a US entrepreneur, who used to speak of intrapreneurs as “dreamers who do”. Intrapreneurs are employees of a corporation with creative ideas and entrepreneurial talent, who work autonomously on self-defined projects. All in the framework of the respective company. Kickstart has promoted intrapreneurship since the beginning. And while back in 2016, just one intrapreneurship team took part in the programme, five teams participated in 2018. Success proves us right: seeing the 2017 intrapreneurship team UPTO develop, for example, confirms us in our intentions. UPTO has gone from an intrapreneurship team with a dream to launch a renting-and-sharing-car-service to an actual company that successfully offers that service; they went from dreamers to doers.

Bringing unlikely allies together

At Kickstart, we believe that true innovation only happens through collaboration. Kickstart is an annual programme that was initially launched as Kickstart Accelerator by digitalswitzerland in 2015. It is run by the Impact Hub Zurich team and aims to foster deep tech innovation in Switzerland. This is why every year, promising tech startups from Switzerland and beyond are invited to Zurich to meet and work with decision-makers of over 30 influential corporations and organisations such as AXA, Coop, Migros and Swisscom. The objective of this several week programme is to launch Proofs of Concept and other innovation partnerships. By fostering these collaborations, startups get the opportunity to test their technology in a challenging environment and gain credibility while doing so. It also gives traditional organisations the opportunity to tap into the innovation culture of fast-moving tech companies and absorb some of their entrepreneurial culture and methods. Researchers at ETH Zurich have already provided scientific evidence for this in the Kickstart programme: for example, different organisations described the collaboration with startups as “beneficial in terms of cultural development, exposure to the entrepreneurial spirit of the startup world and the image of the organisation internally as well as in public”. With a growing interest of companies to partner with the programme, other organisations also hope to experience these benefits.

By Katka Letzing & Simone Bächler, Kickstart

Interested intrapreneurship teams and later-stage startups can still apply for the 2019 edition of Kickstart. This year’s program focuses on six verticals: EdTech, FinTech, Food & Retail Tech, Smart City and, for the first time, HealthTech and Cybersecurity. Details and the link to the application platform can be found on our website: