In partnership with Bilanz, Handelszeitung and PME, digitialswitzerland is once again celebrating the 100 people changing the face of the Swiss digital landscape.

An eye to the future

The 100 Digital Shapers have shown bravery and commitment to digitalisation in extremely challenging times. As we transition into this post-Covid period, we asked our Shapers about their views of the digital future, how Switzerland can stand out and what advice they would give to their 16-year-old selves.

1. The Coders

Corina Schedler is the co-founder of Code Excursion – a female coding school. A self-taught web developer, Corina has developed a community that teaches women the basics of programming. She is passionate to support women who wish to make a career shift into the tech industry.

Q: If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice (career or life), what would it be?

A: “Success is what you define it to be. So define it as the sense of wonder or joy you feel while doing something. Don’t study for good grades but for what interests you. In the longterm people pleasing will lead nowhere. Get to know yourself, notice the moments of passion and trust your intuition. Be intentional about your decisions because your choices have a bigger impact than you think.”

2.The Creatives

Raphaël Brunschwig is the Chief Operating Officer at the Locarno Film Festival. He focuses on how digitalisation plays a transformative role in the strategic development of the festival, a process which has been sped up due to Covid-19. An exciting future lies ahead for events that no longer follow a traditional framework.

Q: Where do you think Switzerland can make the most impact on the digital innovation stage?

A: “Switzerland’s great strength lies in its neutrality, its expertise, and its tradition as an abiding place for reflection and exchange. We are therefore faced with an opportunity to present ourselves as a place that poses the question of ethics with respect to the digital revolution. And this puts us in a unique position. As Kissinger put it, if the Enlightenment was an ideal in search of the tools by which we might realize our potential, the digital revolution is an incredible toolkit desperately in search of a guiding philosophy. We therefore have the strength and credibility to be a land that reflects and engenders reflection on the great changes taking place in the world and the digital realm.

3. The Scalers

Melanie Gabriel is Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Yokoy, the all-in-one spend management platform. Melanie is passionate about streamlining and simplifying payment processes using AI. Last year, Yokoy secured 1.7 million Swiss francs in seed funding which has allowed for scaling and exciting market expansion.

Q: What are you most excited about for digital innovation for 2021 and beyond?

A: “There have been many breakthroughs in artificial intelligence recently. A firework of innovation can be observed. Increased computing power and the availability of large amounts of data are opening up gigantic new possibilities for machine learning. This will revolutionize many areas. Think about medicine or the financial sector. Especially in fintech things will change rapidly.”

4. The Cybersecurity Guards

Theodora Dragan is Data Protection Officer and Legal Counsel at the CyberPeace Institute. As Chairperson of the Swiss section of the International Association of Privacy Professionals and co-founder of the Swiss DPO Association, Theodora’s mission is to strengthen data protection systems against cyber attacks, and to support organisations in striking the right balance between their own interests and individual rights and freedoms.

Q: If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice (career or life), what would it be?

A: “Show kindness and compassion to yourself and others, and do not allow yourself to be defined by your success or by your defeat. Accomplishments are just as fleeting as failures – so try not to take either too seriously. In the famous words of celebrated Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

5. The Transformers

Luc Haldimann is Founder and CEO of Unblu, a Conversational Platform for Financial Services. It empowers financial institutions to increase online conversions and deliver better customer experience. As a board member of the SwissICT association, Luc promotes the exchange between software providers, users and specialists, and as a consultant he supports software companies in offering their digital solutions.

Q: Where do you think Switzerland can make the most impact on the digital innovation stage?

A: “Besides biotech and pharma, Switzerland provides a great environment for innovation at the intersection of financial services, privacy, and security. The accelerating need for digital transformation provides a massive chance for us to build software based services for the future of trust between people and machines. We have lived through two decades of online and mobile automation. It’s time to add the human factor back in.

6. The Nature Techies

Naomi MacKenzie is Co-founder Kitro, a state-of-the-art imaging solution that provides instant analysis of your food waste. Initially focused on the catering industry, Kitro has now further expanded its customer segment to work with medical centers. As a trainer and speaker at Venturelab, Naomi also trains and supports start-ups on their way to future success. 

Q: If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice (career or life), what would it be?

A: “Learn how to code ;). Don’t stress about things you can’t change.”

7. The Decentralisers

Harry Halpin is CEO of Nym Technologies, which has the mission to establish privacy as a default for online communications. When Harry worked at World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) / Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with every major Silicon Valley company on web standards, he saw how badly companies managed to protect the privacy of customers. In his opinion, there is only one way to maintain the right to privacy: with cryptography. It is his aim to make the advantages of encryption available to everyone.

Q: Where do you think Switzerland can make the most impact on the digital innovation stage?

A:  “Switzerland is a country remarkable due to its decentralization of government and its focus on privacy. It’s self-evident that cryptocurrency is the future of financial technology, and that less and less people trust Silicon Valley due to surveillance. As the world enters crisis, let’s not forget chaos is a ladder. As an American entrepreneur who left MIT to found a startup in Switzerland, this could be a benefit for Switzerland, as long as it increases it is favorable regulations for fields such as cybersecurity and cryptocurrency.”

8. The Infrastructure Builders

Denis Morel is Head of the eGovernment Business Unit at Swiss Post. An exciting time for Denis’s team, Swiss Post’s e-voting project should be ready to launch in early 2022. Denis places key importance on trust and transparency for the project to be a success. He believes that eVoting will improve opportunities for participation in the voting process.

Q: What will be the biggest change in the world of digital and the way you work in the next 10 years?

A: “Digital innovation requires the ability to accept mistakes and to learn from them. It is particularly important for the government and state institutions, which are building high, secure critical applications. In Switzerland, the “Mistake Culture” (or better the “Improvement Culture”) is mainly missing. All actors in Switzerland (Politics, Media, Government, Enterprises and People) have to change to this culture. This will be, from my point of view, a big change in the next ten years for a successful digital transformation in Switzerland.”

9. The Robot Masters

Agnès Petit Markowski is founder and CEO of Mobbot. Agnès’s mission is to help reduce the impact of the massive use of concrete in infrastructure. Mobbot has created innovative technology for the robotization and automation of sprayed concrete. As a result, a concrete element weighing one tonne can be printed in less than ten minutes.

Q: What are you most excited about for digital innovation for 2021 and beyond?

A: “Crisis helps the adoption of a change. The pandemic has favoured the digitalisation of many sectors. Now, the most exciting time will be the post-Covid era. What surprises me however, is that we still have “Chief Digital Officers” or ”Digital Director” roles or departments within companies. Digitalization should be part of our DNA. It is neither a department nor a job title.I think the post-Covid era will help to accelerate this change for many companies.”

10. The eMedics

Florian Falleggger is Co-Founder at Neurosoft Bioelectronics. Florian and his team are developing the next generation of soft implantable electrodes to interface seamlessly with the nervous system. Advances in this field offer the potential for medical devices that can restore the impaired functions of the nervous system through electrical stimulation or recording of neural tissue.

Q: What are you most excited about for digital innovation in 2021 and beyond?

A: “I believe medicine will see a revolution in the standard of care by integrating new digital solutions in the treatment pipeline. By accumulating and combining different data streams directly from patients, new personalized and more precise therapies can be achieved. Additionally, data that is collected from large groups of patients can be used to discover new bio-markers for novel treatments.”

Read the full interviews with all 100 Digital Shapers in this dedicated Bilanz publication.