Author’s note: Predictions Part 1 looks at bets launched 04/2017. Predictions Part 2 examines the 2018 bets who broke into the race exactly one year ago and are crossing the finish line April 15th.
When the starting gates opened for eighteen bet teams in 2017, the entire challenge race was a gamble for digitalswitzerland. No one knew if it would fly or flop. The rules devised were way outside the box by Swiss standards. Required to self-organize and self-finance, each round table bet it could resolve a serious national problem. As an additional hurdle, their digital solutions needed the potential to scale, thereby positioning Switzerland as a global hub for digital innovation.
Predictions need perspective if they are to be taken serious. Guillaume Gabus, Sr. Project Manager digitalswitzerland, witnessed the start of the Challenge and offered this assessment: “What I find amazing is we still have from the first batch, seven projects which are up and running and getting good results. That’s a third of the bets which are impacting a lot of people’s business or lives!”
The impact is already evident but the challenge has a finish line and a winner will be crowned. Guillaume couldn’t speculate who will win CHF 10K cash, kudos and help ensure the future prosperity of Switzerland. And I’ll be the first to admit I’m no bookmaker. But having closely followed these bets since day one, I’m offering my pre-race predictions with no promises. Use them or lose them – it’s your choice.
Given the depth and diversity of the bets, combined with the fickle nature of fostering innovation, we should expect more than a few surprises. Take the legal round table, Pictograms for Terms and Conditions. This bet won Audience Favourite when announced 04/2017. Yet only ten days ago, co-Captains, Prof. Dr. Florent Thouvenin, Assoc. Law Professor UZH, and Dr. Michael Tschudin, Sr. Assoc. Wenger & Vieli AG admitted, “We don’t think we will be ready.We’re still in the act of editing the icons. …” Then days before submitting my pictogram bet story, a last-minute breakthrough has them charging back into contention.
Another possible surprise, watch out for the Digitalisation of Building and Zoning Codes bet. Since interviewing co-Captains Matthias Knuser, Raumgleiter Managing Partner, and Dr. Matthias Standfest, CEO Archilyse AG, in mid-March for the story “The Urban Fabric Goes Digital,” they’ve added the City of Zurich along with Dietikon and Urdorf to complete a hat trick of three municipalities publishing their BZO in machine-readable source code. Knuser believes their bet is,“proof that when good people work together … you can get results you would not expect.”For a preview of those results, browse Archscape and don’t forget to close your mouth if it drops open.
While Season One winner, Riva Digital cannot repeat as champion, 2018 runner-up, daura: C-Shares Digital Property, must be considered a frontrunner. This past year both Riva and daura advanced from the MVP (minimum viable product) stage into full-fledged start-ups. Yet the two bets represent totally different characters. Riva is a poster child for cross-sector industry collaboration; daura a role model how to scale newly minted innovation to take first mover advantage in a vertical market. Catch up on how daura grew a crazy crypto tokenization idea into new gold: Fintech C-Shares – New Gold For An Old Story.
Riva Digital evolved into a non-profit Society. Core team member, Katharina Guggi, told me she’s proud “we managed to activate 100K people and they’re thinking (differently) about their blood pressure. Also, our Riva smartphone app is up and running.” I asked her IF Riva were eligible (BTW they are not), would they repeat as Challenge champion? She said, “I think our chances would be 50-50. It would be hard because expectations are really high – but we managed to achieve a lot of things.”
The C-Shares bet, christened daura (“making gold” in Rätoromanisch), matured into daura Ltd. and hired Peter Schürer as its first CEO. Peter told me their most important outcome is, “we are live, our service is available and Deutsche Börse and Sygnum will become shareholders of daura AG.” Whoa. Now I get why Roland Cortivo, daura team member, gave me a sly smile back in January, and retorted, “Yes! Because we’re hungry!”when I asked if daura was in position to win this year’s challenge. What else are they planning to (over)deliver on Demo Day?
The Smart Station bet entered by SBB fooled me. When I first covered their bet 01/2018, it was gaining traction but I was still sceptical if the cute robots and big claims were more than marketing. Six months later, Philipp Leimgruber took over as bet Captain and invited me to do a story on their newest innovations. Today, I’ve come full circle and consider them a favourite to win this race.
In my view, SBB’s bet deserves odds-on stakes not because of the 24 digital projects they completed in 24 months. But because of accomplishing something more critical for Switzerland’s future: their bet provoked a cultural transformation. Philipp told me top management is now committed to a culture of piloting and rapid prototyping. Having successfully tested pilots in Zurich HB, they’re scaling them out to regional stations. For his part, Philipp’s bet team will become a regular business unit after April 15th. He added, “We wouldn’t be here implementing so many things without this challenge. It gave us an enormous drive. I’m already thinking, what’s gonna be our next challenge?” Insider tip: Download SBB’s cool AR app (augmented reality app) and test it in Zurich Main Station.
Another big dog in this race is the Swisscom and IBM collaboration. A year ago, Fintech roundtable’s bet, Digital Founding Process Using Blockchain, successfully demo’d an MVP, revolutionizing the time (and eliminating all paper docs) to legally incorporate a Swiss company from six weeks to a few days. They’ve been quiet in the run-up for Season Two’s finale. But expect co-Captains Johannes Höhener, Head of Fintech, Swisscom, and Christian Keller, General Mgr. with support from Federal CTO, Ulrich Schimpel, both IBM Switzerland veterans, along with their blue chip partners, will have some new tricks to raise their bet’s profile on Demo Day.
Almost single-handedly, Jonas Nakonz, Project Manager of foraus, has delivered on e-Democracy’s bet. Jonas seldom raises his voice but in our phone chat last week, it would have been appropriate. He told me, “We now have the (Policy Kitchen) platform, it works. We’re using it and we’re rapidly scaling it.” Less concerned about winning prizes, he said, “what I would like to highlight is that after just a few months of being live, we’re doing our first global campaign with stations in San Francisco, Boston, Bangalore, Nairobi, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Geneva.” As I wrote in Dec. 2017, Crowdsourced Think Tank Bet at Even Money, Jonas champions bringing Swiss democratic traditions via the Internet to the world.
Why does this matter? Here’s how Jonas explained it to me when we first met. “Our generation faces incredible challenges on a global scale, but the world is still organized in nation states. And I deem that quite insufficient for addressing those challenges. So, we need new ways to organize the political process globally, and we see a way forward in the collaborative process that empowers civil society to contribute to global problem solving.”
All these teams will demo their bets at Open Demo & Pitch Day, 15 April 2019 (open to public from 14:00-16:00). Come check them out and compare your winning picks with judges’ final selections.