On August 25th 2021 almost two hundred members of the Swiss startup ecosystem gathered on a boat to sail the waters of Lake Zurich and talk about the future of innovative Swiss companies. Among them were five special players: Samuel Mueller, Scandit CEO; Gina Domanig, managing partner at Emerald Technology Ventures; Alain Chuard, Wildfire founder and Swisspreneur chairman; Dominique Mégret, head of Swisscom Ventures; and Lea von Bidder, AVA CEO. These five special guests had a thing or two to say about scaling up in Switzerland. Here’s a summary of their incredible input:
- Switzerland is a deeptech nation with great engineering schools. You should take advantage of this, but also not forget the benefits of finding talent in different areas of expertise;
- Most Swiss startups raise too little money. You need to shoot high, and convince local investors to invest locally — the truth is our ecosystem has been growing even during Covid-19;
- Prioritize the ability to hire people who’ve done it before. Whether it be executives or mentors, take advantage of the ecosystem around you.
- Pay as close to the market average as possible. People who take startup jobs are willing to sacrifice a few things for the sake of fulfilling work, but their sacrifices will only go so far;
- Once you’ve nailed your value proposition, roll in the industry folks. Generalists are excellent for the start of your company, but eventually you’ll need specialists. For this it’s handy to have already gathered contacts beforehand;
- The top 3 hires for a scale-up are the Head of Sales, Head of Marketing and the Community Builder.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a CFO. If you don’t want your CEO to burn out, consider hiring someone who will take on the administrative efforts. Anywhere between series A and B is a good time to do this, and definitely long before you consider doing an IPO.
- If you need more money, the best thing to do is focus on sales. Hire sales ops for a laser focus on closing new deals. If you’d rather invest your time in fundraising, but VCs aren’t saying yes to you, ask yourself why.
- Two things that would help here would be securing a lead investor and/or being able to show investors user growth and retention.
- Focus on the U.S. early on. Ambition is yours to cultivate, but experience you can pool from mentors or fellow entrepreneurs in the ecosystem. In the U.S. you can raise enough money to start expanding globally.