Francine Gervazio is the CEO at Avrios, an innovative fleet management software. She holds an MBA from the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, Massachusetts, and previously worked at companies like Aquila Institute and Rocket Internet SE. She founded her first and only venture, cargo32, back in 2015, but an incohesive founder team resulted in the failure of the company. She joined Avrios’ ranks as VP of Customer Success in 2018.
Founded in 2015 in Zurich by a team of serial entrepreneurs, Avrios currently manages the fleet of more than 1.000 customers in Europe and is one of the fastest growing companies in the SaaS space. They make the lives of fleet managers much easier by using AI to automate all the data management which before was done manually. They also help companies calculate the “true cost” of each of their vehicles: this means not only fuel, maintenance, repairs, and etc, but also the environmental cost. They then provide companies with webinars, ebooks and even an academy in order to help them go green. They service companies with fleets as small as 20 vehicles and as big as 78’000.
In 2021 Francine became CEO of Avrios, which altered her life quite a bit: a lot more traveling, a lot more responsibility, and many more sleepless nights. Avrios’ operational system is divided into 7 “departments” (finance & operations, people & culture, sales, marketing, customer success, product, and engineering), all kept on track through the use of OKRs.
They credit their great company culture to the following factors:
In late 2022 Avrios was acquired by Battery Ventures to form an integrated company with Vimcar. M&A processes are extremely common in the freight industry, because it’s a hard-to-define, highly fragmented market (i.e., each company does something different), where growth happens slowly. This means M&A is a quick way for freight industry companies to grow and which also benefits their customers, because of the complementarity between the services of these companies.
"I’m fully against going fully remote, but I like giving employees the flexibility to stay home a few days out of the week."
"When you fundraise, you don’t want to have just 1 term sheet. You’ll want to have 5, because you need to negotiate."
Fajer Mushtaq is the co-founder and CEO at Oxyle, a cleantech startup with a game-changing water remediation technology. She holds a PhD in Micro- and Nanotechnology for Environmental Remediation from ETH and previously worked there as a BRIDGE Proof-of-Concept Fellow, before starting Oxyle in 2020.
When we usually think of water pollution, we think of things like cigarette butts, plastic bags, or perhaps even bacteria or viruses. But what most of us fail to consider are micropollutants (like hormones, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial waste, etc…), so called not because they’re found in small amounts, but because a small amount is enough to have a carcinogenic effect, or cause infertility or birth defects. 1 nanogram per liter (which is the equivalent of 1 drop in 20 Olympic-sized pools) is concentration enough to cause humans and their ecosystems harm. What’s more, these micro-pollutants are bioaccumulative (meaning if you keep drinking them, they keep increasing in concentration in your blood), and stay in bodies of water for decades on end unless treated appropriately.
That’s where the ETH spin-off Oxyle comes in. Oxyle works at the last stage of water treatment to remove these micro-pollutants through their innovative nanotechnology. They do so in a sustainable, scalable manner by getting in touch with big companies looking to remediate the harm they’ve caused and prevent any more harm from being done. This is equally as important in Switzerland as it is in other places: the water Swiss people drink has 17x the amount of carcinogenic pesticides that is safe to consume.
Fajer strongly believes that fighting climate change is done not only through innovative startups like Oxyle, but also through regulation. We need to hold polluters responsible, and nowadays, due to the growing sophistication of water analysis techniques, we definitely can. This way we can both remediate the harm that’s already been done, and stop future pollution at its source.
"Having the ‘ETH spin-off’ label gives you credibility and opens up access to crucial infrastructure."
https://foreverpollution.eu/ (to learn about PFAS chemicals)
Lara Riparip is the co-founder of and an instructor at GirlsCodeToo, a coding academy for girls striving to breach the gender gap in STEM. She holds an MSc in Neural Systems and Computation from ETH and previously worked as a Staff Research Associate at the University of California. She currently works as a Frontend Software Engineer at Avaloq, a global leader in digital banking solutions.
Back in 2020, she co-founded an association called Girls Can Code, but unfortunately due to a lack of strict guidelines the founding team ran into disagreements which led to a separation, and out of this breach the GirlsCodeToo project was born in 2021. They’re a non-profit with the goal of motivating young girls across Switzerland to use coding as a way of expressing their creativity, and to inspire more girls to study computer science at a university level.
They target 8-18yo and their workshops are held in English, German and/or French and/or Italian. They provide both introductory coding workshops as well as in-depth workshops in specific coding languages or technologies. They also provide workshops to boost confidence and interpersonal skills. The prices they charge, together with donations, crowdfunding and corporate sponsorships allow them to cover their costs.
Lara is no stranger to the hardships of running a project on top of your day job, and she has learned how this can lead to burnout. She warns listeners to watch out for telltale signs, like no longer drawing any enjoyment from the activities which used to make you happy. She encourages listeners to schedule time for themselves and time for boredom, as well as quality time with friends and family.
"If I could talk to an 8 year old me, I’d tell her to try as many things as possible, even if you suck at first."
Arman Anatürk is the co-founder of the cleantech fund HackCapital and a founding member at FoodHack, the world’s largest foodtech community. He previously worked for companies like CoderCourse and OneRoof Agency.
Arman is very enthusiastic about the role cleantech startups can play in successfully navigating climate change, and especially the progress being made by foodtech startups. Some studies estimate that 34% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food production and distribution, and we will soon have 10B people in the world to feed, so this is a very pressing issue. Currently, ⅓ of all food goes to waste, and the plastic used in packaging our food ends up in landfills and in the ocean, contaminating the food we eat with microplastics.
New technology will allow us to overcome these issues: plastics are nowadays being developed from algae or mycelium, and techniques like precision fermentation and cultivating meat will soon allow us to enjoy our favorite dishes without the huge expenditure of land and water (and animal suffering) that the current meat farming system requires.
Running a cleantech fund himself, Arman encourages other investors to take a bet on these technologies, but warns them that certain industries, like, for instance, foodtech, simply do not adhere well to the 10 year fund cycle, but can nonetheless be successful and provide much needed alternatives.
"Foodtech companies can’t typically adhere to the 10 year fund cycle, and investors need to understand this."
Alex Blania is the co-founder and CEO at Worldcoin, a startup issuing a new, decentralized global currency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible. He holds a BSc with a double major in Physics and Mechanical Engineering from the FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg and was previously a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light.
In 2020 he co-founded Worldcoin together with Max Novendstern and Sam Altman, with the goal of connecting everyone to the global economy as fast as possible. Worldcoin plans to issue every single person on Earth one free share, which you keep in a non-custodial crypto wallet purely based on smart contracts. With it, you will be able to buy other tokens/stablecoin, buy more Worldcoin, send coins to your friends, and pay for goods and services.
When building Worldcoin, the first problem the founders had to face was that of identity: How do you issue everyone an equal identity that is pseudonymous and privacy-preserving? The answer was biometrics, which allow you to prove that you’re an unique human without actually revealing who you are. The Worldcoin co-founders have built their own biometrics device. Without having solved this issue, Worldcoin might have possibly been able to operate in regions like Europe and North America, but the incentive to attack the system would be very high.
Another issue that they will have to tackle in the pursuit of their vision is the lack of access to smartphones in certain parts of the world. For this, they draw inspiration from Safaricom, in Kenya, which has through their digital banking platform Mpesa allowed an entire country to gradually switch to digital payments, which can also be made via SMS – i.e., without a smartphone. Worldcoin does not, however, plan to charge Safaricom’s high fees of 8%.
They have yet to undergo their global launch and are currently running field tests in many locations around the world.
"If I could stop time and just do what I enjoy the most, I would do research."
Christoph Bertschi is the co-founder and CEO at SmartBreed, a startup developing a decentralized upcycling technology to fully exploit the potential of insects. He holds a MSc in Banking and International Finance from Cass Business School, London and previously worked as a consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners. Christoph co-founded SmartBreed in 2019.
SmartBreed’s vision is to harmoniously blend nature with technology to sustainably improve our food chain. They enable zoos, farms and food manufacturers to breed their own protein-rich grasshoppers using their patented and automated grasshopper breeding boxes. Christoph’s time as a founder has taught him a few lessons which he has very kindly shared with us in this episode, and which we have summarized below.
How do you find the right co-founder?
Regarding business ideas, Christoph warns that though building a product based on research has the advantage of making it harder for competitors to imitate you, it also adds a lot more complexity to your operations. He is a proponent of the idea that execution is far more important than the specific idea you come up with. Part of an excellent execution is to be curious about the nos you get from the people you pitch to: why was your sales strategy not effective? What are you not understanding about your customer’s problem? What about your product could be better?
When it comes to raising funds, Christoph suggests starting with grants, then moving on to smart money from business angels, and finally, at a later stage, going for VC money.
Hiring at SmartBreed is made easier by the fact that the founders’ research background comes with strong ties to universities. Because of this, they have yet to need a professional recruiter. Christoph recommends sharing your company vision with potential hires and showing them how they could fit into the big picture. He thinks the cultural fit is more important than skills, because it’s rather hard to find someone with the perfect skill set anyway.
How can you stay healthy as a founder?
This episode was co-produced by Startup Days 2023. Click here to purchase your ticket now.
"Co-founders are one of the most important things, and also one of the main reasons startups fail."
Jonathan Roberts is the director and co-founder of Menalto Advisors, an IT-focused M&A advisory firm headquartered in Silicon Valley and with a strong presence in Europe. He holds a BSc in Accountancy & Management from Miami University and worked as a consultant for Deloitte before starting his own firm, Menalto Advisors, in 2016.
Menalto decided to open up an office in Zurich partially because of its great startup ecosystem (high number of startups funded, large amounts of capital, high number of uni spin offs, but not that many exits) and partially because the city seemed like the ideal place for Jonathan and his wife to raise their first child. Jonathan has been working in M&A for over a decade, and during his episode with us he shared some valuable insights for companies looking for a trade sale exit.
How should you prepare for an M&A?
Startups are by definition resource-constrained operations — they don’t have a lot of time, people or capital — so they should focus their energy on the right opportunities. When engaging with other companies or individuals, make sure the person/company you’re engaging with falls into at least two of the following categories, if not all three: buyers, customers and partner/investors.
When is it the right time to sell? // What type of trade sales are there?
Which KPIs are important to convince buyers? It depends!
You need to know what the buyers in your ecosystem are interested in. If you don’t know, go to tradeshows, conferences, networking events, etc…
What if you disagree on the purchase price?
If you’re looking to undergo an M&A process, make sure to prepare for 6 to 9 months. Within the first 4 to 6 weeks, however, you should already have an idea of where things are headed.
"Buyers today are a lot more diligent about due diligence than they were a decade ago."
Roman Odermatt is the co-founder and CEO at PayGreen, a startup developing an ecological payment method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Roman holds an MSc in Entrepreneurship from the University of Bern and previously helped build the pharma startup InnoMedica Holding. He created PayGreen in 2019.
PayGreen is a payment method which calculates transaction fees for online shops based on the shop’s carbon footprint, which they assess themselves. Fees start at 2.5% (compared to 2.75% AMEX and 3% Paypal) and get higher or lower depending on the company’s progress. Customers incur no additional costs, and PayGreen serves as a sort of green checkmark for those looking to buy sustainably. This means the more popular PayGreen becomes, the more the reputation of the shops who don’t have the label will suffer, thereby creating an incentive for shops to commit to reducing their carbon footprint. PayGreen also has no incentive to help companies greenwash, since the less green these companies (actually) are, the more PayGreen earns.
The Paris Agreement has predicted that the sustainability market will grow to USD 12t by 2030, which means it’ll become one of the biggest sectors worldwide. Research also shows that nowadays ⅓ of customers simply refuse to buy products which aren’t sustainable, so the future is looking bright for PayGreen. In the next few years, they’re looking to expand beyond carbon footprint emissions by running survey-based supplier checks.
PayGreen digitized their shares with daura and are currently raising money through the platform.
"The Paris Agreement predicted that the sustainability market will grow to USD 12t by 2030. That means it’ll become one of the biggest sectors worldwide."
Lars Mangelsdorf is the co-founder and CCO at Yokoy, a spending management software company which enables companies to automate their expense and credit card processes using artificial intelligence. He previously worked as Senior Account Executive at Beekeeper.
Back in Spring 2022, Yokoy raised a $80m series B round from Sequoia, and since then it seems like they can’t grow their team fast enough. They’ve also recently launched a prepaid Yokoy Mastercard. Lars currently leads his own sales team, and has over a decade of sales experience, during which he accumulated valuable insights. He shared some of these insights with us in this episode, and we’ve summarized them below.
How can you generate leads?
Once you have your lead, make sure to do proper lead qualification. You’ll want to have a checklist of things that need to happen for you to be willing to do a 1h demo call with them.
How can you create a sense of urgency?
What are a buyer’s main motivations?
If you can prove to your prospect that your solution will make them save money and gain recognition from their peers, it’s a done deal.
"We went from not having the money to hire people, to hardly being able to hire fast enough."
"Buyers have two main motivations: money and recognition."
Jordi Montserrat and Beat Schillig are the co-founders of Venturelab, a set of flagship startup programs to support the best entrepreneurial talents in Switzerland, including Venture Kick, Venture Leaders, the TOP 100 Swiss Startup Award, and Innosuisse Startup Trainings. Jordi holds a MSc in Rural Engineering/Geomatics from EPFL and previously worked at companies like ITV Geomatik and PSE Parc Scientifique. Beat holds a BA in Marketing from HSG, is the Founder and President of IFJ - Startup Support, and has been investing privately in startups since 2001.
Venturelab was created by Jordi and Beat back in 2004. It began as the National Entrepreneurial Training initiative, which was mandated by the Swiss Innovation Agency to IFJ, the Institute for Young Entrepreneurs, based in St. Gallen. Today, Venturelab operates as an independent spin-off of IFJ. It arose out of a basic problem: Swiss startups would highly benefit from business training, but as they are startups, they cannot afford it. Jordi and Beat decided to create a startup program which would get funds from generous third parties interested in working with startups, and thus be able to train startups “for free”. They receive funding from big corporations, like Swisscom and Post Finance, but also from philanthropic foundations like Gebert Rüf.
Different branches of the Venture family focus on different things: Venturelab serves to develop the startup’s pre-seed idea, IFJ helps startups with incorporation and other legal issues, and Venture Kick “kicks” them out onto the big bad world of investors, customers and competitors. They receive over 700 applications every year, and look at aspects like founder background, founder values and the viability of the business idea itself in order to select the startups they would like to work with.
For the time being they have no ambitions of going beyond Switzerland. First they feel they must encourage a higher percentage of Swiss PhD graduates to go into entrepreneurship. But their results so far are by no means unimpressive: out of the CHF 4b raised in Switzerland raised by startups, CHF 1.6b was raised by Venture Kick alumni, and 90% of all Swiss startups have somehow participated in Venturelab initiatives.
"Foundations are much quicker in their decision making process than the state, and they’re free to make much bolder investments."
"The money raised in Switzerland by startups has risen to CHF 4b. CHF 1.6b of that amount was raised by Venture Kick alumni."
Vincent Bieri is the co-founder of Nexthink, a leader in digital employee experience management software and one of the rare Swiss unicorns. He studied Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Applied Sciences of Fribourg, and later went on to work for Cisco for 7 years, before starting his own venture in 2004. His time at Cisco, which coincided with the dot com crash, taught him to temper his expectations of wealth and success and ground them in what is real and measurable.
In 2004, together with friends Pedro and Patrick, Vincent co-founded Nexthink, a B2B SaaS business monitoring user experience for large organizations. It’s estimated that people working for big companies lose on average 20 min per day dealing with computer issues – much of this technical failure is not even reported to upper management but merely dealt with, so companies are often unaware that such a problem exists. Nexthink allows you to monitor and proactively anticipate the problem, so that time lost to technical difficulties is greatly reduced, leading to higher productivity, higher employee satisfaction, and a lower churn.
Since 2004 Nexthink has scaled up over 1'000 employees, equipped 15 millions users with its software and raised a total of $345M in funding. Reaching a 1.1B$ valuation in 2021, Nexthink earned the title of Swiss Unicorn. Vincent attributes the success of the company to several factors, both circumstantial and not, and he highlights a few rules of thumb:
In 2019 Vincent left his operational role at Nexthink. He remains a shareholder, friend and advisor, but has since begun to enjoy having more time for himself and his other hobbies and projects.
"Anticipating major market transitions is the secret to a company’s success."
"Don’t celebrate one-off successes too much. You never know how circumstantial they are. Focus on positive trends instead."
Igor Fisch is the founder and former CEO/President/Chairman at Selexis, a life-sciences Geneva-based company, and current president of the Romandie innovation incubator Fongit. He holds a PhD in Biology from the University of Geneva and previously worked as an assistant professor at the University of Lausanne and the EPFL.
In 2001 he co-founded Selexis as a university spin-off together with Nicolas Mermod, to change the way biologic drugs were developed. Selexis is nowadays the global leader in cell line development with best-in-class modular technology and highly specialized solutions that enable the life sciences industry to rapidly discover, develop and commercialize innovative biologic medicines and vaccines.
From research laboratories and biotech startups to big pharma, Selexis has partners in over 42 countries. Their partners use Selexis technologies to advance more than 164 products in preclinical and clinical development and 10 commercial products. Igor and Nicolas acquired these partners by presenting hard-data arguments which would convince scientists, and make them Selexis evangelists.
Selexis holds 210 granted patents that cover innovations in genetic elements, procedures/ transfection, cell line engineering, and devices related to cell line development and protein expression. They have pursued this path determinedly in order to keep their future options open and be in a better position to strike deals. Igor thinks the most difficult thing about filing the patent is writing the claims, which need to be drafted with a chess player’s finesse and strategic thinking. He advises startups to procure a provisional patent application in the case that they’re not yet ready to file a full patent but plan on being so in less than a year.
In 2017 Selexis became part of the JSR Life Sciences group, and Igor left his operational role at the company. Nowadays he serves in the Venture Kick strategy board, as a way to give back the investment that was made in Selexis back in the mid 2000s.
"Regardless of industry, every entrepreneur faces the same challenges: what’s your product? Who are your customers? What’s your market?"
"Swiss foundations, together with incubators, are a winning combination to get quality funds and education to upcoming Swiss startups."
In addition to being a tech lead at Palantir, one of the world's leading data science companies, Stefany Barker is also an entrepreneur and investor. She pursued an MSc in management, information systems and innovation at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Stefany grew up in Switzerland, lived in different countries, and studied abroad to learn about other cultures, businesses and entrepreneurial mindsets, specifically about the different attitudes towards entrepreneurship. For example, Stefany learnt that Americans accept entrepreneurial failure more readily than their continental European counterparts.
When Stefany returned to Switzerland in 2015, she became aware of the talent and gender gap in the Swiss tech sector. She was inspired to launch GirlsinTechSwitzerland in 2016 to establish an inclusive atmosphere for young women to learn and succeed in the Swiss tech industry. Stefany then founded TechFace in 2018 with the primary objective of changing the employment practices in the Swiss tech industry from transactional to relationship-based. This approach ensured that a candidate's team-fit potential was not only based on their CV.
While being diverse and discussing diversity are important, they should not be the only subjects of conversation. The skills that an individual brings to the table are also essential. Stefany believes that if we continue in this direction, everyone's prospects in the tech space will improve. Furthermore, the out-of-date nature of CVs and the current job search process that sometimes asks you to include your marital status, personal photo, or address can unintentionally harm a candidate’s job search, divert focus from a candidate's real skills, and decrease equity in the hiring process. With the organizations she is involved with, she intends to implement better principles so that her ventures can continue to inspire and be pioneers in the tech space.
In this episode you can find out more about Stefany's other businesses at WaaS Websites and her angel investing endeavors at Moonshot Network.
"I think it is important to speak about diversity but I also enjoy speaking about my primary area of expertise in data and software that I bring to the table.”
“I personally choose to work with organizations that walk the talk when it comes to their values.”
Pivot, a tech podcast
The Ministry of the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Tobias Kistler is a co-founder of Luya, a foodtech startup creating deliciously sustainable vegan alternatives to meat. He holds an MA from the ETH Zürich and previously worked as a researcher at the Berner Fachhochschule.
Luya has found a way to provide meat alternatives which are both delicious and healthy through a clever use of fermentation, i.e., the process which brings us beloved foods like beer and bread. Luya also manages to be incredibly sustainable, because what they ferment to make their delicious paddies is okara, the leftover pulp from soybean pressing, together with chickpeas. The 24h fermentation process changes these two ingredients in terms of texture (making it elastic and juicy), taste (delicious) and bioavailability (high for all of its compounds, which make up a full aminoacid profile).
They source both their soybeans and their chickpeas from Switzerland and Northern Italy, and have managed to earn the coveted Bio Swiss Label. Adapting their product to match the Bio Swiss criteria meant being able to choose from a smaller pool of soybean/chickpea producers, and paying more for these raw materials, but this added cost is made up for by the fact that sporting a Bio Swiss label allows Luya to charge higher prices.
They had a relatively easy time getting into big supermarkets, since nowadays the current health and sustainability trends are pushing these companies to want to be on the forefront of food innovation.
Luya benefitted from funds from the Gebert Rüft foundation when they participated in the First Ventures program, in VentureKick, and in Innobooster (since these programs are all associated with the foundation). In between programs they also raised a bridge round with Gebert Rüft acting as an intermediary, and raised money from the VC fund Red Alpine.
“You want an ingredient that gives you freedom, that is a bit of a blank canvas for you to play with. That’s why chefs like using our product.”
“At the end of the day, when you come from a stressful day at work, you want to be able to whip up a nice meal that’s healthy and makes you feel good.”
Christina Hertel is the project manager at LEVO, at the Enterprise for Society Center (E4S), a joint initiative from 3 institutions of renowned excellence: the University of Lausanne, the Institute for Management Development and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Christina graduated from the Technical University of Munich with a BSc in Marketing, Strategy, and Leadership and an MSc in Sustainable Resource Management. She then went on to earn her PhD in Sustainable Entrepreneurship. In 2019 she founded LEVO to assist startups in incorporating sustainability in the early stages and to investigate how businesses can use entrepreneurship to address societal problems.
Christina has always been interested in sustainability, but entrepreneurship had not always piqued her curiosity. However, she met a group of founders at an event, and after learning about their startup, she became intrigued. She started working with them as an intern. During her internship, she enrolled in a research program at a university. Working with a startup that integrated sustainability and pursuing research on sustainability confirmed her ideas that entrepreneurship can be used to solve societal problems.
From her research and experience, she learnt that a company's success should be based on a number of factors, including its social and environmental contribution, in addition to its profitability. Additionally, organizations should avoid delaying assessing their sustainability until they are large enterprises. Starting as soon as possible will lay the proper groundwork and guarantee the best outcome.
Although responsible entrepreneurship is crucial, Christina has found that many organizations still do not recognize the advantages of sustainability. Some businesses don't view sustainability as a critical component of their business model that should be non-negotiable and given top priority, but rather as a task to be completed. Nevertheless, the future of entrepreneurship is promising, as more and more businesses start integrating sustainability and as the world moves toward a more sustainable future.
“Entrepreneurship is one of the most effective tools to address societal issues.”
"Responsible entrepreneurship involves evaluating where you are and identifying areas for improvement."
LEVO - provides startups with a free operational sustainability assessment
Fairphone - a sustainable phone company
flip - A German magazine investigating sustainability claims of startups
Julian Massler is the co-founder and CEO at AURUM Fit, a gym which provides innovative high-intensity fitness training. Julian Massler studied economics at the University of Konstanz. Mathias Wegmüller is an early investor and board member at AURUM Fit who studied environmental health at ETH.
Since starting in Switzerland in 2018, AURUM has disrupted the entire fitness industry and has grown exponentially through franchising. Franchises are business models in which an established brand allows an independent entity to own and operate a franchise based on its brand, business model, and other intellectual property. The AURUM franchising model has been enormously successful since its inception. With a 9 out of 10 franchise success rate, it has achieved unprecedented profitability. It offers a scalable opportunity with a proven business model that provides quick cash flow to those with a passion for fitness and entrepreneurship.
Franchise systems are sometimes underestimated, but AURUM Fit has demonstrated how profitable they can be. Mathias and Julian respond to the most frequently asked questions in order to address concerns about:
As AURUM Fit expands, it wants to maximize its presence in Switzerland while also making its model more scalable globally. In the future, AURUM Fit intends to focus specifically on expanding its network in Zürich by doubling its locations, as well as opening more locations in lesser-known Swiss cities such as Thun. In the short term, AURUM Fit's focus is Mission 100: a goal to establish 100 locations in Switzerland within the next few years.
AURUM Fit believes that its objectives are attainable, as there is an increase in investment from financial institutions due to the scalability and profitability trends of franchises. Furthermore, as more people adopt a healthier lifestyle, AURUM Fit's appeal has the potential to thrive because it combines health and the lucrativeness of franchising to offer great value to franchisees and end customers who recognize the value of a fitness-based franchise brand.
“We always say cash is the blood of entrepreneurship.”
"Self-confidence is a crucial component to future success because if you fail at your first few businesses, you lose confidence."
Florian and Gian Grundböck are the founders of Deux Fréres, a gin company. Before founding Deux Fréres in 2016, Gian studied business administration and was a professional handball player at Grasshopper Club Zürich, and then went on to work for an architecture firm as an executive assistant. Florian, on the other hand, pursued a Bachelor's degree in Food Science and Technology from the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).
The Deux Fréres story started when Florian secretly distilled gin in the student lab at ZHAW, creating a unique gin which changed colors. Gian and Florian saw the business opportunity in the uniqueness of the gin, and began the journey of perfecting the recipe and finding the best distillery for their product. Reconnecting with their family roots in Austria proved useful, as it became the main location to source ingredients and the producing distillery of the gin, which led to the success of the company we see today.
After 2 years of starting the company, Florian and Gian had to deal with competitors who were replicating their gin's unique feature: color-changing. Florian and Gian struggled with the possible failure of their business as a result, but remained steadfast in their belief that the quality of their product and the captivating essence of their branding would allow them to stand out and continue their success. They were right!
Since its inception, Deux Fréres Gin has grown exponentially, expanding to other markets outside of Switzerland, with their most recent accomplishment being their distribution expansion in China. Florian and Gian hope to captivate the Chinese market with their craft gin, and grow it extensively in the upcoming months.
Florian and Gian remain ambitious in their future goals for Deux Frères. They hope to establish a warehouse in Switzerland in the near future, as well as introduce more products to widen their target audience and open up their customer base. While growing a bootstrapped company presents a number of challenges, Florian and Gian believe their brotherly bond, their quality products and brand, and their passion for doing what they love will continue to make them successful as they strive to provide consumers with the best products.
“You have to know when it is time to change.”
"In the future, we aim to be more than just gin producers; we also want to be recognized as flavour producers."
Job van der Voort is the co-founder and CEO of Remote.com, the world’s fastest-growing employment network that allows companies to easily and transparently hire worldwide. He studied his bachelor's in psychonomics and pursued a master's degree in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam. After graduating from university, he worked as a software engineer while co-founding a startup with Marcelo Lebre. Despite the startup's lack of long-term success, he enjoyed the process of starting a business and became more acquainted with the conventions of entrepreneurship.
Job worked previously at GitLab, where he experienced what it was like to work remotely and saw the benefits of a virtual working environment . He created Remote.com in 2019 with Marcelo to address issues he had seen with remote working during his time at GitLab. The Remote.com software enables companies to transparently hire someone in another country by managing payroll, employee benefits, and legalities, easing the traditional burden of going through the tiring complexities of remote hiring.
Since launching Remote.com, the platform has been used by businesses in many countries around the world and has grown from just a handful of employees to over 2000 employees working remotely from all over the world. In this episode Job speaks more about how they cultivated a lucrative company culture. He also discusses how they got enough financing to launch the company and how they achieved unicorn status in such a short period of time.
“We want to make hiring from anywhere really easy and transparent.”
“The only way to challenge someone is to fully understand what they're doing.”
Philipp Stauffer is the co-founder and managing director of FYRFLY Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in companies using data and intelligence to build their competitive advantage. His investments have included AngelList, Philz Coffee, and Beekeeper, among many others. As well as being a founding board member of the Swiss Blockchain Federation, he is also on the Advisory Board of the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation. Additionally, he serves on the boards of PubMatic, the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce, and the Digital Citizen Fund.
Human beings are social animals and it's easier to build better trust by meeting in person than remotely — this is the value physical spaces may have over a remote working model. Philipp got a taste of the office environment when he started working at a Swiss private bank. When he got into consulting, he started working remotely. It became apparent to him how different office life is versus remote working: in terms of culture, habits and lifestyle. The serendipity of running into someone at the office who ends up being instrumental to your success is something that is hard to replicate in a remote space.
Even though working in an office has its social advantages, some of the drawbacks of the physical space are the additional expenses in time and money that come with commuting. Despite this, going to the office versus working remotely was not something many companies thought about until the onset of COVID, which changed the work culture completely. It forced us to become more intentional about travel and taught us how to be more efficient with time. The appeal to a remote working environment grew as physical spaces, especially for startups, became an unnecessary additional expense. Furthermore, the distance became less of a factor when putting together a team, and more companies were able to hire talents from all over the world.
Remote working became the ideal fix post-covid. However, as it became the norm, its challenges became more apparent. Having team members operating in different countries with different time zones can make collaboration challenging. Additionally, there is a greater need to build a more engaging work culture which is efficient in easily motivating a remote team. If this is not done well, some founders lose control of their company, experience mass quiet quitting or have to shut down their business completely.
With these challenges came innovations that made the remote working experience less complicated and more profitable. Today, even though more companies are introducing a hybrid model that balances remote and office life as the world continues to navigate back to normal, it is clear that remote working isn’t going away anytime soon.
"Involve your team in your hybrid model approach."
“The pandemic taught us how critical it is to make in-person meetings purposeful.”
Benedikt Schuppli is the co-founder and co-CEO of Obligate, a blockchain company and the hub for tokenized debt. He studied law at the University of Zürich and always had a knack for the way financial markets work. After law school, he worked at a private bank, and in 2016 (right around the time when Benedikt took his bar exam) Switzerland started to become a hub for FinTech, which allowed Benedikt to see a completely new side of the Swiss financial market. He then began getting into blockchain from a legal perspective and joined Lykke Corp, his first job in the blockchain crypto space.
Benedikt comes from an entrepreneurial family: both his father and brothers built their own businesses because there was a strong urge in all of them to challenge the status quo and do things their way. After working as a lawyer for a few years, Benedikt himself felt compelled to get more involved in business decisions and launch his own company.
In 2019, he founded FQX. Along with his co-founders, he shared a vision to build a platform and infrastructure for tokenized debt assets that are recognized as legal assets. FQX is a blockchain startup that uses eNotes to enable companies to issue debt securities via the blockchain directly to investors, changing the way companies secure funding.
In this episode, he talks more about his experience launching a blockchain company in Switzerland. He also goes into more detail about the e-Note concept and discusses the difficulties he encountered while attempting to obtain funding for his blockchain start-up.
“I think the financial market is one of the most complex things humans have created.”
“Throwing a bunch of very smart people in a room doesn’t guarantee you’re going to build a great product.”
Julie Maples is a co-founder and managing director at FYRFLY Ventures, where she has made investments in companies such as Boundless, Rosalyn.ai, and Mobi Systems, among others. She also serves on the board of the V Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports cancer research. At The Wharton School, she earned a BS in entrepreneurial management and an MA in Finance.
It may appear strange to consider a founder being involved in the sales process. However, a founder's responsibilities extend beyond just running the business; a founder must make the first sales of their product or service to reap valuable lessons from these sales sessions.
Some founders may enjoy building the product, but they may dislike selling it. It is important to change that mindset and replace the word "sales" with "partnership". It is critical to view your potential customers as evangelists who will be your biggest champions if they like your product or service, especially in early customer meetings. When you satisfy your early customers and learn from them, you learn what works and what doesn't.
Even if you don't think you have a passion for sales, you can change the way you approach it by letting go of the idea that it must be done a certain way. You can simply speak honestly about your vision while listening to the person across from you. If you pass up the chance, you can miss out on important information from early customers that could help you develop a better product or service.
It is also critical to recognize the value of the sales process, because outsourcing sales in the early stages of a business may not be the best move. It deprives you of the opportunity to learn and incurs additional costs. When your company has grown, it is a better time to outsource. As a founder, you'll always be doing sales. When you approach sales as a partnership, you will fall in love with sharing your passion with others as often as the opportunity presents itself.
“You don’t have to love sales; just share your vision authentically and learn from the person across from you.”
“Your early customers are your biggest champions.”
Tomoko Yokoi is a researcher and advisor in digital transformation at the IMD Business School and a lecturer at ETH Zürich. She also co-founded a market research startup, Dermintel. Before working in business, she studied International Development and Human Rights at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service. Although she had a huge passion for development and human rights, she wanted to venture into something different and decided to enter the corporate world.
The more she learned about entrepreneurship, the more she realised the advantages of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, including time flexibility, which she felt was lacking in corporate life. In 2020, the covid pandemic forced Tomoko to pause Dermintel's development, allowing her to focus more on her passion for digital transformation.
Digital transformation can be complicated, but Tomoko loves unpacking the complexity to help organisations succeed. For her, it's not just about technology: it's also about governance, innovation, culture change, leadership, and competency development. As part of her book, Hacking Digital: Best Practices for Implementing and Accelerating Your Business Transformation, Tomoko Yokoi shares more about how to implement digital transformation in the workplace by giving insight into:
Book: Hacking Digital: Best Practices to Implement and Accelerate Your Business Transformation, Tomoko Yokoi
Article: Emojis In The World Of Work, Tomoko Yokoi
“So many opportunities exist, it really depends on how you can target what you need when you need it.”
“It is important to think of inclusivity when you think about innovation.”
Julie Maples is a co-founder and managing director at FYRFLY Ventures, where she has made investments in companies such as Boundless, Rosalyn.ai, and Mobi Systems, among others. She also serves on the board of the V Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports cancer research. At The Wharton School, she earned a BS in entrepreneurial management and an MA in Finance.
In this episode, Julie talks about raising funds and managing the demands fundraising takes on your time as a founder. As a founder, you should build trust with potential investors, determine who should be in charge of raising money, and divide your time well between fundraising and managing your business.
It has always been difficult for entrepreneurs to separate their personal life and their professional lives. No single issue should consume all of your time as a founder, and especially not fundraising. It's equally important to protect your mental health as it is to achieve your next milestone. It will always be an easier and more successful journey if you tend to yourself.
For a free masterclass on angel investing with DART Labs founder Sophie Lamparter and SICTIC president Thomas Dübendorfer, click here.
“As a founder, it is important that you have an advisory board that opens doors for you.”
“It is important to keep a pulse on the status of the business to know when you are underperforming.”
Philipp Stauffer is the co-founder and managing director of FYRFLY Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in companies using data and intelligence to build their competitive advantage. His investments have included AngelList, Philz Coffee, and Beekeeper, among many others. As well as being a founding board member of the Swiss Blockchain Federation, he is also on the Advisory Board of the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation. Additionally, he serves on the boards of PubMatic, the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce, and the Digital Citizen Fund.
In this episode, Philipp talks about how to handle competition in the workplace. He compares the competition ecosystem to the animal kingdom: highlighting the importance of knowing and understanding your place in the marketplace in order to respond more effectively to your competitor’s actions.
In this episode, he gives insight into:
With regards to differentiation in the marketplace, Philipp explains that differentiation is not just about how exceptional your product is, but it also expands to other aspects of your company:
Above all, Philipp believes that understanding your “why” is important. This greatly affects how you handle competition, especially when it comes to taking competitive action and understanding why your competitors take action as well.
“Don’t think you’re the lion if you’re the sheep.”
“You don’t have to be paranoid about competition all the time.”
Alex Pachikov is the co-founder and CEO of Sunflower Labs, a remote and autonomous drone solution for property security. He graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2003 with a degree in Astronomy and Sociology. A decade later, he co-founded Sunflower Labs with Chris Eheim and Nicolas de Palézieux.
Alex Pachikov was born in Russia and moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 11. He began his career at Silicon Graphics at the age of 17 and became the youngest employee in 1997. He and his roommate, Chris Eheim, started a company together during college in 1999 before co-founding Sunflower Labs together in 2016.
When he started Sunflower Labs in 2016, it was one of five ideas they had after brainstorming about several business ventures they wanted to do together. It was the perfect time for Sunflower Labs to launch since the drone industry worldwide was starting to gain traction. The idea of Sunflower Labs as an automated drone-in-a-box solution that integrates with your existing security cameras and sensors became revolutionary in the space of commercial drone security. With the push of a button, the drone flies from its hive and is able to plan a path and perform a sweep of a large property within seconds. The secret is the 3D property mapping and geofencing technology that allows the drone to navigate and stay within the property, detect unexpected obstacles, re-route to avoid collision and actively deter intruders and loiters with its presence.
Despite Sunflower Lab’s revolutionary take on property security, they faced many challenges during their startup stage, including but not limited to:
What helped Sunflower Labs to be successful despite these challenges was the support of the Evernote Network. Alex worked at Evernote from 2006-2015, dedicating almost a decade of his life to it. He was Evernote’s 3rd official employee and was a member of the founding team, serving as VP of partnerships, developer relations and hardware products integration. When he had the idea of starting Sunflower Labs, the Evernote Founders Network was a valuable asset, providing mentorship as well as investing in his company. With their support having an integral role in their start-up stage, Sunflower Labs raised over 15 million dollars in seed funds.
From moving to the USA from Russia to studying Astronomy to starting a drone-security company, Alex Pachikov’s journey is inspiring to new entrepreneurs who may want to pursue a similar dream. His journey reinforces that what you study does not have to charter your future entirely and that with great ideas, paired with a lot of hard work and great support, dreams can come true!
“If you want a software to be executed with perfection you have to build your own hardware."
“If you play a game, you’re not playing the same level over and over. At some point you want to level up.”
Philipp Stauffer is the co-founder and general partner of Fyrfly Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in companies using data and intelligence to build their competitive advantage. His investments have included AngelList, Philz Coffee, and Beekeeper, among many others. As well as being a founding board member of the Swiss Blockchain Federation, he is also on the Advisory Board of the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation. Additionally, he serves on the boards of PubMatic, the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce, and the Digital Citizen Fund.
In this episode, Philipp speaks about the operational aspects of being a founder specifically about how to plan and execute a successful board meeting. He gives insight into the different stages of a board meeting, from discussing how often a board should meet, to whether physical or remote board meetings are better. Phillipp starts the episode by explaining the role of a board. The board has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interest of those they represent, including:
When it comes to who should sit on the board, he explains that for startups it is important to have members who will:
Having self-awareness is key as a founder as well as knowing what is lacking in the company and what needs to be done to fix it. He sees the board as a secret weapon that can help a company win the market and urges other founders to do the same.
How often a board should meet is equally important. The normal practice is at least once per year; however, he advises boards to hold quarterly meetings, because each meeting has a different role. The first board meeting will focus on budgeting, planning and accountability, while subsequent meetings will change based on specific needs. In addition to quarterly meetings, board members can meet as often as necessary. For example, to encourage collaboration and keep everyone up to date, monthly board meetings may be most appropriate if you're in a high-property fundraising mode.
Board meeting preparation does not just include what is done before or during the meeting, it also includes following up with members after the meeting. It is important to manage board members proactively. By being proactive, a founder can make the most out of their board, and this will in return benefit the company.
“Board members are a secret weapon to help you win the market."
“Your own job as a CEO is to fire yourself if you're not doing your work. It’s important to look in the mirror.”
Tobias Rein is the co-founder and Principal Engineer at GetYourGuide, a leading online booking platform for travel experiences. He studied Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich). During his studies, he also worked for the design agency, Palindrome. In 2009, he and his four co-founders had an idea to create a marketplace for tours and activities, and from there GetYourGuide was born.
What started out as a concept targeted at students morphed into a platform with a B2B business model aimed at professional suppliers and businesses, since students weren’t as interested in the initial concept of GetYourGuide as the team initially assumed. After they launched the prototype, companies started reaching out to them to get on the platform, which they took as a sign to go back to the drawing board and launch GetYourGuide 2.0, a platform for professional suppliers.
Tobias thinks timing is one of the keys to any successful business model, especially businesses in the travel market. At the time GetYourGuide started, travel was just beginning to move slowly online. They decided to adapt to the market and created GetYourGuide as a forerunner of the online travel era in terms of online booking experiences. As they grew, new products started to launch in the market, and Google became one of their biggest competitors by integrating booking features in its software. In 2017, “Reserve with Google” was launched, which enabled customers to book tours and activities from local businesses directly through Google Maps, Google Search or the Reserve with Google platform. Tobias believes that the key to standing out from big competitors such as Google is to provide unmatched customer service and to have a solid knowledge of the brand.
In 2020, the pandemic disturbed travel as we knew it, and GetYourGuide, along with many other travel platforms, was deeply affected. With the rise in their competitor’s leverage and the onset of covid-19, Tobias and his team incorporated three main principles to help them outlive the crisis:
By doing this, they canceled tours that were no longer possible and set up a hassle-free process to refund customers. They avoided mass layoffs, though inevitably letting go of a few people. Finally, they were more frugal with their expenses, getting rid of non-essential items they were no longer using. Despite the changes they had to go through, Tobias believes that this experience made them more resilient and better prepared for any upcoming challenges. Post-pandemic, GetYourGuide has been redeemed, seeing their revenue skyrocket since borders have opened up.
Tobias reflects on the growth of GetYourGuide, from when they started in 2009 with just five founders, to managing over 700 employees to surviving a pandemic and now booming in the post-pandemic era. He advises that growth is slow, and encourages founders to take the time to reflect. He also urges founders to hire external people who exceed their knowledge, so that they can learn from them, which he believes will in return foster incalculable personal growth.
“I would rather go on the safe path of adapting to the market, rather than trying to change the market”
“Motivation and passion are only half of it”
Stefan Muehlemann is the founder, chairman and former CEO at Loanboox, the independent debt issuing platform that connects public sector, large corporate and real estate borrowers with banks and institutional investors. He holds an MBA in Business Administration and Management from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and previously worked as a foreign exchange trader at UBS and LGT, as well as having been a lecturer at HSG and UZH.
His first business venture was back in the 90s, during his trading floor years, where he built Basel’s first Asian food chain, Asian Express, later sold in 1998. Much later, in 2015, he founded Loanboox, and Dario Zogg and Andi Burri joined later as co-founders. This arose from his own experience: as an investor (connected to companies like Omnibiz, Carvolution, and Futurae), Stefan was unsatisfied with conventional brokers. In contrast to conventional brokering, financing and investing through Loanboox is simple, transparent, safe and low-cost. They provide advice on financing strategy, bring together borrowers with financing needs and professional capital providers, and offer debt management tools, portfolio analysis and software solutions. Their track record is impressive: 170 active investors, transactions with a volume of EUR 28b closed in 12 countries, and 90/100 customer satisfaction.
"I’m not a person who’s easily satisfied. I don’t like rules. And that’s a sure recipe for an entrepreneur."
"Oftentimes the founder personality isn’t suited to being the CEO of a publicly listed company."
Alan Cabello is the founder of SparkLabs, Sparkworks and Sparkademy, three sister companies working towards a common goal: business innovation in Switzerland. He previously co-founded the startup Kooku and holds a PhD in Strategy & Innovation Management from the EPFL.
Around 2013/2014, while he was getting his PhD, Alan was a visiting researcher at Stanford, and there had a great experience with the d.school, where students and professors from different academic fields come together to tackle complex issues through a transdisciplinary and human-centered approach. When he returned to Switzerland, despite the prevalence of high-quality education, he found no such problem-solving approach. In 2014 he created SparkLabs, a cooperation between different Swiss universities with the purpose of educating and advancing a human-centered approach to product, service, and business model innovation.
Then in 2015 he created Spark Works, a small innovation consultancy to tackle corporate innovation and transformation challenges. Finally, in 2020, Alan built Sparkademy, a digital-first institution bringing scalable and measurable learning to the corporate world. Sparkademy offers Online Courses, Practical Assignments, Knowledge Checks and access to a Method Kit, and also defines clear learning objectives and effective inputs, so as to help measure participant progress and provide feedback.
Sparkademy runs on two business models: one is the classic business school model, where companies are charged per participant per course, and the other one is an engagement-based yearly fee (plus in-app purchases), meaning if engagement goes down, so does the price. Alan feels confident offering this alternative because Sparkademy’s average rate of course completion is 88-94% (stupendously higher than the online course average).
These levels of engagement are possible firstly due to the fact that Sparkademy courses were built using behavioral science insights to keep learners motivated, and secondly because Sparkademy forms the learner cohorts using the Spark Check, a tool based on neuroscience research which helps them test employees' ability to deal with uncertainty and other people’s emotions.
"As an innovation consultant, at least half the time spent with your client goes into educating them on process basics. Which is not the best use of their time, or yours."
"You want to make sure that people are on your team because they want to be there. The person sitting in the corner with their arms crossed brings everybody down; no matter how motivated they are."
Ben James, CEO of TP24, is an engineer at heart. After completing an engineering degree at Leeds University and working in the sales and operations department there, he started working at GE Capital full-time in sales and operations. During his studies, he worked in the insurance and (profit and loss) P&L team for GE. Then, after moving to Switzerland, he became responsible for credit-based insurance and started managing all GE businesses in the Swiss market. He later worked in the IPO team for GE Capital and Money Bank, which led to the establishment of Cembra Money Bank, a leading consumer lender in Switzerland. During his career, he recognised a gap in the lending solution market and saw the opportunity to create TP24, a flexible funding opportunity for growth.
In this episode, Ben speaks a bit more about his life before TP24 and gives insight into its early stages. , as well as how its business model differs from other lending solutions worldwide. He also examines several risks business owners go through for pricing segments for loan solutions and funding sources for their businesses and how TP24 provides a better model for the front end of their customers compared to their competition.
Ben goes on to speak on the negative implications of running a business on one’s mental health. He talks about his own founder experience and the impact it has had on his personal and family life, and how he struck a balance between being a business owner, a father and a husband. He provides tips for other entrepreneurs on how to ensure that their company's success does not come at the expense of their mental health or life at home.
"Finance products hold great businesses back."
"If we learnt anything from businesses around the world, it was to look after your customers. If you don’t other businesses will, and you’ll lose them."
David Heinemeier Hansson, originally from Denmark, studied Business Administration at the Copenhagen Business School in the late 1990s. He is the founder of the open-source web framework, Ruby On Rails, and co-founder of 37Signals and HEY along with his business partner, Jason Fried.
In 2001, he got his first official commercial job, after programming for only 2 years. At the time he envisioned programming not just as a tool, but as something he saw himself doing for the long term, which encouraged him to excel at programming, and later resulted in the creation of Ruby on Rails. David founded Ruby on Rails in 2003, a software used for creating high-performance web platforms. It has been very successful since its inception, with popular applications such as Airbnb, Square and Spotify being built on the platform.
A year later, in 2004, David launched Basecamp, one of the first software-as-a-service applications, with his co-founder, Jason Fried. Basecamp is now a gold standard for easier and superior project management. It has been used by over 75,000 organizations across 166 countries and 5 continents. Some well-known organizations that have used basecamp include Shopify, and Accenture, among others. In 2020, HEY was created by David and his team as an alternative to Gmail and Outlook. It shifts the paradigm of the traditional email structure and allows users to better deal with spam and unread messages, helping customers to better track and filter incoming emails. Since launch, HEY has already attracted tens of thousands of users.
During the episode, David explained his views on quiet quitting: he believes that quiet quitting is a lose-lose situation for both the employer and the employee, and that business owners should be more aware of the emotional and mental state of their employees. He advises that companies should be satisfied with having employees who do good work in a reasonable time, rather than desiring employees who share the same intense devotion to the company that a founder would have. He also urges against "deferred living" and encourages everyone to make the most of the time they have now by diligently doing gratifying work together with people they enjoy. David has employed this structure to create his own work-life balance, as he juggles many hats: being a founder of several companies, a father, a bestselling author, an investor and a Le Mans & WEC class-winning racing driver.
"Ruby really changed my trajectory as a programmer. Programming stopped being just a tool, but something I could really see myself doing in the long term."
"I don’t consider myself a computer engineer. I consider myself a software writer. That’s a completely different paradigm, and self-perception."
Bernhard Heusler ist Mitgründer und Partner der Heusler Werthmüller Heitz AG, mit Hauptsitz in Basel und spezialisiert auf die Erbringung von Dienstleistungen im Bereich der Wirtschaftsberatung, des Sports und der Kultur.
Der in Basel promovierte Jurist war von 2000 bis 2014 Partner der Kanzlei Wenger Plattner, anschliessend bis Oktober 2017 Konsulent bei Walder Wyss AG. Im Sommer 2003 nahm er seine Tätigkeiten für den FC Basel 1893 auf, ab 2006 amtete er als dessen Vizepräsident und ab 2009 übernahm er die operative Leitung, um schliesslich dem Club von 2012 bis 2017 als Präsident vorzustehen.
In Erweiterung seiner Verantwortung für den Verein hat Bernhard Heusler in diversen Exekutiv- und Entscheidungsgremien des internationalen (FIFA, UEFA, ECA) und nationalen (SFV und SFL) Fussballs Einsitz genommen. Zudem amtet er seit 2012 als Richter am Internationalen Sportgerichtshof (TAS/CAS) in Lausanne. Seit einigen Jahren tritt Bernhard Heusler zunehmend als Referent an Anlässen und Seminaren, namentlich zu Themen der Unternehmens- und Teamführung, auf. Seit rund zwanzig Jahren bekleidet er diverse Verwaltungsratsmandate.
"Eine Führungsaufgabe beginnt immer bei einem selbst. Man muss authentisch und echt sein."
“Als ich nicht mehr die gleiche Freude spürte, merkt ich, dass es an der Zeit war meine Führungsaufgabe abzugeben.”
“Anerkennung, Wertschätzung und positives Feedback sind wirksame gratis Tools für Führungskräfte.”
Levent Künzi is the co-founder and CEO at Properti, a technology-driven real estate company modernizing residential real estate. He holds a BSc in Business Administration, Marketing and Business Communications from Kalaidos Fachhochschule Schweiz and previously worked at Betterhomes Real GmbH, where he quickly rose through the ranks and became COO at just 25 years old. His success, however, was not without its drawbacks: after a total of 10 years there, he quit due to severe burnout. Levent then had to take some time to rest, recover and discover who he was outside of work.
His journey of self-discovery resulted in him starting a business with his brother, Adrian Künzi, in 2019: Properti, which combines cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence with years of experience, expert knowledge and digital marketing. They’re simultaneously a real estate company and also a software company, offering a 360º view of all real estate related transactions (buying, renting, moving, cleaning..), in which 80% of all processes are automatized. Properti real estate agents are thus able to handle several more listings than regular agents.
Levent and Adrian bootstrapped Properti for the first 2 years, and just recently raised a $6.5M seed round.
"When I quit my job, it was very hard for me to find out who I am. Burnout turned into a real crisis."
Aurelio Perucca is the co-founder and CEO at Splint Invest, an alternative investment platform. He holds a MS in Business Administration from the University of Bern and previously worked at Stryker and PwC.
Aurelio’s entrepreneurial journey all began in 2020, when he and some of his PwC co-workers started investing in rare whiskey. Prior to that, Aurelio had only invested in ETFs and stocks, but he soon realized that the high correlation between traditional assets and economic downturns meant that he had to diversify his investment portfolio. Further research led him to discovering that alternative asset classes such as cars, watches and whiskey had a much lower correlation with economic fluctuation. Specifically assets like whiskey or wine have the added advantage of their price being driven by their intrinsic value, which only increases with time (the older the whiskey, the better, the more expensive) – they’re not dependent on some hype. They are also, so to speak, “recession-resistant”.
So in 2021 Aurelio and his co-founders created Splint Invest, an app with the mission to enable all private investors to invest in alternative assets, starting at just CHF 50. You can trade your “splints” with other investors or hold them until the asset is sold and you get to collect your profits. When an asset is sold, you’re charged a flat fee of 2% of the sales price on a pro-rata basis, which covers Splint Invest’s sales process expenses. There are no running costs when you invest in Splints: the variable costs for storage and insurance are already included in the splint price of CHF 50.
However, it is true that stocks have a higher yield on average (despite also being a riskier investment) – but Aurelio makes it clear that alternative assets should only make up 5-15% of your investment portfolio (the rest consisting of stocks, real estate, etc…), and that they’re not something for beginners to dabble with. If you’re just starting out on your investment journey, you’re better off with low-effort investments, like ETFs. But if you want to take your investment game to the next level, sign up today at Splint Invest.
"At some point, you can’t just add more milestones, more proofs of concept, more validation… You actually need to trust the idea and go for it."
Robert Piconi is the co-founder and CEO at Energy Vault, a global energy storage company based in Ticino and publicly listed at NYSE. He previously worked at companies like BP, Alcatel and Spirent Communications.
Despite his past in the oil business, Robert is currently dedicated to taking an active role in the transition to renewals. That’s why he co-founded Energy Vault in 2017, after having validated the idea at Idealab, the longest running technology incubator in the US, with a very impressive track record: almost half of its companies have either gone public or been acquired.
Energy Vault aims to tackle the complicated issue of energy storage, i.e. electron storage. This storage is made difficult by the electrons’ limited “shelf-life”, by the costliness of the infrastructure, and by the fact that it is rather hard to find sustainable ways of doing it. Energy Vault combines innovative design, advanced materials science, and proprietary machine-vision software to orchestrate the storage and dispatch of electrical power by lifting and lowering composite bricks, made from eco-friendly materials. Energy Vault’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in a unique approach to the circular economy which utilizes local industrial and energy waste, including remediated coal ash and recycled wind blades converted to recyclable materials, to build the system’s composite bricks.
They run their infrastructure and acquire their raw materials locally, so as to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and reinvest in the communities where they’re located. One major customer segment of theirs are utilities companies that distribute to a grid infrastructure, and which are currently in the process of shutting down their fossil fuel plants and making the switch to renewables.
Energy Vault went public on the NYSE in 2022, through a merger with Novus Capital Corporation II (NYSE: NXU). The transaction raised approximately $235 million in gross proceeds, additive to its recently announced Series C of $107M and the $50M license fee from Atlas Renewable, to fund the execution of its growth strategy. Reflecting on the going public process, Robert advises founders to not go public before they’ve reached a scale which allows them to reliably predict the company’s future, or before they’ve hired enough people to maintain operational excellence during the IPO process.
"I felt like my potential could reach greater heights if it weren’t held back by corporate constraints."
"Countries have no walls: greenhouse gasses go all over the world. It is imperative that we cooperate."
"An IPO process takes months. I would caution founders to structure their business in a way that makes sure things run on time even if they’re away."
Vincenzo Neidhardt is the Managing Partner at Helga, a hyper-focused digital manager that specializes in the use of data in the music world. He holds a BSc in Business Administration from HWZ and previously co-founded the booking agency Garasch Musig.
Helga tackles an issue very relevant to our current music industry: unlike in the past, when music artists worked with a single label for a long stretch of time, today’s musicians work with several music labels simultaneously, and therefore have multiple pay sources – their main concern is, therefore, keeping track of whether or not they’re actually getting paid, and, if they weren’t adequately compensated, having the analytics software necessary to approach the defaulting party with the data to back it up. It’s estimated that there are $2.5b missing in the music market due to this type of occurrence.
Helga has yet to properly launch, and most of their employees are also students on the side. They are currently raising CHF 600K and have chosen to tokenize their shares with daura. Learn more about the advantages of this unconventional financing route by visiting https://daura.ch .
"As a musician who studied business administration, I see every artist as a small company."
Luca Michas is the co-founder and CMO at Yamo, a B2C company revolutionizing the kid's food market with nutritious and organic options for kids of all ages. Luca holds an MA in Media & Communication / Marketing from the UZH and previously worked for companies like SodaStream International and the Campari Group.
In 2015, while working at the Campari Group with his future co-founder, Tobias Gunzenhauser, Luca watched a documentary about veganism and decided to go vegan for a month, and Tobias joined him in this adventure. They soon discovered that healthy, plant-based products were very hard to come by in a Swiss supermarket, and – as a joke – decided to check out the baby food aisle, only to find out the baby food available on the market was tasteless and of dubious nutritional value.
This was because the traditional process for creating shelf-stable baby food was heat-based sterilization, which, considering many vitamins are heat-sensitive, necessitated later re-adding the vitamins which the process destroyed. But friend and food scientist José Amado-Blanco soon clued them into a better way of making baby food: High-pressure pasteurization, which combines homemade flavor with proper nutrition, and lasts several weeks in a refrigerated environment. This was how Yamo was able to combine nutritional quality with convenience, and win the trust of Swiss parents all around.
So as not to have their customers age out of Yamo products, the team has now also begun making kids’ food, like joghurts and snack bars. With their office in Zug, they currently sell in the DACH region, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. A Series B round is also underway.
"Branding makes a huge difference in whether your product succeeds or not. It’s not just pricing, it’s not just availability. You need to tell a story."
"Nowadays sustainability is no longer something that sets your brand apart, but on the other hand, if you’re not sustainable, your brand is gonna have a problem."
"Contrary to popular belief, we were not drunk when we came up with the Yamo product names."
Raphael Schaad is the founder and CEO at Cron, a next-generation calendar software. Raphael holds an masters from MIT and a bachelors from the University of Applied Sciences Bern. He previously was a designer and engineer at Flipboard and a researcher at the MIT Media Lab.
He started working for Flipboard back in 2011, which meant moving to Palo Alto. Raphael remembers that back then, Apple was still a much smaller player than Microsoft, Steve Jobs lived on the same street as Raphael, and the Facebook team still operated from next to the Stanford campus. The tech scene, in general, was a whole lot smaller.
Early on in his professional life, Raphael noticed that all the high-achievers around him were very intentional about their calendars, but never fully satisfied with the calendar software they used, and tried to compensate for this by adding extensions from third party apps. Apple, Microsoft, Google … They all fell short, and companies like Calendly seemed more like a calendar feature than a calendar itself. So, Raphael got to hacking together calendar extensions to turn his calendar into pro-mode, and nowadays Cron includes features like availability sharing, team overlays, time zones, multiple accounts, a menu bar calendar, multi-select flows, dark mode, and lots of keyboard shortcuts.
Cron was part of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch, and though the experience was cut short by COVID (canceling their demo day), Raphael still benefited from it by laser focusing for 10 weeks straight with like-minded individuals. Cron was then launched in early access mode, both because they wanted to optimize for learning and because they had already gathered a very long waiting list from initial word of mouth success.
Cron raised $3.5M in a seed round in April 2020 and was acquired by Notion in June 2022. Head over to to cron.com for early access.
"Knowing that Steve Jobs lived on the same block as me definitely infused me with an adventurous energy that was very special, back then."
"All the high-achievers were religious about their calendars, but they all complained about their calendar software."
"Participating in Y Combinator means, in all likelihood, sitting in the same room as 5 unicorns and the next Mark Zuckerberg."
Hanna and Johan Åkerström are the co-founders of Soeder, a natural and ethical personal care product manufacturer based in Zurich, Switzerland. Hanna is a trained architect, and Johan studied International Working Science at the University of Gothenburg. They both originally hail from Sweden.
They created Soeder back in 2013, when the clean beauty trend hadn’t really happened yet. The “soap” available on the market was 99% synthetic detergents, and there was a big lack of transparency regarding raw materials. So Hanna and Johan decided to start making “real soap” in a small garage, and sold their first batch of liquid Soeder soap at a Zurich Christmas market. People reacted positively, and so the pair began scaling the business bit by bit. In hindsight, Johan and Hanna think that if they’d had a huge demand right at the beginning, this would've killed them, because with no outside investment they would not have been able to keep up. They don’t regret being bootstrapped, however, as it allowed them to make all the mistakes they needed to make at the beginning. Besides, slow, organic growth has proven just as effective.
Nowadays they sell soap bars as well, alongside shampoo, conditioner, sanitizers, etc. They use glass packaging which they encourage customers to refill – this practice might seem standard in 2022, but back when Soeder began, Hanna and Johan had to take the time to educate the market on why both these things were important and safe. This transparency has paid off: Soeder currently has a very large share of recurring customers who trust the brand and do word of mouth marketing for them.
Hanna and Johan continue to feel confident that the only way for a bootstrapped company to compete with the big fish is to take the time to do things differently, and focus on quality and the customer relationship.
"Building a company with your romantic partner brings you much closer together."
"If you make a good product, the person who buys it will sell the next one for you."
Sebastien Tondeur is the CEO at MCI group, a global next-gen platform for marketing which was founded as a conference organizer in 1987 by Sebastien’s dad, Roger Tondeur. Sebastien studied Finance and International Business at Northeastern University in Boston and joined the family business immediately after his studies, doing all sorts of tasks.
In 2010, Sebastien took over from his dad as CEO of the company, and Roger remained as Chairman. Sebastien soon drafted a new business plan that would allow the group to adapt to the current market and expand their business offers: besides organizing live and virtual events, MCI nowadays also offers strategic and digital communications, and consulting and community solutions. Events organizing have historically been their biggest revenue stream.
Sebastien scaled MCI to a global company, with operations in Europe, the US and China (and managed to do so by investing early on in client relations with big multinationals, as well as in hiring great teams), so the team really saw the COVID wave make its path from East to West and reacted very quickly in restructuring the business: they analyzed which areas of the business would be the most resilient and therefore worth investing time, effort and money into. They scaled back their events operations and invested in hiring creative teams to work as consultants with their customers, who were equally shaken by the COVID crisis and in need of new ideas.
They have recently participated in the SIX Sparks IPO Academy. MCI is interested in going public because this would mean greater shareholder trust and greater access to large amounts of capital, which may help them weather the next crisis.
"COVID made us realize what our key assets were, that we had other businesses not directly linked to events which we could build on. "
Silvan Krähenbühl is the host and managing director at Swisspreneur and current CEO at Rentouch, a Swiss enterprise software company developing products geared towards e-collaboration, and best known for the PIplanning app. He holds a BA in Business Administration from the University of St Gallen.
Silvan grew up in the Emmental valley with parents who ran a veterinary clinic, but he soon realized that looking after animals wasn’t really his thing, and that he was more interested in gadgets and business. During highschool, he participated in Young Enterprise Switzerland, and “founded” a company (not legally, but just as a project) which imported a cell phone holder from China and sold it in Switzerland.
After his bachelors at HSG, Silvan created Gymhopper, a B2B SaaS startup which gives individual gyms the network of a big chain, together with his co-founder Louis, whom he had met at HSG’s Young Entrepreneurs Club. This partnership turned out to be an unfortunate one, since Louis and Silvan did not have shared values. But this realization would come later – in the meantime, Gymhopper hired its CTO, João Sobral, in Lisbon, and grew within the span of 6 months to be the biggest gym network in Switzerland.
Investors then wanted them to expand and become the biggest network in all of Europe, but the Gymhopper team soon realized that their business model was Swiss-specific and would not work in other countries, because abroad there is often a legal preference for monthly gym memberships (in contrast to the Swiss annual membership model). Their expansion to Denmark and Austria was therefore not very fruitful. They tried to counteract this through a corporate fitness model, which not only brought in more revenue but also attracted the attention of the Austrian company myclubs, who wished to expand their corporate fitness offering in Switzerland. Gymhopper was acquired by myclubs in 2018 and Silvan stepped down from the CEO role, switching to a part-time Head Of Business Development position at myclubs.
It was also in 2018 that Silvan joined Swisspreneur. One of the startup coaches that he’d met while building Gymhopper was Christian Hirsig, a serial entrepreneur and former Swisspreneur host, who invited Silvan to take over from him as host. Silvan was at first quite hesitant about being on camera and taking on such a large role, but was eventually convinced by Chris and nowadays feels very thankful for having made this decision. From 2018 to 2022, Silvan and his team grew Swisspreneur from a show with 16 published episodes to the biggest Apple Podcasts business podcast in Switzerland, with its own coaching service, masterclasses and syndicate. Silvan credits the success of Swisspreneur to his amazing team.
Throughout 250+ episodes, 2 lessons stand out to Silvan:
In Silvan’s opinion, a founder should be able to:
In 2020 Silvan started working at Rentouch as Enterprise Account Director. In 2021 he left his position at myclubs and started working full time for Rentouch, and in 2022 he became the new Rentouch CEO. Ansuya Ahwalia, founder of Anamii and host of this episode, will be joining Silvan in the host team, occasionally interviewing guests.
"Most founders are actually unhappy. As companies grow, they can get bogged down by the workload and feel like they’re being stretched too thin."
"There’s a big momentum developing in the Swiss ecosystem right now. The big US VCs are starting to invest here."
The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
Manuel Aschwanden is the co-founder and CEO at Optotune, a company which develops optical components that allow customers around the globe to innovate. Prior to Optotune, Manuel has gained experience in engineering at Avalon and ABB, and he holds an MSc in Electrical Engineering and a PhD in Nanotechnology from ETH Zurich.
Founded in 2008, Optotune started out with their core technology of focus tunable lenses, which was inspired by the working principle of the human eye. Laser speckle reducers, 2D mirrors, tunable prisms and beam shifters have been more recent additions to their product lines. The fact that they created their company right at the height of the 2008 financial crisis turned out to be an advantage rather than a disadvantage, because a fair number of talented people at the time found themselves out of a job.
Nowadays Optotune serves several industries, from space tech all the way to consumer applications. They recently participated in the SIX Sparks IPO training program and are planning on going public sometime soon. In Manuel’s view, going public means profitability becomes all the more imperative, and also that creativity is sometimes sacrificed due to pressure from public opinion. Nonetheless, an IPO would bring enough advantages to outweigh these downsides.
"I believe that to be successful in Europe, you need to have unique engineering."
Adela Wiener is the co-founder & CEO at Aurachain, a simple and intuitive low-code platform that allows rapid creation of digital applications. She previously worked as a business development manager at the Romanian software company AGYS AG, and holds a PhD in Theory of Systems from Universitatea Politehnica din București.
Aurachain was created back in 2009 and has since switched from a customer solutions provider to a B2B SaaS company, which naturally means that nowadays most of the team’s time and knowledge goes into the product, and not client projects.
Currently, Aurachain is an horizontal low-code platform suitable for all sorts of industries, but which focuses on financial services companies as a go-to-market strategy. Low code gives companies quick time to value by allowing them to rapidly deploy apps without the need for code, which reduces technical depth and therefore also the company’s dependency on the developer talent pool. Shorter implementation cycles also mean increased agility.
Usually low code platforms are either extremely user-friendly, but not very customizable, so that they are only suitable for simple apps, or not user-friendly but very customizable, so that they can be used to build complex apps but only by people with previous low code knowledge or people willing to invest the time needed to learn. Aurachain prides itself on being “the best of both worlds”: both user-friendly and capable of building highly complex apps.
"Low-code development means a team can create something like 11 apps in less than 3 months."
Michele Bomio is a serial entrepreneur and active at Securecell, a high tech life sciences company focusing on biotech & medtech. After having built his first venture, SAM, in the 90s (an ETH spin-off delivering predictive modeling to the food industry), Michele was an external CEO at companies like Navyboot and Orell Füssli Thalia. He holds a degree in Food Science and Biotechnology from ETH Zurich.
At Securecell, he helps the team in their mission of developing innovative solutions in bioprocess technology for Biotech and BioPharma development digitalization and automation. Securecell is developing Seraccess, an innovative technology for the fully automated, high-frequency automatic on-line collection, processing, and analysis of minute quantities of blood for the monitoring and control of critical blood parameters. This is aimed at diabetes type 1 and 2 patients. They are close to having their first interactions with the FDA and beginning clinical trials.
Securecell recently participated in the SIX IPO Academy, aimed at preparing high-potential scale-ups for going public. Michele says going public has the advantage of forcing you to be disciplined and think about your organizational structure at every level, though it also has the downside that every risk taken must be accounted for, since everyone will have an opinion on the direction your company is taking.
"If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be a salesperson first."
Sandra Tobler is the co-founder and CEO at Futurae Technologies, a startup providing future-proof, end user-centric authentication. She previously worked at IBM and the Switzerland Global Enterprise and holds an MA in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
Futurae solutions enable seamless 2FA with fallbacks, compliant transaction confirmations, secure helpdesk authentication, and anything in between. They also help companies meet risk and compliance requirements, fraud monitoring, security analytics, and much more.
The company was created in 2016, back in the early days of cloud options, when the cloud was still regarded as “evil”. Their product was actually the first that the majority of their customers deployed in the cloud. This meant Futurae had to become an expert in building trust, and they did so not only by having an extremely talented team overall, but specifically a really strong support team (and not just a killer sales team).
"Over 93% of all information technology startups are still around after 5 years. That’s a super high number."
Jan Luescher is the CEO at ASMALLWORLD, an exclusive travel & lifestyle community. He previously worked as a Principal at Bain & Company and holds a MA in Strategy and International Management from HSG.
ASMALLWORLD was founded in 2004 by a wealthy Swedish couple, and started out as an invitation-only club for their friends. Changes in ownership over the years altered some aspects of the product, but in spite of this, and despite the product’s success, the team could not find a successful way of monetizing it, so investment began to wane. Jan Luescher stepped in as an external CEO back in 2016 and has been steering the ship ever since.
It isn’t ideal for ASMALLWORLD to grow a lot in terms of membership numbers, since exclusivity is part of the package deal (for which users annually pay CHF 100), so they’ve chosen to do so through creating a booking service on their website, in partnership with a number of luxury hotels.
Their goal is to ultimately be able to offer a fremium model (especially also considering that, even among those with disposable income, willingness to pay for a social media service is quite low), but for that they need to offer services to their users, so that the revenue coming from this will help support the non-paying users.
They’re also aiming to improve the technical aspects of their social media functionality and their booking service. ASMALLWORLD has bought a 10% stake in Global Hotel Alliance, a loyalty program for independent hotels, which has in turn bought 3% of ASMALLWORLD. The goal is to offer Global Hotel Alliance members a free ASMALLWORLD membership as part of the status benefits.
"The risk of entrepreneurship always seemed scary to me. It took me a while to take on the ASMALLWORLD project."
"When ASMALLWORLD was publicly listed, the financial press in Switzerland thought the world was going to end."
Ash Maurya is the founder and CEO at Leanstack, a leading provider of Lean Startup and Lean Business Modeling tools, content, and coaching resources. He is also the author of the book Running Lean. Prior to Leanstack, he worked at companies like telecom technologies and Sonus Networks and founded the startup Wired Reach in 2002, which enabled the creation of simple peer to web applications that blurred the boundaries between the desktop and web. He holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The Lean Canvas came about as a way to combat the preconceived notion of business ideas as overnight successes. It helps aspiring founders take their idea and deconstruct it to learn what needs to be tackled first and how to chronicle the process. It helps you get specific (because if you try to build a product for everyone, you end up building a product for no one) and helps you find out whether the problem you’re looking to solve is big enough.
The Lean Startup Methodology can also help you figure out things like pricing. Founders tend to want to price their product in terms of solution (meaning, based on how much it costs to produce the product/solution) instead of pricing it according to the problem (figuring out how big of a pain the problem is, and how much people are willing to pay to fix it).
It can also help founders find paths to customers, whether that be through paid advertising or through posting original content, or through being featured on other people’s original content, like Ash just did with Swisspreneur.
"Being too early to market is almost as bad as being too late."
"When we try to build a product for everyone, we end up building a product for no one."
Chris Bach is the CSO/CCO at Netlify, a platform for building highly-performant and dynamic websites, e-commerce stores and apps. He studied film and media science at the University of Copenhagen but then pivoted to the business world, and created Netlify in 2015 together with co-founders Mathias Biilmann. By uniting an extensive ecosystem of technologies, services and APIs into one workflow, Netlify unlocks new levels of team productivity, while saving time, money and the planet.
Their idea was to change the architecture of the web and provide a viable workflow for developers, since nowadays it’s known that the biggest overall challenge companies face is reducing time to market, and that the number 1 way of doing so is to invest in developer tools and workflow.
They knew that Netlify would have to be venture-backed in order to have the right time-to-market and create the desired impact. Europe was much too risk averse in terms of capital, so they decided to raise funds in the US. To date they’ve taken on $212M in investment from investors such as A16Z, Kleiner Perkins, Bessemer, EQT, BOND and Menlo Ventures, and angels such as the founders of Github, Heroku, Rackspace Cloud, Slack, Yelp, Figma, and many more.
"Venture capital was much too risk-averse in Europe. What we needed was the Silicon Valley approach."
"The mission is not money. The mission is building a better web."
This episode was produced in cooperation with the ETH Entrepreneur Club.
Samuel Mueller is the co-founder and CEO at Scandit, the leading technology platform for mobile computer vision and augmented reality (AR) solutions for enterprises. He holds a PhD in Computer Science and Temporal Logics from ETH Zurich. Together with Christian Floerkermeier and Christof Roduner, he created Scandit in 2009.
Their goal with Scandit was to create a bridge between real world objects and the digital information available about them. Barcodes were then the natural entry points, especially at a time when phone cameras were just starting to become ubiquitous.
Nowadays they work with 4 key verticals:
Scandit runs a subscription-based model which allows customers to “go as they grow”, meaning the bigger they get, the more Scandit services they can accrue. It's also a very high margin business, because a lot of the heavy lifting, the computer vision magic, is happening on the user devices, so there’s no distinct cloud need.
"As an entrepreneur, if you don’t get really good at saying ‘no’, you’re gonna get terribly distracted."
"Today’s customers are really smart. If you don’t have an answer ready for them, they’re already on their way to check out the product somewhere else."
Elian Kool is the co-founder and former CEO at Netcentric, a Zurich based company that develops CX marketing solutions. He previously worked at companies like Acommit AG, Namics and Logica Deutschland.
Elian co-founded Netcentric in 2012, right around the time that Adobe Experience Cloud (the focus of their business) was first emerging. They were quite precocious, in the sense that they always competed at eye level with big consultants like Deloitte and Accenture, and very early on set up an office in Barcelona. They were also quick to take on a holacratic organizational method, in order to create a work environment that was both extremely efficient and attractive to its employees.
In 2017 they were acquired by cognizant in order to grow more quickly at an international level.
"In my view it’s much better to stay focused and know what you’re good at than trying to mitigate every potential risk."