Top 100 – springboard and stage for Swiss start-ups
The 100 most promising Swiss start-ups are recognized annually at the Top 100 Swiss Start-up Award Night. Making it onto the list may not mean that a company has made it, though it does provide official recognition of the company’s potential – which can be worth millions.
Business angels and Chinese backers
Zurich’s Maag Hall was packed to the rafters on a warm September evening in 2018. The atmosphere buzzed with excitement as the organizers from Venturelab open the ceremony. For the nominees, a spot in the prestigious ranking means much more than a trophy to display in the break room.
A start-up can be no more than five years old in order to snare one of the 100 sought-after spots, and 2018 saw 47 companies added to the list. A few figures show just how fast things are moving on the Swiss start-up scene. The companies have created 5,197 jobs since the list was first launched in 2011, with the six most successful raising investment capital totaling 235 million Swiss francs in the last twelve months. Because, at the same time, the event focuses on bringing start-ups and investors together.
In addition to established Swiss investors, the organizers facilitate contacts to investors from Silicon Valley and numerous wealthy individuals, also known as business angels.Interest in the young Swiss companies is also growing among Chinese capital providers, and this year’s event catalogue was published in Chinese for the first time.
Ava heads to China
An hour later, all eyes in the Maag Hall were on Andreas Gerber. As the Head of SME Business at Credit Suisse and President of the Swiss Venture Club, he represents two of the event’s most important key partners. He also had the honor of announcing the name of the winning business. “The winner of the 2018 Top 100 Start-up Award is – Ava!” Gerber proclaimed, congratulating the jubilant winners. Ava are no strangers to winning, as they also came away with the coveted trophy last year. “We are just thrilled,” exclaimed Pascal Koenig, CEO of Ava, thirty minutes later. As he was on stage with his team few minutes earlier, he made the audience laugh with his one-word response to what the young company makes: “Babies.” The medical technology company produces a device to track a woman’s menstrual cycle, with additional functions to be added in the future.
In Koenig’s words: “The Top100 ranking provides the investors with security. It serves as a seal of quality. Our win last year absolutely contributed to the 30 million Swiss franc investment round that we have just concluded.”Soon, Ava will redeem the prize from Credit Suisse – an entrepreneur trip to China. “It’s a great deal more to us than simply a trip. We just opened an office in Hong Kong, and we feel there is enormous potential in China. We want to use this trip to talk to people who understand the Chinese economic system. We would like to meet key people and learn from others’ mistakes. Luckily, by winning in both 2017 and 2018, we’ve received two invitations,” Koenig said with a smile.
Industries, regions, and more women making the list
Bestmile came away with second place in the Top100 ranking. The company from Lausanne develops software for managing fleets of autonomous vehicles. Third place went to another company from Lausanne: Lunaphore. The medtech company is involved with something called personalized medicine. Specifically, that means that it develops tests aimed at making tissue analyses more efficient. The first three spots on the list also reflect Switzerland’s two most important regions for start-ups. The canton of Vaud has 24 companies on this year’s list, and Zurich 46. As for the industries represented, software, biotechnology, engineering, and medical technology dominate the ranking with a total of 67 spots. Women are also on the rise on the 2018 list: 28 of the start-ups were either founded by a woman or have a woman on their management team. Organizers of the Top 100 Start-up Award predict that new investment records will be set in the months to come. The 2019 Top 100 is likely to be interesting.