As we’ve hit the mid-term part of Kickstart Accelerator 2017, I’ve been thinking a lot about time. Time is one of the biggest assest startups have when starting out. They invest a lot of hours into building the product, usually forgetting about life-work balance, driven by the passion for their creation.

On the other hand, time or better – lack of it, can also be a main reason why startup fails. Everybody who’s been in startup scene long enough, knows that it takes a lot of time, until startups develop a sustainable income streams, that is needed to finance their operations. Sooner or later, the saved cash planne dries out and if they haven’t secured enough funding or sales to sustain operations – they run out of time.

At Kickstart Accelerator, however, we feel a flow of time a bit differently. The whole idea of the accelerator is to provide a concentrated amount of resources (from access to expertise and mentorship to free working space and introductions to investors) in a short period of time, so a startup could accelerate their growth. And this is exactly what we have seen in the first six weeks of the program.

So far, all together 3 startups have raised over $3.25million in funding (Libryo – $1m, Apiax $1.5m and CityFalcon – $725k), there are currently over 40 PoCs discussions with our partners, launched 3 crowdfunding campaigns launched, numerous prototypes and product iterations developed and more. All in all, seems quite a lot to achieve in 6 weeks, but it only shows at what speed startups execute and what is their perception of time. There is also a lot of progress you can’t simply quantify, but sometimes one meeting, one workshop, one masterclass or networking event sometimes all it takes.

To give you a feel, what is it like to be part of Kickstart Accelerator, we have launched a weekly video series on our YouTube Channel, where we show highlights from events, talk to startups, teams, experts and mentors and just try to pass on the overall vibe. Below are the videos from weeks 1-6, you can subscribe to our channel here if you’d like to get more insights.

Enjoy!
Tauras

 

Dear All,

it’s the moment we’ve been all waiting for…1500+ applications, 2 months, 1 Bootcamp and 100+ pitches later we have the names of the 30 startups that will join the 11-week programme starting on September 4th.

(more…)

It’s hard not to notice the fast pace of innovation that is all around us. It touches all aspects of our everyday lives – from the way we commute or communicate to the way we pay for things and produce goods. Education is not an exception. Being one of the key drivers of innovation and progress, the education industry is poised to undergo drastic technological evolution in the coming years.

Switzerland is one the leaders in Higher Education

And as usual, it comes down to startups, that are willing to pursue the disruptive ideas with minimal resources, to drive this evolution. But the question is – where shall they go? We, at Kickstart Accelerator, say – come to Switzerland! With its combined leadership in education and innovation, Switzerland offers a unique environment to accelerate the next generation of EdTech startups that will bring global impact. According to QS World Universities Ranking, four of Swiss universities are in the World’s Top100. Moreover, based on THE World University Rankings, ETH is #1 in Computer Science and EPFL is proudly in #1 place in the ‘Young University Rankings’ (Universities that are less than 50 years old). And the list could go on and on. Undoubtedly, it makes this alpine gem one of the best places to start in or bring an EdTech business to. And that’s exactly what we encourage all startups that work on Education Technology do.

Launch of a new vertical

At Kickstart Accelerator, we are super excited to see how this ecosystem will be further enriched by our newly launched EdTech Vertical, in partnership with EPFL and operated by venturelab. The ten most promising international and Swiss EdTech startups will be invited to Lausanne from September to November 2017. They will profit from benefits such as stipends of CHF 10`000, coworking-space at the EdTech Collider as well as access to a broad network of investors, experts, mentors and business partners. They will also have a chance to win cash prizes at the end of the program. Located at the heart of the thriving startup community on the EPFL campus, they will be hosted at the EdTech Collider – Switzerland’s first collaborative space dedicated to ambitious entrepreneurs transforming education and learning through technology.

EPFL campus from birdsview

EPFL campus from birdsview

Excitement is in the air

It is big news for Switzerland. As Nicolas Bürer, Managing Director of digitalswitzerland (initiator of Kickstart Accelerator), says: “The launch of the EdTech vertical in Western Switzerland confirms the commitment and capacity of the region to develop groundbreaking technologies that change people’s lives. The ecosystem here is stimulating and innovative while providing a stable infrastructure and access to finance and expertise.” In the last years, EPFL has taken leadership in the European MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) landscape. “With this, Lausanne has become an important hub for education of the future, offering the perfect environment and opportunities to significantly expand educational technologies”, says Pierre Dillenbourg, Professor at EPFL.

For Kickstart Accelerator, the new EdTech Vertical means tapping into another exciting field of innovation.  “The digital technologies will disrupt the traditional way of learning and will bring major changes to classrooms. Thanks to this sixth vertical in Lausanne, Kickstart Accelerator will be part of that development”, shares Patricia Schlenter, Program Manager at Kickstart Accelerator. Venturelab’s Director Jordi Montserrat is convinced that this trend will be growing further: “This development is fueled by multiple educational projects, cutting-edge research projects on learning technologies and promising digital education startups emerging in Switzerland and Europe. Bringing these actors together and helping them thrive by offering a collaborative space and building a strong support ecosystem, can significantly contribute to the development of the Swiss education and learning technology sector”.

Apply now

If you are working on an education technology startup – it’s your time to shine. Apply for the EdTech vertical by July 10th, 2017 right here: www.kickstart-accelerator.com/edtech

We look forward to receiving your application!

Wow, Wow, Wow –  the Kickstart Accelerator 2016 has come to an end and the first batch of Kickstart has exceeded our expectations in every possible way!

The international talent in this year’s cohort highlights the potential of Switzerland to be the digital tech hub on the European stage.  On the final demo day the following five PoCs have been confirmed between leading European corporates and startups.

Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS, have partnered with Notakey, which provides solutions allowing users to securely notarise digital transactions to explore its suitability as a cross-industry platform. Such a “digital identity-ecosystem” would allow for consumer use cases: for instance, in the future a registered banking client could sign a mobile phone contract without further identification and vice versa.

Swisscom is also partnering with lenditapp, the fintech company active in the U.S. and Switzerland, for a 4 month PoC, which will see the two firms develop a technology solution that includes machine learning, data aggregation and underwriting models to automate and reduce the risk in lending to small & medium sized enterprises.

PwC Switzerland and Veezoo, a conversational artificial intelligence technology that enables users to search their company’s data, will conduct a PoC for internal PwC use. The intention is to further develop and validate the Veezoo solution for deployment in corporate environments.

EY has launched a cooperation with Nivaura in Switzerland and the UK. The aim is to test Nivaura’s innovative blockchain-based platform, which enables complex financial products to be issued, executed and administered. EY sees great potential for synergies with its business partners and clients globally.

Raiffeisen Switzerland has agreed a PoC with lenditapp to use their solution for the automated digital processing of balance sheets, to bring more convenience and outstanding quality into the credit process.

Raiffeisen Switzerland has also agreed a PoC with LastMile to explore the possible uses of Chat Bots in their support organisation based on text and voice in all Swiss national languages and dialects.

Further to the PoCs, Coop and Migros have agreed to pilot tests with Faitron, which is developing a portable HeatsBox that heats up meals on the go and in the workplace. The trials will test the acceptance, performance and convenience of the product. The test results will be shared with Faitron to make further improvements to the device and determine possible commercialisation. Coop has also been working with Essento, a Swiss food production company that uses insects, within the framework of the Coop Sustainability Fund. Coop will indirectly work with EntoCube, the producer of crickets through, EntoCube’s collaboration with Essento in a joint venture.

Our ambition has been to give the participating startups the opportunity to test their products at scale with some of Europe’s largest corporates. The corporate partners’ willingness to collaborate and share their infrastructure, data and expertise with the startups is a win-win for industry innovation and the creation of an ecosystem that lives beyond the programme.

We hope to continue building on our strengths in fintech, robotics and food, and expand our ecosystem to include other idustries as well. The increasingly supportive business and regulatory environment in Switzerland enables entrepreneurs and established industry titans to come here to collaborate, innovate and accelerate growth together.

 

FOTO: PHILIPPE ROSSIER, 3.11.2016, ZUERICH, KICKSTART-ACCELERATOR, CLOSING DAY

 

Image credits to Philippe Rossier, Ringier

Die ETH Zürich eröffnet ein weltweit einzigartiges Robotik-Labor, in dem getestet wird, wie Architekturprojekte in Zukunft ressourceneffizient, emissionsarm und verdichtet umgesetzt werden können.

 

Um zu erforschen, wie Digitalisierung und Automatisation den Bausektor prägen könnten, hat die ETH Zürich am 22. September ein neues Gebäude eröffnet: Das Arch_Tec_Lab. Wer das Gebäude betritt, hebt unwillkürlich den Blick zum kunstvoll gewellten Holzdach, das aus tausenden von Holzlatten mit der Hilfe eines Roboters gefertigt wurde. Ein faszinierender Anblick.

 

abb1Das von Robotern gefertigte Holzdach des Arch_Tec_Lab. © Andrea Diglas, ITA/Arch-Tec-Lab AG, ETH Zürich 2016

 

Unter dem Dach: eine zweistöckige Galerie mit lichtdurchfluteten Büros. Darin entwerfen Architekturforscher gerade die Zukunft des Bauens, die im Labor im Erdgeschoss des neuen Gebäudes schon mal in die Gegenwart geholt wird. Das Robotic Fabrication Laboratory, kurz RFL, ist ein weltweit einzigartiges Robotik-Labor, in dem vier ABB-Roboter von einem deckenmontierten Güdel-Flächenportal hängen. Zusammen kommt die Installation auf 36 Systemachsen, mit deren Hilfe Objekte auf eine Genauigkeit von einem halben Millimeter an jedem beliebigen Ort im 45 x 17 x 6 Meter grossen Raum platziert werden können. Die ABB-Steuerung kann sämtliche Achsen kontrollieren – ein Weltrekord, vermutet das Projektteam.

ABB als Sponsorin der vier Roboter und deren Steuerung ist am Projekt massgeblich beteiligt. „Das RFL zeigt die Kompetenz von ABB im Bereich Robotik: Als Partnerin von einer der bedeutendsten Architekturfakultäten der Welt, engagiert sich ABB für den Wissenstransfer zwischen Forschung und Industrie“, sagt Frank-Peter Kirgis, Global Business Line Manager von ABB.

 

abb2Das RFL im Aufbau: Montage eines ABB-Roboters © Gramazio Kohler Research ETH Zürich 2016

 

„Mit dem RFL machen wir einen wichtigen Schritt in Richtung einer digitalen Baukultur“, sagt Professor Matthias Kohler, der zusammen mit Professor Fabio Gramazio einer der acht Professuren des Instituts für Technologie in der Architektur leitet, die das Arch_Tec_Lab zusammen realisiert haben. Tobias Bonwetsch, Projektleiter, der das RFL schon seit Projektbeginn 2010 leitet, fügt an: „In diesem Labor werden wir die Zukunft des Bauens ausloten.“ Eine spannende Herausforderung im Hinblick auf die einzigartige Möglichkeit, zweistöckige Objekte im Massstab 1:1 in einem Labor herstellen zu können.

 

abb3Das Robotic Fabrication Laboratory © Andrea Diglas, ITA/Arch-Tec-Lab AG, ETH Zürich 2016

 

Wie sieht sie aus, die Zukunft des Bauens?

Digitalisierung und Automatisation sind auch in der Baubranche auf dem Vormarsch. Zwar langsamer als in anderen Branchen, aber doch unaufhaltsam. Das Bauen wird in der Zukunft digitaler, modularer und automatisierter. Dahinter steckt die Idee, dass eine geschlossene, digitale Kette sämtliche Schritte im Bauprozess verknüpft – vom Entwurf bis zum Bau. Und dank Robotern ergibt sich für Architekten eine Vielzahl von neuen Gestaltungsformen und Funktionalitäten. Roboter schliessen so im Baubereich einen „Fabrication Gap“ – was bedeutet, den Graben zwischen Entwurf und Realität, zwischen Plan und Umsetzbarkeit zuzuschütten. Der Architekt plant, was umsetzbar ist. Der Roboter baut, was geplant ist.

 

abb4Montage des Holzdaches © Arch_Tec_Lab 2015, www.espazium.ch

 

Eine anschauliche Erklärung davon, wie Roboter in der Baubranche eingesetzt werden können, bietet der Vergleich mit dem dreidimensionalen Druckverfahren. Roboter im Bau können, genau wie 3D-Drucker, einem Objekt während des Entstehungsprozesses eine gewisse Form geben und damit dessen Funktionalität bestimmen. Einzig, dass der Roboter nicht mit Tinte, sondern zum Beispiel mit Holzlatten oder mit Backsteinen arbeitet. Dabei entstehen Formen und Konstrukte, deren Fabrikation von Menschenhand zwar möglich, allerdings extrem aufwendig wäre. Ein Modul des geschwungenen Dachs des Arch_Tec_Labs zum Beispiel kann von einem Roboter in rund 10 Stunden zusammengenagelt werden. Menschen bräuchten für die gleiche Arbeit mehr als 100 Stunden. Dabei ersetzt die Maschine den Menschen nicht, sondern erschliesst vielmehr Architekten ein bisher nur wenig genutztes, gestalterisches Potential. Eine Architektin, die einen Bauroboter zur Verfügung hat, ist also gestalterisch freier und weniger an die Grenzen traditioneller Bauweisen gebunden. Somit entscheidet die Architektin nicht aus Kostengründen, ob sie eine gerade oder eine geschwungene Wand baut, sondern aus ihrem Gusto für Design.

 

Ressourcenschonend bauen dank Robotern

Es geht aber nicht nur um Ästhetik, sondern auch um Ressourceneffizienz. Türmt ein Roboter Backsteine aufeinander, nennt man dies additive Assemblierung. Im Gegensatz dazu steht die heute weitverbreitete subtraktive Bauweise, wo Material zum Beispiel mit einer Fräsmaschine abgetragen wird. Dabei entstehen Abfallprodukte. Modulares Bauen, bei dem man von einer kleinen Einheit ausgehend in die Grösse baut, hat daher das Potenzial, Ressourcen zu schonen.

 

abb5Additives Bauen mit ABB-Roboter ©NCCR Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research ETH Zürich

 

Ein weiteres Beispiel, wie Roboter dazu beitragen, dass Materialien sparsam eingesetzt werden, ist die Herstellung von gewundenen Betonformen ohne den Einsatz einer Schalung. Roboter schweissen dafür Drahtgerüste zusammen, die mit Spritzbeton gefüllt werden. Da die Schalung entfällt, die es beim herkömmlichen Betongiessen benötigt, spart diese Bauweise Ressourcen – vor allem, wenn es sich um einmalige Projekte und nicht um eine Massenproduktion handelt.

 

abb6Drahtgerüst für die Konstruktion einer geschwungenen Betonwand © NCCR Digital Fabrication, Gramazio Kohler Research und Agile and Dexterous Robotics Lab ETH Zürich

 

Multidisziplinäre Teams werden die Ärmel hochkrempeln

Sobald das neue Labor nun Tür und Tor öffnet, können multidisziplinäre Forschungsprojekte umgesetzt werden. Denn um diese weltweit einzigartige Anlage auf Herz und Nieren zu testen, ziehen Architekten, Ingenieurwissenschaftlerinnen, Robotik-Spezialisten und Material- und Computerwissenschaftlerinnen als Teil des nationalen Forschungsschwerpunktes (NFS) Digitale Fabrikation, der an der ETH Zürich beheimatet ist, am gleichen Strick. 20% der Nutzungszeit soll ausserdem externen Nutzern zugesprochen werden. So sollen andere Fakultäten der ETH aber auch andere Forschungsinstitute an der fortschrittlichen Technologie forschen können.

Unter anderem soll auch in situ Bauen im Labor simuliert werden. Dabei wird die Situation eines Roboters auf der Baustelle nachgestellt. Was braucht es, damit sich ein Roboter in einer typischerweise unstrukturierten Gegend auf einer Baustelle zurechtfindet? Es muss eine Art von künstlicher Intelligenz entwickelt werden. Schliesslich muss sich die Maschine mit gewissen einprogrammierten Regeln in der unvorhersehbaren Situation zurechtfinden. Eine Herausforderung, deren Lösung wohl schon bald die Gebäude prägen wird, in denen wir heute aufwachsen und altwerden, einkaufen und ausgehen, arbeiten und studieren.

Text: ABB Robotics

What is future and emerging technologies? Well, literally… future and emerging technologies. It’s the sort of things imagined in Star Trek, Star Wars and the like. Ok, maybe not that far into the future but definitely things which will impact the world within the next decade.

During the outreach, we received roughly 300 applications from startups all over the world which turned into a gigantic task of screening them transparently and fair. For a decent opinion making, you need to spend at least an hour per application, and that’s a whole lot of Game of Thrones episodes. After slashing the number down (nobody got harmed or killed), we proceeded with 18 teams. Next phase was the jury calls. We locked some brilliant minds into a room and reached out to the selected startups to chat and let’s just say; there was a lot we learned during these three days of jury calls:

Insides we craved knowing and well things we better shouldn’t have heard. It was an emotional roller coaster including hard arguments behind closed doors, genuine joy of experiencing a high degree of professionality, pitches which didn’t lack on humor and much more. It was highly exciting but equally intense and challenging.

So that’s how we ended up with a bunch of Finnish guys, bolting together farming technologies for high-quality alternative proteins, a German duo destined to teach computers the human language and a Swiss crew working their magic on healing wounds. A Bulgarian attempt to change the way how we pay for public transport, a team from the French-speaking part of Switzerland meshing together veins, watches and IDs and local representatives, a startup introducing blockchain technology ensuring your meds are safe.

All in all a bunch of super smart and talented people building the world of tomorrow! Welcome to the future and the emerging technology vertical.

With Kickstart Accelerator, we place our bets on collaboration and internationalisation to accelerate Switzerland’s development towards a leading entrepreneurship ecosystem across the globe.

On collaboration: It requires a collaborative effort amongst many actors to build and grow an ecosystem. For the past two decades, individual startup programs have been successfully established to support startups in a particular niche. These programs are pivotal for some founders, and Impact Hubs in Zürich and Geneva, along with many peers such as CTI startup, IfJ, VentureKick, Swiss Startup Invest, Startup Campus, Swiss Startup Factory, Venture, startups.ch, etc. have contributed to this emergence of program-level support. However, it now may seem as if there are more programs in Switzerland than startups that actually make a difference. For breakthrough successes, it requires a critical mass of actors, first and foremost startups, to come together and collaborate rather than compete over limited public, philanthropic or private resources.

On internationalisation: Thus far, we have attracted international talent mostly at the Federal Institute of Technology or St.Gallen University. And when talented students graduate, they are either recruited by large corporates or leave the country again. We lose out on what is a key factor for Silicon Valley’s success story, i.e., the majority of Silicon Valley’s renowned founders being direct immigrants or born to immigrant parents. If we want to develop Switzerland to a global leader of entrepreneurs, we need to build stronger bridges to the international entrepreneurship scene.

Building on DigitalZurich2025, Kickstart Accelerator is the largest collaborative effort to welcome top international startups to Switzerland. With many corporates, leading universities and public institutions joining forces, we have the unique opportunity for our country to take a leap forward in entrepreneurship.

Both collaboration and internationalisation require a distinct mindset. Being part of the global community of over 90 Impact Hubs with 14’000 entrepreneurial members, our team at Impact Hub Zürich has continuously proven this mentality – as we have recently articulated in our Co-Manifesto. We are honoured and proud to be asked to lead Switzerland’s most ambitious effort in startup acceleration, corporate open innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem building. And we are thankful to the many partners and supporters who reach out to us with their helping hands rather than falling back to silo-thinking and traditional competition.

So which collaborations are happening exactly?

DigitalZurich2025 is already a remarkable initiative convening over 25 large corporates, several leading institutions and public players. Building on such an orchestrated power, Kickstart Accelerator now sees competitors working side-by-side for a shared ambition: UBS and Credit Suisse, along with half a dozen of other industry leaders, supporting the Fintech Vertical. Migros and Coop doing so in the Food Vertical. During the selection process, several C-level executives have debated over which corporate is first to initiate a PoC (Proof-of-Concept) with which startup in the program. This, to my knowledge, is very rare in startup programs. It is the openness that is required in order to build something meaningful.

Never before have we actively welcomed so many startups from abroad to Switzerland to establish long-lasting relationships, both with large corporates and institutions, as well as with other Swiss startups. While the majority of participants come from all over the world, about one-third are Swiss startups. And they will not only compete with each other but also collaborate within and across the four thematic verticals. Fortunately, all partners have recognised the innovation potential of not building four different accelerators, but to connect four, and soon more, verticals under one joint acceleration program.

Swiss startups, who do not participate, will also benefit from Kickstart Accelerator. We are curating world-class educational content with Masterclass coaches such as Joachim Schoss, Curdin Janett and Pascal Mathis, in which Swiss startups will also have a chance to join. Stay tuned for more information on this.

Finally, we collaborate intensively behind the scenes. To build a global leader in fintech acceleration, for example, we are working together on a day-to-day basis with Eric Van der Kleij and the team at DV2C, former founder of London’s Level39 and not to forget the many managers and intrapreneurs from our corporate partners rolling up their sleeves to become operationally involved with us.

While all this may both sound exciting and promising for Switzerland, it is also extremely demanding work. Earlier this year, an experienced international acceleration provider had informed one of our partners that it takes at least nine months to put together an outstanding program and only if one has done so before. Well, we have had less than half a year to get the first batch off the ground. And it is due to an extraordinary Kickstart Accelerator team, all of them entrepreneurs in their own regard, strong support by our Steering Committee and office at DigitalZurich2025 and its partners and an incredible backing from Impact Hub Zürich’s 40 people team to make it happen in record time. Before the program officially starts on 22nd August 2016, I would like to thank all of you who make Kickstart Accelerator a reality.

Christoph Birkholz

A few weeks ago I attempted a brief street survey to get an idea of the general public’s take on robotics. I noticed two things: 1) Robotics is a seemingly misunderstood field. 2) The average person has no idea what was happening inside a robotics lab.

After compiling the four most common responses, I decided to speak to Professor Roland Siegwart, head of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ZTH, to get his take on the public perception of robotics. Here’s what I discovered from our conversation.

Robotics is just human looking robots.  Not really. While robots can be human like, most are designed in a manner most appropriate for their function.  Autonomous cars, drones, vacuums, and lawnmowers  are all commonly used robots defined by their functionality.  They use different sensors to perceive and understand their environment, develop a course of action,  and execute it.

Looks cool but I doubt it’s useful. Oh contraire! Autonomous Robots are gradually appearing in our daily environments. For example, mobile robotic technology is already being used to enhance existing systems – like making cars safer or to guiding people through cities. “Soft” robots are currently being developed that will change the way we do work. Expect robots to take on dangerous jobs like mining or physically demanding jobs in construction. They could even be used to make farming more efficient and sustainable.

 AI is a threat to human life. Nope. Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is very far from having the intelligence and creativity of human beings. It helps robots to learn through their experiences and make appropriate decisions. AI helps us to sort and classify information faster and more precisely. It is meant to complement human capacities not to threaten them.  

Nothing is getting done in a timely fashion. Things are definitely happening in the field.  We already see robots being used in our daily lives and this trend will continue. While we may never materialize a robot that can perform all the daily functions of a human, we can expect robots to continue to share our environment and make our lives easier.

When people think of Switzerland, they tend to think of banks, watches, and chocolate. But many groundbreaking inventions and startups were created here too.

You can thank Switzerland for…

If you’ve ever used Velcro, you can thank Georges de Mestral, a Swiss engineer who came up with the concept after a hike in the Jura Mountains. He created the “zipperless zipper” in the 1940’s, though he didn’t release his invention until the 1950’s and it didn’t become popular until NASA began using it in their space program in the 1960’s. But parents of small children all over the world are grateful for this Swiss invention.

Interestingly, the modern zip also has Switzerland to thank for its existence. While the zip was invented in the United States, it was perfected in Switzerland in the 1920’s with the invention of the coil zip, which is the design still in use today.

And you’re reading this post thanks in part to an invention that also came out of Switzerland: the World Wide Web. The original web server, NeXT, was created and used here at CERN.  And in 1993 when CERN released the software behind NeXT into the public domain, the entire world was changed forever.

But we’re more than inventions…

One of the most successful startups created in Switzerland is Doodle. Developed by a computer scientist and electrical engineer in 2007, Doodle was one of the first digital schedulers available. This online platform was created to radically simplify the process of scheduling events, and in 2014 was being used by more than 20 million users a month.  

Doodle may have been one of the first successful startups in Switzerland, but they’ve hardly been the last. Switzerland is becoming one of the hottest places for startups in the world. According to Yannick Guerdat, a member of the Alp ICT, that’s because “beyond having the right people, technical solutions and infrastructure, the country’s heritage in banking and confidentiality surely contributes to some extent.”

Perhaps that’s why many of the successful startups coming out of Switzerland today are related to security.

One such startup is ProtonMail. Heralded by Forbes magazine as “the only email system the NSA can’t access”, the company was created in 2013 at CERN. While some of the ProtonMail team is based in the United States now, the company itself (as well as the servers) remains in Switzerland. Security and privacy are of the utmost importance, which is why ProtonMail will remain in Switzerland, according to Andy Yen, one of the founders. “One of the key things we want to do is control our servers and make sure all the servers are in Switzerland which will increase privacy because Switzerland doesn’t do things like seize servers or tape conversations.”

Another startup focused on privacy and security is Silent Circle. This company created the Blackphone, which is a smartphone that was specifically developed to be more secure than any other device on the market. They also offer other software and services, all designed to keep your information private and secure.

From Doodle to Velcro, it’s clear that Switzerland has more to offer than what most people think. These are just a few of the creative inventions and successful startups that have come out of Switzerland, but they definitely won’t be the last.  If you think your startup has what it takes, apply to Kickstart today. 

As the World Economic Forum 2016 concludes, what are the big take-aways? And what might be one of the most promising answers to the question of its Global Agenda: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond?”

In early January, World Economic Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab summarized the topic as follows:

“An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed. Indeed, across all industries, there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses.”

But what are these “drivers that constitute a source of constant surprise” if not entrepreneurs? It is, after all, the entrepreneurs among us who “accelerate innovation” and push forward the “velocity of disruption.” It is because of founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick that the world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own any taxis (UBER). It is because of founders Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk that the largest accommodation provider owns no real estate (AirBnB). And it is because of founder Jack Ma that the world’s most valuable retailer owns no inventory (Alibaba). The Digital Transformation that drives the Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening because entrepreneurs have found ways to turn innovation into business.

So back to Klaus Schwab’s question: What the Fourth Industrial Revolution means, how to respond? After listening to world leaders for three days, I believe there are two ways to respond: Fight it or improve it. Switzerland has chosen to focus on the latter. It is using its number 1 position as most innovative country in the world to attract entrepreneurs from around the world and build a bright and prosperous economic future.

A very concrete step in this direction happened only hours before the opening dinner of the World Economic Forum. At the Investor Summit at Zurich airport,Kickstart – The Swiss Accelerator launched its application on January 19, 2016.

The idea is simple: Switzerland is bursting with incredible resources for young startups. Starting in July 2016 the Kickstart Accelerator will welcome founders from around the world to live and work in Zurich for three months. They receive up to 25,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $24,606) in seed funding and 1,500 Swiss Francs ($1,476) per month for living expenses as well as mentoring, free office space and fast-track access to relevant industry partners. The program culminates on Demo Day, where each startup presents their company to Swiss venture capitalists, corporate leaders, and journalists.

Initiated by DigitalZurich2025, a cross-industry initiative founded by 14 multinationals – among them Google, UBS, EY and Ringier – the city and canton of Zurich as well as the Federal Institute of Technology, Kickstart is the largest and most ambitious international startup program to date in Switzerland.

By focusing Kickstart on those areas where Switzerland is particularly resourceful and has a competitive advantage, the DigitalZurich2025 can enable early-stage entrepreneurs like few others can. In particular, Kickstart will have four verticals: FinTech, Smart & Connected Machines, Food, and Future & Emerging Technology. Applications are currently open and close on March 31st, 2016.

Improving the Fourth Industrial Revolution sounds like a herculean task. But let’s not forget that in every industrial revolution, it has been the entrepreneurs who found ways to turn innovation into business. And this, in turn, created more jobs, more wealth and ultimately more life quality. So as we leave Davos and return to our respective corners of the world, let’s remember that the heart of Europe has opened its gate to business ideas from around the world, inviting entrepreneurs to kickstart their venture in Zurich. And even if we don’t all become entrepreneurs this summer, let’s meet and greet the Forth Industrial Revolution first and foremost as a great opportunity ahead.

This post was written by Sunnie J. Groeneveld, Member of the Kickstart Team, and was originally published on Huffington Post’s Business Blog.

What do AirBnb, Dropbox, Reddit, Heroku, and Stripe all have in common? They all started at the world’s best startup accelerator, Y Combinator. Founded by Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator’s portfolio of companies now exceeds $30 billion. Due to its all-star roster of companies and amazing network of mentors and investors, thousands of entrepreneurs apply every year one of the approximately 60 spots in the program.

In part because of the success of Y Combinator and other top accelerators like TechStars, there has been a growth explosion in the space, with more than 2,100 accelerators across the globe. Major corporations and even sports franchises are getting into the game, with Sephora, Nike, Target, Google, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are starting their own accelerators.

Plus, the evidence indicates that entering an accelerator could be a no-brainer. A recent study by VentureBeat found that companies top accelerators that graduated before December 2009 returned 11.3x on capital invested, which is astonishing. Other studies show that the survival rate of companies that go through accelerators could be three times that of companies that don’t. Even more, research shows companies that completed an accelerator grew faster than companies that didn’t.

In Europe, accelerators like Rockstart Amsterdam, Seedcamp London, Entrepreneur First, and Techstars METRO Accelerator in Berlin have all established themselves as great options for startups looking for mentorship and access to capital. And now, another accelerator has joined this esteemed group in Kickstart Accelerator.

Located in Zurich, Switzerland, Kickstart is recruiting an international class of startups for their first summer program in cooperation with Digital Zurich 2025. Unlike most other accelerators, Kickstart takes no equity from the startups that are accepted into the program, although they are expected to stay in Zurich for the three month summer program. Y Combinator has the same policy for their participants in Mountain View, and partner Gary Tan says, “We think of YC as Rome or Athens in antiquity. Come out to Mountain View for three months, you don’t have to move here permanently. Absorb whatever really works out here and take that back.” While Mountain View may be the Rome of antiquity, Zurich may as well be thought of as the Athens of antiquity. It’s ranked among the top 10 Global Startup Ecosystems and leads the world in innovation.

Each startup team accepted into the program will receive up to 25,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $24,606) and 1,500 Swiss Francs ($1,476) per month for living expenses. In addition, founders will have access to dedicated mentors, corporations, academic partners, and investors. And there’s no need to worry about where to work on your startup, all founders will have access to free office space as well as infrastructure support.

We are thrilled to announce applications are now open for Kickstart Accelerator!  

Kickstart is a fast-track gateway by DigitalZurich2025 for entrepreneurs from around the world to access the Swiss business ecosystem, which has been rated by the World Economic Forum as No 1 for innovation in the 2015/2016 Global Competitiveness Report.

The accelerator is an 11-week program open to the best international early-stage startups with a promising business idea within our 4 verticals: Food, Smart & Connected Machines, FinTech and Future & Emerging Technologies.

Startups will live and work in beautiful Zurich, Switzerland for three months starting in July 2016. We provide founders with up to 25’000 Swiss francs (approximately $24,606) in seed-funding, a monthly founder stipend ($1,476), mentoring, a shared office space and fast-track access to relevant industry partners and the Swiss startup ecosystem. The program culminates in Demo Day where each team presents to investors, corporate leaders and the media.

Unlike most other accelerators, Kickstart charges no fees. Click here to start your application now!

Why an accelerator? VentureBeat recently published a study that showed companies graduating from top accelerators returned 11.3x on capital invested. Additional research also indicates companies that complete an accelerator grow faster than those who don’t. Ruedi Noser, Council of State of Zurich and President of the Steering Committee of Kickstart says about the program: “Switzerland is bursting with incredible resources for young startups. We have countless established, high-level organizations that are interested in assisting young startups both financially and via mentorships. Kickstart is a really exciting opportunity for international startups to experience all of the incredible expertise Zurich has to offer.”

Applications for Kickstart – The Swiss Accelerator are currently open and close on March 31st, 2016. If you’re a young startup considering joining an accelerator this year, there’s no better place to spend your summer than Zurich with some of the best industry experts and mentors in the world.