We have just extended our deadline for applications! Startups and scaleups from Switzerland and all around the world can apply until June 10th. Still wondering whether or not apply for Kickstart Accelerator 2018? Here are the reasons why you should.

As one of the 30 selected startups for Kickstart Accelerator, you will get the chance to enter into innovative collaborations with leading Swiss corporates, cities, universities and foundations. We will support you every step of the way to make this happen! Your benefits include:

Access to senior executives: Kickstart gives participants the opportunity to connect with its partners‘ senior executives. More than 30 CEOs, decision-makers, movers and shakers of Swiss corporations and institutions have confirmed their participation to one of Kickstart’s main events. Find out more about our C-level engagement here.

Quarter of a million in partnership budget: Participants get the chance to access funding for successfully initiated collaborative projects with Kickstart partners.

Bringing together founders and C-level executives. 

Collaboration training and facilitation: Kickstart is actively fostering collaborative projects between the startups and the accelerator’s partners.

Program stipends: Kickstart participants can expect a program stipend of up to CHF 10’000 per startup.

Your Personal Mentor and access to Experts: Entrepreneurial mentors are at the center of Kickstart Accelerator. We think of mentoring as building a relationship with someone who accompanies and inspires you along your journey and helps you to navigate within the Swiss market. In addition to mentoring, startups have access to a wide network of experts in varied industries, for 1:1 sessions.

Focused access to investors: Kickstart facilitates connections with national and international investors.

Free office space and infrastructure: Kickstart provides office space and infrastructure to all participants at an extraordinary innovation and collaboration space: Kraftwerk. The rebuilt, former electronic transformer station lies within a few minutes from Zurich’s main railway station. Kraftwerk offers various event-, workshop- and meeting rooms; as well as a large special event space and a lively café, spread over 1200 m2.

Collaboration and Innovation Space Kraftwerk. 

Networking and Community events: Weekly networking events at Kraftwerk and external locations allow participating startups to fully emerge themselves into the Swiss innovation ecosystem. Community building events throughout the program aim at establishing strong bonds between the vertical cohorts in order to enable peer-support across the program.

Media exposure: Startups get the chance to be covered in various local and national media outlets, newsletters and on social media.

Startup and Innovation Ecosystem: Overall, participating startups can benefit from a fast-track access to Swiss startup and innovation ecosystems.

And the best part: Kickstart Accelerator takes zero equity and charges zero fees.

Have a look at these great examples of successful collaborations that were initiated within the last two years: Next to 30 PoCs and partnerships that resulted out of last year’s program, a couple of weeks ago we were able to announce another PoC between the AI-startup DCBrain and our partner Swisscom. Additionally, the insurance company AXA and Veezoo, an alumni startup from our very first program in 2016, announced that they have deepened their relationship and established a successful partnership. We are looking forward to making these kind of stories possible again this year – together with amazing partners such as Coop, Credit Suisse, Migros, Swisscom, Department of Education of the Canton of Zurich, the cities of St. Gallen and Zurich, ETH Zürich, Gebert-Rüf-Stiftung, Mercator Foundation Switzerland, Swiss Federal Office for Energy, University of Zurich, AXA, EY, Stäubli, Swisslinx, PwC Switzerland, Helbling and more.

If you are a startup or scaleup with a promising technology, product or business idea in the fields of EdTech & Learning, FinTech & Crypto, Food & Retail Tech or Smart Cities & Infrastructure, then apply until June 10th and become a #kickstarters18.

In case you have any questions, feel free to contact our Vertical Leads: Katka Letzing for FinTech & Crypto, Tim Lehmann for EdTech & Learning, Christina Senn-Jakobsen for Food & Retail Tech and Ruth Armalé for Smart Cities. We are looking forward to working with you!

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…)

Selecting 30 startups from over a 1500 of applications is something we take really seriously and we knew that seeing startups in person and giving them a chance to present their ideas could help us to make better decisions. No one can argue that seeing the passionate pitch helps you to understand the idea much better than a multi-page application. That’s why last week we invited 60 startups from all over the world to join us in the 2-day Bootcamp in Zurich. (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!

The startup Notakey tackled the issue of electronic identification (eID) at last year’s Kickstart Accelerator and secured proof of concept with Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS. This issue is currently of interest to many companies, as it can be used in a number of applications to add considerable value for clients.

The benefits of digital identity can be illustrated by one simple example. Nowadays, every company identifies its clients independently, forcing the client to memorize a vast array of different user names and passwords and provide the same information – address, age, date of birth, etc. – over and over again. This requires significant time and effort from all parties, taking up valuable time for the user and resulting in inefficient processes, higher costs and sometimes lower conversion rates for companies. With a system based on a common platform, online businesses and administrative processes can be designed and developed much more efficiently to bring important benefits to both companies and, most importantly, clients. Customers will eventually be able to register at online shops and public offices with their bank login details or take out a mobile phone contract or insurance policy online.

Notakey has developed a mobile software application offering authentication that is both extremely secure and user-friendly, and gathered its first experiences from the issue of digital identity in Latvia – a combination that attracted the attention of renowned companies Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS. After initial discussions at the Kickstart Accelerator, it quickly became clear that the parties wished to create a joint proof of concept. They ultimately opted for a four-month PoC with the aim of proving functionality to show that it is possible to operate a cross-sector system with several different parties, while at the same time demonstrating a high degree of user-friendliness.

This evidence was obtained during the PoC. Under laboratory conditions, it was demonstrated that a registered bank customer could take out a mobile phone contract with their existing client data without needing to provide additional identification.

For a startup, however, securing proof of concept is about much more than obtaining technical evidence, as Notakey’s Co-Founder Janis Graubins explains: “This process has brought us closer to the companies, enabling us to build a network of contacts with their internal specialists and learn much more about the needs of their clients.” Acquiring this kind of important knowledge is vital in allowing startups to target their products appropriately, expand their portfolio and enhance their credibility in the market. “We had great experiences at the Kickstart Accelerator and during the PoC that will certainly help to drive us forward. Last but not least, our trip to Switzerland enabled us to attract the attention of investors.”

The PoC was also invaluable for the three companies involved, who not only improved their understanding of the technical aspects involved but also enjoyed a positive experience with a young, dedicated team who understood how to advance projects in an agile way. It was also useful to have an ‘independent’ company within their own organization to offer new ideas and challenge existing processes and procedures. The companies report that the collaboration was extremely constructive, with only the startup phase – in which several parties were required to choose an efficient path for cooperation – proving to be a challenge. In particular, collaborating across borders required a high degree of flexibility.

Looking to the future
All of the project’s participants agree that companies like Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS can contribute a considerable amount of expertise to a national eID system in the areas of security and data protection. They are also highly likely to participate in such a system. They already manage large amounts of client data in digital form, are trusted by clients, process secure transactions (payments) every day and use advanced means of identification. They also comply with strict requirements regarding Know Your Customer (KYC) processes, money laundering and other due diligence obligations.

The project participants believe that a common, open eID system tied to the companies’ existing infrastructure should be established in Switzerland. The same platform would therefore include several different identity providers. Interoperability between providers would be guaranteed and the end consumer could choose their preferred provider. While partners are now being sought to participate in the next stages of this project to establish a common national eID, the Kickstart Accelerator and the contribution of Notakey mean significant progress has already been made.

The world is seeing unprecedented growth and demographic shifts. Innovative solutions are changing urban environments and the way we live. By 2050 it is expected that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities and  for the first time in human history, there will be more elderly people than young children. Therefore, building sustainable cities and managing urban resources effectively is becoming a very important task in the 21st century.

The use of digital technologies like the Internet of Things represents a huge opportunity to overcome such urban challenges. A Smart City is an urban area that has become more efficient, more environmentally friendly, more sustainable and more socially inclusive through leveraging such technologies. Smart Cities are more attractive cities – they are built around users and designed to optimize resources: They use information and technology to monitor and collect relevant data about streets, buildings, water, traffic, energy usage, transportation or the air. By making better decisions and developing or adding city services based on this data cities become a healthier place to live, visit and do business in.

In Switzerland, we can find some initiatives that promote smart cities, such as the recent premier edition of the Make Zurich hackathon or the SmartSuisse conference. This year, Kickstart Accelerator has a new vertical on Smart Cities to accelerate high impact, entrepreneurial solutions in the following 9 Focus Areas: Building, Citizen Engagement, Education, Energy, Healthy Living, Mobility, Operations & Infrastructure, Tourism and Urban Planning.

 

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The world of architecture and construction is changing at a fast pace: there are now new materials being used that increase the energy efficiency in buildings. Concepts such as “smart homes”, “sustainable design” and “disassembly and deconstruction of buildings” or “building management systems” are becoming more popular, and the rise of “smart buildings” is now a reality. Have you ever thought of an idea that reduces workplace cost, improves the usage of public buildings or helps minimize the environmental impact of the building lifecycle?

The focus areas outlined above all play a key role to develop the cities of the future. If you have a great idea and would like to bring your startup to the next level, take a look at the Kickstart Accelerator program, one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate accelerators. Apply before April 30th and find more details at https://kickstart-accelerator.com/

Collaboration between startups and corporations often is a win-win situation. Why can such cooperations be this fruitful? We spoke to Veronica Lange and Andreas Kubli from UBS and wanted to know about the value of building strong partnerships and the uniqueness of Kickstart Accelerator.

[Deutsche Version]

Why is UBS interested in startups?

Andreas Kubli (AK): We realized very early on that fintech startups can help us accelerate digital transformation at the bank, and in the meantime collaborations have become a tradition for us. We don’t have to do everything that we offer our customers ourselves. If a startup has a great solution, particularly in an area that is not part of our core competencies, we are happy to discuss a potential collaboration.

Veronica Lange (VL): Owing to their organizational structure, startups are often a lot more agile than a major corporate group, such as UBS. This enables them to significantly reduce the time-to-market for new innovations. They also often have specific technical know-how, which can be applied to very good effect in the financial sector.

What can UBS offer startups?

VL: Collaborations offer a typical win-win situation. Startups benefit from an established platform with a large customer base and the security of a trustworthy major bank. We also bring a great deal of expertise to the table: banking experience, sound advice, extensive professional knowledge, personal contact, long-standing relationships and excellent financial products.

AK: In addition, we have gained a lot of experience in collaborating with startups over the past few years. That is very important, because when a startup collaborates with a corporate group there is always the danger that it will be “crushed” by the complex structures and processes. However, we have found very good ways of preventing that from happening and have launched successful collaborations—for instance with bexio, DSwiss and SumUp.

VL: Access to capital is certainly also a decisive factor for startups. We can help startups, such as the participants in Kickstart Accelerator, with their pitch for capital to investors.

Why should I, with my startup in Switzerland, approach Kickstart Accelerator rather than look to London, Singapore or New York?

AK: Kickstart Accelerator is one-of-a-kind globally, and one of the largest multi-corporate startup support programs in Europe. It is unique because it is supported by more than 15 major corporate partners, which all pull together to promote the Swiss innovation ecosystem. From last year’s program, we were able to make a proof-of-concept with both Notakey and Zoa, which we are currently still working on.

VL: Arguments in favor of Switzerland are its expertise as a financial center and a strong educational system combined with excellent technical universities, gifted talents, a very high level of education and a large number of potential investors in the country. Global investors also rate Switzerland highly. Many of them traveled to Zurich in January to attend the Investor Summit, where they met with Swiss startups.

AK: I haven’t come across the aforementioned collaborative aspect as much in other markets. Switzerland, however, is ideal for collaboration because of its manageable size.

What was your best/most surprising moment when the Kickstart Accelerator program was run for the first time last year?

AK: With Eric van der Kleij, we were able to bring on board a recognized expert to help develop an accelerator program. I was really impressed by how we were able to set up one of the largest European programs in such a short time. The interaction between a wide range of partners with a common goal created a unique dynamic.

VL: I was impressed by the quality of the applicants from all over the world. I also sensed a great interest and a huge commitment internally on the part of the employees to support the accelerator program and the startups.

What are your expectations for this year’s accelerator program and from what areas would you like to see startups come?

AK: Last year’s program exceeded expectations in terms of scope, attracting attention and project studies. I hope that even more startups will sign up this year and that we will see even more PoCs. We also want to keep spreading Switzerland’s good reputation around the world. In a best-case scenario, we may convince foreign startups to come to Switzerland. I wouldn’t like to specify any particular areas, but if a startup demonstrates a collaborative spirit, I look forward to the exchange.

VL: I can go along with that. A project study in the areas of distributed ledger, smart contracts or wealthtech would be great. But I am also very open to other topics, and I would really like to wait and see what new ideas startups from all around the world approach us with.

 

Wenn Startups und Grossunternehmen zusammenarbeiten, dann ist das oft eine Win-Win-Situation. Was ist es, das solche Kooperationen derart fruchtbar macht? Wir haben mit Veronica Lange und Andreas Kubli von UBS über den Wert von starken Partnerschaften und die Einzigartigkeit von Kickstart Accelerator gesprochen.

[English Version]

Wieso interessiert sich UBS für Startups?

Andreas Kubli (AK): Uns wurde sehr früh bewusst, dass uns Fintech-Startups helfen können, den digitalen Wandel in der Bank zu beschleunigen und inzwischen haben Kooperationen für uns Tradition. Wir müssen nicht alles, was wir unseren Kunden anbieten, selber machen. Wenn ein Startup eine tolle Lösung hat, insbesondere in einem Bereich, welcher nicht zu unseren Kernkompetenzen gehört, sprechen wir gerne über eine mögliche Kooperation.

Veronica Lange (VL): Startups sind durch ihre Organisationsstrukturen häufig sehr viel agiler als ein grosser Konzern wie UBS. Dadurch können sie die Time-to-Market für neue Innovationen extrem reduzieren. Zudem haben sie oft spezifisches, technisches Know-how, welches für die Anwendung im Finanzsektor sehr interessant ist.

Was kann UBS Startups bieten?

VL: Kooperationen bieten eine typische Win-Win-Situation. Startups profitieren von einer etablierten Plattform mit einem grossen Kundenstamm und der Sicherheit einer vertrauenswürdigen Grossbank. Ausserdem bringen wir sehr viel Know-How mit: Bankerfahrung, kompetente Beratung, umfangreiches Fachwissen, persönlicher Kontakt, langjährige Beziehungen und exzellente Finanzprodukte.

AK: Zudem haben wir in den letzten Jahren viel Erfahrung in der Zusammenarbeit mit Startups gesammelt. Das ist sehr wichtig, denn wenn ein Startup mit einem Konzern zusammenarbeitet, besteht immer die Gefahr, dass es von den komplexen Strukturen und Prozessen “erdrückt” wird. Wir haben aber sehr gute Wege gefunden, damit das nicht passiert und so erfolgreiche Kooperationen, beispielsweise mit bexio, DSwiss oder SumUp lanciert.

VL: Entscheidend für Startups ist sicherlich auch der Zugang zu Kapital. Hier können wir Start-ups, beispielsweise den Teilnehmern des Kickstart Accelerator, beim “Pitch” für Kapital bei Investoren unterstützen.

Wieso soll ich mit meinem Startup in die Schweiz an den Kickstart Accelerator kommen und nicht nach London, Singapur oder New York gehen?

AK: Der Kickstart Accelerator ist einmalig auf der Welt und eines der grössten firmenübergreifenden Startup-Förderprogramme Europas. Einmalig ist er deshalb, weil er von über 15 Grossunternehmen getragen wird und die Partner alle an einem Strick ziehen, um das Schweizer Innovations-Ökosystem zu fördern. Wir konnten aus dem letztjährigen Programm heraus sowohl mit Notakey als auch mit Zoa je einen Proof-of-Concept machen, an denen wir zurzeit noch arbeiten.

VL: Für die Schweiz spricht die hohe Kompetenz als Finanzplatz sowie ein starkes Bildungssystem, gepaart mit hervorragenden technischen Hochschulen, begabte Talente, ein sehr hohes Bildungsniveau und sehr viele potenzielle Investoren im Land. Auch globale Investoren schätzen die Schweiz. Viele von ihnen reisten im Januar an den Investor Summit nach Zürich, wo sie mit Schweizer Startups in Kontakt kamen.

AK: Das bereits angesprochene kooperative Element kenne ich von anderen Märkten weniger. Die Schweiz ist aufgrund der überschaubaren Grösse prädestiniert dafür.

Was war euer bester/überraschendster Moment bei der ersten Durchführung des Kickstart Accelerators im letzten Jahr?

AK: Mit Eric van der Kleij konnten wir einen ausgewiesenen Experten für den Aufbau eines Accelerator-Programms gewinnen. Die Art und Weise, wie es gelungen ist, in kürzester Zeit eines der grössten europäischen Programme zu etablieren, hat mir sehr imponiert. Das Zusammenwirken von verschiedensten Partnern mit einem gemeinsamen Ziel hat eine einzigartige Dynamik hervorgerufen.

VL: Ich war beeindruckt von der Qualität der Bewerber aus aller Welt. Zudem spürte ich intern ein grosses Interesse und riesiges Engagement der Mitarbeitenden den Accelerator und die Startups zu unterstützen.

Was erwartet ihr für den diesjährigen Accelerator und Startups aus welchen Bereichen würdet ihr gerne sehen?

AK: Das letztjährige Programm hat in Sachen Reichweite, Aufmerksamkeit und Projektstudien die Erwartungen übertroffen. Ich hoffe, dass sich dieses Jahr noch mehr Startups anmelden und wir noch mehr PoCs sehen werden. Ausserdem wollen wir den guten Ruf der Schweiz noch weiter in die Welt hinaustragen. Im besten Fall können wir ausländische Startups überzeugen, in der Schweiz ansässig zu werden. Auf bestimmte Bereiche möchte ich mich nicht festlegen, aber wenn ein Startup einen kollaborativen Spirit verfolgt, freue ich mich auf den Austausch.

VL: Dem kann ich mich anschliessen. Toll wäre eine Projektstudie in den Bereichen Distributed Ledger, Smart Contracts oder WealthTech. Aber ich bin auch sehr offen für andere Themen und lasse mich noch sehr gerne überraschen, mit welchen neuen Ideen Startups aus aller Welt zu uns kommen.