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Your comprehensive guide to Switzerland’s startup ecosystem.

Startup ecosystem young people talking, dringing coffe at the innovation lounge

Your comprehensive guide to Switzerland’s startup ecosystem.

Operating in a startup ecosystem gives you access to resources, experts and institutions conducive to business growth and success.

Switzerland is a hub for innovative startups, with 18 Swiss cities amongst the 100 best cities for startups. It ranked first at the Global Innovation Index 2022. That’s because of the impressive startup support systems all across the country.

Keep reading to learn about the key players of the Swiss startup ecosystem and its support institutions. 

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What is a startup ecosystem?

A startup ecosystem is a network of individuals, organizations and resources that support the growth and development of startups.

A variety of actors make up a startup ecosystem. These include entrepreneurs, founders, investors, mentors, accelerators, incubators, government agencies, universities and research institutions.

Here are some of the key factors of a thriving startup ecosystem. We’ll discuss each with a spotlight on Switzerland.

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1. Access to capital.

Startups need funds to grow. Financing can come from various sources, including venture capital firms, angel investors, crowdfunding platforms and government grants.

Swiss startups benefit from competitive government startup financing schemes, multiple venture capital firms that focus on local startups, angel investors, crowdfunding platforms and accelerators.  

A stable banking system and strong currency also benefit a startup ecosystem. Switzerland’s banking system is efficient and the Swiss franc is one of the world’s strongest currencies.

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2. Skilled workforce.

Startups need access to highly skilled and educated talent to help them develop and execute their business plans.

Switzerland has a robust domestic labor market complemented by foreign skilled workers. The country ranked highest on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2022. Switzerland has remained the most talent-competitive country globally for over a decade. 

The Swiss education system is also among the best worldwide, ranked third according to the World Economic Forum. The country generates highly skilled graduates that offer tremendous value to its startup ecosystem. 

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3. Supportive policies and regulations.

Governments play an essential role in creating a supportive environment for startups by enacting policies and regulations encouraging entrepreneurship, innovation and investment.

The corporate income tax levied on Swiss startups is approximately 12% to 21% (federal tax + cantonal rates), which is lower than the global average. 

Switzerland has one of the highest GDP per capita due to its stable economic and political systems, which attract investors. Despite the political instability in some parts of Europe, the country has maintained itself as an investor magnet.

Switzerland also offers various incentives and grants to its entrepreneurial ecosystem, such as tax exemptions for research & development activities.

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4. A strong network of mentors and advisors.

Experienced mentors and advisors can provide valuable guidance and support to startup founders as they navigate the challenges of building a new business. A startup ecosystem is incomplete without such mentors. 

Switzerland has many incubators and accelerators with extensive mentorship programs. You can learn from experts such as Dr. Adrian Sprenger and Philippe Nasch

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5. Access to infrastructure and resources.

Startups need access to resources such as coworking spaces, accelerators, incubators, research institutions and universities. In addition, a startup ecosystem requires high-quality infrastructure such as high-speed internet, cloud computing and other technology platforms.

With its remarkable technology infrastructure and state-of-the-art research facilities, Switzerland offers startups the perfect environment to flourish. 

In the Basel Area, you’ll find the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area offers high-end infrastructure as well as access to a community of bright minds who share a common goal: becoming successful with their startup.

The key players of the Swiss startup ecosystem.

Here are the top players in the Switzerland startup ecosystem: 

1. Incubators and accelerators.

Incubators and accelerators provide an environment for founders to innovate and turn ideas into viable businesses. You also get access to mentors, coaches and consultants at such institutions. 

Venture Mentoring Program, BaseLaunch, Innosuisse and Tenity are amongst the top incubators in Switzerland. Some popular accelerators include i4Challenge, DayOne Accelerator and Venture Kick

2. Universities and research institutions.

Universities foster a culture of innovative thinking. They provide talent, research facilities, entrepreneurial education, funding, networking opportunities and access to subject-matter experts.

Some of the important universities and research facilities of the Switzerland startup ecosystem include the University of Basel, ETH Zurich, EPFL Lausanne, The Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering and The Graduate Institute, Geneva (IHEID)

3. Awards and financing institutions.

Government grants, business loans, awards and competitions ensure that startups can develop their ideas to secure more significant investments.

The Swiss startup ecosystem offers financing support through various awards, grants and competitions. Some include Venture Kick, KMUimpuls, Startup competition by Venture, Swiss Medtech Award and Innosuisse: Competitive project funding.

4. Venture capital firms and investors.

Local investors and venture capital firms offer benefits such as access to local expertise, proximity to portfolio companies and insights into regional economic conditions.

Fortunately, the Swiss startup ecosystem has many venture capital firms and investor networks, such as TiVentures and Business Angels Switzerland

5. Information platforms and training associations.

A startup ecosystem flourishes when aspiring founders have the resources to polish ideas and improve business skills. 

Digital Switzerland, Startup Ticker and Startup.ch are some organizations offering training and information to entrepreneurs in the Switzerland startup ecosystem. 

6. Events and networking organizers.

Events bring together the startup community and connect you with other founders, funding providers and mentors. These provide learning opportunities, exposure and visibility to young startups. 

Startup Weekend, Startup Days and Startup Campus are networking events that bring value to the Swiss startup ecosystem. We’re also offering events for startup founders.

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7. Training and coworking spaces.

Coworking spaces offer access to office space essentials, amenities, resources and a community of innovators. Such places are convenient to meet clients and investors or attend business training seminars. 

Office Zuerich, Office Lab, Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area and Home of Innovation are popular coworking and training spaces that play a key role in the Swiss startup ecosystem.

What makes the Swiss startup ecosystem one of the best?

The Swiss startup ecosystem is ranked eleventh globally as of 2023. It’s grown by nearly 15x in the past decade. 

Some popular Swiss-based startups include Wire, Nexo, Skribble and Bring!

While Switzerland may not have the largest startup ecosystem in Europe, it’s widely regarded as one of the most innovative. Government and private initiatives support Switzerland’s startup ecosystem, including tax incentives, funding programs and accelerators. 

Here are some interesting statistics about the Switzerland startup ecosystem: 

  • There was nearly a 30% increase in investments in Swiss tech startups in 2022 compared to 2021. 
  • Relative to its population, Switzerland attracts more investment capital than the UK, France or Germany.
  • The combined value of Swiss startups in 2022 was 3.6x higher than in 2016. 
  • Switzerland has one of the highest VC funding per capita among European countries.
  • The total investment in Swiss startups in 2022 was nearly 4x the amount invested in 2017. Interest in Swiss startups is increasing at an exponential rate. 

Startup mentors work closely with entrepreneurs to help them develop their ideas. They help to validate their business models, navigate challenges and make informed decisions.

Adrian SprengerManager Entrepreneurship at Basel Area Business & Innovation

The 9 most important support institutions for Switzerland’s startup ecosystem.

There are hundreds of support institutions for startups in Switzerland. Here are the top nine: 

 

1. Startup Academy’s scaleup program.

Startup Academy’s scaleup program is a helpful resource to grow and scale your startup. It’s designed for founders that have already achieved some level of success.

The program is 24-36 months long. Each participating startup gets a unique program tailored to its specific requirements. The program offer includes the following: 

  • Mentorship and consultation. 
  • Networking opportunities. 
  • Business training courses. 
  • Help with startup publicity. 
  • Funding support. 

You can join the program in any of its locations across Switzerland for a monthly fee of CHF 350. The organization also does lots of pro bono work. Reach out to learn more. 

Goals of the Startup Academy’s scaleup program.

The scaleup program aims to support startups’ growth in Switzerland and ensure long-term success. The goal is to create more jobs through such businesses and solve economic and social challenges. 

Who should join the Startup Academy’s scaleup program?

You should join the Startup Academy’s scaleup program if your startup has proven growth potential and needs a boost to become a small-to-medium-sized business. 

—>More about Startup Academy’s scaleup program.

 

2. Impact Hub.

Impact Hub offers both accelerators and incubator programs. It supports young startups that work on services, solutions and products to get closer to 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.  

It’s one of the top support institutions for Swiss startups because it: 

  • provides coworking space and unique networking opportunities with experienced founders. 
  • offers programs for acceleration.
  • enables access to global markets. 
  • is located in the Basel Area, which is a hub for social entrepreneurs.
  • has a track record of successful startups. For example, Eryse and Moefe

Goals of Impact Hub.

Impact Hub’s goal is to create a supportive ecosystem for social entrepreneurs and impact-driven businesses. The organization provides founders access to resources, networks and knowledge to help them create positive social and environmental impact and accelerate their startups.

Who should join Impact Hub?

You should join Impact Hub if you have a startup in the sustainability niche. Scientists, academic researchers, individuals and entrepreneurs can apply to join. 

—>More about Impact Hub

 

3. IFJ (Institut für Jungunternehmen).

IFJ offers various business-related services to Swiss founders. This institution conducts helpful workshops and webinars. Some highlights of its offering include the following: 

  • Advice from experienced founders and subject-matter experts. 
  • Intensive courses on specific business domains such as accounting, business plan basics, trademark and IP protection for startups.
  • Networking events. 
  • Business plan tools. 
  • Management software. 
  • Support programs. 
  • Financing opportunities. 

IFJ’s offering covers all aspects that new startups usually struggle with at every stage of their journey. The services are free of charge for founders. 

Goals of IFJ.

The organization’s primary goal is to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in Switzerland by supporting and empowering entrepreneurs. IFJ aims to increase the number of successful Swiss-based startups and contribute to startup ecosystems. 

The focus is on promoting sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship. IFJ encourages entrepreneurs to consider social and environmental responsibility in their business practices. 

Who should join IFJ?

Anyone, from individuals to organizations, who is interested in entrepreneurship or starting and growing a business can join IFJ. Register for its workshops if you need support with a specific business domain.  

The programs and resources are especially beneficial for early-stage founders and growth-stage startups. 

—>More about IFJ

 

4. Startup Baselland.

Startup Baselland is an initiative that conducts networking events in Basel, Switzerland, for founders. Five Swiss organizations that support startup activity and other partners came together to establish this program.

Startup Weekend Basel is an annual event Startup Baselland held recently (5 to 7 May, 2023). Participants included investors, interested parties, aspiring founders and startup experts. 

The event’s goal is to simulate the experience of establishing a business. Startup enthusiasts test an idea, present it to a panel of experts and gain insights about the process. 

You must pass through the various stages of business creation, such as ideation, creating a business plan, developing a prototype and pitching it to the experts to secure funding. 

Other than events, Startup Baselland has three main offerings: 

  • Free startup advice. 
  • Help for founders to secure offices, laboratories or coworking spaces in Baselland.
  • Financing support through guarantees and advice. 

Goals of Startup Baselland.

Startup Baselland aims to promote the local startup ecosystem. The initiative aims to create and support sustainable businesses in the canton. It provides an inspiring environment to encourage innovation and startups in the area. 

Who should join Startup Baselland?

Any startup that wants to be based in Basel-Landschaft should engage with Startup Baselland. You should join if your startup needs financing or you want startup advice from some of the top Swiss startup support organizations.  

—>More about Startup Baselland

 

5. Standortförderung Baselland.

Standortförderung Baselland offers real estate and location-related services to startups looking to establish in the Basel Area. The organization also deals with cantonal administration issues and helps businesses settle there. 

The welcome desk at Standortförderung Baselland can connect you with startup advice centers. The organization also helps new founders navigate the company formation process by sharing resources and connecting them with local experts.  

Standortförderung Baselland is a vital support institution in the startup ecosystem in the Basel Area. You can reach out to it for answers to technical questions and to find contact details for specialist administrative departments of the canton. 

Goals of Standortförderung Baselland.

The goal of Standortförderung Baselland is to help startups find locations most appropriate for business activities and growth. The organization aims to support cooperation between startup founders, investors, government administrators, innovation centers, research institutions and other players in the startup ecosystem. 

Who should engage with Standortförderung Baselland?

New founders that need help setting up their business in the Basel Area can benefit from the resources and services of Standortförderung Baselland. You can engage the organization if you want to relocate to the canton or want help with networking or financing. 

—>More about Standortförderung Baselland.

 

6. Standortförderung Basel-Stadt

Standortförderung Basel-Stadt extends a comprehensive array of support services, with a special emphasis on nurturing startups looking to establish themselves within the vibrant economic landscape of Basel-Stadt. The Standortförderung serves as the go-to resource for businesses seeking guidance on administrative matters, company formation, and insights into the economic dynamics of Basel-Stadt.

The organization ensures that founders gain access to the right resources and expertise to thrive in Basel-Stadt’s dynamic business ecosystem.

Goals of Standortförderung Basel-Stadt

The objective of Standortförderung Basel-Stadt is to promote business growth and attract new enterprises to the canton. They strive to creating an environment conducive to innovation and economic development.

The Standortförderung has a strong focus on prioritizing innovation. The government plans to fortify innovation in three key areas: life sciences, digital innovation, and sustainable economy. These efforts include bolstering startups, enhancing the visibility and connectivity of the ICT community, and fostering sustainability initiatives within the local economy.

Who Should Engage with Standortförderung Basel-Stadt?

Standortförderung Basel-Stadt is the ideal resource for entrepreneurs and startup founders about to launch a new venture in Basel-Stadt. People who need assistance in navigating the complexities of starting a business find a knowledgeable partner at the Standortförderung Basel-Stadt.

—>More about Standortförderung Basel-Stadt.

 

7. Tech Park Basel.

Tech Park Basel is located in the Northern part of Basel. It’s dedicated to fostering innovation and technological advancement, with a particular emphasis on startups and tech-driven enterprises. Many startups have started their journey at the labs and offices of Tech Park Basel, Monte Rosa Therapeutics and Artidis among them.

Goals of Tech Park Basel

Tech Park Basel aims to cultivate innovation within the technology sector, providing support to startups and established tech companies, enabling their growth within Basel’s innovation-driven environment. It also facilitates collaboration, encouraging partnerships and fostering the exchange of ideas among startups, tech entrepreneurs, investors, research institutions and other key players in the tech ecosystem.

Who should engage with Tech Park Basel?

Tech Park Basel is a resource for tech entrepreneurs and innovators, whether they are launching a tech startup or seeking to elevate an existing tech company.

—>More about Tech Park Basel

 

8. Business Park Baselland.

Business Park Baselland Foundation provides advisory services to new and established startup founders. The organization is based in Basel, but its services expand to everyone. 

The two main offerings of this support institution are the following: 

  • They support aspiring entrepreneurs to create businesses. You can receive free advice and business plan coaching. 
  • They guide the succession planning of established companies. 

Goals of Business Park Baselland.

Business Park Baselland’s goal is to promote self-employment and increase the number of startups in the canton Basel-Landschaft. 

Who should join Business Park Baselland?

New founders that want expert advice regarding their business ideas, financial plans, risk analysis, business plans and market research should engage with the consultants at Business Park Baselland. Founders who want to exit from a company can also reach out for assistance with succession planning. 

—>More about Business Park Baselland.

 

9. Basel Area Business & Innovation.

We’re the Basel region’s investment and innovation promotion and your go-to agency for launching or relocating a business venture in Switzerland’s most dynamic region.

We help startups flesh out their idea, make the right connections and find suitable office and lab space. Additionally, we offer incubator and accelerator programs in healthcare innovation, therapeutic innovation and industrial transformation.

Goals of Basel Area Business & Innovation.

We’re a non-profit agency dedicated to helping startups, institutions and companies find business success in the Basel Area. We want to attract and support startups in the area, connect organizations and entrepreneurs with collaboration partners and help create a vibrant ecosystem that fosters innovation.

Who should engage with the Basel Area?

Every entrepreneur and business trailblazer looking to settle in Switzerland’s most vibrant startup ecosystem best gets started by getting in touch with us.

—>Innovate and accelerate with us.

Do you want to join Switzerland’s startup ecosystem?

Nearly half of European startups fail within three years. Securing sufficient funding, sourcing talent and ensuring consistent business growth are some challenges founders face regularly. 

You can offset some difficulties by setting up shop in Switzerland’s thriving startup ecosystem. 

Attend a one of our events to learn about the benefits of joining a Switzerland startup ecosystem, the various players that can help you succeed and the mentorship programs available. 

You can always talk to our experts to learn how to join. 

Or sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on events, exciting statistics, success stories for a morale boost and valuable insights from industry leaders in the Swiss startups ecosystem.

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