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An Overview of the Startup Ecosystem in Switzerland

While many know the Swiss for our beautiful country or are lucky enough to have a business relationship with our banks, Switzerland also occupies a leading position on various global rankings for its innovative strength and competitiveness. Swiss corporations such as Roche, UBS, ABB, and Nestlé are world leaders in their industries, and in the shadow of these giants, a group of impressive Swiss startups have grown up over the past 20 years.

The first edition of Swiss Startup Radar provides plenty of information on its strengths (and weaknesses). The authors from the online news portal startupticker.ch and the University of Lausanne merged and adjusted the data of 4,000 startups from 1998 to 2017, and evaluated it according to various criteria, such as regional distribution, sector affiliation and growth rates, with much data from Crunchbase included.

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Prominent sectors in Switzerland’s tech ecosystem

Unsurprisingly, Swiss startup founders come from the financial industry at an above-average rate. Crypto Valley in the greater Zurich/Zug area is one of the global blockchain hotspots, and houses, among others, the Ethereum Foundation. The density of crypto startups is, as our study shows, higher than in neighboring countries or the UK. But Switzerland has much to offer also in terms of fintech. Notably, only the UK has proportionately more startups in this area.

Anyone who handles other people’s money must be trustworthy – we Swiss know that. And in times of digitalization, the creation of trust is the main tool that protects data and applications against attack, damage, and theft. No wonder the proportion of startups involved in IT security is significantly higher than in the UK and twice as high as in Germany.

Startup fields of activity in international comparison by sector

 

In Switzerland, with just eight million inhabitants and a small home market, only a few platforms are founded with global ambitions. There is no way around the GAFAs in this country: Mr. and Ms. Swiss use Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Booking.com.

Our startups – as shown by Startup Radar – have drawn the obvious conclusions and instead focus on technologically sophisticated B2B applications. In the field of industrial products and technology, Swiss startups occupy a leading position in Europe and beyond. Additionally, they position themselves as suppliers in areas such as robotics and the automotive industry.

The Swiss startups’ growth

Our investigation also showed that Switzerland’s tech scene has been a laggard in terms of the number of startups. The local scene gained some momentum after the internet bubble burst. Since then has grown fast with the number of new technology companies quadrupling since 2003.

Swiss startups have doubled over the last 10 years

Most importantly, the startups are created near the best universities in the country – in Zurich and Lausanne. With good general conditions and a high quality of life, the Swiss attract the best minds in the world. And according to the World University Rankings 2019, ETH Zurich ranks in second place in computer science, with EPF Lausanne lying 13th. Together, the two home cantons of these universities are responsible for half of the Swiss startups.

Share of Swiss startups in selected cantons

For the full report and more information, visit: www.startupticker.ch/en/swiss-startup-radar


Stefan Kyora is an entrepreneur, doctor of philosophy and editor-in-chief of startupticker, the news portal of the Swiss startup scene. In addition to daily news and a weekly newsletter, startupticker publishes regular studies on the Swiss startup scene. Look for the next Swiss Venture Capital Report in January 2019.