Female Founders News #5

Funding female-led ventures has remained a topic of discussion in the startup scene as investment activities in this segment are slow. Nevertheless, recent successes prove that promising startups can raise significant capital.

Alpian, a Swiss digital bank, secured a CHF 76 million funding round led by Fideuram - Intesa Sanpaolo Private Banking, making the Italian bank a majority shareholder in the startup. With Marion Fogli as Deputy CEO, the startup experienced rapid growth since its 2022 launch, with its client base more than doubling to several thousand and total client assets nearing CHF 100 million in the first four months of 2024. The investment will accelerate Alpian's growth and innovation in digital wealth management and banking services.

In the life sciences space, CUTISS AG raised CHF 25 million to bring its first-in-class personalized and automated skin tissue therapy, denovoSkin, into phase 3 clinical trials and the commercial phase. The funds will also accelerate pre-launch activities for the commercialization of VitiCell, a medical device for Vitiligo treatment in-licensed from IBSA Pharma. After securing USD 6 million, Lausanne-based startup Testmate Health is now well-positioned to launch its athome-test for sexually transmitted diseases, while Allegria Therapeutics closed a seed round of USD 3.5 million to advance therapeutics for mast cell-mediated diseases. This news coincides with the appointment of co-founder Dr Maria van Dongen as the new CEO. Axmed, co-founded by Sofia Radley-Searle, had a strong start; the Swiss American company obtained $2 million to transform access to critical medicines in low- and middle-income countries. Ticino-based startup GoHealthy & Co, a digital mental health platform, closed a seed round to launch its toolbox - beta tests are currently undergoing.

Bitten Stetter obtained capital for her brand, finally., under which she provides care aids, clothing and other products for people in fragile phases of life.  Besides the traditional venture capital route, startups also raise funds by leveraging offers from ecosystem players. The InnoBooster program awarded CHF 150,000 to Pace Locator’s Emily Thompson to support the development of software that predicts pacing-induced heart failure. The new cohort for the ESA BIC Switzerland program has two female founders: Jessica Droujko, founder of Riverkin, which deploys high-resolution, low-power sensor networks for dynamic freshwater monitoring in remote regions. Andrada Muntean founded NovoViz, a fabulous semiconductor company that designs and manufactures computation imaging sensors for applications that demand high sensitivity and high speed but cannot handle large amounts of data. Both startups will receive up to 200’000 Euros during 24 months of the program. Avelo received €3 million from Horizon Europe, to develop user-friendly respiratory tests for the rapid diagnosis of respiratory infections such as tuberculosis. 

For Laura Matter, crowdfunding was the best way to secure capital for her startup noii, which facilitates dating via video instead of endless chatting. In only 24 hours, the startup had secured CHF 650’000 via Oomnium. The final campaign closed with CHF 1.21 million, corresponding to 187 per cent. 

Under the spotlight worldwide
Fabas is one of the winners entering the EIT Food Accelerator program. The Zurich-based startup produces exclusively regional food based on organic pulses together with around two dozen organic farmers, thereby promoting the sustainable use of local farmland for direct food production. Margaux Peltier, co-founder and CEO of Enerdrape, which is on an international expansion course, continues to make headlines. She and her team are finalizing a large-scale project in Aigle and multiplying promising projects abroad, opening new market perspectives. Oxyle’s CEO Fajer Mushtaq and the Belgian water technology company Waterleau announced the signing of a strategic partnership that will significantly accelerate Oxyle's market entry. The cleantech startup is working with several companies in other regions of Europe to achieve similar goals.

Attending events gives startups exposure and access to potential investors, customers, and partners. The annual global conference Viva Technology event offers selected startups from Switzerland this opportunity: among them are female-led companies like Agrosustain and Avatronics. Witty Works, with its AI-powered software to foster Diversity and Inclusion, was bestowed with the Manpower People First Award at Vivatech. 

Further recognition was given to HeroSupport, which was crowned the winner of the 31st Prix Strategis, Mass Challenge Switzerland and was selected for the Tech4Eva Accelerator program, recognising its immobilisation devices to personalize medical treatments for women battling with breast cancer. The founders of Noriware, rrreefs, Riverkin, Inkocell Therapeutics and Waynerr are also among the winners of MassChallenge Switzerland.  QCella secured a spot among the Top 18 startups contending for the Venture Award. Zephior, with Katharina Buhrke as Chief Operating Officer, won CHF 30,000 at the START Award. 

The competitive Swiss Fintech award has only female ventures in the final round for the category Early stage startup of the Year:  Climada, co-led by Simone Thompson, provides financial service companies with transparent and regulatory compliant climate change reporting while Neur.on by Paula Richenberg offers AI legaltech translation solutions. 

Startup Days ended on a high note with Barbara Horvath selected as ‘Catch of the Jury’ for her newly launched startup Inveel, a technology for low-cost and high-speed production of extreme-high resolution printed electronics. The preceding Collective Gathering saw over 120 women (with a few men) join to support the initiative’s mission to foster female entrepreneurship in Switzerland, including showcasing role models. In this topic, we see more females assume roles in startups and ventures. Jennifer Ireland is the new Chief Financial Officer at Spiden; Corina Schaer is the new Chief Product Officer at Leg&Airy, and in the supporters space, Tenity welcomed Andrea Fritschi as Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner while Angelica Morrone became General Partner at Privilège Ventures. Dominique Gruhl-Begin returned to Innosuisse as CEO. 

Author: Ritah Ayebare Nyakato
Duty Editor, Startupticker