First Ventures supports three projects


During the next 18 months, three teams from the University of Applied Sciences Zurich and Bern will receive support from the Gebert Rüf Foundation as part of the First Ventures program.


Varcu: Anna Flurina Kälin and Thomas Stettler, ZHAW
Many museums in Switzerland have already digitised their collections of art pieces; however, there is a scarcity of applications that make the objects attractive, accessible and digitally usable.

Through their software solution “varcu - virtual and augmented reality curationAnna Flurina Kälin and Thomas Stettler from the ZHAW aim to enable museums to reach a new audience, make their collection accessible in a playful and participatory way and simplifying exhibition planning. Visitors can use virtual and augmented reality to design exhibitions, place related images next to the exhibited works and share their results with friends. Curators can use the software to plan or modify exhibitions. With development underway, the team plans to launch the first version with the first partner museums. Market entry is scheduled for 2021.

“The support from the Gebert Rüf Foundation enables us to concentrate fully on the development of our basic software. The longer-term goal is to offer museums and their visitors with complimentary digital possibilities with various applications,” says Anna Flurina Kälin.

WoDens: Elena Nedelkoska, BFH
From the Bern University of Applied Sciences, Elena and the team are on the mission to transform the timber industry, mainly, tropical wood. Due to its properties such as high density, hardness and aesthetic look for several years tropical lumber has been used for expensive furniture, luxury objects and musical instruments. Tropical wood is not only endangered, scarce and costly, and but there is also the risk of clients connecting the trading company to the illegal timber trade.

The team of three is developing a new material that has similar appearance and properties as tropical wood through modification of sustainable domestic wood and is customisable. Target customers include producers of fashion accessories (watches, jewellery), furniture (furniture parts, legs, handles, accessories), and tools manufacturers.

Thanks to the support from the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, the team will accelerate the development of the wood modification setup based on machine learning as it prepares for the market entry and inception of a startup upon success.

Aurora smart grow light: Remo Oberholzer, Philipp Osterwalder, Michael Blickenstorfer and Peter Allenspach ZHAW
With their smart grow lamp, the four-member team is developing highly efficient, intelligent, ecological and fully customisable lights for the industrial cultivation of plants. Existing lamps are mostly energy-inefficient; they also have a fixed preset spectrum and are unable to respond to the individual needs of plants. Aurora’s smart grow lamps bridges this gap by allowing farmers to adjust light, weather conditions or climate zones for different plants. With a market launch and inception planned for 2021, the team is targeting private households, professional plant nurseries such as CBD growers, Research & Development Institutions and Global Horticulture.

"During the GRS program, we will receive a lot of coaching and develop all the tools we need for a fully functional start-up. Meanwhile, we will develop the prototype v1.0 by the end of 2020, evaluate and request partners to build a network to work with in the future. We shall then incorporate our company and announce our official market launch," said Philipp Osterwalder.