Five days in the fast lane


The five winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge made solid progress during their week in Silicon Valley due to the very fast and results-oriented business culture in Silicon Valley – and because they came with specific goals.


For PXL Vision co-founder Karim Nemr, the most important event of the Swisscom Startup Challenge takes place in a faceless office building. In order to gain access, a form must be completed and ID presented. Then a walk through a corridor lined with exhibits on the history of technology and into a well-staffed meeting room. Before Nemr starts his pitch, those sitting around the table introduce themselves in turn. Gathered are a who’s who of the telecommunications industry – the Telecom Council. The association, which was co-founded by Swisscom, brings together the large telecom groups in Silicon Valley. After his pitch and a break, Nemr has the opportunity to speak directly to those present and the interest is great. PXL Vision has developed a solution that allows people to identify themselves through a photo of their ID on their mobile phone and then with a selfie video. The solution is used in Switzerland by, among others, Sunrise and SwissID. Thanks to the Telecom Council meeting, more industry customers could join soon. Nemr was not only able to arrange follow-up meetings with potential clients, but also with investors – like Swisscom, many telecoms companies have their own investment companies. For Nemr, both are interesting; although the start-up’s focus is currently on customer acquisition, a financing round is also planned for the coming months. All five start-ups made many important new contacts in just five days and strengthened existing ones. And not just with investors and customers; for example, the CREAL3D team had talks with a potential independent board director. Christoph Kueffer and Tom Debus of People Analytix even met – as did other winners – their direct competitors. And these talks turned out to be particularly promising. People-Analytix’s solution is interesting to its two competitors because it is technically superior and therefore more attractive to customers. For the Swiss start-up, the US companies are relevant because they are ahead of the curve in terms of market development. Thus, Kueffer and Debus plan to meet up again with both companies in November. People-Analytix has developed a multilingual skills management platform that covers more than 12,000 unique skills per language created on the evaluation of millions of job ads over the past eight years. The tool allows HR managers, for example, to search for employees with the right skills for interdisciplinary projects or vacancies. On the other hand, the platform acts as an automated career advisor for employees, informing them about skill gaps and learning opportunities. It can also play a particularly important role in the upheaval brought about by digitalisation. If tasks are to be automated, it is possible to check in advance what skills the employees concerned have and where they could best continue to be employed. The tool is currently being used by AXA, Swisscom and IKEA. People-Analytix’s presentations were well received in the US. For Kueffer and Debus, however, it became clear by the end of the journey that at the moment they have no wish to tackle US investors or the US market. Instead, they envisage a collaboration with their US rivals and another company they met in Silicon Valley that sells complementary HR software. The other start-ups also gained important insights during the trip. One recurring topic was for example how to set up a presence in the US and in particular in the Silicon Valley without spending too much money. The participants’ reviews were also very positive. The number of programme items and meetings that seemed less productive to the entrepreneurs was very small; however, the Swisscom team pays close attention to this feedback, as it adapts the programme from year to year. Therefore, the winners of the next challenge can be sure that their programme will offer again a little bit more.Picture: Karim Nemr (left) presenting PXL Vision (Daria Gfeller / Swisscom)