New investors take the lead

For start-ups, VCs are just one option among many – and some companies even manage without any investors.

Dear reader

Digital twins-focused software company Akselos has closed a USD 16.5 million funding round. Lightly, which helps Fortune 500 companies to clean data for machine learning, has received USD 3 million, and USD 2 million has gone to robotics start-up Isochronic.

Although the three financing rounds featured traditional venture capitalists, they are in the minority among the investments of the week. Gastronomy group ZFV has invested in Nexenic, Axa Switzerland took the lead at digital health start-up Kinastic, the World Gold Council has taken a stake in aXedras, and Swiss-Ghanaian agritech start-up Koa relied on a mixture of equity and debt capital for its USD 10 million financing round.

The growing importance of non-traditional investors has been observed internationally for some time now and this week has clearly demonstrated the diversity of backers of Swiss start-ups and the number of financing rounds they shape.

At the same time, BLP Digital’s success is a reminder that it is possible to achieve success by bootstrapping – i.e. without any investor money at all. A year after its launch, BLP’s SaaS solution is used by more than 100 customers in the DACH region and France, and has already broken the CHF 1 million sales barrier.

Proton shows how far a technology company can go without large VC investment: the privacy-focused company has more than 400 employees and has now been named a WEF Technology Pioneer. Embion Technologies, a second, much younger start-up from Switzerland, also made it on to the exclusive list.

The technology company pipeline is well filled and includes five new companies funded through the InnoBooster programme, the winner and finalists of the ZKB Pionierpreis Technopark, 16 start-ups that have participated in the Startup Bootcamp in the US over the past two weeks, and the finalists of the Swiss Fintech Awards.

Applications for the next kickstart programme are open to later stage start-ups until 24 May. The Mars Habitat Challenge is looking for start-ups with solutions to life on Mars until 30 May. The deadline for the Swisscom Startup Challenge, which this time focuses on cleantech solutions, is 31 May. The call for entries for this year’s Boldbrain Challenge has just started.

Next week, you can meet our team on Thursday at Startup Days. In addition, my colleague Ritah Nyakato will take part in the Energy Startup Day on Tuesday in Zurich. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s national report will be presented at HEG Fribourg on 20 May – we will report the results.

I would also like to draw your attention to Zurich’s Founders Day on 24 May and an ‘Ask the Expert’ event by Venturelab on the subject of IPO readiness, for which registration is open until 25 May.

Finally, the public voting for the Top 100 Swiss Startup Award opened on Wednesday.

Have a good weekend
Stefan Kyora

Editor in Chief,