The winners of the Swisscom StartUp Challenge had an intensive week in Silicon Valley. Appointments were held with investors, mentors, potential business partners and investors from eight o'clock in the morning. In addition, Swiss Startup Summit hosted an evening event at swissnex San Francisco, where the winners pitched to 200 participants and answered critical questions from venture capital investors and business angels. Not to mention the on-going exchange within the group itself, with employees from Swisscom and Swisscom Ventures and with co-organiser Beat Schillig of venturelab.
Such an intensive week left almost no one unaffected. And even though one hears a lot about Silicon Valley and its values and special spirit, the confrontation with reality led to new experiences.
“I’ve become a completely different person,” said Manu Lubrano, CEO of OneSky. His view of running a start-up changed fundamentally during the week. “So far in building the business, I have concentrated particularly on development and prototyping; now I will focus on the business side.” In a blogpost on the OneSky website Manu Lubrano describes the trip in his own words.
The insights and success arose generally from the fact that the participants were travelling not only as a group, but also had face-to-face meetings. Aurelien Demaurex from Ecorobotix, which has developed a robot for weed control, drove for more than three hours to a farm for a meeting. It was successful and tests of the robot in the US now appear likely. “The start of our US business is on the right track,” commented Demaurex.
Successful meetings with investors
One of the winners, 1Drop Diagnostics, already works with partners in the US. Nevertheless, CEO Luc Gervais also gained new insights in Silicon Valley that are important in particular for the firm’s current financing round. “I understand that investors are looking for start-ups that can dominate a market worldwide – and this market should be a billion-dollar market. If you can offer something like that, then money is no longer an issue and you can significantly increase the amount you are asking for in a particular development phase in Europe.”
And 1Drop appears to fall into the category of start-ups that are in demand in Silicon Valley. Gervais cleared the first big hurdle for investment by a venture capital company last week. After a successful meeting with a well-known company with $1 billion under management, he arranged a follow-up appointment for this week. Since he had anticipated this possibility, he had planned his stay in Palo Alto beyond the actual duration of the StartUp Challenge.
Gervais is not the only one still in California right now. Advertima’s Iman Nahvi and Simon Ebner will meet representatives of several well-known US major companies at a conference in San Francisco this week.
In the case of Andreas Flury of Algotrader, he had travelled to the US on 10 September as the winner of venture leaders Fintech. In total, Flury had 65 one-to-one meetings in three weeks and the highlight of the week of the StartUp Challenge was a meeting with a potential business partner. Among other things, discussions were held about the possibility of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in order to give further impetus to the business activities of Algotrader, which has developed a trading software for hedge funds and trading companies. “The conversation and the interest of the partner in a collaboration gave me a new perspective on the further potential of Algotrader,” says Flury.
Other highlights of the trip for Flury included in particular a promising meeting with the world’s largest high frequency trader in Chicago. After three weeks in the US with stops in New York, Chicago and Silicon Valley, Flury is now back in Switzerland, but it is quite possible that he will cross the Atlantic more often. As he says: “A branch in the US would make a lot of sense for Algotrader.”
Short videos with statements of the winners can be found on the Swisscom Startup Twitter Channel.
Stefan Kyora's trip was supported by Swisscom.