Switzerland is one of the world's leading economies. However, the innovation and start-up ecosystem, one of the key drivers of economic growth and job creation, is facing major challenges. Thus, after the start-up phase, Swiss technologies and start-ups are sold early or move abroad all too often. A number of well-known Swiss companies, entrepreneurs and politicians want to improve this situation. In the summer of 2017, under the patronage of former Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, they launched an initiative to address these challenges. As a result, the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation (SwissEF) was founded in December 2017. The initiators include Mobiliar, UBS, Credit Suisse, the Gebert Rüf Foundation, Wenger & Vieli and Member of the Zurich Council of States Ruedi Noser.
The private, not-for-profit and independent foundation based in Bern has been under the patronage of the Federal Council and WBF Chairman Guy Parmelin since the beginning of 2019. Guy Parmelin, federal councillor, head of the Department of Economics, Education and Research (WBF) and patron of the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation says: "With its fund, the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation is contributing to securing and creating jobs in Switzerland, strengthening its competitiveness and thus securing our prosperity in Switzerland." Johann N. Schneider-Ammann remains associated with the SwissEF as its honorary president.
Fund with a target site of CHF500 millionThe foundation supports Swiss start-ups and innovative SMEs in the growth phase. SwissEF is pursuing a double approach that is unique to Switzerland. On one hand, the foundation implements concrete projects that improve the basic conditions for entrepreneurship and innovative technologies. In addition, it is launching a fund with a target size of CHF 500 million together with UBS, Credit Suisse and Mobiliar. The two banks are responsible for sales and portfolio management, and the foundation provides expertise to growth companies and Mobiliar Kapital. In addition to Mobiliar, which is the first anchor investor at CHF 100 million, the fund targets institutional investors such as pension funds, high net worth individuals and family firms. After the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) granted the Swiss Entrepreneurs Fund approval at the end of January 2019, the fund can now be added to over the next few months.
20% invested directlyThe fund invests abour 20% directly and up to 75% through third-party funds in innovative companies with growth potential, with the majority of investments made in companies that have their headquarters or a significant share of their value added in Switzerland. The money will be invested in a broad range of companies, however there will be three focus areas health, digitisation and engineering. Startups must be in the growth phase and plan an exit in 4 - 5 years.UBS brings in its worldwide venture capital and private equity fund expertise. Credit Suisse will be responsible for direct investments in start-ups and innovative SMEs. They will build on their many years of experience with their own direct investment vessel in Switzerland, Credit Suisse Entrepreneur Capital AG.
Concrete projects to promote entrepreneurshipThe Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation sees itself as a bridge builder. For the first time, it links the various players in the innovation and start-up ecosystem directly with decision-makers from the government and parliament, both at the federal and cantonal levels. The foundation has already launched two concrete projects last year.
The SwissEF UpScaler programme: Companies that are in the growth phase and want to scale their business model on the international markets receive a tailor-made support programme. A team of a pool of 50 experienced top entrepreneurs and experts with international experience helps the start-up or the innovative SME to scale faster and drive internationalisation efficiently and successfully. Thanks to this new method, the next entrepreneurial growth stage with a higher success rate will be achieved.
The SwissEF Shaper programme: Start-up entrepreneurs and ecosystem experts are in direct contact with representatives of national politics via political hearings and use them to sensitise them to key issues. The first two meetings took place at the end of 2018, including a workshop with Johann N. Schneider-Ammann on taxation and immigration of specialists from third countries.