Swisscom Startup Challenge: Insights and concrete progress


The winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge are back in Switzerland again. The start-ups not only gained important insights from the trip that they can use to advance their technology, they also made important progress in business development.


If hackers penetrate the computer network of a company, they are often able to collect data for months or even years. This data traffic is hidden between the normal data exchange with the internet, which, for example, an employee produces while surfing. That’s why, even though large companies log their network activities, data breaches are hard to identify and prevent. Zurich-based Exeon Analytics has developed a solution that can detect cyber attacks and find hidden data breaches in-between millions of network events. The goal is to stop the data transfer before really important and sensitive information gets into the hands of the attackers.

The young company is already generating revenue through sales of its Exeon Threat Report, where Exeon reviews a customer’s network and provides a report on discovered anomalies. In addition, paid Proof of Concepts (PoC) enable potential customers to verify if Exeon’s solution could help them. International sales are likely to grow quickly in the near future, as Exeon CEO David Gugelmann and CTO Adrian Gämperli generated some leads in Silicon Valley.

Meeting with one of the largest internet companies“The highlight of the week was the visit to one of the largest Internet companies,” says Gugelmann. In an intensive meeting, the two Swiss founders presented their software to its security experts and gain an overview of the solutions the group currently uses. The meeting showed that a product similar to Exeon’s, whichallows security experts to identify data breaches hidden in employees’ web browsing, is not in use yet, thus demonstrating the scale of the demand and the size of the market that Exeon will be able to address. As next step, a PoC is planned with the company.

A second meeting with a security start-up in Silicon Valley also convinced Gugelmann that another special feature of his software may become important in further market development. Exeon does not have to inspect the content of internet traffic to find problematic data transfers, instead Exeon’s software can operate on meta data logged by commodity firewalls; this is an advantage for companies that guarantee their employees confidentiality when mailing and surfing.

Dotphoton to collaborate with large companiesThe other winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge also made progress. Discussions, events and training provided important insights into the market and the strengths of their technology, but at the same time the companies also took important steps forward in business development. A good example of this is Dotphoton: the technology of the Zug-based company compresses high-resolution RAW images up to a factor of 10 without losing information. Since the technology is widely applicable, the founders were undecided as to which market they should tackle first. The trip to Silicon Valley brought plenty of information; for example, Eugenia Balysheva and Bruno Sanguinetti learned that the the auto industry is interested.

Even more important for Dotphoton were the meetings with decision makers from large companies, arranged by the Swisscom Outpost in Silicon Valley. “We are one step further along towards a collaboration with all these companies,” says Balysheva.

Tips for the growth phaseAnders Bally was the most experienced entrepreneur among the winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge. The native Norwegian has already founded and sold several companies in the areas of asset management, private equity and software. Nevertheless, he emphasises that he learned a lot during the journey. He found meetings with entrepreneurs who have made start-ups in Silicon Valley particularly valuable. One of the highlights for Bally was a meeting with Alain Chuard, who sold his Wildfire company to Google in 2012 for USD 450 million. “I was interested in how a startup can implement extremely fast growth successfully,” says Bally.

Bally thinks Sentifi could enter such a growth phase soon. The company launched its first product for wealth- and asset managers just a few weeks ago, with another product coming later this year. Sentifi leverages social media in a matter of minutes in order to find out which companies are affected by what events and the latest company trends. In order to get meaningful results, Sentifi has assessed the importance of 150 million users of social media in recent years. Around each one the 46’000 listed companies around the globe, Sentifi has built a virtual network of influencers with insights that can change the value of these companies. The resulting Collective Intelligence and data analytics are available within minutes and help investors to make better investment decisions.

On the right pathSentifi uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data for its evaluation, an area that is currently developing rapidly also within financial services. Being an early adopter of AI, Big Data and Collective Intelligence, Sentifi is set to be on the right path for sustainable success in this field. “During the trip, I was able to talk to high-profile executives from major corporations and Stanford University scientists,” says Bally. “What I heard was an important endorsement of our course.”

At the same time, Bally also advanced Sentifi’s partnerships. The Swiss startup has been working with Google and Twitter for some time now. With meetings in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, Bally succeeded in anchoring these partnerships further up the corporate hierarchy and thus took a big step forward.

Successful pitches at Plug and PlaySuch successes do not come about by chance, and on a day trip the startups competed directly with young companies from Silicon Valley. They made a presentation at the weekly start-up pitch at Plug and Play, one of the world’s most renowned accelerators headquartered in Sunnyvale. The Swiss firms did very well, and at the subsequent lunch the investors and representatives of large companies present showed a great deal of interest in the start-ups from overseas. All the young entrepreneurs went forward to the next appointment with new leads and invitations. For AAAccell, there was a real accolade – the founders were invited to speak at a conference in Stanford.

Other interesting article about the trip was published by Le Temps (in French) and by the Swisscom Outpost in Palo Alto. 


Picture on top: Swisscom. Picture above SK.Stefan Kyora's trip to the Silicon Valley is supported by Swisscom.