UpScaler programme with solid results

International growth always poses a challenge for start-ups, and the corona pandemic has added extra hurdles. The Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation’s UpScaler programme, which was launched 18 months ago, came at just the right time. Now, it supports eight young growth companies as they build up their international business.

Due to the small domestic market, Swiss start-ups have to grow through international means. Since these companies are active in very different fields, no established expansion paths exist. This is where the UpScaler programme launched by the Swiss Entrepreneurs Foundation (SwissEF) in September 2019 comes into play. The concept comprises tailor-made support, so since each participating company is supported by a specially selected team of experts and a customised growth process, the challenges can be addressed individually. “The high degree of flexibility and individuality is the great strength of the SwissEF UpScaler programme,” emphasises Peter Stähli, head of entrepreneurship at the foundation.

The pandemic, and the associated travel restrictions and uncertainties, has not made international growth any easier. The situation has affected the growth companies participating in the programme, but the flexible concept has proved its worth under these conditions. “It has been relatively easy to adjust and adapt the support,” says Stähli. The aim of the support is as before,  to drive the international growth of the companies.

A total of eight companies have been included in the programme so far.

The technology from the ETH Zurich spin-off removes CO2 from the atmosphere. The company has generated about CHF 150 million in risk capital. The first commercial plant will start operations this year.

The company focuses on functional sleep and homewear that uses knowledge from sportswear. Dagsmejan is already successful in several European countries and North America.

dhp technology
The Graubünden company’s solar folding roofs, which allow areas to be used twice, have so far been used over wastewater treatment plants and car parks.

The tool from evenito offers event organisers everything they need in one piece of software. Customers include well-known brands such as Oracle, Swiss Life and Huawei.

MyCamper’s platform brings together private owners of motorhomes and renters. In 2020, a branch was established in Sweden.

The company offers a complete IoT solution with sensors and software for data analysis. Customers include several heavyweights from the European logistics industry.

PXL Vision
PXL Vision’s technology platform enables secure, purely digital identity verification. In 2020, the company concluded a growth financing round with Swiss and international investors.

The foldable cloakroom compartments from Zippsafe save space and simplify digital key management. They are currently used primarily in hospitals in Switzerland and Germany.

The support produces tangible results. At dhp technology, for example, short and medium-term financing has been supported and secured. In addition, experienced boards of directors are put in place in order to create a strong basis for the upcoming internationalisation. At MyCamper, the growth strategy has been refined and will now be implemented in 2021. And at PXL Vision, the roadmap, customer segmentation and organisational chart have been defined, sharpened and adjusted; here also a board of directors with extensive knowledge and experience has been installed.

Starting points for improvement

Working with start-ups has uncovered three typical scenarios – these are starting points that lead to better preparation for international growth. 1) Young start-ups often act very opportunistically and struggle to follow a predefined growth strategy; 2) implementation of the strategy into the right tactics also shows room for improvement; 3) the power and importance of a properly established board of directors is often underestimated.

The programme currently has places for two further start-ups. More information about the programme and the requirements can be found on the website

(Stefan Kyora)