I wrote this post for www.startupolic.com, a recommended blog for anyone interested in the European start-up scene.
The Next Berlin 2013 event was the trigger for an Internet encounter with Sebastien. He wonders if Switzerland really exists on the European tech startup scene. He is investigatings how Switzerland is seen from an outside, neutral perspective.
As a blogger I am not that neutral. I do have my believes and these beliefs will be shared with you in this post.
Yes, it is true, the Global Innovation ranking index puts Switzerland at the first place worldwide, but how relevant is this index? As stated before by Adelina Peltea,, it measures patentable innovation. I always appreciate these kind of reports and outcomes. However, often one may notice that there is a preference for institutional characteristics.
As a Dutch blogger, I see similar reports about how well the Dutch society is performing from an institutional perspective.
But do these reports reflect innovation capabilities, the right cultural attitude for entrepreneurs and start-ups and the required eco-systems? I severly have my doubts and scanning the index through the drill-down options (an excellent option) confirms this thesis. I do not believe that the next Google, Apple, Oracle or SAP will be created in the top-9 of the index (US being number 10).
What are my associations with startups from Switzerland?
Being a big fan of paper.li and that is it. Some desk research revealed nice initiaties in Bern and – through a Swiss LinkedIn-connection – I got a nice overview of Swiss startups.
Which one might become a successor of paper.li for me? I do have doubts.
After accessing even more data I am able to outline my thoughts and impressions.
It is my sincere belief that there is an urgent need for a societal fabric for user-centric innovation. Especially for services in the private and public service sector. As stated recently, the knowledge-intense services will be the key for the creation of new growth beyond the economical and partly societal turmoil we are currently in. However, to deploy these service one needs to have a common market. Especially in a country that has 4 native languages. The negative vote of 6-12-92 will limit the reach of innovation initiatives for the Swiss startups. On the other hand, it had, has and will have many benefits.
I also belief that startups only can thrive in complex, adaptive eco-systems. To deploy startups one has to create these kind of organizations as a complex entitity with relationships and possible relationships. Designing such startups implies focus on the ecosystem, on longevity (3-5 years to decades) and accepting complexity. Given the geographic position of Switzerland my working assumption is that startups should start connecting with either Germany (Rhein-Ruhr area, Berlin) or Paris, being the urban city areas of 2025
EU-member or not, all countries in Europe get more and more connected. In 2011-2012 many of us realized how complex the networked, interdependent financial economy has become. Assuming that these interdepent networks are also emergent in the field of services (energy, healthcare, education and so on) flexibility and connectivity should be embedded in the design of any start-up.
Considering the position of Switzerland, her eare my final words.
You may be acquainted with the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
“…in our country”, said Alice, still painting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else-if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!”, said the Queen. “Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”.
From my perspective, this the challenge for Swiss (but also for Dutch) startups: Get connected!
Not the outfit to play shy in
Photo of Suzy Parker in dress by Norman Norell, by Milton Greene