Silicon Valley: first successes for Swisscom Challenge winners

Silicon Valley: first successes for Swisscom Challenge winners

After four days in Silicon Valley, the winners of the Startup Challenge have had much success – this is certainly not the last time the founders will be here.


The days are hectic for the five start-ups in Silicon Valley. The schedule is tight and the traffic is an unpredictable factor, particularly since meetings are often in different places or even in San Francisco. The founders tell their story, at Google, Apple, SAP, various investors and other possible large and small business partners, up to seven times a day.

Basically, the reactions are mostly positive. The fact that the five start-ups were selected from hundreds of applicants and are recommended by Swisscom is reason enough to listen to them. And even though the week is not over yet, the companies have already achieved good results.

Patrick Barnert, CEO of Qumram, was able to interest a bank in archiving solutions and big data analysis. “The journey would have been worthwhile for this meeting alone,” he says. This is not only because the bank itself could become a customer, but high-profile staff at the bank will also open doors to other companies in Silicon Valley. This is a common approach here: if someone is persuaded of something, they will recommend it – thus, important contacts are reached extremely quickly.

One such recommendation was made by KC Huang: the physicist at Stanford University is the first user of Nanolive’s 3D Cell Explorer. In a witty but heavyweight lecture at the university, he introduced the benefits of Swiss innovation to the audience and praised Nanolive’s very efficient customer service. No wonder Yann Cotte and Lisa Pollaro (picture above) were very satisfied after the lecture, especially as the scientific advisor of an investor was sitting in the audience.

Xsensio and its mini-sensors also aroused great interest: wearables are raised to the next level, since the sensors can measure a wider range of parameters than today’s devices. Although the company is still in a very early stage, it has already arranged a follow-up meeting in Switzerland with a potential partner.

At the same time, the start-ups have also received very valuable advice. For example, Xsensio was advised by an investor to bring marketing expertise on board and to select as its first application one that is easy to manage but which will also impress potential customers. “Scientists always tend to take on the most difficult task, but for the first product based on a new technology this is not the right approach,” said the investor.

Of course, not every meeting is a success. Some investors have a fixed framework in which the Swiss company does not always fit; others, however, are becoming ever more open. It’s quite possible that in the near future Advanon will have positive news about new funding.

To get from these good results to signed contracts will take a while and probably require further trips. Swisscom supports the start-ups after the end of the Silicon Valley trip. “We offer a kind of soft-landing programme,” explains Swisscom Chief Digital Officer Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler. A good example is Ava, one of last year’s winners: Swisscom has supported the medtech company in establishing its US business and office in San Francisco. This will also apply to this year’s Swisscom Challenge winners – one or more of the five start-ups is hoping to take Ava’s place this week.


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