First of all, congratulations!
Europe needs more scale ups. Equally, Europe needs a higher quality ecosystem, with a strong emphasis on the quality and skills of the investors. Switzerland is rapidly developing both.
From less than CHF 400M invested in 2012 to nearly CHF 2300 in 2019 is very, very impressive. More than the amount is the number of rounds going from barely 50 to 266 in 2019. These are the kind of trendlines we need to see all across Europe. Bravo, Switzerland.
Building even more Scale Up Capabilities in Switzerland
We were invited into the ecosystem on the backdrop of “how do we develop an even stronger scale up landscape?” The planned program was three days on the ground, running three workshops in St. Gallen and Zurich, respectively.
The largest crowd joined us in Zurich for the full-day workshop, Scale Up! Strategy Workshop – Developing the Swiss Ecosystem
Among the topics we explored were
“How can the Swiss ecosystem grow into a leading global entrepreneurship ecosystem?”
“How can Swiss startups and scale ups successfully raise funding easier, smarter and faster?”
“How can Swiss accelerators and ecosystem developers use new solutions to accelerate this development?”
Joined by a wide variety of stakeholders and ecosystem builders, from Innosuisse, Digital Switzerland, accelerators, investors, business angels, professional venture firms, innovation agencies, economic development agencies and board members, the day took us deep into discussions on future ecosystem development.
Using the Scale Up! entrepreneurship simulation and the supporting Strategy Tools Startup Series toolkit, the participants worked through the actual steps of building and funding a successful scale ups.
„I‘d love to run this with our startups.“
„Seeing how complex it is for the startups to go through the deals.“
„In only a couple of hours we learnt a lot with big intensity and really going into depth“
Observation #1: Work on ‘all sides of the table’
A key observation that got brought up several times, both in St.Gallen and Zurich, was the importance of working on ‘all sides of the table’. It is not sufficient to focus on ‘better founders’. What is needed is a holistic ecosystem perspective, where angel investors, angel investor groups, faculty, trainers, mentors, scale up coaches, accelerator staff and full-time ecosystem builders continue to push themselves and develop new skills. This was notably around the two topics of building a full scale up strategy and how to build a strong capital strategy.
Action: Let’s get more focus on developing advanced level skills with investors and ecosystem builders.
„That was really a deep dive into the topic, topics I didn‘t know about … and very exhausting.“
Observation #2: Work with academic faculty
All across Europe we see a worrying trend; entrepreneurship faculty does not have the right tools to teach and develop a future generation of scale ups. Most entrepreneurship faculty seem to teach mostly the ‘early startup stage’, with a focus on ideation, customer discovery, product development, business model development and early Product-market-fit. This is good, but it is also insufficient. We need to build out this curriculum with topics like Scale Up Strategy, Entrepreneurial Finance, Venture Capital, Investor Negotiations and Long-term Company Building.
We saw the same trend in Zurich, where the sentiment was clearly that we are not teaching the right things and equipping future founders with the tools they need to succeed in a global innovation race.
(note, together with Berkeley faculty Rick Rasmussen I have the pleasure of teaching Entrepreneurship in Austria, and we are currently exploring possibilities to build out a entrepreneurship faculty development program on building Europe’s future scale ups. Any comments on this is very welcome).
„I really understand the importance of the value of good fit with investors.“
Observation #3: Build scale up capabilities
The final observation – which we see in every European ecosystem was the challenges of how to build our more scale up capabilities. Several of the accelerators present brought up how the young companies they work with were too focused (busy) on the here and now, and not having a robust scale up strategy in place. This was echoed from the investor side, where several suggested that even most business angels did not have a deep enough appreciated of how to build a strong scale up, from team, investor readiness, go-to-market speed, mindset for growth, appetite for risk and more.
The challenge many brought up was how to address and solve these challenges at an ecosystem level vs. a single company level. Addressing this challenge, we spent hours with the participants working through the high-level concepts on the Strategy Tools Platform, and notably the Accelerator Solutions.
“It was fun and I think I was able to see the potential of Strategy Tools in a rough way. Maybe the the tip of the iceberg!”
„What are startups looking for? Money and getting it fast! … Well, it is more about which way are we going! (I.e., getting the right investors even if that means getting a little less money or it takes a bit longer.)
Much, much work remains, and tens of thousands of people from single founders, to large banks, pension funds, VC’s and the highest levels of the EU are all working to reshape Europe’s scale up landscape. The signs we saw in Switzerland point to a very lucrative future for early investors and key stakeholders in Switzerland. We genuinely look forward to working with the ecosystem and follow the exciting development of both the Swiss and the European ecosystem in years to come.