Today Zurich will host 30 international startups at an official opening for the Kickstart Accelerator, an initiative of DigitalZurich2025. The shortlisted startups will meet the programme’s 25 corporate partners and mentors, including the French multinational insurance firm AXA, Swiss multinational financial services companies Credit Suisse and UBS, Switzerland’s largest ICT provider Swisscom, the largest food retailer and producer Migros, the largest international operating media company in Switzerland, Ringier and the global consultancy firm EY.
The official opening will take place at ewz-Unterwerk Selnau, the old transformer station in the city centre which has been specially renovated for Kickstart. The evening will feature a keynote speech from Suzan LeVine, US ambassador and former Vice President of Marketing and Sales of Expedia, and a presentation from Marc Walder, CEO of Ringier AG, the largest international operating media company in Switzerland.
The startups, who were chosen from 850 applicants, will participate in an 11-week programme designed to help them develop their ideas and products across one of the programme’s four verticals: Fintech, Smart & Connected Machines, Future & Emerging Technologies and Food. The accelerator will be operated by Impact Hub Zurich, which is part of the largest international network of entrepreneurship and innovation centres, giving the startups access to the brightest talent across the globe.
As part of the accelerator, the participating companies will also have the opportunity to obtain a ‘Proof of Concept’ trial with one of the corporate partners in order to test the practical application and scalability of their products in a working and demanding corporate environment. The trial will also provide the startups with the best possible chance of exploring a longer-term corporate partnership with leading corporate titans and the opportunity to further develop their market offering.
Marco Abele, Head of Digitalisation, Credit Suisse, says, “The Kickstart Accelerator initiative shows that companies across different industries in Switzerland want to join forces to drive forward the digitalisation process. Credit Suisse has a strong tradition of innovation – from when the bank was first established to the more recent launch of a wide variety of new products. We are convinced that the close dialogue and collaboration between the startups and companies participating in Kickstart Accelerator during this three-month programme and beyond will have a positive impact on both sides.”
“When we support corporate clients on their digital transformation, they are often surprised by the complexity and level of integration that they need to consider,” said Marcel Stalder, CEO of EY Switzerland.
“Partnering with the selected startups for a ‘Proof of Concept’ will be mutually beneficial for the participating startups and corporates; the startups will receive valuable input as they look to finalise their products and will get a sense of the relevance of their offering. The corporates will be able to test new services and alternative processes in real-life situations, in a way similar to parallel prototyping, which is less disruptive than implementing one big transformation,” Stalder continued.
For the programme duration, the startups will be based in the ewz-Unterwerk Selnau. The 8,611 sq ft. (800 sq m) industrial building will house coworking areas, meeting rooms, brainstorming areas, pitching stages and relaxation zones designed from old shipping containers to create a collaborative environment for creativity and success.
Kickstart aims to bring the best international startups to Switzerland by building bridges between the strong corporate network that Switzerland has to offer and innovative, disruptive startups worldwide. Switzerland’s infrastructure, vibrant startup ecosystem, recognised leadership position in robotics, Fintech and as an innovation hub, as well as its established investor base, makes it an ideal location for startups seeking to bring their product to market and scale up internationally.
Kickstart will not be taking any equity from those startups participating in the programme, but will provide up to 25,000 Swiss francs to each startup in grant-funding, a monthly founder stipend, and masterclass sessions with mentors from the corporate partners and the Swiss innovation ecosystem. Kickstart aims to develop close collaboration between the corporate partners and the startups, as well as between the startups themselves across the different verticals, during and beyond the duration of the programme.
Stephan Kuester, Managing Director, DigitalZurich2025 commented, “We believe the Kickstart Accelerator programme can help by making critical connections: providing established organisations with access to the digital talent they desire and start-up pioneers with the access to funding, infrastructure and market access that too often can be out of reach. For us, Kickstart is an important building block as we work towards connecting the old and the new, for innovation, for better business, and for sustainable growth for the Swiss economy and society at large.”
The programme launched on 22nd August when the startups moved into ewz Unterwerk Selnau. There will be a ‘mid-term’ Demo Day on 21st September, with the final Demo Day (where each team will present their products to investors, corporate leaders and the media) and the Closing Event taking place on 4th November.