We rehearsed with the winners of the first Startup Challenge long into the night, before they pitched their business cases to the big venture capitalists in Silicon Valley the next day," recalls Stefan Kuentz, co-founder of the Swisscom Startup Challenge. Since then, a visit to Silicon Valley has opened up a new world for the programme’s nearly 40 winners. "We had been in Palo Alto with our Outpost since 1998 and wanted to bring some of Californian entrepreneurial spirit to the Swiss startup landscape and, of course, find candidates for investment from Swisscom Ventures," says Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler, who launched the initiative in 2013 together with Stefan Kuentz, Urs Stender (now Blue Lion) and Beat Schillig from Venturelab.
Since then, around 2,000 startups have applied for the Challenge in ten years, and 45 have completed the funding programme. Almost 100 young entrepreneurs travelled to the Swisscom Outpost and pitched their business cases to large venture capitalists and Internet giants. These include startups such as Ava (2015), Creal (2019), Ecorobotix (2017), Geosatis (2014), Gmelius (2019) or Nanolive (2016). Swisscom Ventures, a division of Swisscom, also invested in all of them. Six of the winning startups have since sold their companies: For example, regtech startup Qumram (2016) to Dynatrade or intelligent image recognition Fashwell (2016) to Apple. Some of the Swisscom Startup Challenge alumni today rank among the top 100 young companies in Switzerland. Unfortunately, four of the 45 had to cut their entrepreneurial journey short. "Compared to the statistics in the U.S., the failure rate in the Swisscom Startup Challenge Hall of Fame is much lower," explains Beat Schillig of Venturelab. "So either the selection was very good or we take less risk in Switzerland than startups in Silicon Valley and still have a lot of untapped innovation potential. Because who dares more, can also win more!"