Innovation sustainability

Innovations to reduce CO2: Does a startup have a solution to the climate problem?

For its tenth Startup Challenge, Swisscom is looking for startups and research teams worldwide that are helping to reduce greenhouse gases with their solutions and services. The five winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge Sustainability will be invited for a tailor-made Exploration Week with Swisscom, its Silicon Valley Outpost and Venturelab in November 2022. The application phase ends on 31 May 2022.

Man with child in nature

Swisscom is the most sustainable telco in the world (Source: World Finance, 2020): Swisscom has been using only renewable energies for 12 years, has greatly reduced its consumption and has offered climate-neutral subscriptions since March 2022. By 2025, Swisscom wants to save a further one million tonnes of CO2 per year. New innovative ICT solutions for private and business customers can massively reduce its carbon footprint. This contribution is far more significant than Swisscom's own footprint (the contribution that Swisscom itself can make across its own value chain). And it’s all the more relevant for Switzerland as a country to reach its own climate targets faster because of this. That’s why, with its tenth Swisscom Startup Challenge, Swisscom is looking for new companies that have developed innovations and technologies to directly or indirectly protect the climate.

Startups and research teams from all over the world can apply for the Swisscom Startup Challenge until 31 May 2022. Ten young companies will be selected from the applications and invited to a pitch in September 2022. In cooperation with Venturelab, the jury of experts will finally nominate five winners. These will be given the opportunity to further develop their solutions with experts from the Swisscom ecosystem as part of a tailor-made exploration programme. In addition, the winners will get the chance to win an investment or a business partnership with Swisscom.

Tenth Swisscom StartUp Challenge: Failed, triumphed, sold to Apple

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!"

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