Playing in the Top League: The Startup Challenge Winners in Silicon Valley
4 min

Playing in the Top League: The Startup Challenge Winners in Silicon Valley

Imagine the most exhausting day you could have in your job. One where you couldn’t take a single minute to relax but had to rush from meeting to meeting. Not just everyday meetings, but meetings that your business depends on. Now multiply this day by 5, and you will get an idea of how intense the week in Silicon Valley was for the winners of the Swisscom Startup Challenge, Qumram, Advanon, Fashwell, Xsensio and Nanolive.

Up to seven times a day, the startups met with potential investors & customers, pitching their business and hoping to get new investors and customers on board but also to learn from the top entrepreneurs they met. And what is the output of that intense week in the Valley? We asked the five winners about their experiences in Silicon Valley. They were impressed by the

…Silicon Valley Culture: Speed, Intensity, Passion = Inspiration & Motivation

Silicon Valley is one of the biggest if not the stronghold in terms of innovation in technology, this remains undisputed. The fact that it attracts the top investors and startups in the field of technology from all around the world can be overwhelming. “It was fantastic to see the speed and culture of Silicon Valley. One highlight for me was that you can literally see EVERY company that I admire here. Everything that has to do with technology is here.” states Phil Lojacono, CEO of Advanon.

Silicon Valley is always several steps ahead of Europe and also several times faster. Whereas you belong to the top 10 in Switzerland, you might belong to the top 1000 in Silicon Valley. This didn’t have a deterrent effect on our startups, on the contrary: they felt inspired and motivated to develop their business further. “The trip to Silicon Valley with the Swisscom Startup Challenge was an inspiring experience! To feel the energy and passion here in Silicon Valley is inspiring and motivates to strive for bigger goals.” says Patrick Barnert, CEO Qumram.

…Output they were able to generate

Of course, one of the main goals of setting up all these meetings for the startups was to attract investors and talk to potential customers. But the startups achieved much more than that just by talking to some of the most experienced entrepreneurs in their fields, learning from their experience, being able to reflect on their business and getting feedback. “Meeting with several potential business partners and successful entrepreneurs was extremely helpful. It was great talking to some of the most experienced and successful Fintech entrepreneurs. We were able to learn a lot from their previous mistakes.”, states Phil. Matthias Dantone, CEO from Fashwell adds “One day of meetings in SV is as valuable and intense as an entire week of meetings in Europe”.

The startups had the opportunity to visit Swissnex

Not only did the feedback from the different experts help them improve their business but they also gained confidence to really put their all into it and to stray from the typical Swiss modesty: “We have taken concrete steps with potential new clients and investors and the week and meetings were a great source for new ideas and inspiration. One key take away for me was that we don’t have to hide from competing on global level and that we have to be more aggressive on messaging, marketing, and selling our solution! Our technology is ready for prime time and the world needs to know it. That’s what we will focus on”, states Patrick.

And last but not least did this week bring concrete success for Nanolive: Swisscom invests 500’000 Swiss Francs in Nanolive. Yann Cotte, CEO of Nanolive says “We are extremely honored to have the chance to partner up with Swisscom. This new strategic collaboration will strongly empower the development of new exciting products for Nanolive’s clients.”

..Lessons they learned

Grégory Leproux from the Swisscom Outpost in Palo Alto, who accompanied the startups partially during the week, knows the differences of being a startup in Switzerland and being one in Silicon Valley and points out the pitch: “As Swiss, we want to impress with our technology and explain our product. Venture Capitalists care much more about the market fit. So start-ups should focus on the mission statement, explain which problem they are solving and how that helps to save cost or make money. Eventually later we can talk about the product.” Phil, who noticed the skills that should be prioritized in Silicon Valley, adds “Just be prepared that you’ll face a lot of competition. Be prepared, know what you’re talking about and work on your sales/marketing skills.”

Esmeralda Megally, CEO of Xsensio learned what kind of ideas Venture Capitalists are looking for and how important it is to listen to the suggestions of the experts: “There is no interest here for small ideas, nor for ideas implemented gradually. VCs and angels want to hear big and bold ideas that can quickly disrupt an entire industry. Everyone – from VCs to angels to company executives, tech entrepreneurs and consultants – has an opinion on how your strategy should be played out, depending on their personal experience. Take the opportunity to hear different points of view before making important strategic choices.”

We will keep our fingers crossed for the 5 winners and for everything that follows…

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