The application phase of the Swisscom StartUp Challenge 2019 is now over. A total of 289 start-ups from all over Switzerland want to travel to Silicon Valley to take part in the Business Acceleration Programme. What happens to the applications now and what criteria will be used to assess them?
The seventh Swisscom StartUp Challenge has reached a critical stage: all the applications received (jump to the infographic at the end of the article) are now being assessed by the jurors from Swisscom and venturelab, according to a clear set of criteria. The following six questions form the basis for deciding which ten start-ups will proceed to the next round.
1. Customer need: which target group has the solution/product been created for and how does it make their daily life easier?
Sounds like a trivial criterion to use? Yes and no. The fact of the matter is that a lot of products/solutions are developed which are indeed new and technologically advanced but for which there is no customer demand. Our jury is looking for start-ups offering solutions which satisfy a clearly identified customer need. The target group must be clearly defined, but it must not be too wide or too restrictive.
2. Market opportunities: how big a market does the start-up operate in and is there potential for international growth?
When the jury analyses market potential, it not only considers the current situation, but also looks at market trends. Something that is still in its infancy today could revolutionise entire economic sectors tomorrow (think disruptive technology). The assessment also considers how much potential the solution has for achieving international success. Like the fertility tracker developed by previous StartUp Challenge winner Ava, for example – the customer need is the same worldwide, giving it global market potential.
3. USP: does the solution have a clear unique selling point?
We are looking for start-ups whose solutions have a USP that sets them apart from the competition. Ideally, this will be strong enough to prevent it from being imitated by competitors (for now). Ultimately, the aim of every start-up is to secure a large market share for itself.
4. Teamwork: is there a tight-knit, highly motivated team behind the start-up?
We are looking for fantastic teams! A top-class team can turn an average product into a success, but an average team can fail even if it has a fantastic product. For us, it is key that the founders of the company have the necessary experience in their field. Having management experience and the right combination of people in the founding team is just as important as technical expertise and entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
5. Strategic fit: how good a match are the start-up and Swisscom?
The jurors select the ten finalists in which they see opportunities for Swisscom Ventures to collaborate or invest. Such a collaboration could take a number of forms: Swisscom can become a customer of the start-up, sell the start-up’s products as a specialist dealer or work together with the start-up to develop and then sell products and services.
The investment options are that Swisscom buys shares in the start-up via Swisscom Ventures or that it buys it out completely. In previous years, Swisscom Ventures has invested in StartUp Challenge winners Nanolife, Advanon and Ava, amongst others. Swisscom also carried out a pilot project using drones with Involi (winner in 2017).
6. Added value from Silicon Valley: what are the start-up’s motives for participating in the acceleration programme in Silicon Valley?
The Swisscom outpost in Silicon Valley organises schedules tailored to the individual needs of each of the five winning start-ups. The clearer the start-up’s objectives are for the trip, the more it will benefit from the programme delivered in the Valley. Does the start-up want to find investors, meet other potential customers, become more familiar with its American competitors or simply improve its marketing skills? In making the selection, the outpost ensures that entering the US market is fundamentally possible or, best case, is actually planned.
What happens next?
The jury, consisting of representatives from Swisscom and venturelab, will reveal the ten finalists on 5 July. The five winners will then be announced on 22 August, immediately after the live pitches.
Infographic: Applicants, business sectors and regions