Growing up in India, most of us have been fascinated with Switzerland – not only for chocolates, cheeses, and politicians hiding money but also for the song and dance sequences in the Bollywood movies.  I’ve spent a lot of time in several Europeans countries but this week was the first ever for me in Switzerland.

Watch more about Bollywood’s Love Affair With the Swiss Alps

Image Credit: WSJ

Why Switzerland?

On the work front with our focus at CityFALCON on the wealth management industry, Switzerland has been on the top of our list.  Switzerland remains number 1 in international private wealth management (Source: Deloitte 2015). Apart from that, we also want to focus on our other target segments including asset managers, investors, traders, and accounting and consulting firms.

Yes, Switzerland is a non-English speaking market and poses several challenges for us but it’s a market that you can’t afford to ignore.  We have been working on adding non-English content and now by being in Zurich, we could start with German and French content.  We also hope to build relations with publications in Switzerland and if possible, in Germany and France.

 What Kickstart Accelerator offers?

  • £12K as a guaranteed grant plus up to £800 for travel expenses plus an opportunity to win another grant of £20K at the end of the programme.
  • Desk space and other facilities in the heart of Zurich.
  • An opportunity to perform proof-of-concepts with their corporate partners that include UBS, Credit Suisse, AXA, EY, PWC, Accenture, SwissLife and much more. You can see the full list of Kickstart Accelerator’s corporate partners.
  • An opportunity to coordinate with other FinTech companies in the programme.
  • General benefits of accelerators – mentorship, access to investors, press, etc.

The startups’ selection at KickStart

From 1500+ applications and several pitches from the shortlisted candidates, Kickstart Accelerator (supported by Digital Switzerland) selected 30 startups in July 2017 to be accelerated from Sep-Nov 2017 in Zurich.

Our pitch during the selection boot camp

Photo credit: Thomas Luethi from Ringier

One of the things we believe that really helped us was our intro video in the application.  It was nothing close to what they expected; it was a pitch from an ice hole in the frozen Baltic Sea.  Most mentors and corporate clients seemed surprised and intrigued which I think brought us credibility as a startup that is ready to do anything #MakeItHappen.  You can watch the video below. If you want to know the full story behind why we decided to do this and what it was like at the event, read ‘Polar Bear Pitching – CityFALCON Dream from an Ice Hole…Why, How, What’s Next?

The fundamental difference I believe between KickStart and other accelerators is that the programme is supported by corporates;  there is a lot of focus on revenue generating proof-of-concepts. Also, the accelerator seems to be well staffed compared to other accelerators I’ve seen in London. See the press release from kickstart accelerator.

We believe that the opportunities from this programme will take us closer to our first target of being cash flow positive in 2018.

The energetic team at the accelerator

Photo credit: Thomas Luethi from Ringier

Opening Ceremony, Team Building, Workshops, Mentoring

Week 1 was quite busy and productive with several events and sessions. The space we are working out from is quite unique.  I’m sharing some pictures below but if you are in Zurich, a visit is worthwhile. Highlights of the week included a welcome by the mayor of Zurich, meeting our mentor for the programme and sales workshop by Bain & Co.

Our work space

Photo credit: Philippe Rossier

Day 1 Induction

 

Welcome by the Mayor of Zurich

Photo credit: Philippe Rossier

Team building and exploring Zurich with other entrepreneurs

Our 30 seconds pitch during the opening ceremony

The Swiss way of life

I don’t get that excited about looking at sights and mountains but what I enjoy the most is learning more about different cultures.  One week is too short to make any assessments but here are the things I saw and heard from locals and expats.  Please feel free to correct me in the comments below.

  • Almost everything is on time.
  • The Swiss don’t necessarily chase discounts and price cuts and are ready to pay the price for good quality.
  • Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, and so eating out and takeaways seem to be less common than in London. I bought my most expensive Vietnamese lunch takeaway for about £17 in Zurich, and probably never again.  Supermarkets such as Coop and Migros remain the option with food for a reasonable price.  Even though the accelerator has been very generous with the grant, it’s very difficult to spend big bucks on food when raising fund for your business is very difficult.

Summary

Running a startup is very hard and takes a lot out of you, but opportunities like being at KickStart Accelerator makes it all worthwhile.  Apart from the revenue and growth opportunities for the business, and the opportunity to spend time in another country and learn another culture, what I really treasure are the relationships you build during the programme with fellow entrepreneurs, KickStart staff, mentors and more. We’ll #MakeItHappen!