From left to right: Nomoko’s co-founders Vincent Pedrini, CFO, Nilson Kufus, CEO, and Kevin Mersch, CTO, are building the digital twin of the world with their photorealistic 3D models of cities.
If you’ve followed Nomoko’s journey, you might have wondered why a diverse startup with a big, international vision like ours would be based in Zurich and not in Silicon Valley. Even Google has caught up on the opportunities Zurich has to offer, locating the company’s largest development centre outside of the U.S. in the trendy Swiss city. So what’s all the hype about?
While I frequently travel to San Francisco to attend business meetings and network with other companies and founders, I always find my way back to my base in Zurich. You probably know about the delicious chocolate, fragrant cheese as well as the snowy mountains, but there’s a lot more to learn about the importance of Zurich as a startup hub as well as the influence Switzerland’s visionaries have on the tech world.
Before we dig into all the interesting facts the Swiss tech landscape has to offer, you should get to know our personal reasons for setting up Nomoko’s headquarters in Zurich. First of all, it’s where I’m from. I’ve lived here for the most part of my life. Therefore, it was only logical to me to build a company in an environment that I know well. Moreover, I also met our CTO Kevin Mersch at ETH Zurich’s Startup Speed Dating.
Zurich: a place for visionaries
Switzerland is well-known across the globe for the financial sector and banks. Zurich is unarguably the Swiss city that boasts the most energetic economy, making it the place to be if you’re thinking about building a company in the land of cheese.
The country has also been home to many remarkable scientists that continue to shape our worldview up to this day. Although he wasn’t born in Switzerland, Albert Einstein studied at ETH Zurich and continued to work there as a professor for many years, eventually obtaining Swiss citizenship. Another honorable mention is definitely Leonhard Euler, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time (f(x), anyone?). Furthermore, Switzerland is proud to be the home of 26 Nobel Laureates, proving once again that it’s an amazing country for visionaries with outstanding ideas that can change the world.
In more recent history, one of the organizations responsible for a significant amount of breakthroughs in the tech world is CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), which is based near Geneva. The discoveries from CERN do not only focus on nuclear research, but also on computer science. Did you know, that the World Wide Web started out as a CERN project in 1990? After introducing the internet technology in 1980, the researches were now looking for a way to facilitate the sharing of information through hypertext and ended up figuring out how to make the web accessible to anyone. Mountains and chocolate? More like badass Swiss technology connecting all of us.
Startups all over the place
In 2015, Switzerland has been ranked the most innovative nation by the World Intellectual Property Organization due to its welcoming innovation policies and academic standards. It should therefore not come as much of a surprise that the startup culture in Switzerland is flourishing and innovation HUBs à la Silicon Valley can be found in all of the major cities.
One of the main institutions this development can be attributed to is, once again, ETH Zurich. The top-ranked university offers students various tools to build their own companies, such as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Labs as well as the Pioneer Fellowships, which have led to more than 300 high-tech spin-offs. When founders start out turning their vision into a company, they are grateful for every resource they have access to and ETH provides knowledge, experience, and advice to young entrepreneurs.
As a founder in Switzerland, you are never far from other startups and bigger companies and you will soon know heaps of influential people from all kinds of industries. The most famous example of a Swiss startup that has benefited from all of those prime conditions is MindMaze, a Lausanne-based company that uses virtual reality to facilitate research in neuroscience as well as breakthroughs in machine learning. The startup has recently been backed by Leonardo DiCaprio who did not only invest in the company but will also functions as an advisor to the team. MindMaze has thus been featured heavily in the news and has received a lot of praise nationally as well as internationally, which goes to show that everything is possible as a Swiss start up.
Feels like home
From the history to the innovation-friendly environment and entrepreneurial spirit; Switzerland serves as an ideal incubator for visionary startups. Talents from all over the world come here to broaden their knowledge and connect with influential people to get a shot at being part of something big. Since you find yourself in the middle of Europe, everything seems close and the international spirit is tangible, which leads to vivid conversations, interesting bonds, and great ideas.
At Nomoko, we feel more than comfortable at our HQ in Zurich. We’ve had the pleasure of getting in touch with all the amazing startups and visionary thinkers around us. Naturally, there are also downsides to being based in Switzerland, such as the fact that recruiting employees from non-EU countries can be really difficult due to visa struggles and work-restrictions. However, we love all the opportunities this country is providing us with and it just feels right to call a place with so much history and drive for innovation our home.
About the author
Nilson Kufus is the CEO of Nomoko, an IoT startup that’s built a platform for spatial applications. He has obtained a degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences from the University College Maastricht with focus on business, artificial intelligence, and media. His educational background and upbeat personality have helped him turn his ambitious vision into a successful startup. Nilson is a true believer in teamwork and going the extra mile. Fun fact: He is a former Swiss figure skating champion. Nilson co-founded Nomoko in 2015 together with Kevin Mersch and Vincent Pedrini. Nomoko’s mission is to enable companies to interact with photorealistic real-world based 3D data to gain insight, enrich, analyze and build solutions rooted in reality.