What does it mean to you to be a Greater Zurich Honorary Ambassador?
I see it as recognition of my networking efforts in the USA and Switzerland. I have been building bridges between San Francisco and Zurich for some time now. Back when I was Deputy CEO of swissnex San Francisco, I have already worked with the Greater Zurich Area Ltd (GZA) on many projects. Today half of the DART Labs team is located in Zurich – my second home, where many of my friends and family still live.
For what competencies is the Greater Zurich Area well-known in the U.S. tech scene?
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) has an excellent reputation across the globe – also as an incubator for talent and spin-offs. This is particularly true in the fields of artificial intelligence, computer vision, robotics, and drones. The success stories have spread around the world: It is common knowledge that large tech companies such as Google and IBM are active in the Greater Zurich Area, and the presence of Meta and Apple is conspicuous as well. There are people who have a personal connection to expats in Zurich that have a strong desire to stay, and in some cases, they even co-found startups in the area. The Greater Zurich Area is viewed as a five-star hotel in comparison to other locations: Its infrastructure and quality of life are unparalleled.
With some of the success stories, you have actually contributed to the startup’s triumph…
Yes, I’m especially pleased about that. I have been investing in Ava for six years. The founding team realized early on that the USA is much more advanced in this area: In the USA, the Ava fertility tracker is an important part of a future industry that is still in its infancy in Europe. It is a similar story for the ETH spin-off Vay: DART Labs supported Vay with negotiations in 2021 when a buyer was found – the US fitness equipment manufacturer Nautilus. Nautilus even plans to continue to invest in the Zurich site and work on intelligent movement studies there. Another example of a Swiss company that has been thriving in the USA is the sneaker brand On, which is based in Zurich. Success stories like these are essential.
How do the innovation ecosystems of the U.S. West Coast and the Greater Zurich Area complement each other?
I have lived in San Francisco for eleven years and know that the two ecosystems are fueled by excellent universities that create talent and cutting-edge research as well as innovative startups. The fact is that in comparison, investors and companies in San Francisco have higher capital and are willing to take more risks. With this, there is a greater sensitivity toward ethical questions and topics like data protection in Switzerland. In the Greater Zurich Area, there are agile, dynamic teams like Vay that have established their niche and are at the top of their game globally. In cases like these, a partnership can combine the best of both worlds.
To what extent is Greater Zurich Area Ltd (GZA) as an organization involved in your day-to-day work?
Whenever I am talking to company representatives that are interested in finding a location in Europe or are already set on Switzerland, I always refer to the services of GZA. It is extremely valuable that there are organizations such as GZA that offer support in the decision-making process as well as with the settlement. This is pertinent to U.S. companies that want to invest in a startup from the Greater Zurich Area as well.
Interview: Yvonne von Hunnius
About Sophie Lamparter
About Sophie Lamparter
Sophie Lamparter was named as a Greater Zurich Honorary Ambassador in November 2021 and is the co-founder of DART Labs, an accelerator for European founders with offices in Zurich and San Francisco. DART Labs invests in teams during the initial phase and helps with scaling up. Before this post, Sophie was Deputy CEO of swissnex San Francisco, Switzerland’s outpost for innovation in San Francisco. She helped to create a new hub at Pier 17 in San Francisco, led public programming, and was instrumental in building partnerships between the USA and Switzerland. Sophie Lamparter was named one of the 100 Digital Shapers in Switzerlandin 2018 and 2020. She also works as an expert for the European Commission.