The number of start-ups in Greater Zurich has exploded in recent years – much to the delight of venture capitalists like Swiss Business Angel of the Year 2018 Nicolas Bürer. At only 40, he represents a new generation of founders, investors and go-getters.
In 2017, venture capitalists invested 50 per cent more money in start-ups from Zurich than in the previous year. What makes the start-up scene so appealing at the moment?
Nicolas Bürer: The start-up system in the Greater Zurich Area has developed extremely well over the last five years. A real ecosystem has unfolded, with several factors behind it. Particularly helpful in exploiting the region’s potential has been the fact that start-ups now receive support from many new platforms, accelerators and associations. One example of this is the digitalswitzerland initiative, of which I am the Managing Director. Start-ups are at the top of our agenda.
Which factors were particularly important for this development?
The Greater Zurich Area is one of Switzerland’s most important economic drivers. It has a high density of corporates that have taken on an increasingly active role in terms of start-ups in recent years – such as through start-up labs. In this way, start-ups are stimulating the entire economic region. Generally speaking, the region has a liberal attitude. And the excellent universities are extremely important. If you look closely, you find wonderful things.
In which fields do you see the biggest potential for start-ups?
One example is blockchain and everything around data processing, machine learning and the smart application of algorithms – fields in which the majority of fintechs are working. Companies in and around Zurich are also strong in robotics, be it in terms of industrial automation or special medical applications. We can expect to see a lot more from start-ups in all these areas.
At only 40 you have already invested in six start-ups. Has it been a success?
Three of them are no longer with us, but three are still going. One of the most successful is the removals start-up MOVU, which I co-founded. It was acquired by the Baloise Group in 2017 but I am still Chairman of the Board. Yamo from Zug, which produces sustainable baby food, is also doing well.
You are very young for a Business Angel – is a new generation on its way?
Yes, there is a new wave. I know a dozen younger business angels in Switzerland. Lately there have also been some takeovers of start-ups in the Zurich economic region, whose founders are more often than not also active investors and entrepreneurs.
About Nicolas Bürer:
Nicolas Bürer studied physics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). After gaining experience in management consulting and at start-ups, he co-founded MOVU, which was acquired by the Baloise Group in 2017. Since October 2016, he has been Managing Director of the cross-sector digitalswitzerland initiative. He appeared in the 2018 edition of “Who is Who” in the Swiss economy and, as a passionate investor in Swiss start-ups, was named Business Angel of the Year 2018 by the Swiss Private Equity & Corporate Finance Association (SECA).