Design Trends

Does Switzerland exist on the European tech startup scene? (Part II)

Last week
Sébastien Flurystarted a blog post serie from international bloggers to get their view on Swiss startup scene (see Part I). You’ll find in this second post the impression of Fred Zimny, a Dutch blogger specialized in services design and management.

The Next Berlin 2013 event was the trigger for an Internet encounter with Sébastien. He wonders if  Switzerland really exists on the European tech start-up scene. He is investigating how Switzerland is seen from an outside, neutral perspective.

As a blogger I am not that neutral. I do have my believes and these beliefs will be shared with you in this post.

Yes, it is true, the Global Innovation ranking index puts Switzerland at the first place worldwide, but how relevant is this index? I always appreciate these kind of reports and outcomes. However, often one may notice that there is a preference for institutional characteristics.

As a Dutch blogger, I see similar reports about how well the Dutch society is performing from an institutional perspective.

But do these reports reflect innovation capabilities, the right cultural attitude for entrepreneurs and start-ups and the required ecosystems? I severely have my doubts and scanning the index through the drill-down options (an excellent option) confirms this thesis. I do not believe that the next Google, Apple, Oracle or SAP will be created in the top-9 of the index (US being number 10).

What are my associations with start-ups from Switzerland?

Being a big fan of and that is it. Some desk research revealed nice initiatives in Bern and – through a Swiss LinkedIn-connection – I got a nice overview of Swiss start-ups.

Which one might become a successor of for me? I do have doubts if there are any.

After accessing even more data I am able to outline my thoughts and impressions.

It is my sincere belief that there is an urgent need for a  societal fabric for user-centric innovation. Especially for  services in the private and public service sector. As stated recently, the knowledge-intense services will be the key for the creation of new growth beyond the economical and partly societal turmoil we are currently in. However, to deploy these service one needs to have a common market. Especially in a country that has 4 native languages. The negative vote of 06.12.1992 will limit the reach of innovation initiatives for the Swiss start-ups. On the other hand, it had, has and will have many benefits.

I also belief that start-ups only can thrive in complex, adaptive ecosystems. To deploy start-ups one has to create these kind of organizations as a complex entitity with relationships and possible relationships. Designing such start-ups implies focus on the ecosystem, on longevity (3-5 years to decades) and accepting complexity. Given the geographic position of Switzerland my working assumption is that startups should start connecting with either Germany (Rhein-Ruhr area, Berlin) or Paris, being the urban city areas of 2025.

EU-member or not,  all countries in Europe get more and more connected. In 2011-2012 many of us realized how complex the networked, interdependent financial economy has become. Assuming that these interdependent networks are also emergent in the field of services (energy, healthcare, education and so on) flexibility and connectivity should be embedded in the design of any start-up.

Considering the position of Switzerland, here are my final words.

You may be acquainted with the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

“…in our country”, said Alice, still painting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else-if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!”, said the Queen. “Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”.

From my perspective, this the challenge for Swiss (but also for Dutch) start-ups: Get connected!

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