By Anita Suter, Sr. Communications Manager (swissnex Boston)
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it aaaaaaanywhere. It’s up to you New York, New Yooooooork!” Who hasn’t heard or hummed the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s famous hymn to the city that never sleeps, a place that has become an ever-growing innovation ecosystem, offering endless opportunities for tech startups? Early June, 10 top-notch startups traveled from Switzerland to take a bite or two from the Big Apple.
Venture Leaders is a flagship project for swissnex Boston. For 12 years, in cooperation with venturelab, we’ve been bringing the best and brightest Swiss startups to the US East Coast – giving selected entrepreneurs the chance to experience the Boston startup ecosystem. Participants take part in a one-week boot camp featuring company visits, meetings with venture capitalists and law firms, pitch competitions, and much more.
This year, for the first time, two Swiss startup teams were selected for the US journey – one visiting New York, made up of tech entrepreneurs, and one visiting Boston, made up of life sciences entrepreneurs. Three years ago, after the opening of our New York office, we expanded the original week-long Boston program to include New York’s innovation scene, a.k.a., “Silicon Alley.” While Boston remains THE hotspot for life sciences startups, New York has developed into a fertile nourishing ground for tech startups. It’s one of the country’s top innovation hotspots for entrepreneurs hailing from all over the world, and was recently named as the world’s second tech ecosystem after Silicon Valley, by Compass’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2015.
Earlier this month, the Venture Leaders Technology team came to New York for a “business boosting” week – enabling the participants to accelerate their development in the US market, to meet top investors and experts, and to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs.
The Venture Leaders were greeted by torrential rain on Sunday evening, but we kick-started the week (literally) on Monday with an early morning visit to the headquarters of Kickstarter, the well-known crowdsourcing platform. Fun fact: the company is located in a former pencil factory in the hip neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn – and has its own library (complete with books published through the Kickstarter community, naturally).
After this impressive company visit, it was “all hands on deck” for our 10 tech entrepreneurs hailing from Switzerland. In workshops held at WeWork Charging Bull (the co-working space housing our swissnex NY office), experts equipped the Venture Leaders with valuable advice in fundraising strategies, branding & PR, partnerships, tax and accounting in the US, and much more. A special highlight was a get-together with Waypoint Capital, the business enterprise for the managers associated with the Bertarelli family office, providing participants with first hand advice on pitching successfully to potential investors. Equally valuable was the advice given by the lawyers of Foley & Lardner, who made the case for establishing proper operations systems early on. And the view from their conference room was, simply put, jaw-dropping.
Mid-week, it was time to shine for the Venture Leaders. At the annual Swiss Pitch Night – the third of its kind in partnership with VentureOut – they pitched in front of a panel of esteemed venture investors and the NY tech community. We were honored to welcome Ambassador André Schaller, Consul General of Switzerland in New York, among our guests!
The arrival of the Venture Leaders in New York was timed perfectly to coincide with the Northside Festival, a weeklong celebration of innovation, music, and art in Brooklyn. For the second year in a row, swissnex and the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York joined forced to present a national presence at the innovation expo. And what could be a better way to show off Swiss innovation than with the Swiss national startup team?
For two days at the Brooklyn Expo Center, the Venture Leaders took turns pitching their products and services to New York’s tech savvy innovation community, chatting one-to-one with visitors to Switzerland’s impressive cardboard booth. Friday afternoon – the last day of the Venture Leaders’ stay in New York – it was time for a final showcase. In front of 200+ people and in the unusual setting of a brewery (the Brooklyn Brewery, to be specific), our entrepreneurs gave their last round of pitches, followed by a questions from a panel of judges. Alexandre Catsicas from Artmyn carried away the win – earning a big round of applause and a one-month stay (and use of infrastructure) at swissnex Boston’s New York office, free of charge.
An intense week ended in style with a rooftop reception kindly hosted by the Swiss Business Hub, offering vast views of the skyline of New York – the city that never sleeps and where everyone’s dreams can come true – not just those of Ol’ Blue Eyes.
The Venture Leaders program – a collaboration between swissnex Boston, it’s NY office and venturelab – is only possible through the generous support of our sponsors:
The Swiss country presence at Northside Festival was made possible through support from Presence Switzerland.