The AIT program aims to support scientists in transforming their high-level applied research into market application and discovering their entrepreneurial potential. By connecting scientists from top institutions in Switzerland and India/Brazil, the program promotes an international network and enables access to one of the most promising markets and intellectual capitals in applied research. One week ago entrepreneurs from Brazil and India visited Switzerland for five days and participated at the AIT Camp. If you want to be part of the next AIT Camp, apply here. The deadline is soon. A recap by Lucas Secchim Ribeiro (participant) and swissnex.
In the first day of the AIT Camp, all the participants – Brazilians, Indian and Swiss young scientists – had a warm reception at EPFL Innovation Center, where the meetings were held. After a quick introduction, one person from each country was selected to pitch his/her ideas. To help us in our mission, Jordi Montserrat (venturelab) provided great feedback after the presentations, with determination, strength and a pinch of humor. Since every detail is fundamental in the business negotiation, his tips were taken and noted!
After a delicious lunch at the Cafeteria BC, we headed back to the lecture room for a nice workshop on Strategy and Roadmap, by Jordi Montserrat. We learned the importance of defining clear and specific milestones to get traction for creating value and debugging the possible risks. After an intense activity, we were split in two groups: the IT participants were taken to a visit to Logitech and the biotech entrepreneurs joined a lecture on Abionic. We seized the opportunity to ask questions about the conception, development and maintenance of the companies and learn as much as we could.
With renewed energy, we started the second day of the AIT Camp with an excellent lecture from Jordi Montserrat about the importance of culture interpretation in business. Understanding the differences between high and low context cultures is fundamental in a globalized world, where the distances are getting shorter every day. It is the first step for any good negotiation! Later, we established the importance of building a strong and complete team for our start-ups. The skills must be complementary and the group has to be committed with a common goal. It is not easy to find the perfect companions to join our enterprise and the choice must be careful and planned.
Following Jordi Montserrat talk, Juliette Ancette (id est avocats) presented a great overview in the field of intellectual property and regulatory laws for start-ups. The importance of protecting our interests and ideas must be in the to-do list of every entrepreneur!
It has been a short but very pleasant visit, and unfortunately we needed to leave Lausanne. We got our bags in the hotel and headed to the train station, using the efficient public transportation available. After a few Rivella and some pretzels, we boarded the train to Zürich, passing by the countryside of Switzerland, with large open fields, small towns and incomparable beauty. The cold weather of Zürich greeted us as we arrived. At the hotel, a nice meal and a couple of beers prepared, body and mind for the next day of ideas, discussion and learning.
New city, new dimensions! How about to start the day with a pitch? We were invited to present our ideas to our peers during breakfast, so the coaches and the other participants could provide tips and feedback towards our projects in a cozy, informal manner. After that, we took a tram to our industrial visits in the morning. The life science group headed to Covagen, a pharmaceutical company incorporated by Johnson & Johnson, with a focus on modified antibodies as a therapy for inflammatory diseases. A lot of funding and networking opportunities were also presented! The Information Technology group went to Flatev, a great company informally known as the “Nespresso of tortillas”. Just as easy as the coffee, people on Flatev were kind and very friendly, showing several features of their financial and marketing plans. the venture leaders of 2013 and Venture Kick winner 2012 has launched a 30-day campaign on Kickstarter to help cover manufacturing costs on.
After a nice lunch at Schlieren, we had a great surprise! We were honored to be the first to enjoy the brand new Startup Space (ssp), an excellent space for interaction and exchange of ideas! There, Gabriel Bottós and Stefan Steiner showed us the importance of execution plans for marketing and sales to high-tech ventures. While Stefan Steiner gifted us with a direct planning and formal way to proceed, Gabriel Bottós had a more holistic view of entrepreneurship, with perfect metaphors and parables that helped us to understand the whole process of innovating.
Then, the big shot of the night: the Pitch Fest! All the participants had the chance to present their ventures in a 2 minutes pitch. The best from each country – Swiss, Brazil and India – were selected to the semifinal: from Switzerland, Daniel (entertainment and marketing), Natali (stem cells-based personalized medicine) and Marius (outdoor marketing campaigns) were chosen. From the Brazilian team, Hudson (nanomaterial solutions) and Paula (diagnostics by breath analysis) got more votes. The initiatives from India were represented by Akshay (graphene-based smoke filtering) and Ashray (wearable speakers for concerts). The semifinalist had to answer what was done in the last three months and what is going to happen in the three following months. After a 1 minute pitch, Daniel, Akshay and Ashray were chosen as finalists. The greatest innovative impact made Ashray the very first Champion of the AIT Camp Pitch Fest!
The morning before the final pitch session was full of information and great tracking for a successful enterprise. Stefan Steiner provided relevant financial statements and concepts on the start-up evolution, from its birth to market incorporation. Also, economical indicators and ratios commonly used in the entrepreneur talk were present and discussed, in order to always increase the valuation of your activity.
In the afternoon, the IT group took a tour through Teralytics, a company aiming to transform raw, human activity data into valuable insights, by gathering geo-location, demographic and shopping behaviors into specific profiles. In an anonymous fashion, the data is processed to find the answers to the world´s most challenging questions. A great hint for the future! Later on, both groups (IT and Life Sciences) had the privilege to meet the Evernote GmbH in Zurich. Pierre-Emmanuel Boiton showed us the headquarters and we talked about his impression of the app growing in the digital market.
The last morning of AIT Camp started a little bit different from the previous four days. Driven by enormous amounts of caffeine (thanks, Nespresso), the hands are sweaty, the heart beats faster and the minds did not stop thinking about the greatest challenge of the week: the Final Pitch.
In the well-known Swiss sharp schedule, the entrepreneurs were divided in two groups: the Brazilians and the Swiss that went to Brazil presented their pitches in a room while the Indians and the Swiss who went to India in another space. For all the participants, there was a clear evolution from the first presentation in Lausanne to the Final Pitch. Many concepts were added in order to bring value to the various projects. The judge boards evaluated the pitches and provided feedbacks and insights on the enterprises, rising important questions to assess possible drawbacks and gaps to be sorted out.
After all the pitches, the judges gathered everybody in the Startup Space for the announcement of the AIT Grants winners! For the first time this year, and probably a major happening, 6 support grants were awarded by 3 different countries (Brazil, India and Switzerland, in 3 different currency – CHF, BRL and INR).
From the Swiss team, the AIT grant winners were Marc Spaltenstein (Sterilux, EPFL) and Marco Pisano (Lymphatica, CHUV/EPFL). The prize of CHF 10’000 was provided by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The winners from the India team were Ashray Malhotra (SoundSurround, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay) and Shruti GuhaSarkar (UriGel, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay). Both won 10 lakhs (1 lakh equals 100’000 rupees), given by the Department of Science and Technology of India. The Brazilian AIT champions were Paula Regina (Breath Diagnostics, Fortes, University of Campinas) and myself, Lucas Secchim Ribeiro (Simile, Federal University of Minas Gerais). Both won 25’000 Reals, thanks to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Brazil and National Council for Scientific and Technological Development.
It was an awesome week, filled with learning, exchange, innovation and partnerships! I believe we came back to our houses with a lot more than an entrepreneurial experience. We left Switzerland with the feeling that there is much more beyond our laboratory benches, a brand new world ready to be explored!