A couple of days ago, Swisscom closed together with venturelab the application phase of the Swisscom Startup Challenge: Just before midnight on May 15 we received the last valid application for this year’s round of our startup competition.

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We are running the competition for the fourth time already – and we are happy to announce that not only did we manage to keep up the number of applications but we strongly increased the number and quality: Overall, we had over 200 applications from startups that would like to go to Silicon Valley with us.

Who has applied for our program?

1. Focus Topics
Not surprisingly, there are startups spanning a broad area of technology including IT, telco, big data, e-commerce, e-health, media and clean tech. Basically, everything but life science (which is definitely not in scope for Swisscom).

Some interesting trends we observed:

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  • IT/web/software: Our biggest category with nearly half of the applications contains a few clusters that are worth mentioning:
    • A lot of founders aim at building a marketplace for all kinds of different areas of life such as finding tutors or freelancer. In a similar space, I noticed some activities around social platforms for niche user group and interests such as pet owners and fans of specific sports or clubs.
    • There’s more than one team building some sort of event planning and scheduling solution. Definitely not a trivial problem that has been hard to tackle even for the big players.
    • Surprisingly little cases focus on VR and augmented reality – let’s see if we are going to see a real business this time.
    • When it comes to the industries there’s a lot of activity focusing on restaurants (payments and management of restaurants) but not much in the foodie space.
  • Hardware: Assuming a rather broad definition of “hardware”, we can summarize 14% of our applications in this category.
    • There are some very interesting telco technologies that are in wireless transmission or wireless charging and as such are relevant for Swisscom.
    • There is a clear focus on sports-related wearables and hardware that supports the player or athlete.
    • Then there are some med tech cases which appear to have a strong relation to the Swiss engineering faculties.
  • Fintech: With 13% of applications, this is another strong category – no surprise as Swisscom is an active player in the fintech space. There’s quite some diversity in topics – some mobile payment solutions, a lot of investment and portfolio management startups and some crowdfunding marketplaces.
  • Other categories to be mentioned include 18 founders that develop services and software for e-commerce, ten cases in ads technology, and a couple of applications in big data, e-health, smart home and security.

2. Geography
As was to be expected, most of our applications come from Switzerland (90%), around 7% from the rest of Europe and 3% of the applicants hail from all over the world.

  • Within Switzerland, 2/3 of the applications come from the German-speaking part with a strong focus on Zurich. A strong 31% of applications come from the French-speaking part of Switzerland – not surprisingly with a strong representation of the Lausanne area. Only 4 applications (2%) come from startups registered in Ticino.

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3. Gender of applicants
87% of applications were sent in by male founders, which leaves 13% for female. Although the number of female founders is much lower than the percentage in the workforce it still appears to be in line for female founders in Switzerland.

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Let’s see how these three dimensions will be represented in the ten finalists / five winners to be selected in June (finalists) and August (winners).

How will we go about selecting the winners?

In a next phase, the applications will be reviewed by our internal jury to select the 10 finalists. This jury consists of innovation managers and product owners from all areas of Swisscom:

  • The core business of Swisscom is represented by experts from our telco platforms, the value propositions for residential customers and Swisscom TV
  • Up-and-coming areas are involved like Internet of Things and security
  • Our participations and joint ventures in the e-commerce (Siroop) or advertisement (Admeira / LocalSearch) are part of the jury
  • The Pirates Hub team evaluates co-creation opportunities similar to the collaboration with Mila
  • And last, but not least, the Swisscom ventures team is crucial not only in assessing the strategic potential but also in evaluating a potential venture investment

Thus we make sure that we not only understand the general potential of the startup but evaluate the opportunity for collaborating or implementing the technology within Swisscom.

Thanks again to all the startups that applied to this year´s edition of our challenge. We are very much looking forward to evaluating all applications to select the winners that will go with us to the Silicon Valley. Stay tuned for the announcement of the finalists beginning of July.

Don’t miss and be part of the venture leaders China 2016!
Applications are opened for the venture leaders China 2016 until June 13, a 10 days intense entrepreneurial dive in the Chinese market offered free of charge to 10 selected entrepreneurs building a startup with global potential and having strong ambition in Asian market, particularly China.  The trip to China (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong) will take place from October 24th to November 3rd , 2016. Apply now: www.venturelab.ch/ventureleaderschina