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New seed fund for French-Swiss firms

Bisange team from the left: Dourgam Kummer, Catherine Hadj-Salem, Armand Lombard, Stéphane Christen, Anita Passera, Laurent Bischof. Bisange

The Geneva-based Bisange company is making a pitch to raise some SFr30 million to invest in young and emerging technology companies in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

The fund called “Découvreurs 1” (The Discoverers) is being lead by Armand Lombard, the former private banker, who co-founded Bisange.

The firm, whose name is the French conflation of the term “business angel”, has been acting as a broker and coach until now, matching start-ups seeking seed money with angel investors.

It has received more than 350 projects since its founding through a network-for-deal flow that includes many spin-offs from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, as well as Technopole and Creapole networks.

The new fund proposal has received strong moral support from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Federation, as well as from the Fondation Genève Place Financière.

The foundation’s chairmen signed a common call to action in the business newspaper Le Temps last month, suggesting that the best way to attack Switzerland’s “zero growth” GDP is to create new businesses and new jobs.

Pharmaceutical companies

Experts say biopharmaceutical and biotech start-up companies around the centres of the large Swiss pharmaceutical companies are emerging.

These developments are fuelled by capital from institutional investors, pension schemes that are residing in these local areas, and now being complemented by internationally investing private equity investors.

“This trend can be a very healthy one in the long-term,” writes Bruno Raschle of Adveq in a recent article on European private equity.

“There is no guarantee that such managers will automatically be competitive due to proximity to the biotech cluster,” Raschle told Swiss Venture.

“Success depends on being differentiated and competitive, or having good access to attractive deals. But it is essential to be in or near a biotech center to be able to find and manage effectively good deals,” he added.

The fund is being targeted at institutional investors and pension funds.

Bisange works with Genilem, an association that coaches and supports start-ups. Its track record is promising. A good 90 per cent of the firms it helped are still in business three years on and are creating jobs, competing in a global marketplace.

But however successful, they all ran into serious problems with capital raising.

According to a presentation made by Bisange, SMEs created 20,000 jobs in Switzerland last year – whereas the 50 largest Swiss firms only created 1,000 new jobs in their homeland, but 6,000 jobs abroad.

It is more or less accepted that the small and medium-sized businesses are the engines of economic growth, especially the innovative ones that are able to rapidly commercialise their breakthroughs.

by Valerie Thompson

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR