Innovative businesses win Swiss economic prize

Helvetic Airways is a popular brand and successful start-up Keystone Archive

A low-budget airline, a sensor manufacturer and a mobile-phone application developer are three Swiss start-up companies to receive recognition and cash.

This content was published on June 2, 2005 - 12:10

The prizes, worth a total of SFr75,000 ($59,900), were awarded at this year’s Swiss Economic Forum in Thun.

Helvetic Airways AG, which flies to European destinations for a fixed price of €119, has established itself as a popular brand in Switzerland.

Its magenta coloured billboard ads catch the eye as much for their content as their distinctive look.

Within two years, the Zurich-based firm has created 165 jobs, while generating some SFr75 million in sales in 2004.

One of its venture capital backers, Daniel Aegerter, a former dotcom entrepreneur-turned-investor, is fond of saying that Heveltic is "not an airline – it’s an internet business".

A big part of the firm’s success is due to its software and web technology know-how. One of the firm’s three founders is Peter Pfister, a serial entrepreneur who established business after leaving Simultan AG, a successful software company.

Sensors and cell phones

A second winner is Geneva-based Echovox SA. Founded in 2000, Echovox employs some 14 people.

The company developed software that is the basis for payment systems and short message distribution used by mobile network operators. News agencies, such as Reuters, use it to enable payment for online documents on demand.

It also has mobile network operators as customers. They put their own label or brand on Echovox’ bouquet of short messaging services and content. It is a so-called white label portal offering.

The firm generated some SFr15 million in sales last year.

The third winner is Oblamatik GmbH of Chur. The six-year-old firm develops a line of sensors that replace taps in bathroom sinks. It has a staff of eight people and had sales of a little over SFr1 million in 2004.

The companies received their awards at the Swiss Economic Forum in Thun, an annual event that brings together business owners - both young and old, as well as politicians and academics to exchange ideas and promote entrepreneurship in Switzerland.

by Valerie Thompson

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