Swiss entrepreneurs recover their nerve

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology runs the Venture 2002 competition in collaboration with McKinsey & Co Keystone Archive

A competition for high-tech startups suggests that entrepreneurs have recovered their nerve since the collapse of tech stocks.

This content was published on January 11, 2002 - 14:24

The Venture 2002 contest, run by McKinsey and Co and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology attracted 200 business plans from budding entrepreneurs compared with 120 for the last competition in 2000.

In the days running up to the deadline, some insiders were worried that people would be deterred from starting a business in the aftermath of the crash in high-tech stocks.

They had reason to be worried. The number of new companies founded in Switzerland declined significantly last year. In November, for example, only 20 high-tech joint stock companies were formed compared with more than 70 in November 2000, according to Dun and Bradstreet.

But in the end the entrepreneurial spirit won out. "We had to beat the bushes to find 60 teams for a December workshop leading up to the deadline," said Dr Cyril Wipfli, the McKinsey consultant in charge of Venture 2002.

Only about 40 percent of the participants in this year's contest come from university labs because it the first time the contest was opened to non-academics.

Forty-seven percent of the business plans came from western Switzerland, including Lausanne and Geneva, while 41 percent came from the Zurich region. The other 11 percent came from southeastern Switzerland.

Venture is held every two years and has spawned a number of fast growing technology companies, such as Dartfish SA, a company with a unique imaging technology used in sports, Sensirion, digital sensor maker, EsbaTech, an emerging biotech company, Xitact, a surgical software firm, and Glycart, a fast growing life science company.

Prizes total more than SFr150,000 in cash, as well as coaching and a lot of free publicity.

by Valerie Thompson

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