The Zug-based brainchild of McKinsey and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Venture Incubator AG, is ready to make new investments this year in university spinoffs and other early stage firms.
Undaunted by the current slump in VC investing, and the economy in general, CEO Alain Nicod says, "It's business as usual."
Only about a dozen venture funds are actively seeking new investments in Swiss early stage IT and related high tech sectors, such as Endeavour Advisors, SAM Private Equity, Etech, and Atila Ventures. There are a lot more if the startup firm is active in the field of life sciences or biotechnology.
"We're enthusiastic about investing in the early stage in Switzerland -- there are a few of us," says Nicod.
Depending on the quality of opportunities, Venture Incubator could invest as much as SFr 10 million in the coming months.
The firm was formed in 2001 and has drawn down SFr 30.3 million of its originally contracted SFr 101 million so far. Its backers are ten of the country's largest firms, including ABB, Credit Suisse Group, Hilti, Nestlé, Novartis, Pictet, Schindler, Sulzer, Suva and ZKB.
It exchanged two of its board members this month. Newcomers are Rémy Best, a recently named partner of private bank Pictet et Cie, and Jürg Meier who has been managing the SFr 300 million Novartis Venture Fund for the past years.
It has made eight investments, most of them in the past year since Nicod joined. He's a former McKinsey consultant and a dotcom entrepreneur - he co-founded LeShop back in the late nineties.
Nicod has defined the fund's strategic focus more clearly in recent months. While it maintains a university spinoff and early stage focus, it is looking at investment in a broad range of industries, but always in technologies where the Swiss excel, including, automation, microtechnologies, materials and information technology, as well as life science and medical devices.
Portfolio companies include IR Microsystems which makes new micron sized sensors, Nemerix, a maker of ultra small GPS chips, and Thales Technologies, a firm that wants to automate catalyst discovery. Life science and biotech investments include EsbaTech, Ganymed Pharmaceuticals, Kuros Biosurgery, Innoventions and Athelas.