Startup Accelerator Spotlight: Kickstart Accelerator

Kickstart

Kickstart Accelerator is Switzerland’s first international startup accelerator program where over 20 partners, even potential competitors, come together to support young international entrepreneurs, launch new products into the market and promote the Swiss innovation ecosystem.

Name of Accelerator: Kickstart Accelerator

Kickstarts Christoph Birkholz

Christoph Birkholz, Program Lead

Kickstart

Patricia Schlenter, Program Manager

Location:  Zurich, Switzerland

Website: www.kickstart-accelerator.com

Program Lead: Christoph Birkholz

Program Manager: Patricia Schlenter

This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.

In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.

Kickstart Accelerator is Switzerland’s first international startup accelerator program where over 20 partners, even potential competitors, come together to support young international entrepreneurs, launch new products into the market and promote the Swiss innovation ecosystem. The goal is to bring the best international startups to Switzerland by building bridges between the strong corporate network that Switzerland has to offer and the innovative, disruptive startups worldwide. Kickstart Accelerator is an initiative by DigitalZurich2025 and is operated by Impact Hub Zurich.

Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.

In its first year, Kickstart Accelerator combined 30 outstanding startups selected from more than 850 applicants at prototyping stage, with over 20 partners opening their doors for Proof-of-Concepts and Joint Ventures, entrepreneurial mentors with a proven track record in company building, a set of Masterclasses delivered by senior experts, as well as executives committed to engage with startups in 1 on 1 sessions. Our startups can expect world-class accelerator programming and stipends worth 1’500 CHF per person as well as equity-free prize money (up to 25’000 CHF). No equity is taken.

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Additionally, we challenge our leading corporate partners to collaborate (also with new market entrants) rather than being protective. Further we would like to emphasize that the program itself (i.e., bridging incumbent corporations with new startups) and the fact that competitors such as UBS/Credit Suisse in Fintech and Migros/Coop in Food are joining forces is a promising step in the right direction for the Swiss and European ecosystem.

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What is the most difficult part of working with startups?

Getting them to understand the importance of targeting the right customers, getting the MVP out there, and sell hard. The product does not have to be perfect to be launched. Get out there as fast as possible with your MVP and iterative continuously based on customer feedback until you hit that sweet spot.

Key to Startup Success: Customer Discovery

What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?

Absolutely love their passion and their creativity – nothing beats that!

Tell us about your success stories; which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?

As first year, no success stories yet. But we have several promising companies participating in this year’s program.Kickstart

What are the most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator program?

  • Geographic Location
  • The Accelerator’s Ranking
  • The Accelerator’s Focus
  • Potential for Funding and/or requirements related to equity, attendance and relocation
  • The Season Offered and duration.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to which accelerator is the best overall fit for the startup, the entrepreneur and for the accelerator itself.

What else would you like to share?

The Swiss accelerator is a fast-track gateway for international entrepreneurs to access the Swiss innovation ecosystem. By focusing on industries that Switzerland is already strong in and leveraging connections to various corporate partners, mentors and top industry experts, the Kickstart Accelerator can offer startups an opportunity that no one else can. The multi-corporate accelerator is backed by some of Switzerland’s biggest companies including UBS, Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s largest ICT provider Swisscom, the largest food retailer and producer, Migros, and the global consultancy firm EY.

The program is open to the best international startups with a promising business idea within the following 4 verticals: FinTech, Smart & Connected Machines, Future & Emerging Technologies and Food. Founding teams can apply provided they have a minimum viable product or working type, the commitment to build a business and the desire to scale and learn. Founders will be provided with up to 25’000 Swiss francs in seed-funding, a monthly founder stipend, mentoring, a shared office space and fast-track access to relevant industry partners and the Swiss startup ecosystem. The best part? No equity is taken and startups have the possibility of attaining a proof of concept trial with one of the corporate partners.

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Pam Goforth

Pam Goforth is Research Manager for FundingSage, which provides valuable information, tools and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.