Collaborating beyond boundaries, striving for innovation and growth

Guest Author
September 30 2019
It’s for the fourth time that promising startups from Switzerland and all over the world have settled at the innovation space Kraftwerk this autumn. And it’s for the fourth time, that Switzerland’s leading ICT company Swisscom is part of this initiative. As one of the founding partners of Kickstart, Swisscom has been supporting the program since the very beginning. Time to take a closer look at this collaboration.

“Most of our growth areas are based on disruptive technologies & business models”. Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler, Chief Digital Officer at Swisscom, puts it in a nutshell: Without innovation and new ideas, business is no longer possible. Swisscom has recognized the need for innovation and is investing profoundly in this area. More than 50 people in the Swisscom Digital Business Unit are concerned with new digital business areas, internet- and blockchain-based services and the promotion of innovative ideas. They act as mediators between the world of startups and the Swisscom group with the aim of creating synergies. This is where Kickstart comes in: In the area of startup promotion and venturing, Swisscom has been working closely together with Kickstart since the inaugural edition. The aim is to identify promising young companies, to coach them and to support them in settling in the market, ideally by initiating PoCs and partnerships with the ventures.

Innovation transfer and generating growth  

Swisscom has many years of broad experience when it comes to the field of startup collaboration. The launch of Proofs of Concept is part of the Swisscom Digital Business Unit’s daily routine. For the telecom company, such partnerships are the origin of new business models and new products – and thus strengthening its core business and advancing into new ICT business areas. Their growth focus is digital and lies on topics such as the FinTech, Blockchain, Internet of Things, smart data or even e-health. 

Swisscom uses an innovation fast track to test ideas in the areas of trust services, digital assets, financial market places and others.

In this process, Kickstart is perceived as an important source: the program provides access to new ideas and exciting startups from all over the world. Consequently, the first three Kickstart programs have resulted in one investment and various partnerships and pilot projects between Swisscom and the participating startups. Swisscom Ventures has taken a minority stake in Labster (Kickstart 2018) and is supporting the VR EdTech company with building up collaborations with Swiss universities. Furthermore, Swisscom has integrated PriceHubble‘s data-based real estate services (Kickstart 2017) into its existing banking service. Together with Apiax (Kickstart 2017) and the Baloise Group, Swisscom has entered into cooperation in the area of Open API. And only recently, the latest Swisscom FinTech Map, which outlines the FinTech landscape in Switzerland, was published – namely in collaboration with the 2018 Kickstart participant Fintechdb

A great example of a successful collaboration: Swisscom’s latest FinTech Startup Map in cooperation with the Kickstart alumni Fintechdb.

Creating an intrapreneurship movement

In addition to working with startups, Swisscom is also committed to improving and expanding the innovative power of its own employees. For this purpose, Swisscom launched the intrapreneurship program Kickbox, a concept originating in Silicon Valley that aims to empower corporate employees to launch their own projects. Within Swisscom Kickbox, for example, almost 600 such projects were initiated within three years, many of them with long-term success. And, several of them actually end up at Kickstart at some point: Offering one of Switzerland’s largest support programs for intrapreneurship, Kickstart welcomes innovation teams from its partners every year. “After growing their idea within their own company, the intrapreneurship teams join us in order to scale their projects further”, says Katka Letzing, Intrapreneurship and Program Co-Lead at Kickstart. “Previous teams have benefited enormously from their time at Kickstart. The pace is high, weekly successes are expected, there are coaching sessions, workshops, exchange sessions with the advisors. Many projects experience a substantive push through this”. This year, nine intrapreneurship teams have joined the program aiming at growing their project, several of them from Swisscom. One example is Dermatologist, that offers a skin cancer classifier based on artificial intelligence. Just recently coming out of the Swisscom Kickbox program, the team is now about to start its Kickstart adventure. We are eager to see how this year’s intrapreneurs and startups/scaleups perform, and what the future holds for the cooperation between Kickstart and Swisscom as well as other partners.

by Roland Cortivo, Swisscom & Simone Bächler, Kickstart