Navigating the complex world of startup accelerators or even discerning if the model suits your needs, can be a daunting task that leaves you feeling swamped.
I experienced this challenge firsthand when embarking on my own entrepreneurial path. You can read about my journey here if you’d like more insight.
Several aspects must be considered when evaluating a startup accelerator for your venture, such as their industry focus, funding offered (and the corresponding equity they require), and the calibre of their alumni network.
This exhaustive process can easily divert your attention from the crucial mission of actualising your startup dream.
It is vital to launch swiftly in order to achieve success. Launching quickly will contribute to market validation, competitive edge, business agility, attracting investors, accelerated learning, and effective resource management.
You’ll be able to optimise your limited resources, enabling you to reach critical milestones and achieve success more quickly.
To ensure you don’t waste excessive time searching for accelerators and evaluating whether they’re a good fit for your startup, I’ve compiled a list of the top 7 Swiss-based startup accelerators. This list includes detailed information on their application processes and program offerings, allowing you to make informed decisions more efficiently.
This article does not contain affiliate links. Meaning neither I nor Altar.io receives any commission if you should choose to work with one of them.
1. Venture Kick
Since launching in 2007, the Venture Kick startup accelerator has supported over 917 Swiss startups, with an 86% survival rate of incorporated companies.
They’re sector-agnostic but mostly work with healthcare, software and IT startups. They offer each company up to CHF 150,000 (~$166,000) over three stages across nine months.
At the end of each stage, you’re invited to present to the Venture Kick Jury, where you have a 50% chance to progress to the next stage. If you make it to the final stage, you’ll also have the opportunity to get additional funding of up to CHF 850,000 (~$940,000).
More than funding, they offer a structured entrepreneurial path to build a winning startup that includes feedback from startup advisors, support for execution and access to their network of successful entrepreneurs, industry partners, experts and investors.
You can apply at any time via the form on their website, or via LinkedIn.
What the Alumni are Saying
Venture Kick was the first believer in our team, technology, and vision. The whole VentureLab team provided huge support since the inception of Versantis. Besides the funding, their critical guidance to successfully grow our startup into a mature biotech company was key.
Vincent Forster, CEO, Versantis
Do you have a brilliant idea that you want to bring to life?
From the product and business reasoning to streamlining your MVP to the most important features, our team of product experts and ex-startup founders can help you bring your vision to life.
Since 2015, MassChallenge has become one of the fastest-growing startup accelerators in the world, launching six chapters across the globe. Helping nearly 500 startups across a wide range of verticals in the process.
Their Swiss chapter, founded in 2016, provides founders and entrepreneurs with a 4-month accelerator. Giving the startup teams the tools, materials and coaching they need to increase their chances of success with the help of their 400-strong network of startup experts, advisors and investors.
MassChallenge also offers every startup on their accelerator program the opportunity to receive a non-dilutive grant of up to CHF 1M (~$1.1M). Their model has also resulted in 65% of their finalists raising outside funds during or immediately after the accelerator program.
You can apply to MassChallenge via their website.
What the Alumni are Saying
Five years ago, I entered the Mass Challenge accelerator with little more than a big vision for my company. The experience gave us knowledge, resources, founder community, access to capital, amazing mentors, and a boatload of cheering on, which helped us truly take key steps toward bringing our vision to life.
Amy VanHaren, Founder & CEO pumpspotting.
The genesis of Kickstart Innovation took place in Zurich in 2016. Their goal was to establish a purpose-driven innovation environment, accelerate creative progress, and promote a more sustainable future.
By connecting public and private entities, emerging businesses, investors, and specialists, they encourage a collaborative and transparent approach to innovation.
This has been crucial in forming a network of entrepreneurs and innovators with a shared vision. Their areas of focus include finance & insurance, food & retail, health & well-being, new work & learning, and smart cities.
Kickstart Innovation, while not directly investing in startups, maintains an extensive network of venture capitalists that founders can access. They also organise several closed events with investors, including their annual Investor Summit.
Additionally, they offer an academy designed to aid in the development of an innovation pipeline, commencing with large-scale Hackathons to generate a diverse array of grassroots innovation concepts. The most promising ideas undergo further validation in Sprint workshops, and winning teams ultimately gain the opportunity to participate in Kickstart’s Intrapreneurship Program.
The Intrapreneurship Program is a 10-week validation journey, providing the final impetus needed to launch a sustainable enterprise. Throughout the program, participants not only learn effective collaboration techniques for innovative projects but also become acquainted with relevant tools, methodologies, and a mindset geared towards change. Interested parties can submit applications through the Kickstart Innovation website.
What the Alumni are Saying
Swisscom Ventures invested in a STEM startup – Labster in 2018. They went through Kickstart Innovation’s program, which is how we met them. The scaleup has raised over CHF 60 million by now. It’s just one of the many alumni stories from Kickstart that show the possibility of scale, growth and success.
Swisscom’s Chief Digital Officer, Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler
Swiss Startup Factory is perpetually on the hunt for groundbreaking startups to participate in their 10-16 week intensive accelerator program.
Designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, the program provides expert coaching, mentorship, and access to an expansive network of experienced founders and investors to propel your venture ahead.
Startups receive CHF 15,000 (equivalent to ~ $16,900) in seed funding as part of the program, along with facilitated introductions to potential investors throughout the journey.
5. DART Labs
DART Lab’s startup accelerator program focuses on innovative tech startups that positively impact health and climate.
They offer a 12-month accelerator program that “puts founders first”. They guide entrepreneurs through startup strategy, culture and fundraising. All startups also get office space with DART Labs for the duration of the program. They have an extensive network of experienced partners and ensure that they become part of your startup’s extended team.
One of the most interesting things about DART Labs is that they’re based in both Zurich and San Francisco – meaning not only do they support your startup’s growth in Europe, but they also support expansion to the US.
They will also typically invest anywhere between CHF 200k to CHF 500k (~$225k to $563k) in your startup.
You can check out DART Labs application requirements, as well as the online form to start the process, here.
Since 1991, Fongit has incubated over 100 companies and invested more than CHF 300M (~$337M) in startup innovation.
The startup accelerator focuses on developing ICT, Engineering and Life Sciences startup companies in Geneva.
It’s one of the longest programs on the list, lasting around three years, during which time they provide all of the mentoring, advice and networking opportunities you can expect from a premier accelerator program. This includes workshops, legal support, fundraising advice, pitch training and admin support.
Fongit offers three different types of funding depending on your startup stage:
- Early-stage Startups CHF 50,000 (~$) grant
- Startups with proof-of-concept CHF 100,000 (~$) seed loan
- Scale-ups CHF 400,000 (~$) growth loan
You can see a full list of application requirements, as well as the online application form here.
Axelra is one of the newest startup accelerators to launch in Switzerland, beginning its journey in 2019.
It’s also probably the most unique accelerator on this list. They don’t offer a “one size fits all” accelerator program. Instead, they’re more of a venture builder.
Meaning, as well as offering a fully-fledged 10-week acceleration program, they also offer ideation hackathons, 2-4 week incubation for prototype testing and much more.
If you’re yet to start building your MVP, they will help you get it to market in 100 days.
As a result, their application process is also a little bit different. As opposed to a formal, structured process, the first step is to simply contact them via their website and schedule a coffee with them.
They believe in putting some “skin in the game” to help you build your startup. They’ll invest up to 50% of technology development costs in the project and are open to other models such as sweat equity, KPI-based Revenue-Share, Volume-based conditions etc.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, it’s essential to do your due diligence before reaching out to startup accelerators. When doing so you should focus on:
- The industry they specialize in
- The funding they provide
- The duration of the program – to ensure it aligns with your, milestones and runway
I hope the information above helps speed up your due diligence process, so you can stay focused on nailing your product rationale, building the first version of your product and launching your startup.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
Paolo started working in banking in Milan and London. After the financial career, he created a startup and then joined Altar where he mainly deals with business development and fintech projects.