Win-Wins of Startup-Corporate Collaboration

‘Switzerland is known for cheese, landscapes, and mountains, but not yet for tech breakthroughs. Hardly anyone knows that the invention of the internet happened at Cern in Switzerland,’ said Matthias Zwingli, a Swiss startup ecosystem builder.

He works hard on expanding his country’s global presence on the tech market, sees a great potential in corporate-startup collaboration, and advises to be cautious about which investors to get on board (don’t worry, there will be tips on how to identify the right ones). 

Emerline also stands for the synergy between startups and corporates, so it has been a lucky strike to absorb Matthias’s ideas.

If your country is on its way to a leading innovation hub, a startup ecosystem is a right tool

The members of our ecosystem do not reinvent the wheel — we find the things our country misses or lacks and try to initiate them.

Switzerland had few accelerator programs when we started. That was why digitalswitzerland initiated Kickstart Accelerator. Now, Kickstart is totally independent, and we focus on bringing together Swiss accelerator programs.  

On a national level, our team intensified the Swiss accelerator network to exchange best practices, sit together, and simply talk about what works and what doesn’t work. One of our key challenges is to unite Switzerland and the startup ecosystem as well as scaling it abroad, that’s why we pay much attention to connecting our country and different hubs.

Furthermore, we bring together startups and corporations during our Bootcamps — it’s a kind of corporate-startup matchmaking. The Market Entry Bootcamp is directed to international scale-ups and gives them access to leading Swiss multinationals and a deep dive into the Swiss innovation ecosystem. In 2019, we have had 41 scale-ups from 16 countries, which we curated with 25 Swiss corporations.

Basically, we connect around 15 startups in certain areas, let’s say, FinTech and Cybersecurity, with 15 of our corporate members from Banking and Insurance. It’s a crazy lead generator for startups; however, we do facilitate only the first contact — deal closing is on the startup side.

Grasp the tips on chosing an investor and gain support and understanding

Do your homework — go for reviews beforehand

Ask other startups about their experience to make it clear whether the relationships with a particular investor will last a while. If it is a VC, find out when they have set up their investment fund. It will give you insights about the time frame before they start thinking of an exit and a picture of their long-term goals.


Mind that it is a part of the game — you look for real investors who are willing to bet their money on a crazy vision that has a high chance to fail. If they don’t realize possible risks, the relationship could turn bad.

Speak about the numbers first

Do not postpone strategy, business, and numbers discussion. The earlier you see that you are not aligned, the better.

‘You’ll spend the next five, ten, or twenty years together, so you might as well enjoy it!’

That’s about an obvious, yet important personal factor. Choose people that are fun to work with, as you will spend much time and come through stressful situations together.

Future belongs to the startup-corporate collaboration

This cooperation model is only gathering pace in Switzerland, still we have improved a lot for the last three years. Nowadays we see many companies — startups and enterprises — working together and testing the water themselves as the mutual understanding is increasing.

Why should corporates and startups work together? What are the benefits for both sides?

Pros for corporates

Working with agile and flexible startups, enterprises try the latest technologies, rethink existing processes, and accelerate product entry into the market. Startups share their fresh look and foster corporates to think differently, which eliminates risks of being beaten by the new tech and disrupting trends.

Pros for startups

Access to broad audience, market intelligence, and understanding as well as trust and credibility are the things that the established companies can give the startups. They also have significant resources and manpower and could always be potential investors.

Mutual benefits are obvious — the speed of startup processes and opportunities of a reputable market player form a powerful mix.

The role of startup ecosystems here is to meet the challenge of getting contact with the right people. We bring the right people from the sector together and generate or affiliate their first matchmaking.

This vision is aligned with our engagement model. Emerline collaborates with enterprises and experiences the specifics of large corporations firsthand. Young and promising startups is our domain as well. A chance to absorb fresh perspectives is highly valued; our company is focused on flexibility and agile approach, which is so typical of startups. We are on top of the latest tech and disrupting trends thanks to our partnership with startups.

‘Many inventions have been found in Europe, but innovations tend to happen in the US’

Switzerland is an incredible hub for deep tech startups. We see many startups evolving in the areas of Crypto and Fintech, Digital Health, Manufacturing and Robotics as well as Cleantech. The quality and technology is there. However, with 8 million inhabitants Switzerland is too small of a market for digital solutions. We need to scale and grow internationally and enter bigger markets. This will definitely be one of our main challenges in the future.

The US is second to none in sales and marketing and one of the main markets to expand to for Swiss startups. There are great success stories with startups that opened up a subsidiary in the USA to take on the US market with local sales and marketing power. If you are successful, you can dip into a massive Venture Capital market. Startups need to test locally but think globally from day one. This means building a product for their main market in their specific area.

Recommended for you