The Swiss Startup Factory (SSUF) is a Zurich-based business accelerator where entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to pitch ideas to venture capital suppliers and potentially get office space to start out with for their companies. The accelerator is managed by Chairman Mike Baur and CEO Max Meister, both of whom have working relationships with Red Bull Media and the Goldback Group. Baur wanted to start the SSUF because the appetite for disruptive businesses has been strong among both Swiss and other international investors, and the SSUF has a unique method to vetting entrepreneurs and taking their ideas through testing and coaching phases.
Mike Baur says there are three characteristics that the SSUF looks for when mentoring entrepreneurs. The first is having the will to put together their business through networking and forming the plan. Nothing ever happens by chance when you decide to start a business, so Baur says you need to be ready to do your research and put in extensive work to make it happen. Second, your business should be able to adapt to changes in its respective industry. Nothing will ever last forever and you will always gain new competitors, so you should always be ready to change accordingly. And most importantly you should be willing to take risks. Those risks include things like which products you’ll spend the most of your capital on, which people you’ll hire and just basic things like your geographic location and the customer demographic you serve.
Mike Baur officially started the SSUF in 2014, but it was something he had been contemplating a few years prior to that. He originally had planned to become a successful banking executive since that occupation was considered one of the highest honors in Switzerland at the time he went into it as a 16-year old apprentice. He spent about 17 years of his banking career at UBS Bank and then joined the high-ranking directors of Clariden Leu, which is now a part of Credit Suisse. He lost his passion for banking because new laws were put in place after 2008, and he wanted to take on new challenges that banking did not have. Baur was told that his plan for an accelerator wasn’t really necessary because there were already some government-sponsored programs in place to supply funding for business owners, but Baur was looking to do more than just fund businesses. The SSUF has helped businesses operate with models that are sustainable.