During the summer months, we ask people who stimulate the Swiss startup ecosystem to provide the Venturelab community with food for thought, inspiration, and recommendations. For this year's Summer Series, we’ll be interviewing personnel from the country's leading higher education institutions about the diverse and unique programs available to support rising entrepreneurs across Switzerland. This week, we speak to Maria Luisa Fuchs of Startup@HSG at the University of St. Gallen.
Name: Maria Luisa FuchsJob title: Startup Coach and Project Manager at Startup@HSG
City: St. Gallen
What I do: I support founders and founders-to-be on their entrepreneurial journey by sharing knowledge and experience, challenging ideas, connecting people, and encouraging funding.
How would you summarize the mission of Startup@HSG? Startup@HSG is the first point of contact for startups and entrepreneurship at the University of St.Gallen. It supports students and all other HSG members on their entrepreneurial path at all levels (Ideation, Prototype, Go to market) including free coaching and knowledge transfer from experienced experts from our startup ecosystem, financing, and networking.
What are the main programs/resources offered by Startup@HSG?The Startup@HSG offers a series of initiatives around entrepreneurship and founding to all students, alums, and HSG affiliates. The HSG Entrepreneurial Talents is our flagship accelerator program, that supports around 20 startups a year. In this program, the talents validate and accelerate their projects to the next level. Coaching and networking are part of the main activities, connecting the students and affiliates through the Founders' Garage events with key people and knowledge to develop their venture further. The MakerSpace on Campus and TheHub in the city center are ideal infrastructures to promote the exchange. With the “spin-off” label, HSG recognizes the efforts and passion behind all these ideas.
Who are the people behind Startup@HSG? What makes you all excited about supporting entrepreneurs? A multidisciplinary and diverse team formed by doctorate students, professors, and industry experts working in groups in the different initiatives. It is a very rewarding job to see that ideas take off and are creating value in the market.
How can startup founders best benefit from the support of Startup@HSG?Startup@HSG supports founders at the different stages of development. At a very early stage by idea validation, at an early stage with a business model and go-to-market strategies challenge, or at a later stage by funding facilitation.
Could you please share two or three success stories from HSG that you are especially proud of? OnlineDoctor, a platform that digitally connects patients with skin problems with dermatologists; SmartBreed, an insect breeding solution for circular and sustainable agriculture; and Kaspar&, a financial platform for managing your savings and investment solutions in a smart and automatic way.
What are the key strengths of HSG that make it a great place for entrepreneurs?
With the Startup@HSG Talent programs, the infrastructure of the MakerSpace and TheHub, the Founder Garage, the HSG spin-off label, and additional support possibilities of the Startup Lab, we have created a fruitful environment to foster innovation on campus. The ever-increasing numbers of visitors at our events and applicants for our programs show that we are on the right track. Moreover, the HSG spin-off label illustrates the entrepreneurial strength of our alumni and binds them to the University of St.Gallen. This gives us the opportunity to strengthen the ties with existing startups and create a visible impact both regionally and around the globe. For example, the TOP 100 Swiss Startups in 2017 featured eight HSG spin-offs. In the number one spot was Ava, a fertility-tracking company founded by Lea von Bidder. Lea's company recently exited and Ava was sold to an American healthcare group. As an HSG alum, she also received the HSG Founder of the Year award in March 2017 and now lives in Silicon Valley.
Which fields of technology are the startups from HSG especially strong in? The largest share of active HSG startups is in the technology and media sectors, reflecting a generally prevailing trend in the startup scene. Financial services stands out as the second most represented sector among the spin-offs. Additionally, more and more startups have been popping up in the foodtech sector (or in the food industry more broadly) with impressive ideas for solving major societal challenges.
Can you share a surprising moment observed during your work at Startup@HSG and what you learned from it? I am always amazed by the passion and creativity of the new generation. It is very inspiring.
Which book would you recommend as a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur? St. Galler Startup Navigator to grow your idea.
What is a piece of key advice that you’d like to share with every new founder? Switzerland is a great country to found a company. There are plenty of resources available (knowledge, people, network, financing) to support entrepreneurs. Ask around and get acquainted with it. Use those resources and take the step.
Finally, what is your vision/prediction for the startup community in Switzerland? We have challenging times in front of us with a post-pandemic phase, economic constraints, and the scarcity of natural resources, among others. We need to use our creativity, knowledge, and passion to create solutions to the grand challenges of our society.
Anything else you’d like our readers to know? If not now, then when? If not you, then who?
Text: Tracy Woodley
More about Maria Luisa Fuchs: www.marialuisafuchs.com
Original Post by VentureLab "If not you, then who?" — Interview with Maria Luisa Fuchs of Startup@HSG at the University of St. Gallen