The 50 best-funded startups in Switzerland in one map (and what it means for the startup ecosystem)

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Between them, they’ve raised over $1.4 billion since 2015. They’re growing at an average rate of 21% and employ over 1,900 people.

These are Switzerland’s best funded startups.

From Geneva, through to Zurich, I’ve mapped out the 50 of the best funded tech startups across major Swiss cities since 2015. The analysis shows not only which cities have transformed into startup tech hubs and attract the largest VC tickets, but also demonstrates the continued disparities between German and French speaking Switzerland in terms of funding and deal size.  

In the midst of a ‘digital revolution’- insights into Switzerland’s most funded startups shows which sectors attract the largest investments, but also which technologies are starting to gain momentum and investor interest. Finally, as the map covers startups that have had their last funding round in the last 24 months- I have analyzed which rounds are most prevalent across regions, and their average value- giving a glimpse towards the direction in which VC, PE and CV is moving in our small innovation nation.

The investment volume among Switzerland’s 50 best funded startups ranges from $233M on the high-end of the funding spectrum for pharmaceuticals startup Novimmune to $2.4M for another pharmaceutical outlier, Memo Therapeutics.

The average amount of funding received among all the mapped-out startups is $28M, with the most prevalent round being series A– making up 38% of all rounds (or 19 rounds in total).

The most prevalent ticket-sizes range from $2M-$5M, and $10.1M- $25M among these startups across Switzerland. What does this tell us?

chart

Firstly, it is important to note that this data will not, by default, include very early-stage seed investments. What the data does conclude however,is that if a Swiss startup that raises $2.5M makes it on the map- the Swiss ticket size of a round is generally quite low in comparison to other countries. Moreover, there are only 6 startups since 2015 that have raised more than $50M- showing a clear dearth in late-stage funding, and putting in question the exit vehicles for investors across the investment lifecycle.

So what is the average value of each round in Switzerland?

Swiss avareg value of funding round

The average seed round raised by a Swiss startup is valued at $3.7M, rising by a mere million to $4.7M for a Series A. This jumps to $27.5M for a Series C, and then drops by a considerable $5M for late-stage capital- averaging $22.5M.

Did you notice a gap in the data?

Indeed- Series B are non-existent. Funding rounds just jump from A to C. Either Swiss startups are wizards at increasing their valuation overnight, or, which seems most likely- there is a gap in the market for follow-on funding- (which I’m personally placing my bets on).

From my knowledge of the Swiss VC ecosystem, the latter option seems to fit right in with current funding patterns. Investors tend to cluster in either the pre-seed and seed rounds, or later-stage funding- which at this stage becomes increasingly concentrated with corporate venturing funds.

Given the current relatively low volume of deal-flow in Switzerland, investors compete on each extreme of the funding spectrum. In the middle, not so much- and investments are riskier. However, this can also translate into a low survival rate for early-stage startups, making the trend of multiple rounds of early-stage capital obsolete and unnecessary in the current market. Either the startups perform sufficiently well to attract much larger players (and be acquired), or they die.

Which industries are Switzerland’s tech outliers disrupting?

Of course it comes as no surprise.

Among Switzerland’s 50 best-funded startups, 17 are pharmaceuticals and biotech companies (equivalent to 34%). This translates both in terms of the number of investments, as well as the overall dollar-volume- which stands just short of $1 billion ($989.2M to be precise).

But there are some surprises. Agtech startups have definitely been catching investors interest- accounting for 4 startups in our map (the second most popular sector after pharmaceuticals). This includes startups such as EPFL spin-out Gamaya ($3.2M raised) and Zurich-based aquaponics startup Urban Farmer ($5.3M raised). Although agtech startups included in this map have only raised together a total of $16.5M- I have no doubt this is set to increase.

Rounds top 50 swiss by industry

Whilst only 3 cyber-security startups make our map-together- they raised over $90.3m, putting them in second place in terms of dollar volume behind pharmaceuticals startups.

In light of Switzerland’s thriving banking and financial industry, it comes as no surprise that 3 fintech startups make it into the map- raising $68.4M between them- of which $50M (disclosed) was raised by late-stage startup Centralway from the Investment Corporation of Dubai. Fintech is followed closely behind by SaaS startups- who make up $68.4M of investments.

Insuretech, represented by Stonestep, a ‘microinsurance-as-a-service’ startup raised $4M- the only insuretech startup on this map- but a sign that investors may soon want to start betting big in this segment. A similar heat warning can be linked to Scandit– the only marketingtech startup who makes this list- but raised $7.5M.

So which city wins the war for Switzerland’s best startups?

As small as Switzerland is- it is a country divided by language and culture- and as art imitates life, each region vies to attract the best startups, and become the country’s leading tech hub.

It must be Zurich right?

By the number of Zurich-based startups included in our map, yes, Zurich wins, accounting for 17 out of 50 startups- or 34% of Switzerland’s top 50 best-funded startups. Molecular Partners makes it top of the list, having raised a $16.6M Series C with a total investment of $76.6M- followed by Sequana Medical (another Series C pharmaceutical startup that raised $60.4M in total), and of course, fintech outlier Centralway.

Zurich is clearly strengthening it’s grip as the tech capital of Switzerland, and attracting a new breed of startups from IoT through to cleantech.

But Lausanne wins as the city to raise the largest amount of capital.

The Olympic city (in which I grew up in) and home to the world-reknowned EPFL campus comes out top in our map- with 13 startups raising $451.8M between them. In comparison, whilst Zurich startups are better represented, the city’s startups raised only $312.4M in comparison.

Swiss top 50 cities deal volume

Geneva comes third- both in terms of startups represented, as well as investment volume ($288M)- followed by Basel, who saw 5 startups make the rank with a total of $67.2M invested.

Which leads us to question- in which city are you most likely to raise the highest round?

If you’re raising a seed round, you should head to Lausanne, who tops our map with the most seed capital at an average of $10.2M raised, closely followed by St Gallen with $9M.

Series A continues to be firmly dominated by the French-speaking side of Switzerland, with the highest average value of a round to be found again in Lausanne ($11.8M) followed closely by Geneva ($11.3M). Zurich ranks third with an average Series A round raising valued at $9.2M.

chart (5)

For a Series C, discrepancies between the French and Swiss-Germans remain, with Lausanne topping the map once again at $27.4M, followed by Neuchatel with $23.2M, and then Zurich at $17.8M. It is worthwhile to note however, that Luzerne-based Series C startup CeQur raised a $156.6 mega-round, that would slightly skew the data if included.

And who wins the highest late-stage funding average? Lausanne once again, at $130.5M- followed unsurprisingly by Basel- the global pharmaceuticals hub who saw its best funded late-stage startups raise an average of $39.8M- followed closely by Zurich at $32.6M. These were the only three cities nationally which have seen any late-stage investments since 2015.

What does this map tell us about the future of startup funding in Switzerland?

Unfortunately, and as I previously noted- it highlights continued discrepancies between regions- both in terms of the quality of startups created (in investors eyes)- as well as investor risk-aversion and access to capital. Most startups flock to Switzerland’s most reputed tech hubs in Lausanne and Zurich, or continue to concentrate in areas dominated by the pharmaceuticals industry (Basel). Whilst this shows that local ecosystems are strong, it also highlights that the spillover effect of access to risk capital and innovation will remain regionally constrained- at the detriment of the economic growth and diversification of other cities across Switzerland.

As I also previously highlighted, investors cluster in either seed and very early-stage rounds, or late-stage funding. There is a ‘missing middle’ for risk capital in the VC and corporate venturing industry. Which leads us to question if this may not be the cause for a number of startup deaths in Switzerland, and their failure to scale.

Finally, it is notable to underline that many of the late-stage startups included in this map raised a down-round in their subsequent funding rounds. Whilst I didn’t include this in the data (and this is definitely worth further investigation), this could by symbiotic with a nascent, and risk-adverse investor sentiment- but also the financial performance of startups (for example their difficulties to expand outside the immediate Swiss market), and an exit-market that focuses on acquisitions rather than inflated valuations.

To round-up, if you’re in pharmaceuticals, cybersecurity, fintech and digital services- startups will increasingly find investor appetite to raise capital- and contribute to Switzerland’s transformation into a digital economy.

Oh, and for you who are interested- here is the full table of the 50 best-funded startups in our alpine nation.

Name
Stage
Total Funding ($M)
City
Industry
NovImmuneHide
Late
233
Plan Les Ouates
Pharmaceuticals
ADC Therapeutics
Late
222.5
Lausanne
Pharmaceuticals
CeQur
C
156.6
Horw
Pharmaceuticals
Molecular Partners
C
76.4
Zurich
Pharmaceuticals
NEXThink
Late
66.7
Lausanne
Cybersecurity
Sequana Medical
C
60.4
Zurich
Pharmaceuticals
Centralway
Late
50
Zurich
Fintech
SonarSource
Late
45
SaaS
Polyphor
Late
39.8
Allschwil
Pharmaceuticals
Spineart
A
33.5
Geneva
Pharmaceuticals
Sophia Genetics
C
31.8
Saint-Sulpice
Pharmaceuticals
Asceneuron SA
A
30.6
Lausanne
Pharmaceuticals
G-Therapeutics
A
29.6
Robotics
HYT Watches
C
23.2
Neuchâtel
Luxury goods
Aleva Neurotherapeutics
C
22
Lausanne
Pharmaceuticals
Kuros Biosurgery
Late
20.4
Zurich
Pharmaceuticals
Solar Impulse
A
20
Lausanne
Aviation
Kandou Bus
Pre Series A
15
Lausanne
Semiconductors
NetGuardians
C
14
Yverdon-Les-Bains
Cybersecurity
Nouscom
A
13.6
Basel
Pharmaceuticals
Advanon
A
13.4
Zurich
Fintech
Arktis Radiation Detectors
C
12.9
Zürich
Energy
Ava
A
12.3
Zurich
IoT
QGel
A
12
Lausanne
Pharmaceuticals
Flisom
A
10.8
Duebendorf
Cleantech
Biovotion
A
10.4
Zurich
IoT
ID Quantique
A
9.6
Carouge
Cybersecurity
Demiurge Technologies
A
9.5
Zurich
Pharmaceuticals
Hulbee
Pre Series A
9
Egnach
SaaS
Advanced Osteotomy Tools (AOT)
C
8.3
Basel
Robotics
ProteoMediX
C
8.1
Schlieren
Pharmaceuticals
Cellestia Biotech
A
8
Lausanne
Pharmaceuticals
Skioo
Pre Series A
7.7
Lausanne
SaaS
Scandit
A
7.5
Zurich
Marketing tech
Flyability
A
6.8
Lausanne
Robotics
BestMile
Pre Series A
5.5
Lausanne
SaaS
UrbanFarmers
A
5.3
Zurich
Agtech
QualySense
Pre Series A
5
Glattbrugg
Agtech
Qumram Holdings
Pre Series A
5
Zurich
Fintech
Stonestep
A
4
Insuretech
Goodwall
Pre Series A
3.3
Geneva
Social Network
Gamaya
A
3.2
Lausanne
Agtech
Amal Therapeutics
A
3.1
Geneve
Pharmaceuticals
Polyneuron
Pre Series A
3.1
Basel
Pharmaceuticals
Hosco
Pre Series A
3
Geneva
Social Network
pCloud
Pre Series A
3
Zug
Cloud storage
Biognosys
C
3
Zurich
Pharmaceuticals
ecoRobotix
A
3
Yverdon-Les-Bains
Agtech
DBS System
A
2.5
Gland
Pharmaceuticals
Memo Therapeutics
A
2.4
Basel
Pharmaceuticals

One thought on “The 50 best-funded startups in Switzerland in one map (and what it means for the startup ecosystem)

  1. Hi Tatjana,

    Very interesting article. It’s very revealing to put in clear and with hard data something that we can clearly perceive in this ecosystem. I would like to build in two of your conclusions from my personal point of view:

    – Investors “clustering” in early-seed round and later rounds: in Switzerland it exists a massive community of angel investors, business benefactors, investment clubs, etc., but there is not a professional appraisal behind these investments: anyone with CHF 500’000 can invest in 5 companies and consider himself as a venture capitalist. This definitively impacts the sector in two ways: companies have a very easy access to early money, which increases funding odds, but diminishes real likelihood of those good startups to actually get “traction funding”, not just “survival funding”.

    – As a corollary to this point, increasing demand for “cool” investments and limited offer (# startups is limited) leads to an overheating market, where companies with no proof of concept or prototype, no traction, no customers, no revenues, are asking for pre-money valuations over CHF X MM.

    – And this leads to the second point: those companies (very few) that manage to survive and thrive in this environment, after several years end up going to the market for a subsequent round, but since their expectations and time to market has passed (because business angels and investment clubs provide always money, but not always a real hands-on approach and managerial support), they have to accept less money at much lower valuation that the subsequent rounds would suggest, but which are a clear market response to the hype generated in the early stages.

    Please, let me know your thoughts about this.

    Regards,

    Like

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