MSc BIS Silicon Valley Study Tour 2020 

   - Local Edition - 

The Diary

Where business dreams come true...

The FHNW organizers welcome you to the diary of the...

...Silicon Valley Study Tour Local Edition 2020!

 Local organizer

The Diary structure is such that for each company/university presentation there is an article, followed by its authors (i.e. students to whom the visit was assigned), and some photos taken during the talk. For each extra activities only photos are shown. Presentations are shown in chronological order from the first event to the most recent one. 

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Introduction & Kick-Off - 07.09.2020

Each student was assigned to a company/university visit, for which she/he was in charge of (a) introducing the company/university reality to the rest of the students and (b) writing a short article. 

Presentation of Dr. Burton Lee, Stanford University  - 07.09.2020

Dr. Burton Lee lectures European Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Stanford University and he is considered one of the Silicon Valley’s leading experts on the European innovation ecosystem, startup and venture finance, corporate and university innovation, and government innovation policy scenes. 

Dr. Lees' presentation aimed to provide deeper understanding of innovation ecosystems in both Europe and the Silicon Valley. The two main considered driving factors for innovation were cultures and mindsets, within which three main aspects were analysed: (1) Computing and Software, (2) Family-Ownership vs Public Ownership and (3) Engineering vs Science. 

The concepts learned from Dr. Lee's presentation were used as basis for analysing each of the company speeches of the study tour. Such analysis led to engaging discussions about differences between the way Europe and the Silicon Valley innovate, which were promoted during debriefing sessions.

VentureLab  (Philip Hassler) & Pexapark (Florian Müller)  08.09.2020

On Tuesday, 07.09.2020, the study group had the pleasure of visiting VentureLab in Schlieren. VentureLab is a Swiss company committed to supporting new entrepreneurs to succeed in the initial steps of their business journey to bring start-ups ideas into market realization. 

Through various programs offered to start-ups, VentureLab designs and operates training covering various topics related to entrepreneurship, supports fundraising for new ventures, and creates business development opportunities. One such program is VentureKick, a private consortium's philanthropic initiative to support spin-offs from Swiss universities.

VentureLab has already worked with many of the most successful Swiss start-ups. The company has more than 15 years of experience in active start-up development and has supported over 1,000 start-ups in their global growth and over 40,000 people in the start-up ecosystem across programs and events.

After an inspiring presentation by Philip Hassler, the group of students had the opportunity to meet Florian Müller, the co-founder of the start-up company Pexapark. Pexapark is a Swiss software and consulting company in the field of renewable energy. The platform provided by Pexapark helps asset investors to make the proper decisions in the unsubsidized energy markets.

After some exciting discussions, we went for lunch with plenty of new knowledge about the Swiss start-up scene.


Fabian Weber 

Paulo Braga de Melo 


Extra Activity - AdventureRooms

Alpana Ventures  - 08.09.2020 - Alex Freis

Since its founding in 2015, Alpana venture has supported over 40 start-ups in various financing rounds with a strong focus on innovative technologies and digitalization of the economy. Based out of Geneva and headed by co-founders Alexander Fries, Natalie Chemtob, and Pascal H. Widmer. It has funded over 40 start-ups, regularly features in Swiss top 100 start-ups. Alexander Fries also runs a smaller parallel fund called Ecosystem Ventures, investing at the seed stage, with a minimum of 2 founders, preferably one over the age of 40.

Raising venture capital is the stark reality of every entrepreneur's start-up journey. Alex's talk was one of those quintessential talks that every entrepreneur could utilize to make his venture capital journey a bit easier. He deep-dived into some crucial aspects on; how to raise capital, what investors look for, and what to focus on when signing the term sheet. He considers all ideas pivot at some point. Hence, the founding team is the key to investment at an early stage. His key giveaways: 1. Believe in your idea, 2. Take Risks, 3. Speed (extremely important), 4. Be Flexible. We have heard a lot of investor talks before (including Paul Graham & Vinod Khosla); this talk by far the most insightful.


Rohit Shrivastava

Nicola Remund


Avaloq - 09.09.2020 - Dr. Oliver Kuster & Fabian Grande

Avaloq is a global services company with a strong focus on banking and wealth management technology. 

The presentation of Avaloq was done by their Head of Innovation Oliver Kuster and their head of Product Management Fabian Grande. At first, they presented the business model and the products of the company. Then, they explained what they changed in the company to have successful innovation. The changes are clustered in 3 topics, culture, outside-in vs inside-out and execution. The presenters talked about their values in their culture. The next part was about how their departments work together and compared that to technology push/market pull. Proper execution is only possible with the according mindset and organization.

The last part was about their new app Engage and how they developed this idea. It is a communication app that enables the banks to communicate with their customers via Whatsapp and other similar messaging apps. Their steps for developing the app are the following: do research about the topic, then build a prototype to convince the stakeholders and customers and finally build the app with teamwork.


Vincent Oggier

Patrick Gossner

Marcelo Pereira


Cryptovalley - 09.09.2020 - Sheraz Ahmed

Sheraz Ahmed, Head of Business Development at Crypto Valley Association, made the presentation about the Crypto Valley Association. The Association is based in Zug. Therefore, it was possible to make the presentation physically. At the start we were given an overview of the block chain technology and cryptocurrencies. The estimation questions as a game on Kahoot, made the presentation very interactive. The questions also showed that some facts about this technology are well known, while others are hardly known and have surprised us. 

The second part was about the Crypto Valleys Association. The Crypto Valley Association was established in January 2017 to coordinate, accelerate, and scale the further development of Crypto Valley into the world’s best ecosystem for crypto technologies and businesses. The Crypto Valley Associations strategic objectives can be described as: Support the interest and needs of its members, engage with authorities, educational and other bodies, professionalize Crypto Valleys operations and improve the ecosystem to attract investments. The Crypto Valley Associations is supported by the government, but it is an independent entity. This fact did not surprise us. In the run of the field trip we learned that it is typical for Europe that the government plays a central role in supporting innovation."


Luz Stella Chavez Osorio

Elena Fischer

Markus Lochbrunner


Google - 09.09.2020  - Uttam Tripathi 

The virtual Silicon Valley tour had the opportunity to get an introduction to the values and culture at Google. Uttam shared his execution of Google’s values and having the user at the core is the main principle that is shared in all products and offers they develop. The 3-point value model therefore also has “Serve (respect) the user” at the beginning. The word respect also follows in the second “Care for (respect) the opportunity” and the third “support (respect) each other”. Uttam also stressed the importance of empathy and compassion. Empathy can be described as "seeing the world through someone else's eyes". It enables the individual to place themself in the situation of someone else, opening up new perspectives, and providing an understanding of others' actions and opinions. Compassion then means to act upon the new learnings made from the empathetic experience. This approach helps to understand potential customer troubles with a product before the customer actually experiences any problems. Showing empathy and compassion further requires humbleness, as the own perspective has to be overcome to gain an unprejudiced, new view of the world.

Uttam also introduced us to a method Google uses, the OKRs. The "Objectives and Key Results" (OKRs) method is to guide employees using goals and improve their performance. OKRs are used to set challenging and specific goals for Google's employees. These objectives are challenging to a point where they might feel uncomfortable, and openly accessible throughout the entire organization. Using OKRs differs from other goal-setting approaches due to the very ambitious nature of the OKRs. Teams focus on attaining big challenges and push their performance stronger even if the goal is not fully attained.


Luca Müller

Matthias Mann


Reshuffle - 09.09.2020 - Amir Shevat

Originally from Israel, Amir Shevat is a co-founder and investor from the Silicon Valley who has a passion for building products users will love. He outlines three "sins" companies are guilty of when creating new products and how to identify and avoid them. The first one is building the wrong thing. You know you're guilty of this when your users are not using the product, the user behaviour is not as expected or if you realise you don't know who your customer is. To avoid this  "sin" one of you're virtues should include customer obsession as you will be less likely to miss the mark with your product when you have a deep understanding of who your customer is. The second "sin" is building too much or too little which can be identified by unused features, slow product velocity or users demanding features which are not on your roadmap. The solution to this "sin" is to negotiate audience/needs not features. Amir highlights this by saying you shouldn't do a MVP (minimum viable product) but a MLP (minimum lovable product). Lastly, the final "sin" is not learning and improving. You know you've sinned when your metrics are moving but the overall KPIs are not or you do not know how your users are using your product. It is imperative to understand what you're measuring and targeting so you can measure the right things. If you manage to avoid or rectify these three sins you should be on the right track to develop products your customers will love.


Lukas Bertini

Vivienne Estoppey 

Simon Worni


Baloise - 10.09.2020 - Sibylle Fischer & Dr. Matthias Rüfenacht

On the fourth day of the local Silicon Valley tour, the audience had the opportunity to meet up with representatives of the Baloise insurance company, in order to gain insight in their involvement of the F10 Incubator Ecosystem. However, The Baloise insurance company decided in 2017 to become a new member of the Swiss FinTech incubator and accelerator called ‘F10’. This was done in order to have an exclusive access to promising international FinTech start-ups, new technologies as well as business models which possess the potential of being disruptive. Moreover, this step was taken in order to support the further development of Baloise in line with their own strategy called ‘Simply Safe’ as well as establishing an agile mindset as an established company in the field of insurance.

However, ‘F10’ can be described as a global innovation ecosystem with offices in Zurich, Singapore, Madrid, Barcelona. Hereby, ‘F10’ operates as an incubator and accelerator, who supports start-ups on their way from idea to successful business. Thus, it is supposed to acts as a mediator between established financial service providers and young FinTech companies. This is done with the believe that the fast track to innovation lies in early collaboration between startups, incumbents and investors. Each stakeholder benefits from shared skills, experience and insight. With this step to become a member of this ecosystem, Baloise gained direct access to start-ups in the start-up phase. This enables it to play an active role in these start-ups and at the same time benefits from the ideas, dynamism and development spirit of these innovative companies.


Simon A. Drabert 

Kai Krause


MyCamper - 10.09.2020 - Mirjam Affolter

MyCamper is the leading online sharing platform for camper in Switzerland and the fastest growing player in Europe. Since Dec. 2019, we are active in our first international market, Sweden. We want to revolutionize the market by opening it up to privately owned camper (campervans, motorhomes and caravans). On MyCamper you find a diverse offer of nostalgic VW buses to luxury motor homes for fair prices. Camper owners can easily create a camper-profile with few clicks and rent out their campervans to share costs and their passion. MyCamper receives a service fee for each booking and offers the comprehensive insurance solution by its partner Baloise.

VoiceBase  - 10.09.2020 - Walter Bachtiger 

Walter left us in awe and speechless with his talk about the inside and outside view of his company VoiceBase. They offer AI driven solutions to deeply analyse customer interaction through call centers. After showing us the business model and a demo of his product, he took us on the journey he ventured on 10 years ago to the Silicon Valley. He transparently let us experience the ups and downs he and his company went through, explaining that the best and the worst days are sometimes extremely close. He used the analogy of the race to the moon which every company in the valley goes through. Capital being the fuel for the rocket, runway the remaining capital and speed and growth the only goal for being first on the moon.

Always convincing new and current investors to believe in the company and its people to keep the rocket going, even if there is not much runway left. VoiceBase has been offered several exits, but Walter has not stopped believing that he can create a unicorn and be the first on the moon. Walter is aware that even if his company has a high valuation and an impressive value proposition, there is always a realistic chance of not reaching the goal. He manages to be true to himself and highly values his employees as without them, the landing on the moon would never be possible.


Patrick Mutzer

Catherine Stewart

Etienne Frey


Swisscom Outpost  - 10.09.2020 - Jeffrey Gantner

Swisscom Outpost is an outpost of the Swiss communications-company Swisscom. The goal of Swisscom is to innovate and push technological advancements. Swisscom is based in Switzerland, hence, the reason why Swisscom Outpost in Silicon Valley was founded in 1998 is to be closer to the birthplace of most modern innovations and help them move into the Swiss market.

At the beginning of the Swisscom Outpost, its goals were to scout the possibilities of the internet. However, this initial focus changed and broadened up. Today, Swisscom Outpost, from their Garage in Palo Alto, tries to identify the next stepping stones, which will enable new innovations as well as developments based on the current technology basis.

Startups receive the chance to get to Swiss customers. This enables Swisscom to react faster to new innovations, like the introduction of WhatsApp and the disintegration of the SMS market, as well as to support new business opportunities. For this reason, the department “Digital Business” inside Swisscom was created 5 years ago (2015). Around 70% of Swisscoms turnover today is made by products, that did not exist 10 years ago.

To support this, Swisscom Outpost has 5 technological focus areas: Cyber Security, Data and Artificial Intelligence, Cloud, Telco and Internet of Things. On top of that, there are 5 areas of business activities: Technology Scouting to identify, evaluate and bring technology trends to Switzerland. Innovation Lab for local Proof of Concepts and assessments of technical solutions. Venturing to support the Swisscom investment pipeline with various actions. Partner management for close cooperation with technology forums and major technology enterprises. And lastly, innovation transfer – the Corporate innovation program for Swisscom customers and partners in Switzerland.

Raphael Denz

Vladimir Budimirovic

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