Where business dreams come true...
The FHNW organizers welcome you to the diary of the...
...Silicon Valley - Switzerland - Asia Field Trip - Local Edition 2021!!!
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.
Enjoy, and let yourself inspire...
Let's get started with...
Introduction & Kick-Off • 08.09.2021 | afternnon
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 Markus Herrmann, Sinolytics • 08.09.2021 | afternoon
On the first day of our Field Trip we got a great introduction to China, which is the focus area of Synolitics, an European research-based consultancy working at the nexus between policy and business in China.
Markus Herrmann Chen, Managing Director of Sinolytics, visited us in Olten and took us in an amazing trip telling us insights and background information of geopolitics from a Chinese perspective.
The Title of his presentation “China striving for unabated development, resilience and more tech self-sufficiency amid global uncertainties” catched immediately our full attention. He Explained about how China’s foreign policy evolved over time and about the 14th Five-Year-Plan: China’s response to an uncertain environment which was officially adopted on the 11th of March 2021. This focuses on self-sufficiency and national security where Industry and innovation policies become more selective, and market based. He presented top level KPIs and strategic priorities and continued with China’s S&T and innovation efforts towards more self-sufficiency. While telling about decoupling, he explained 4 key dimensions of USA-China decoupling impacting Swiss firms.
The presentation was key to understand background of geopolitics and the long-term plans of China regarding innovation and policies. With this valuable information the seed for our Field Trip was set.
Luz Stella Chavez Osorio
Dr. Burton Lee, a Stanford School of Engineering lecturer on European Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is one of Silicon Valley's leading experts on the European innovation ecosystems, venture funding, corporate-, university-, and government innovation policy sectors. Dr. Lee shared some insights about the ongoing chip war between China and the USA. Furthermore, he expressed his thought on the development of universities in making the future managers and CEO’s. And that is literally the objective of most universities in Europe – making managers and project managers. Instead, they should focus more on innovation and making leaders if Europe wants to grow in the tech-sector. However, professors seem to be too powerful. In addition, Europe universities started to late to teach subjects in the field of computer science, artificial intelligence, and software engineering.
Dr. Lees' session sought to offer a better knowledge of both European and Silicon Valley innovation environments. A major difference he spotted between the USA economy and European business market was in the family-owned business. The European family-owned business owns the business as a hereditary fact while in USA business market this is not that common – especially in the tech sector. Of course, family-owned enterprises do have their advantages but in the tech sector, we need leaders that can decide fast, big transparency, flat hierarchies, and a focus on innovation. For us it is thus crucial to not think that we need to fully own an enterprise, if we want to go fast, we need to issue shares of the company and therefore giving away some of the “cake”. However, once you become a unicorn, it does not really matter how big your part of the “cake” is, but how big the “cake” itself is!
He remarked during his presentation that the Americans are very suspicious of large deep persistent hierarchies (see the below figure).
During debriefing sessions, such analysis resulted in lively conversations concerning the contrasts between family and public ownership. Finally, Lee stated that most societies do not tolerate the disorder and chaos that is evident in American history. And if one wants to understand how the world works, he recommends studying sociology and anthropology.
Ann Maria Parakkal
Dipu Jose Cherian
Mrs. Linh Lan Le, Ambassador of Vietnam • Mrs. Quy Vo-Reinhard, Co-Founder & Director, dHealth Foundations • Mr. Cong Thang Huynh, Co-Founder, Innolab Asia • Mr. Vinh Toan Luu, Co-Founder & CTO, Vietsearch and V-Space • "Vietnam" • 09.09.2021 | morning
On the second day of this year's local edition of the field trip, we started the morning focusing on Vietnam. We had the pleasure to attend three exciting presentations from companies and the honor to welcome the Ambassador of Vietnam to Switzerland. At the end of the morning, all the presenters and the ambassador participated in a panel discussion where students could ask questions.
Cong-Thang Huynh, Co-Founder and CEO of Innolab Asia, held the first presentation of the day. Mr. Huynh introduced the group to the Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam. Vietnam is developing very quickly and becoming an attractive investment destination. Factors such as Vietnam's location in the middle of Southeast Asia, the young population with many talents, and the competitive labor costs with increasing productivity contribute to the attractiveness. Mr. Huynh underlined Vietnam as an attractive investment destination, with statistical data showing the positive trend over the last few years and the quick recovery after the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially the Education, Healthcare, and Business Automation sectors are emerging sectors in the country. Innolab provides different services to connect the Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam. One of the services is "CrowdPitch". Startups pitch their ideas to investors, which, besides investing money, also provide valuable feedback to the founders. Mr. Huynh thereby explains that the team of founders is a much more critical criterion investors look at than the business model, for instance.
The second presentation was held by Quy Vo-Reinhard, Co-Founder and Director of dHealth Foundations. First, she asked us the question "what are the current challenges in the health care sector?". Among others, the answer from our side was the data situation. For instance, when going to a hospital, a doctor does not have patient data in the system. Instead, he / she needs to contact the responsible doctor. The dHealth developed a blockchain to solve this issue and establish more scalability and openness with the healthcare sector. Several challenges exist to implement this blockchain. Those are data privacy, system interoperability, inconsistent rules, and transparency usage, as well as no unified payment systems exist; instead, there are various currencies on the market.
Vinh Toan Luu presented as next its two platforms Vietsearch and V-Space. Vietsearch is a platform that gives Vietnamese, who live abroad Vietnam, a possibility to connect with each other. Vinh told us that around 4.5 million Vietnamese live outside of Vietnam, so this customer segment is attractive. The platform V-Space on the other side has the vision to build a leading trusted network for matching talents in innovation.
The last presentation was held by the Vietnamese ambassador Linh Lan Le. In her speech, she reflected upon the different initiatives the Vietnamese government is currently undertaking to further develop the country and make it digitally more competitive in the southeast Asian
pacific. According to the ambassador, the country enjoyed economic growth over the last three decades. Furthermore, the government set itself the goal to become a developed country by the year 2045, based on the digitized economy by then.
Mrs. Linh Lan Le further confirmed that the current Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for further digital development. The digitalization efforts of the country have been fast tracked due to the need for efficiency. In 2020 the digitalization roadmap was introduced, which focuses on three pillars to achieve its goal from 2025-2030. The three pillars are e-government, e-economy, and lastly e-society. In e-government, the whole system is subject to be overhauled and totally digitized. All processes are aimed to be updated. E-economy shall account for 1/3 of Vietnam's GDP by 2030. The government started several initiatives to foster the participation of small businesses in the e-market space. Lastly, e-society describes the efforts to ensure that the whole country can enjoy fibre cable internet connection by 2030. Moreover, it aims to introduce 5G and the use of e-payment as the nationwide standard in 2030.
In the end, the ambassador summed up her speech by mentioning that the Vietnamese population has been a cash economy that is slowly opening accounts. These account openings are all carried out totally digitally. Moreover, several international corporates have decided to locate R&D departments in Vietnam thanks to the political stability and opportunities seen in the country for further development. The economy also benefits from the fact that many Vietnamese who have studied abroad decide to return to their home country and implement the start up spirit and drive that they observed abroad.
We would like to extend our gratitude to all speakers who brought Vietnam closer to us and made us aware of its current developments.
Mr. Philip Hassler, Co-Managing Director, VentureLab • Mr. David Eberle, Co-Founder and CEO, Typewise • 09.09.2021 | afternoon
After the insightful morning session with the Vietnamese representatives, the study group made its way to Schlieren ZH where the warm afternoon sun and two innovation experts awaited them.
Philip Hassler welcomed the study group in Schlieren’s very own Startup Space where he presented VentureLab, a support organization for swiss startups, and an overview of the Swiss startup ecosystem. The main collaborations are in USA, Spain and Asia. Philip showed us the steps to follow for a new startup: Idea, Concept, Creation and Growth.
Philip pointed out the key drivers of swiss startup success stories: innovation clusters, money, and talents. He further introduced all the major initiatives and programs that VentureLab provides for Startups such as First Ventures, VentureKick (in which the mission is to bring Swiss Deep Tech to global markets), GetYourGuide or parts of the Innosuisse Startup Training implemented by the government. For most of these activities VentureLab partners with private investors and other public and institutional partners. Their support for startups reaches from financial investments to advisory and providing a networking platform. While VentureLab fosters innovation in Switzerland their reach is global with regular roadshows and delegations lobbying all over the world.
Afterwards an example of a successful startup was presented by the Co-Founder and CEO itself: Typewise. By using AI, a unique hexagon keyboard and multi-language detection they minimize the 90% loss of efficiency between the human brain and common text production technologies. The company experienced a substantial growth and rapidly increasing download numbers in the past months. Consequently, Typewise attracted several major investors as well as many smaller ones who invested via a crowd investing platform. The main success features of their product are speed and accuracy (also slang and dialects are recognized), full data privacy, ergonomy (next-generation user interface). David Eberle also shared their vision which goes far beyond Typewise’s current product by applying their AI technology to predict whole sentences and work with vocal input. Another important piece of information was regarding their two main actors: people and money (earned both by B2C and by B2B). After a lively Q&A session where the questions eventually had to be cut the study group called it a day and left the Startup Space inspired and already excited for the next day’s visits.
Mr. Oliver Kuster, Head of Innovation • Fabian Grande, Head of Product Management, Avaloq • 10.09.2021 | afternoon
On the last day of the week, we had the opportunity to get insights on how to successfully innovate from a global software company called Avaloq, which operates in the field of banking and wealth management. This was presented to us by Oliver Kuster, Head of Innovation, and Fabian Grande, Head of Product management.
After the introduction, they told us what it takes to foster innovation in a globally oriented company. Culture, inside-out (technology push) vs. outside-in (market push) view and proper execution were presented as three main “ingredients” that lead to successful innovation. In that context, they pointed out how important it is to have the right mindset, open culture, transparency, and organization built up as a platform where leaders are servants and help their employees achieve common goals. Additionally, they gave us practical examples and insights into their company processes and explained how they had mastered the challenges mentioned above in Avaloq`s transformation.
The last part of the presentation was reserved for Avaloq Engage App, a solution that allows wealth managers to interact seamlessly with their clients via commonly used messaging services. We were able to see the complete development from the initial idea/prototype until the app was launched to the market with all related challenges and opportunities.
Mr. Tejas Vyas, Head of Product, Program and Design, Bigbasket • 10.09.2021 | evening (I)
On the 3rd day of our field trip local edition, we had the pleasure to get to know India’s largest online food and grocery store BigBasket. Tejas Vyas, Head of Product Program and Design showed us the complete journey of the online store as it went from zero to a billion-dollar company.
He showed us the various challenges they faced in the early stages: low margin of error, high requirements for products, high capital expenditure, highly price-sensitive customers, importance in trust-building. They overcame those problems by locating customers’ pain points and creating solutions.
The platform was initially built for the middle-upper class in India in 2011 in Bangalore. They started with 10 localities in Bangalore and expanded in the last 10 years to many other cities. BigBasket is responsible from the beginning of the supply chain till the sale of the product to the customer. This allows higher traceability and is especially useful when processing customer’s complaints.
The COVID-19 Pandemic positively impacted BigBasket. Due to lockdown and other regulations, online grocery sales skyrocketed. BigBasket gets over 400’000 orders daily with 30’000 products available.
Tejas told us how crucial it is to have passionate employees to build such a company and how important it is that the team is aligned. It is vital to have a culture where you can make quick decisions. You must know the customers’ needs before you start with the company. After founding the company, it is important to monitor metrics and KPI's and keep track of your performance.
BigBasket has a high NPS (Net Promoter Score). In comparison, Apple has a score of 55 and BigBasket has a score of 40, which is a great rate.
Mr. Alex Fries, V.C., Alpana Ventures (Silicon Valley) • 10.09.2021 | evening (II)
Alpana Ventures is a Swiss early stage Venture Capital focusing on digital transformation. Alpana Ventures has supported over 40 start-ups in different segments with financial support as well as helping with their knowledge. Alpana Ventures primarily invests in the very early stages of a start-up. The business model is to spot the right start-ups which eventually will be sold to a larger company which will return in a high profit. According to Alexander Fries out of 100 start-ups maybe 1 or 2 will make it. A lot of investments are not beneficial. But those investments which are beneficial will make up for the loss in the other cases.
Alexander Fries himself also founded different start-ups and therefore has a lot of experience in this field. Alpana Ventures is not only investing in start-ups but there is also help in terms of decision support and helping the young companies with the network Alexander build up over the years.
There are differences between founders in Europe and the USA, especially as these are different cultures. According to Alexander, there are four main pillars a successful start-up needs to have:
· Believe 100% in your idea and work for it
· Ability to take the risk
· Speed - you need to act very fast when entering a market and must be faster than your competitors
· Flexibility - there will always be challenges which companies face and there is no general roadmap that can be followed for every step, they need to be adaptable
But not only the founders and their mindset are important for a start-up, also other factors as politics, time and starting momentum have an effect on the start-up’s success. The environment is especially important. For example, there are distinctions between Switzerland and the USA in terms of investing in a start-up. To get more and faster funding, the USA market is the preferred choice since start up investments are more common and easier to get in the US market.
Mr. Manuel Küffer, Senior Manager Media & Public Affairs, Huawei • Mr. Moses Wanghao, Director, Zürich Research Center • Virtual Visit of the Exhibition Hall in Huawei Headquarter (Shenzen) • 13.09.2021 | morning
Huawei is a company best known as a smartphone producer, however, Huawei is also world leader in telecommunications. The company was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei. It is a private company fully owned by its employees and thus, no government agency holds shares in it. As presented in the first part of the presentation their business model is divided globally into several groups – partners/operators (such as Sunrise in Switzerland for fix and mobile networks), consumer business with smart devices and finally development of ICT solutions. They are present in more than 170 countries. Their mission is to bring digital to every person/organization around the world. Although they expanded in consumer business with intention of being competitive in several markets, they still point out as the main focus of their core business - smart connectivity. All the above mentioned resulted in the fact that Huawei is today in the top 100 global brands and in the top 50 biggest companies worldwide, which is as they stated - still rare for a Chinese company.
In the second part of the presentation, Moses Wanghao, R&D project manager at Huawei’s Zurich Research Centre, presented different new technologies and innovations that Huawei is focusing on. First, he explained how Huawei is building Innovation 2.0 with the vision to have a fully connected, intelligent world. To achieve their vision Huawei is hiring massively in R&D with a workforce of 105’000 employees (53,4% of total workforce) and reinvest 10-15% of the company’s total revenue. Their current focus is on the deployment of 5G as an enabler of new solutions (e.g. healthcare, smart cities, industrial manufacturing, port logistics, etc.), development of AI and Cloud solutions, and Industry 4.0 (e.g. autonomous driving).
Final part of presentation was dedicated to the virtual tour of the Huawei Innovation center in their headquarter Shenzhen, from where it is possible to get valuable insights into different kinds of technologies enabling smart connectivity from 5G to fiber optics with all the applications in the various industries. We were able to see 5G satellites with the ecosystem - additional devices that they offer via partners and are used as examples in the smart mines and harbors. Also, the concept of 5G smart city has been presented with Shenzhen as the showcase of it in the future, with smart airports where robots operated all kind of tasks, smart healthcare where people from the rural areas using 5G can still have contact fully remotely with specialists and doctors from Shenzhen, smart busses, smart factories with 5G assembly lines, and fully augmented harbors. They showed us what they developed in the field of fiber technology in combination with devices, such as different antennas, and how they tend to solve global connectivity problems by using it. Finally, we were able to see “TECH4ALL” section – a long-term digital initiative from Huawei for using technology, applications, and skills to empower people and organizations globally to be connected and not left behind.
Van Lien Chang
Mr. Alexander Lehrmann, Head of Innovation, Sunrise • 5G Technology • Joint Innovation Centre Tour and Business Challenges • 13.09.2021 | afternoon
On the afternoon of the 13th of September 2021, a very special delight awaited the study group. A visit to the 5G Joint Innovation Center (JIC) of Sunrise and Huawei in Zürich Oerlikon was on schedule. After being welcomed by a small delegation of Huawei and Sunrise representatives Alexander Lehrmann, the Head of Innovation at Sunrise, gave a tour around the JIC. He pointed out the rapid expansion of 5G coverage that Switzerland saw in recent years, which was driven by healthy competition between Sunrise and its main competitor. Especially, compared to the surrounding countries of Switzerland Sunrise together with Huawei and its competitors did an excellent job in providing a vast majority of Switzerland’s population with access to the new technology. Alexander showed the study group several projects Sunrise did in collaboration with different industry and governmental partners and examples for possible use cases using the 5G technology. Among them were the implementation of drones in agriculture to completely automize targeted pest control as well as different use cases in healthcare, home entertainment, construction or tourism. All of the use cases had in common that they were only enabled by the three main advantages of the 5G network: almost no latency, extensive bandwidth and significantly increased connectivity.
The technology is there, now the study group did what specialists in business information systems do best, they created business models to exploit this technology. In a workshop session the study group split up and prepared presentations to win over their fellow students, the lecturers and especially the representatives of Sunrise and Huawei. Some great ideas were presented as well as challenged and it became clear that the possibilities 5G to businesses are endless.
Work on Case Studies • 13.09.2021 | afternoon
Dipu Jose Cherian
Mr. Chen Zengyuan, Distinguished Professor, Shenzhen Technical University (SZUT) • Glasses-Free 3D Technology • 14.09.2021 | morning (I)
Tuesday morning started with an interesting insight about glasses-free 3D technology. Chen Zengyuan, professor at the Shenzhen Technical University SZUT, welcomed us and presented the company Marvel Digital Limited, a technology company founded in 2009 focusing on 3D autostereoscopic technology and 4K ultra HD visualization, from R&D to product commercialization.
With the technology, the vision of the company is to change the world’s perspective on 3D by making visual technology more accessible, innovative and cost-effective than ever. After explaining the products, such as glasses-free 3D video walls and services he presented us a few use-cases and job references. Lastly, in the Q&A session he outlined the difficulties regarding launching the new technology not only for a few distinguished customers but rather accessible for many companies.
Luz Stella Chavez Osorio
Mr. GAN Weihao, Deputy Director R&D, SenseTime Group • 14.09.2021 | morning (II)
SenseTime is a leading AI developing company which has the mission of advancing state-of-the-art AI research and developing scalable and affordable AI solutions. The goal is to create a better AI-empowered future through innovation.
The vision of SenseTime is to advance the interconnection of the physical and digital intelligence, driving sustainable productivity growth and experiences. SenseTime aims to advance the state of the art in AI research, develop scalable and affordable AI software platforms that benefit businesses, people and society.
Mr. GAN Weihao, Deputy Director R&D of SenseTime, made an introduction about their platform and technologies.
· Sense Parrot, a self-developed deep learning platform which enables SenseTime to better customise the technology to specific research aims and application cases
· Sense Core, a AI module which is capable of training large state-of-the-art base models. Which guaranties Sense Core the industry-leading position in automatic machine learning and also in privacy computing and data desensitization
· Sense Foundry for smart cities. For example, this product Sense Foundry is already implemented in Shenzhen, the most advanced technology city in China according to SenseTime. Sense Foundy manages different topics in Shenzhen, for example:
- Traffic management
- Environmental protection
- Emergency response in case of an emergency
- City services
Sense foundry was responsible for decreased traffic violations to 65% in Shenzhen
· Open MM Lab which is the biggest open source library for algorithms provided by SenseTime
It was fascinating to know about SenseTime, challenges they face, how SenseTime is supported by strong research, importance of fundamental research.
Dr. Ni Yuan, Deputy Chief Engineer, Ping An Technology Medical Askbob Team • 14.09.2021 | afternoon
Mr. Peter Bachmann, Executive Director, SwissCham (Shanghai) • 15.09.2021 | morning (I)
SwissCham – short for the Swiss Chamber of Commerce – was introduced to us by Peter Bachmann, the executive Director at the outpost in Shanghai. He started the introduction with an optimistic outlook on the progress of innovation and invention in China. In his eyes the development we see now is only the beginning. SwissCham China offers a platform, a network and information regarding the Chinese Market to its members from Switzerland, which consist of B2B companies, mostly manufacturers from different industries. SwissCham organizes events and meetings, as well as company visits which offer possibilities to get in touch with Chinese partners and gain insights into their business.
The next point on Peter’s agenda was his distinction between innovation and inventions. While the first refers to the act of making changes to existing products or processes by introducing new ways of ideas, the latter refers to the creation of entirely new products and services. While on the topic of inventions, Peter highlighted some famous examples of inventions which were made in China – like gun powder, compass, paper making, printing machine and others.
Today China is accelerating its speed of innovations, in fact It is collocated in the 14th place of the Global Innovation Index rankings. Another proof of the previous ranking is the fact that China has filed the most number of patent application in the world, but we have to remember that quantity does not equal quality. The driving factors are the large Chinese market which offers unprecedented opportunities for growth, a cheap labour market, a great infrastructure for mass production, enormous investments from foreign investors but also from private investors in China and the government, the degree of digitalisation and an innovative spirit regarding the development of business models.
Mr. Kumar Rangarajan, Co-Founder, Slang Labs (India) • 15.09.2021 | morning (II)
Slang Labs was presented by one of its co-founders, Kumar Rangarajan. Kumar’s entrepreneur journey started in 2012 when he founded “Little Eye Labs” which was acquired by Facebook in 2014. He worked there until 2017 and decided to move back to India where he founded Slang Labs with his ex-colleagues, Giri and Satish.
Slang Labs offers a multilingual in-app voice assistant as a service (VAaaS). Their solution can be integrated into an existing application to add a voice assistant. The algorithm currently recognizes four different Indian dialects and English. It allows users to talk in their own language and the voice assistant will automatically translate it and give commands to the app even if it is only available in English. Slang Labs supports three domains, retail e-commerce, travel sector, and online banking. The targeted end-users are especially older people or people living in rural areas who do not speak English. Also, they target the power users of those apps to help them navigate more efficiently.
Besides presenting Slang Labs, Kumar gave the audience three critical takeaways to launch your startup. (1) "Co-founders first! Idea next!", (2) Raise funds, because you need, not because you want, and (3) Acquisitions don't happen by chance.
Finally, during the Q&A, Kumar explained how Slang Labs distinguishes itself from other voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Alexa. These assistants operate outside the applications, while Slang Labs is integrated natively in the brands’ app to keep its look & feel. Kumar also mentioned that they are working on future development to integrate additional languages like Vietnamese.
Mr. Marc Stampfli, Senior Sales Manager, NVIDIA • 15.09.2021 | afternoon
Nvidia was founded in 1993 and reinvented itself in its short history three times. First, the GPU was invented in 1999 to supplement the existing CPU to allow faster processing and therefore enable better graphics. The demand at that time was low, and NVIDIA almost went bankrupt.
In 2006 NVIDIA focused on high-performance computing and built up its main revenue stream of today's gaming sector by offering high-end GPUs that allow high-speed parallel processing of information to steadily increase the quality of screen content every year.
The third time NVIDIA reinvented itself was in 2016. Artificial intelligence (machine learning, deep learning) took off in the last five years thanks to the abundance of vast data and a series of breakthrough experiments. NVIDIA took an active role in AI with special-build chips and the virtual learning environment called Omniverse.
Today, NVIDIA invests 77% of its resources in software research. Therefore NVIDIA does not consider itself as a hardware company anymore. NVIDIA provides the 'engine' for various AI-based service providers, not the products themselves. In the same vein, the core competency of NVIDIA is to give customers advice on how to tackle a particular AI-intensive workload and therefore allow them to speed up their training time of AI's.
Nowadays, AI-generated pictures cannot be distinguished anymore from real-world pictures.
Contrary to CPUs, GPUs allow the processing of content a lot faster. As a fact, NVIDIA's GPUs are heavily used in almost all top 500 supercomputers globally.
Van Lien Chang
Livio Del Negro
Mr. Zhan, Vice President, Yeefung Robotics • 16.09.2021 | morning
Yeefung technology, which was founded in 2003, offers a wide range of parking solutions, from semi-automatic to completely automated, including the innovative robotic (AGV) parking. Yeefung is currently a global leader in the parking business, with over 300,000 parking spots in use globally, four well-established mega factories, two research centres, and over 1,000 highly trained employees. Yeefung invests in and operates new and existing vehicle parking sites as a fully efficient and sustainable parking solution provider. In addition to the parking service that allows, through robots, to park your car comfortably, they also provide their own fully automated garages. They have also developed a fully automated logistics system, with robots that transport and lift loads and recharge themselves.
Mr. Kaipin Zahn mentions the AGV technology is developing, and it can be related to the Maslows hierarchy of need. This technology is presently used in China, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and this technology can provide 10 times more parking space than the traditional approach. He mentions the company has a huge market and there is a combination of 5G and they expect to extend it to different industries also. With this change of new idea into reality, the Yeefung technology could attain a global leadership in the parking business, with over 300,000 parking spots in use globally, four well-established mega factories, two research centres, and over 1,000 highly trained employees.
When it comes to innovation in China, we cannot fail to mention this great company, in fact Yeefung has been granted 106 patents, including 25 invention patents, 35 utility patents, 13 design patents, three foreign patents. This presentation allowed us to understand how the China market is evolving from purely manufacturing to one of innovation like the one seen in Silicon Valley.
Ann Maria Parakkal
Mrs. Yanqing Wyrsch, former Managing Director, Swisscom Outpost (China) • Mr. Jeffrey Gartner, Head of Startup Programs USA, Swisscom Outpost (USA) • 16.09.2021 | afternoon
The traditional business of Swisscom got under heavy attack during the last decade. For example, they lost more than 500 million SMS just within one year after WhatsApp was launched. Besides this, their Business with TV is also under attack by internet services like YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix and co. That is the reason why Swisscom opened two outposts in Shanghai and Palo Alto to foster innovation. One might now ask, why Shanghai has been chosen as the outpost in China. The reason sounds quite logical: Shanghai lies between Beijing (which is known for its AI know-how, the very international atmosphere, and the English know-how of the habitants) and Shenzhen (the Silicon Valley of China, the place of origin of 70% of all Smartphones worldwide).
In addition, we learned that the word crisis in Chinese means “danger” as well as “chances/opportunities”. Thus, a crisis is perceived not as something bad but rather as a chance for something new. That might be the reason why China creates up to 12’000 startups per day, has more unicorns than the USA and has gone from 4 billion USD Venture Capital in 2013 to 93 billion USD in 2019. The most remarkable quote of the presentation was:
“If Google is exploring the border of technology, then what we [China] are doing is employing technology to explore the border of business" Jack Ma
The quote should highlight the difference between China (focus on new business models) and the USA (current technical leadership). However, this might change under the new strategy of the Chinese government.
In the second part of the afternoon, Jeffrey Gartner joined us live from the Silicon Valley outpost. Jeffrey is responsible for scouting IoT startups, to evaluate them and bring promising candidates to Switzerland to solve domestic problems.
He describes the Bay area as a vibrant, mixed community where different backgrounds and ideas come together to realize business ventures. In this process, networking takes a central role and Jeffrey considers the network even more important than formal education. The journey of these startups is seldomly straight as illustrated by Slack, who's founders pivoted their business venture twice until finally achieving high success with Slack. Even established tech companies in the Valley dare to change the main direction radically if the situation demands it, whereas in Switzerland this would not be possible. Another fundamental geographical difference: in Switzerland we come up with reasons why not to try something out, whereas in the Valley people go out to chase vague ideas and dreams.
Contrary to the current tendency of moving to other US States, Jeffrey considers the attraction of Silicon Valley still as very high. The Valley acts as a gateway to a huge US market with 300 Mio potential customers that offers leaner regulations than Europe. The goal of startups is to grow tremendously and to become a global company - everything less is considered a failure.
Mr. Walter Bachtiger, Founder & CEO, Voicebase • 16.09.2021 | evening
Voicebase is a company that uses AI-Powered Speech Analytics to help companies better understand their customers and improve their customer experience and sales efforts. This is done by analysing what is being said in a conversation, but also in what sentiment something is said. Voicebase enables the automatization of the entire speech analysis with their algorithms. It allows to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees and provides insights into their performance and how they can improve. This is achieved by analyzing and understanding what works best in customer interactions by identifying techniques and keywords to improve the entire sales process. Furthermore, VoiceBase can help to detect potential issues regarding a company’s product and services. If customers at an airport repeatedly mention the word wheelchair in a negative sentiment, it can be derived that there is a problem with the wheelchairs that are offered at the airport for the transport of disabled passengers. This kind of insights is generated automatically.
Another service is the automated payment protection. This is done by automatically redacting transcripts and call recordings of any sensitive payment or personal information, leading to better data security. The service also allows to perform queries and searches through all customer interactions, independent of the used channel. These and many other services are powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP). NLP is a branch of AI, concerned with providing computers with the ability to understand spoken and written language. This is done by combining rule-based modelling of human speech with machine-learning and deep learning models. This technology allows to leverage collected data and gain insights from it to improve the customer experience and sales engagements.
After the introduction the founder of VoiceBase, Walter Bachtiger, shared his journey of founding and running a successful start-up in the Silicon Valley. A key aspect that must be understood is that start-ups in the tech industry play a “winner takes all” game. Therefore, speed is crucial, and start-ups face the challenge to be in a constant need to gain funding which they can invest into further developing and scaling their business idea. When the company grows, more funding is needed, which can make the acquisition of new money a constant and time-consuming task for the founders. To put this into perspective, Walter explained that a typical start-up has a runway of three months. At the same time, the acquisition of new funds can take three to six months, which emphasizes the constant pressure under which a start-up operates. The journey of a start-up is often unpredictable, and the worst day can be the best day at the same time.
Livio Del Negro
Mr. Andreas Schneeberger, licensee of three McDonald's restaurants • 17.09.2021 | afternoon
On this year's field trip we had the pleasure to meet Andreas Schneeberger, licensee of three different McDonald’s Restaurants in Zuchwil, Egerkingen and Olten in Switzerland. He showed us the McDonald’s in Zuchwil and all the processes that happen behind the order counter. The McDonald's in Zuchwil was built in 1994 by McDonald's Switzerland before it was then taken over in 2018 by Andreas Schneeberger.
This location is well situated as it sits in between a main road and near the highway exit, which attracts many commuters and other clients. The McDonald’s in Zuchwil is serving about 1’500 meals per day and is one of the 180 McDonald’s restaurants in Switzerland. Franchisers or also “operators” are selected carefully, sign a 20- year contract and have to go through intensive training which lasts up to 1.5 years. This creates an ecosystem of operators who are very engaged in their operations as they are aware of all processes in the restaurant through their own first-hand experience. The licensee is a subtenant of McDonald’s Switzerland and pays a license fee, among other things. The license fee is a result of different factors such as the profits, location, notoriety of the restaurant and many more.
In the first part, we were presented with the material flow, the ordering system and the use of the front. Mc Donald’s is placing a lot of effort into improving every single process in their company, as they make their revenue by large numbers and economies of scale. Processes are clear and structured, that it allows them to plan 2 months revenue in advance and miss their target by only a couple of hundreds of Swiss francs. These clear processes are also the key to keep everything in order, even during rush times, when the restaurants are at their busiest. The needed material is delivered weekly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are designated refrigerated storage rooms for the different produce that is being brought in.Many smaller and bigger adjustments such as adapting the layout of the refrigeration unit was undertaken to set it up as efficiently as possible. Although McDonald's has its golden standards, the licensee are able to implement some changes to the building and inhouse operations. Compared to other McDonald’s Restaurants, the waste container in Zuchwil is integrated in the restaurant itself.. This integration has saved up to 15’000 francs a year according to Andreas Schneeberger. Planning and staffing is key in these operations, and many employees are either students, mothers or other part time workers who benefit from the flexible working hours.
The entire supply chain is monitored remotely. For example, if a refrigeration unit is failing and is going unnoticed by the local staff, McDonald's international has a alarm system. The local staff is then informed about the issue, so they can react.
McDonald’s is following trends of customers expecting a superior experience, by for example being served or with the ability to now order in 4 different ways. The traditional counter, large screens, drive-through or now even the McDonalds app.
After lunch, Andreas Schneeberger explained his career, the McDonald's franchise system and his tasks as a license owner. His experience from his previous employment shows through is implementation of lean management. The Lean approach is very important for McDonald’s, creating more value for the customer and for McDonald’s by creating zero waste.
Compared to earlier times, McDonalds switched to a “just-in-time” production process, abandoning preparing food in advance. Today, McDonald's starts producing the food for the customer, before they have even paid. As soon as the customer adds a meal to their basket, the food is already being produced. This has led to fewer food waste and has decreased operating costs for the company and resulted in less waiting time for the clients.
Mr. Uttam Tripathi, Head of Global Programs Dev Ecosystem, Google • 17.09.2021 | evening
The last presentation of our field trip was given by the Head of Global Programs Dev Ecosystem from Google, Uttam Tripathi.
Google, one of the most popular and reputed companies of our times with more than 100 offices worldwide, is based in Mountain View, California.
Uttam started off by highlighting a few differences between the USA and Switzerland. According to him, Swiss people tend to be perfect, they prefer to design high quality products. In the USA, you need to be the first in the market, they launch the products very fast to get user feedback, and then optimize their product.
Then he proceeded with giving insights into Google’s main values, which are “Respect the user“, “Respect the opportunity“ and “Respect each other“. The company likes to create an environment, where people are taking risks and also allow failures which leads to progress. Not only the values and the environment are important topics for google, also some facts about their employees are crucial.
When it comes to “Innovation at Google”, the company stands by three principles, namely “Stakes“ (focus on the users), “Ideas“ (think 10 times) and “Action“ (freedom to innovate). Furthermore, Google values feedback from its users, while puts users first, yearns for diversion & inclusivity and focuses on empathy & compassion.