As a network partner for the Boost My Startup Challenge, we had the honor of conducting an interview with Patrick Barbey, Director of Innovaud. You most probably already know about the innovation and investment promotion agency for the canton of Vaud, but let us dive a little bit deeper into their activities and key role they are playing towards Vaud startups as well as SMEs and large companies.

Who are you and what are your main motivations?

Innovaud is the innovation and investment promotion agency of the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. Our mission is to promote the economy, encourage the development of new companies with high added value, and create new jobs. We promote the establishment of foreign companies in our region and help companies (startups, scale-ups, SMEs and large corporations) to carry out their technological innovation projects on Vaud soil.

How does your organization support startups and innovation?

Our innovation advisors support startups and activate different types of services depending on their needs: hosting, financing, coaching or promotion. In 2021, we conducted a record number of company meetings (442 meetings for a total of 367 companies). The fields most represented by the companies we support are life sciences, information and communication technologies (ICT), and cleantech.

We also support startups in the hyper-growth phase through our Scale Up Vaud initiative and label; in 2022 we co-created the LeadiNNg to Scale Up program, which we run with IMD (one of the world’s most renowned management schools, based in Lausanne) for startups that are about to enter their hyper-growth phase (in other words, scale-ups).

We also support the TOP 100 Swiss startups and several awards and competitions in Switzerland and abroad, such as the BG and UBS Boost My Startup Challenge, which allow us to put Vaud startups in the spotlight.

What are the advantages for a startup to participate in innovation ecosystems?

For Vaud startups, being included in an ecosystem such as the one provided by Innovaud represents a better interconnection with the existing offer, and opportunities for support, exchanges between companies (community), access to talent and research institutes (EPFL, Universities, HES), and participation in acceleration programs. The canton of Vaud has long relied on support for technology startups from its universities to diversify and nurture the economy, create the jobs of tomorrow and recruit skilled labor.

What are the pitfalls for the development of a startup?

There are many and they vary greatly. Successful startup development is a complex subject and if there were a magic formula, everyone would apply it. However, there are a few priorities and key points that can be identified:

  • Validate your market: i.e. check that companies or individuals really need the proposed product or service and are willing to pay for it. It is essential to clarify this need as early as possible, through prototypes and paying pilot projects;
  • Be able to deliver the product or service in an economically sustainable and profitable way: this business model must be consistent and scalable – i.e. replicable on a large enough scale to ensure the viability of the business;
  • Assemble a balanced team capable of implementing the business model and scaling up with the right timing;
  • Finding sufficient funds to finance the startup phase.

A final word to share?

The Vaud and Swiss ecosystem of innovation in the field of startups has evolved enormously and today allows the most ambitious projects to be launched. The time is right: there has never been so much support and so many opportunities to succeed. The economic situation, both national and international, should not scare us, as it is often in times of turmoil that the best opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs are found.