We just returned from a week long trip in Switzerland, which is a main area of focus for BVNK. As we are a banking platform startup, we decided to set our initial focus on a dense market that has a lot of opportunity for change in the banking world. The fact that Switzerland is so beautiful doesn’t hurt either.
We applied for the F10 accelerator and managed to get in to the finals. These finals, held over two days, took place last week Thursday and Friday. There were 30 startups out of the 360 who applied at the two day event.
We arrived at the event early and went through our three minute pitch. We were due to be on second, but the other startup was late and we pitched first. The pitch went well, and we were happy to go first to get it out of the way. It’s interesting trying to condense your proposition to under three minutes and really makes you focus on the important, key information.
We listened to the other 29 pitches which was interesting (there are some great companies in the final cohort) and tiring (listening to 29 other condensed 3 minute company briefings takes its toll). After that the speed dating was due to being so, after having a brief introduction to each mentor, we had to rush to put our name at the relevant table to speak to whoever we found particularly interesting and a good fit.
We had a great lunch, relaxed a bit and then head in to a marathon pitching session. We pitched to 20 companies and mentors for 10 min each. Unfortunately, most of the companies came after 9:00 due to a scheduling mixup so actually ended up missing our pitch (as we were first on at 8:45). On the bright side, we got to practice our pitch many times and got it down to an art.
During the event we got to meet representatives from the corporate sponsors which for us included Julius Bär, Zurich Canton Bank, Postfinance and Raiffeisen. We also got to meet the mentors who came from all walks of life and asked great questions from the market, to technical understanding and to the business model.
After a short break we came back to end the day with an Apéro. Here we met some of the other startups and mentors, and discussed the events of the day. There were some great startups in the batch so it was good to finally hear more about what they plan to do.
Kyle and myself then found a great bar called Cloud thanks to the help of a newfound Swiss friend to end the night with a great view of the city.
We were back bright and early to start the final day of selections. The day began with us teaming up with another startup Aazzur (a great fintech startup also helping banks to modernise). The task was fun and we ended up developing a washing machine that used static electricity and UV instead of water and soap. The bounds of the exercise allowed for some stretching of the possible.
Straight after this we had our second pitch to the executive committee. This was the same three minute pitch we did before, and again we think we delivered it well. There were three quick questions which we answered before being ushered out.
There was significantly more breaks on this day, and after a couple of hours we had our prototype pitching session followed by the final interview with F10 to hear about the contract and finer details.
The two days were great and we got a lot of value out of them alone. We're going to be picking up discussions with a few of the partners and mentors regardless of the results of the selection process. We think we did well though so feeling positive.
We decided to enjoy the weekend and drove to part of the Swiss Path down in Flüelen. The path was unfortunately closed due to rockfall but we managed to get a great hike in, as well as a short train ride to Sisikon where we relaxed and threw rocks at a lake (a classic pastime). Switzerland is unbelievably beautiful.
On Sunday we went to Atzmännig to do the Tobogan Run. This is a mountain rollercoaster which comprises of a cart on wheels with a brake handle, and a smooth steel channel down the mountain. This was both way more scary and way more fun than I imagined. During these runs Kyle and I hit close to 40km/h.
The public transport was great (of course) and seeing different parts of the country a real treat.
Monday through Wednesday
When we knew we were going to be in Switzerland for the F10 we set up meetings during the following week. We ended up meeting with the FMA in Liechtenstein, Bank Frick, SIX, Marc Lussy, Hippo Finance and the Government of Liechtenstein during the three days prior to leaving. A few of these meetings were set up during the two day event at F10.
We stopped off at Bank in Zurich before heading back to the airport on Wednesday afternoon. The days were packed and we managed to get a lot of work done, as well as do ourselves proud at the accelerator. Results for F10 are due to be released mid-September, and hopefully we’ll be headed to Switzerland a lot more as part of the program.