The NCCR Chemical Biology believes in the benefits of stimulating the entrepreneurial spirit of research staff. We have made a unique contribution to forging connections between academics from all over Switzerland with industry, venture capitalists, business and legal experts in bringing the Pre-Seed Workshop to Switzerland. More recently we have succeeded in allying with other academic partners to spread it all over Switzerland under the “SwissCompanyMaker” name.
The Pre-Seed Workshop was started by Mark Wilson in 2004 in Rochester New York as a Neworks trademark product and it is now being held about ten times a year in various Host City locations throughout the northeast of the US. In Switzerland, the workshop is organized since 2012 by the NCCR Chemical Biology.
In 2016, new academic partners have joined the adventure and the workshop is now conducted by the SwissCompanyMaker, a consortium of several research institutes that aims to organize on a yearly basis a workshop in a different Swiss location. The partnership includes during phase one the NCCR Chemical Biology, the NCCR Transcure, the NCCR PlanetS, the Swiss Interactive Center for Human Health (SICHH) and the School of Management of Fribourg.
The Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) is supporting this national initiative.
The unique value of the SwissCompanyMaker workshop is that it fills a critical gap between superficial exposure of researchers to entrepreneurship in short events and the time-consuming training support available locally and nationally. We consider ourselves as the entry point to the CTI organized training modules for students (Business Ideas and Business Concept) and for entrepreneurs (Business Creation and Business Development), to support the scientists in developing their business ideas, setting up their company and implementing a strategy for growth. All courses are led by experienced entrepreneurs from all over Switzerland.
This intensive workshop specifically targets very early to early high-technology entrepreneurial ideas from all fields and from all over Switzerland. Through a condensed two and a half day approach, the SwissCompanyMaker workshop prepares participants for the entry into the existing Swiss start-up promotion ecosystem. The high-technology business idea may or may not have been recently patented, or applicants may have a high-tech business idea but are still wondering about the next steps to take.
Every year, about ten outstanding high-tech ideas from academia are selected to participate following a call for ideas sent throughout Swiss academia. During the workshop, champion participants benefit from fast-paced sessions, guidance specifically adapted to their project, support from recognized industry experts from various backgrounds including investment, intellectual property, technology transfer, business, industry, and law. At the end of the workshop, the working results are presented in front of a panel of community experts, angels or venture capital experts who will provide feedback on the proposed business cases. In addition, potential entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to build their network through interacting with the other young entrepreneurs, peers and important business persons which is useful in the long-run. Participants do leave the workshop having the business elements of their new venture well-structured and are even better prepared to follow other more heavy training programs.
The workshop has proven to be a fast and efficient way to vet projects and business ideas, and launch pre-seed stage companies. Out of the teams that came to the past workshops held in Switzerland, several for-profit ventures were created or empowered following participation. These are amongst others: Nanolive, Noonee, Qubig, CellestiaBiotech, SensArs, Morphotonix, SUN bioscience and Lucentix. We are very proud to mention that since their participation to the workshop they have won prizes in Switzerland and the US, and they have received other international distinctions.