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Twelve fast-growing startup founders join the second edition of the LeadiNNg to Scale Up program

Twelve high-tech companies from a variety of industries have been selected to participate in the second round of the LeadiNNg to Scale-Up program, which kicked off on 25 January 2023 at IMD.
January 2023

A joint initiative of IMD and Innovaud, the program is designed to propel tech companies from promising startups to fast-growing, international scale-ups. As a novelty in 2023, the program opened its doors not only to Vaud-based ventures, but also to Swiss and international projects.

IMD and Innovaud have been supporting startups for many years through initiatives such as the IMD Startup Competition and Scale Up Vaud programs. In 2022, the longtime partner institutions decided to launch the LeadiNNg to Scale Up program to fill a gap in Switzerland’s innovation support ecosystem. “After getting their business off the ground and completing their all-important first funding round, tech startup founders need targeted support to kick-start the scale-up process, recruit talent, and get their company ready to grow fast,” explained Patrick Barbey, Director of Innovaud.  

“From what we’ve seen, in Switzerland there are many programs for early-stage companies, often teaching the fundamentals of pitching and fundraising, but we found few were targeted at ventures that had already raised money and had a product in the market with multiple clients and seemed poised for fast growth on a global scale,” added Jim Pulcrano, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management at IMD. 

Thanks to targeted support and courses by IMD professors and serial entrepreneurs, IMD and Innovaud are aiming to propel startups to scale-ups with even better support. A scale-up is a rapidly developing company that achieves 20% annual growth in headcount or revenue for at least three years in a row. There are currently 43 companies that meet this criterion in the canton of Vaud.  

By founders, for founders 

Founding and scaling a startup can be a lonely process, and it can be helpful for founders to know that their peers are facing the same challenges. This is why one of the most important aspects of the LeadiNNg to Scale-Up program is building trust among participants.  

“We did a lot of research to try to understand what these scaleups needed,” explained Pulcrano. “We looked at the data we had from more than two decades of running the IMD Startup Competition and interviewed founders who were already successfully scaling. But most important was interviewing each of the LeadiNNg to Scale candidates to understand where they were, and what they felt they needed to break through from incremental growth to scale.” The 2023 program thus covers three key topics – leadership, organizational design, and strategic scaling. Ten sessions spread over six months combine practical case studies with in-person experience-sharing from other entrepreneurs. 

For startups, the benefits are numerous: they learn about how to scale from leading entrepreneurship professors at IMD, gain access to a network of successful scale-ups and entrepreneurs, become part of a community of ambitious founders facing similar challenges, and receive a certificate of completion recognized by IMD and Innovaud. 

“Participating in the LeadiNNg to Scale-up Program is a game-changer for SmartHelio as we strive to create a sustainable future through accelerating energy transition and combating climate change. With the guidance of seasoned professionals, we are building a solid foundation for scaling up fast and will not rest until we achieve our mission of making a significant global impact on the energy sector,” said Govinda Upadhyay, founder and CEO of SmartHelio just before the program’s kick-off.  

A program now opened to Swiss and international ventures 

The overall goal of LeadiNNg to Scale-Up is to build stronger scale-ups that create jobs and boost the local economy. The first round of the program in 2022 was intended exclusively for Vaud-based startups. Given the demand and enthusiasm it generated, both Innovaud and IMD were able to open it up to Swiss and international startups in 2023 with Bionomous (Fribourg), b-sharpe (Geneva), Polariton (Zurich), Wise (Neuchatel) and Coactum (originally created in Luxembourg, the company set up in Vaud in 2021 with the support of Innovaud). 

Meet the 2023 Participants

Hervé Cottard 

Almatech SA 

Delivers critical flight hardware for space missions as well as accessible engineering services for naval and ground applications. 

Frank Bonnet 


Develops and commercializes AI-powered laboratory equipment for the life science research and other industries to automate the screening, sorting, and pipetting of miniature entities. 

Jean-Marc Sabet 

b-sharpe SA 

Offers transparent, reliable, and straightforward currency exchange services at a fair price for businesses and private individuals. 

Pau Molas-Roca 


Aims to revolutionize cargo transportation in space, allowing fast access to orbits which are otherwise expensive and slow to reach by providing simple, secure, and fast in-space transportation services. 

Mario Michan 

Daphne Technology 

Measures and reduces GHG emissions from industrial sources by developing and scaling up innovative technology. 

Christophe Haldi 

Eeproperty SA 

Leader of services for shared spaces in residential buildings (laundries, electric car charging, energy, and access) providing services on behalf of owners and contributing to energy saving. 

Deborah Learoyd 

Freesuns SA 

Designs, manufactures, and installs stunning solar roof tiles for high-end residential, commercial, and heritage properties. 

Harti Saad 

Legacy Healthcare 

Biotech with a late-stage drug candidate for the treatment of a pediatric autoimmune condition (Alopecia Areata). 

Claudia Hoessbacher 

Polariton Technologies AG 

Revolutionizes the future of telecommunications by accelerating information transport and reducing its power consumption thanks to the fastest and smallest electro-optic modulators. 

Ivan Orlov 

Scientific Visual SA 

Automated inspection tools for industrial crystals.  

Govinda Upadhyay 


Proprietary IoT sensor and intelligent software to keep solar plants healthy and generate more clean energy. 

Sebastian Chiappero 

Software solutions for b2b business focusing on three areas: marketing, real estate and public organizations.