Hundreds of entrepreneurs in Switzerland dream of success, whether that means getting their product to market, raising money or one day doing an IPO. But making it into the annual Swiss Top100 is also a dream that many startups have along the way to these other dreams.

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up”

Nelson Mandela

It was with this quote that last Wednesday evening’s startup-event-of-the-year began.  Every year for the past ten, a jury of 100 players in the Swiss startup ecosystem evaluate which startups they feel are the most promising in what is, by many measures, the world’s most innovative country. To qualify for consideration, firms must be less than 5 years old.   Every year we are happy that the many startups that work with IMD account for at least a third of this illustrious group.

This year something rare happened. As usual, a full 36 of the 100 chosen were “IMD startups”, and three of the top 10 had collaborated with IMD students (Exeon Analytics, Gamaya and Creal).

But the No. 1 company, this year’s winner, Cutis, was not chosen by us, despite having applied twice.  “For me, this once more proved how much humility one must have in evaluating and selecting startups, and even more so when our key objective is the learning of our students”, said Professor Jim Pulcrano, who created the IMD Startup Competition 22 years ago. 

“When you’re trying to understand if a technology will work, whether the market is large and growing, and whether the startup team can actually execute on their dreams, you’re dealing with a universe of unknowns, and sometimes we don’t get it right,” he admitted.

This year a list of the top 25 Swiss “scaleups”, startups that are older than five years and that are rapidly growing, was also published, and IMD had seven winners on this list (Bestmile, Flyability, Fotokite, L.E.S.S, Polyneuron, Lunaphore and Verity Studios). 

“In some ways, seeing the success of the scaleups that worked with us is even more gratifying, and this makes sense when one considers that our programs have very experienced managers and executives who, though most are not entrepreneurs, know how to build teams, craft a strategy and grow businesses,” said Professor Benoit Leleux, who runs IMD’s annual competition with Professor Pulcrano.

Both professors congratulated Cutis, and all the ventures that figured on this year’s Top 100 list, as well as the many nascent startups that hope to be on next year’s list, adding that they look forward to welcoming those who wish to work with IMD students in the future. 

The IMD Startup Competition will be open to new candidates as of October 1st at www.imd.org/startups.