An invitation-only award night – the TOP 100 Swiss Startups 2021 – has once again celebrated Switzerland for being a fertile environment for highly successful deeptech startups, with some 40% of this year’s top 100 having benefitted from the support and expertise of IMD’s MBA or EMBA alumni.

“We know we are only one small ingredient in the success of these ventures, but I am very proud to see what our students have helped create,” said Jim Pulcrano, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management at IMD. 

The 100 most innovative and promising Swiss startups were picked by a jury of 100 leading investors and startup experts for the 11th consecutive year. 

This year’s winner, Planted Foods, realized its vision in under three years and was described as having “rocked the market” by its products: plant-based meat.  

“Culturally we eat too many animals and we thought we needed to use science, tech, marketing and great products to change that,” said Co-Founder Pascal Bieri. 

They were one of many startups at this year’s event that had a strong focus on sustainability. Another was 9T labs, which makes high-performance materials from carbon-fibre deposits, leveraging software and automation to “produce parts of the future in a sustainable way”. Then there was AgroSustain, providing sustainable solutions to extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by using a special coating.  

From IPOs to job creation 

Since the ranking’s creation in 2011, it has featured 438 Swiss deeptech startups. Together, they have created 11,100 jobs and raised CHF 6.1 billion. Fifty-six exits and three IPOs top off their achievements. 

Among those listing on the stock market this year was Astrocast, created in 2014. Their team plans to put 100 nanosatellites into orbit by 2024 to help meet growing demand for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be connected by satellite. Only 10% of the surface of the globe is currently covered by a terrestrial network. 

The turning point for the company came when they asked: “Can we use our nano satellite to offer Internet of Things services everywhere on the globe?, explained founder and keynote speaker at the event Fabien Jordan. 

“We joined forces with Airbus to develop a chip that can be put into any type of outdoor equipment to establish a connection with their satellitee. 

“Every week we discover new applications based on our infrastructure,” he said, citing the environment, maritime and livestock industries. “It’s really exciting for me as an entrepreneur to see.” 

Scaleups celebrated, too 

Among the other categories celebrated were best newcomers, category winners voted for by the public, and the best 25 scale-ups. A jury of 25 decided on the latter, and to qualify they had to have been operating for more than five years. 

Five of these chosen 25 had IMD alumni at the helm: DistalmotionFlyabilityPolyneuronLunaphore and Verity Studio 

“All of the companies on this list and at last night’s event have performed the magic of what I call creating something from nothing,” said Pulcrano. “But 25 were voted as the top scaleups, having had the resilience to stay alive, endure and grow.  Switzerland needs more of these, and I was pleased to see that 5 of our startup alumni were in this list.” 

Just over a decade of putting on events and producing multi-lingual magazines has created a strong community at “TOP 100 Startups”. Part of its work is to connect the CEOs of the most promising Swiss startups with Swiss and international investors and executives. Planted Foods, the 2021 winner, will enjoy a trip to Asia to do just that, as their prize. 

Other interesting startups presenting on the night included Carvolution, which wants to encourage flexible car use and explained that by 2030 every second car on Swiss roads will be a car subscription; Cutiss, which grows human skin in a lab on demand and is producing a machine for its automation; and Flowbone, which restores the strength of hips before they break, avoiding the need for hip replacement surgery. 

The top 100 list is available online here