Unwavering support for start-ups in Vaud

BCV is a historical partner of the Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT). The Bank thus contributes to the prosperity of the canton of Vaud and its economic ecosystem. It also supports the FIT Digital program, which grants grants and loans each year to start-ups with an innovative business model in this sector. On April 4, the first 2023 pitching session took place at the BCV premises in Prilly.

The canton of Vaud is one of the most dynamic ecosystems in Switzerland for start-ups. As proof, it is in second place nationally in terms of fundraising, behind Zurich and ahead of Geneva. Last year, the growth trend continued despite a difficult global economic environment. Young technology companies in Vaud thus raised just over half a billion francs, or CHF 548.6 million out of the 4 billion raised in Switzerland.

A thirty-year partnership

This dynamic would be impossible without the various aids provided by the canton and the private partners working for this success. BCV has long supported the Vaud economic ecosystem. In a desire to support innovation in the long term, it has been a partner of the Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT) since its creation in 1994. In 2022, BCV renewed its support for FIT, up to CHF 4 million over eight years.

Digital innovation in the spotlight

The Bank also participates in the FIT Digital program. In this context, around twenty start-ups are selected each year for pitching sessions. BCV had the pleasure of hosting the first session of 2023, which took place on April 4 at the Prilly Administrative Banking Center. Six innovative projects (early stage) were presented to the FIT Digital Committee. These initiatives focused on various fields such as artificial intelligence, a digital assistant for future parents, e-commerce or the optimization of data in scientific research. “The presentations were all very well done and allowed us to take the pulse of the times we are going through,” rejoices Didier Schwarz, director of FIT Digital.

Support to cross the “valley of death”

Launched in May 2018, FIT Digital aims to support Vaud entrepreneurs who develop projects with an innovative business model, based on digital technology, difficult to imitate and with strong growth potential. “We often come in at a crucial time in a start-up’s life, when it is going through what is commonly referred to as the ‘valley of death’, before obtaining the first fundraisers”, emphasizes Didier Schwarz. Under the program, start-ups can apply for three types of support depending on their level of maturity: a grant of CHF 20,000 and two loans of CHF 50,000 or 200,000. Around 200 requests for support are sent each year.

An eclectic committee

The FIT Digital Committee is made up of various profiles (from entrepreneurship, banking, legal professions, research, etc.). Its members represent a compendium of skills capable of understanding – and therefore of judging – the best which projects to support. Their selection criteria are: the originality of the business model, the growth potential, the innovative aspect of the solution developed, the quality of the team, the impact on employment and societal issues. All these criteria are important, even if, for companies early stage, the team dynamic is particularly observed. Grants are not awarded in the form of a competition, with an annual financial envelope to be distributed, but according to the relevance of the project presented. Only the quality of each start-up counts.

The importance of the network

The pitch sessions are also an opportunity for entrepreneurs to get feedback on their solution and open their address book. “We take the time to discuss with each start-up, give them coaching and promote connections with a network of potential partners, in particular investors, but also with other players in the Vaud ecosystem”, emphasizes Patrick Botteron, Director of Private Banking Onshore at BCV and member of the FIT Digital Committee.

A contribution to the dynamism of the Vaudois ecosystem

In five years, the FIT Digital program has supported 50 start-ups for a total amount of CHF 3.5 million. Among the recipients are well-known names in the canton, such as the proptech Neho or the HR-tech Alaya, acquired in 2021 by the Canadian unicorn Benevity. These two Vaud-based companies received a loan of CHF 200,000 in 2018 which enabled them to consolidate their initial growth.

Today, Neho, Alaya and the other start-ups supported by FIT Digital contribute to the dynamism of the Vaudois ecosystem by creating hundreds of jobs in the canton. BCV is delighted: “By supporting the FIT, our objective is to promote technological innovation, but also to contribute to the prosperity of the canton of Vaud, in particular by creating the jobs of tomorrow”, adds Patrick Botteron.

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