Swiss financial giants back digital start-ups

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Swiss start-up programme Kickstart Accelerator has announced five confirmed proof of concepts (PoCs) with several of the programme’s 25 corporate partners, including UBS, Credit Suisse, PwC, Swisscom and Raiffeisen Switzerland, and some of the 30 participating start-ups

Kickstart, founded last year, is the flagship initiative of digitalswitzerland, a cross-industry association aimed at making Switzerland a leading European digital innovation hub.

The five PoCs confirmed are as follows:

  • Credit Suisse, Swisscom and UBS have partnered with Notakey, which provides solutions allowing users to securely notarise digital transactions to explore its suitability as a cross-industry platform. Such a “digital identity-ecosystem” would allow for consumer use cases: for instance, in the future a registered banking client could sign a mobile phone contract without further identification and vice versa.
  • PwC Switzerland and Veezoo, a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technology that enables users to search their company’s data, will conduct a PoC for internal PwC use. The aim is to further develop and validate the Veezoo solution for deployment in corporate environments.
  • Swisscom is also partnering with lenditapp, a fintech company active in the US and Switzerland, for a four-month PoC, which will see the two firms develop a technology solution that includes machine learning, data aggregation and underwriting models to automate and reduce the risk in lending to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Rafeissen Switzerland has agreed a PoC with lenditapp to use their solution for the automated digital processing of balance sheets “to bring more convenience and outstanding quality into the credit process.”
  • Rafeissen Switzerland has also agreed a PoC with LastMile to explore the possible uses of chatbots in their support organisation based on text and voice in Swiss national languages and dialects (a chatbot is a service, powered by rules and sometimes AI that users interact with via a chat interface).

In addition to the above, fintech start-up Notakey confirmed the interest of UBS, Creidit Suisse and Swisscom for a PoC to provide a solution that allows users to securely notarise digital transactions and to explore a cross industry application of this platform.

According to Rob Moffat, partner of investment manager Balderton Capital: “Switzerland has the raw materials to become a leading European hub for both financial and insurance technologies.

“Zurich and Geneva are long-standing financial centres, but are yet to realise their full fintech potential. It is very positive to see the emergence of collaborative accelerators such as Kickstart, and innovative legislative moves such as the proposed ‘fintech licence’, as both will add fuel to Switzerland’s fire.”

Following the launch of the 2016 Kickstart Accelerator on 22 August, Kickstart is today holding its Final Demo Day today, at which the 30 start-ups from the programme’s four verticals – fintech; smart and connected machines; future and emerging technologies; and food – pitch to over 20 international and local investors as well as global corporate partners including French insurer AXA, Balderton Capital and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to secure funding or further PoCs.

“Our ambition has been to give the participating start-ups the opportunity to test their products at scale with some of Europe’s largest corporates,” said Patricia Schlenter, programme lead at Kickstart Accelerator.

“The corporate partners’ willingness to collaborate and share their infrastructure, data and expertise with the start-ups is a win-win for industry innovation and the creation of an ecosystem that lives beyond the programme.

“The international talent in this year’s cohort highlights the potential of Switzerland as a recognised digital tech hub on the European stage. We hope to continue building on our strengths in fintech, robotics and food among others and the increasingly supportive business and regulatory environment in Switzerland to enable entrepreneurs and established industry titans to come here to collaborate, innovate and grow their businesses.”

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