Mike Baur is the architect of a startup incubator company in Switzerland where people’s business ideas can turn into big companies with the help of advisors, an investor network and a systematic approach to launching. Baur has also helped entrepreneurs find investors at conferences like START Summit where they can meet like-minded people and take part in activities like pitch contests. These contests are fun exercises for business presentations designed to get entrepreneurs to think in different ways and learn how to sell ideas effectively. Investor pitches are emphasized even more at Baur’s company the Swiss Startup Factory, and Baur has shown just why companies like his could be important for Switzerland going forward.
Mike Baur’s story is one that reflects changes in Switzerland over the last 10 years. For a long time, the key industry anchoring Switzerland’s economy was banking, and you were highly regarded if you could land a job in a prestigious bank like Baur was able to do. Like all other occupations, banking was entered into through an apprenticeship program like the one Baur enrolled in at UBS Bank. He was instructed by the account managers over him, and by the time his apprenticeship had concluded he was regularly advising clients. Baur arranged not only personal account services, but also opened trust funds, credit accounts, retirement accounts and a lot of other investments. Baur gained the respect of the bank’s board members as his career went on, but changes started coming in 2008 when the recession came to Switzerland. Baur spent several more years in banking when he moved from UBS just prior to the branch he worked at closing, to Clariden Leu which later merged with Credit Suisse. But this period was also short-lived because Baur realized that as client needs changed, most of the banks would not change.
With banking seeing a decline in public trust and too many regulations that made it less attractive than ever, Mike Baur decided it was time to take his financial knowledge elsewhere. He and his colleague Max Meister realized there was a lot to be had in new tech companies, or companies that combined mobile technology with services eliminating the middleman. They decided to start the Swiss Startup Factory because they realized there were a lot more ideas out there that could be very profitable if they just had access to capital. Thus far the SSUF has brought in thousands of entrepreneur ideas and has seen tremendous success in its portfolio.