Innovation happens at the edge
Stefan Kyora15.02.2016 16:14
As part of Microsoft’s BizSpark programme, founders and technicians from more than 34 start-ups gathered together in the Engadine for a week in January. The camp was so successful that it will be repeated in early summer.
There are now abundant support programmes for start-ups and co-working spaces are mushrooming. Microsoft’s Snow Camp offered a new approach by combining both: young entrepreneurs and Microsoft specialists came together in Ftan for a week. The start-ups were able to network with one another and also benefit from the support of nine Microsoft employees.
The idea was born from experience: “We noticed that the one or two-hour sessions with our specialists often was not sufficient for the start-ups,” explains Vera Biehl, Audience & Startup Marketing Manager at Microsoft Switzerland. The great interest shown in the camp confirmed this perception: “Three days after we advertised the offer, we were booked up,” says Biehl.
A total of about 70 participants from more than 34 start-ups came to Ftan in January, including Flurin Capaul and Andreas Horni, CEO and CTO, respectively, of boonea, a start-up that focuses on the measurement of business relationships with the help of software. “We had three goals when we came to the Engadine,” says Capaul. “Implement a use case, get input on a go-to-market strategy, and establish contacts with other start-ups to test ideas and improve our network.”
The objectives were achieved. “The camp brought us a lot,” says Capaul. “And experienced Microsoft employees were on site.” The boonea founders benefited from technical Microsoft expertise – for example, Microsoft Exchange – and also from input on marketing. Capaul also appreciated the close contact with other start-ups.
Microsoft had taken some measures to ensure that start-ups got to know each other. Two rounds of introductions took place during the week and every evening there was an informal get-together; for example, around the campfire, at a barbecue or while sledging. In addition, a photo wall of the participants listed not only their names and companies, but also a brief description of what everyone offered or sought. Mutual exchanges worked very well. “I was surprised by how much the start-ups helped each other,” says Biehl.
Dialogue with the Microsoft specialists was regulated in that they could be booked for a fixed period, but they were also available to talk at other times. The mix of fixed dates and informal discussion proved successful.
Due to the very positive feedback on the pilot project from participants, the offer will be repeated. It will probably be a little shorter than the pilot camp, since it was found that most start-ups could not afford a whole week. In addition, the search is on for a site that is easily accessible from all regions of Switzerland. Those who missed the first camp do not have to wait long for the second camp: it will take place this summer.
Some impressions of the camp:
BizSpark is a global ICT start-up support programme from Microsoft that was launched in 2008. Since the start of the programme, more than 1,500 young companies have been supported in Switzerland and every year several Swiss start-ups are selected for the elite programme BizSpark Plus. Microsoft BizSpark was created to connect start-up developers and founders with entrepreneurial and technology resources. It gives start-ups access to Microsoft software development tools and training, connects them with key industry players, including potential customers and investors, and provides marketing visibility to help entrepreneurs with their early stage tech business.