By Cary Springfield – firstname.lastname@example.org
New on the financial-technology scene and the first of its kind in Switzerland is Geneva-based Fusion, the Swiss Fintech Factory, a fintech-acceleration program launched by Polytech Ventures in February 2015. Polytech, a venture capital firm originating from The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (or EPFL, one of the world’s top engineering universities), created Fusion alongside banking-software leader Temenos Group with the stated goal of raising the innovation capacity of Switzerland’s financial-services sector. To accomplish this, the venture will accelerate fintech startups through its 12-month incubation program beginning on October 1.
In early May, Fusion’s administrators announced that they had begun accepting applications from startups, which have until June 15 to apply for a spot in the incubator. Switzerland, recognized as a global financial hub and front-line innovator, is an appropriate setting for such a venture. Guillaume Dubray, managing partner of Polytech Ventures, recently pointed out that “Switzerland is a leader in both innovation and financial services. It is therefore a perfect place to launch a fintech accelerator. Where Fusion hopes to be different from other similar projects and add additional value to its startups is by facilitating access to a broad range of corporates and by concentrating on those areas where Switzerland is a world leader, such as wealth management.”
Fusion has gained strong support for its push to create a “thriving ecosystem of fintech startups”. The project’s administrators are the first to point out that collaboration is key to success. They have brought together a varied group of corporate members from all areas of financial services and academics, and continue to recruit more. For example, while Polytech syndicates the funding, Temenos offers sponsorship and mentorship, Belgium solutions-provider Capco conveys technology consultation and Idiap Research Institute allows access to research and development facilities. Investors have been encouraged to participate in the project to benefit from the value added to the startups.
The creators of Fusion point out that digitization has knocked down many of the traditional barriers to entry. Lowered costs, changing market dynamics, shifting customer behaviour have all led to major transitions, which startups can exploit through innovation. Fusion aims “to fuse the best of Switzerland with the most promising fintech talent to lead innovation in financial services”.
Startups need not be located in Switzerland to apply. Fusion’s administrators are considering applications from all over the world. The application process is completed through the project’s website, and program leaders are anticipating that between eight and ten startups will be successfully enrolled.
Because of Switzerland’s world-renowned strengths in asset and wealth management, insurance and commodity trading, Fusion is most interested in assisting startups in these financial areas but will consider others. Incorporated startups working in fields such as cyber security and data privacy, artificial intelligence and mobile platforms, social analytics and peer-to-peer applications are of particular interest. Unlike many other similar incubators and accelerators, Fusion will not have an upfront equity stake in the startups it assists but does offer them through its corporate members opportunities to be promoted through the networks of and mentored by the leading companies in the field.
This initiative is sure to bring lasting rewards not only to the fortunate startups themselves but also to their customers.