Opportunities Everywhere in China for the Swiss National Startup Team!

By Frans-Emmanuel Bengtsson, Junior Project Manager and HEC Lausanne Ambassador

2019 is a very interesting and passionate year for the overall innovation ecosystem in China. Amongst the impactful activities was the return of Venture Leaders to China, with its pitching roadshow and taking part in several high-level events across 6 megacities in China!

Venture Leaders China is a unique 10-day business development program to explore the Chinese market potential for high growth Swiss startups. It is an exclusive opportunity to be part of a top entrepreneurial team, accelerate ones’ business growth and showcase Switzerland as a leading country for innovation. Every year, 10 carefully selected high-tech entrepreneurs get a unique chance to give their technology and business a commercial boost, thanks to Venture Leaders.

For the sixth consecutive year, swissnex China was proud to be accompanying a high-quality delegation of top Swiss startups in China for a roadshow that span 10 days and 6 cities. Venture Leaders China 2019 took place from June 25th to July 5th and included business workshops, investors meetings and public events in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Changzhou, Dalian and Beijing. The roadshow offered the startups unparalleled exposure and insight into the Chinese market, along with learning about business opportunities, how corporate affairs work, pitching to investors and getting insights from experts.

The delegation was led by Jordi Montserrat, co-founder and managing partner at Venturelab and Felix Moesner, CEO at swissnex China and was composed of the following startup champions: Daniel Sztutwojner, Beekeeper | Peter Ruff, Exploris AG | Samir Bouabdallah, Flybotix | Dominik Trost, holo|one | Simon Bachmann, IDUN Technologies AG | Yannik Kopp, LORIOT | Marco Pisano, Lymphatica Medtech | Dorina Thiess, Piavita | Alexis Steinmann, Tomplay | Maurizio Migliore, Touchless Automation. In addition, the team could count on Simin Yang and Frans-E. Bengtsson, both from swissnex China, for the organization and the coordination of the trip and events.

Hong Kong 06-25-2019

The Venture Leaders’ 10 day’s journey started off as intensive and dynamic as expected. Freshly arrived from Zurich, the 10 startups kicked off their intense pitching roadshow as soon as they set foot in Hong Kong. The 2019 Swiss Innovation Night taking place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center offered great networking opportunities and paved the way for the many upcoming events.

Alexis Steinman, co-founder of Tomplay pitching in front of a very interested crowd in Hong Kong

Alexis Steinman, co-founder of Tomplay pitching in front of a very interested crowd in Hong Kong


Once the networking event was over, it was time for the entire team to jump into the bus towards the next adventure: destination Shenzhen!

Shenzhen     06-26-2019

For many of the Venture Leaders, it was their first time waking up in mainland China. This brought even more excitement among the team as they were really looking forward for the upcoming program. During the morning, our startup champions were warmly welcomed at Colibri Technologies (technology-oriented automation company providing simple solutions for R&D) and at DJI (drone manufacturers). They got the great privilege to meet Colibri CTO Dr Liu Shaoming which appeared to be an EPFL alumus! Switzerland is really everywhere!

The Venture Leaders visiting DJI in Shenzhen

The Venture Leaders visiting DJI in Shenzhen


The entire team gained great insights from the people they met at Colibri and DJI. After their morning visit to Colibri and DJI, our National Startup team jumped straight into their first pitch in mainland China at the magnificent Shenzhen Stock Exchange building, gaining access to the network of local industry experts and investors.


The pitching event at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange was very appreciated from the startups as it was the first time that some had the chance to confront themselves to Chinese investors. Moreover, the networking session was very fruitful and great connections were made! Next stop: Shanghai!


Shanghai      06-27-2019


On the 3rd day of the roadshow, our 10 top Swiss startups were joined by 170+ registered investors and industry leaders in Shanghai: the "Capital of capital" for the Swiss Startup Pitching Night. The dynamic Q&A interaction and networking clearly demonstrated the rich startup funding opportunities in China's wealthiest city!


As Simon Bachmann, CEO of IDUN Technologies puts it: “We arrived at the venue tired since we had just landed from Shenzhen. However, as soon as we saw the venue, the mood lightened up. The scenery on the stage was amazing and the audience was packed of interested listeners. I particularly liked the couch and how we were all sitting on the stage. This gave the whole event a very relaxed mood.  These two events where my highlights but we had many more promising stops on our incredibly packed journey through China.”

Maurizio Migliore, Toucheless Automation posing with Jordi Montserrat and Felix Moesner after receiving the Venture Leaders Shanghai Pitching trophy

Maurizio Migliore, Toucheless Automation posing with Jordi Montserrat and Felix Moesner after receiving the Venture Leaders Shanghai Pitching trophy

Changzhou   06-28-2019


The day started off with the visit of Rieder, a Swiss company producing manufacturing machine for all kinds of businesses. It was very interesting to understand how this Swiss firm established themselves in China and how they perceived the future in this particular market.

Later that day, we had the immense chance to take part into the Swiss Innovation Day, organized by the Changzhou National High-Tech Development Zone CZND. It gave the opportunity to the Venture Leaders to pitch in front of investors & industry experts. Furthermore, next to the Venture Leaders pitching highlight, Consul General Olivier Zehnder & Vice-Mayor Chen Zhengchun gave their addresses, which was followed by a panel on innovation-driven smart manufacturing. Thank you to Jay Jiang and Ryan Zhang from CZND! Next stop: back to Shanghai!

The visit to the Changzhou innovation park has been one of the most valuable moment of the whole trip. It allowed us to get a real grasp on the potential industrial opportunities for foreign companies in China. The development shown by companies already established in the area is astonishing and the support from local organizations is truly valuable.
— Maurizio Migliore, Toucheless Automation

Shanghai     06-29-2019

We are now back in Shanghai for a morning workshop session where our Venture Leaders team joined industry leaders at Rouse Consulting for a deep dive into some essential topics such as IP & trademark and how to attract venture capital in China. Many thanks to Melvin (Yuan) MEI, Nigel Wong, Haifeng Wang, Ruixing Zhu and Ren Zhanbing for sharing their valuable insights!


The team enjoyed an activity-free afternoon where many individual meetings with investors were scheduled, resulting from very fruitful pitching sessions previously held. Next stop on the list: World Economic Forum in Dalian!

Dalian          06-30-2019 / 07-01-2019 / 07-02-2019 / 07-03-2019


After days of intense pitching, networking, coaching as well as signing deals while roadshowing in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Changzhou, our National Startup Team arrived in Dalian for the World Economic Forum's global meeting on innovation, science and technology!


Our Venture Leaders spent 3 intense but fruitful days at the World Economic Forum of the New Champions and enjoyed meeting other leaders from everywhere in the world. Great business leads and great networking!

These have been three amazing days at the World Economic Forum and a unique opportunity to present Tomplay to leaders from all around the world.
— Alexis Steinmann Co-founder of Tomplay

On the final evening in Dalian, the Venture Leaders pitched at the Swiss Incubator event during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions. We had the great pleasure to welcome the Swiss Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni, who gave the opening address, which was followed by Olivier Schwab, WEF’s Managing Director & Jordi Montserrat, Managing Partner of Venturelab.


This 5th pitching session was the second competition of the Venture Leaders China tour, following the one that saw Toucheless Automation win in Shanghai. The winner elected by the crowd was Dorina Thiess with Piavita. Congratulations!

Next and final destination: Beijing!

Dorina Thiess, pitching Piavita

Dorina Thiess, pitching Piavita

It was very inspiring to see the Swiss Startup Champions giving their pitches at the Swiss Incubator Night in Dalian. Congrats to Dorina Thiess and Piavita! And a big thank you to Jordi Montserrat for moderating the event.
— Lukas Zuest, Counsel & Head China desk @ VISCHER AG
Proud to be representing Venture Leaders and Switzerland at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, thanks to the work we do at Beekeeper empowering and digitalizing the non-desk workforce. Excited to meet other global leaders and share ideas / experiences on how to make an impact in this world.
— Daniel Sztutwojner, CCO & Co-founder of Beekeeper

Beijing          07-04-2019 / 07-05-2019


On the final day, our 10 amazing startups pulled an incredible feat of 3 pitches in 1 day!

Pitch #1 at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business to CKGSB's Chuang investors network.

Back on the road towards the next pitching location: PnP!

Back on the road towards the next pitching location: PnP!

Pitch #2 at Plug and Play China to investors from Beijing’s dynamic innovation ecosystem.

Because one of our ambitions and goals is to bring the ‘plug and play’ in the IoT. This meaning to make it as easy as possible for our customers and users to connect devices and focus on generating business value from sensor data. We work hard to make it possible and it was nice to say it while pitching our solution, in Plug and Play!
— Yannik Kopp from Loriot

Pitch #3 at Swiss Ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni’s invitation. This 8th pitch & grande finale of the 10-day-roadshow was held at the Embassy of Switzerland in the People's Republic of China where Alexis Steinmann, Tomplay won the coveted Swiss Embassy Award – Congrats!

The atmosphere and setup at the embassy in Beijing were the perfect finale to an incredible China tour. Thanks to the whole Swissnex team for the perfect organization and wonderful hosting.
— Dorina Thiess, CEO & Co-founder of Piavita
The venue was of course very extravagant. We had the chance to pitch outdoors in the Embassy Garden in front of a large audience (I think the pictures speak for themselves). They audience was hand selected and personally invited. Never have I ever seen such a high-level audience of relevant contacts at an event. I was contacted by several interested investors and potential partners. It was a blast.
— Simon Bachmann, CEO of IDUN Technologies

The roadshow ended in the best manner it could possibly have. After a very powerful networking session at the embassy, the Venture Leaders discovered Beijing by night, enjoying a well deserve taste of baijiu before heading towards new horizons. As a matter of fact, some Venture Leaders even extended their stay here in China to meet investors they had previously connected with during the pitching events.

The baggage that we bring back from China is certainly heavier than at the beginning, on a human level, of knowledge and experience.
— Yannik Kopp from Loriot
This roadshow was an excellently organized trip that gave us tremendous exposure and extremely valuable contacts. In these 10 days, not only did we learn from the different people we met during the networking events, but a great added value came from meeting and discussing with the other startups within the team.

Business wise, we now do have a lot of different prospects that we now have to follow up. We have had 5-6 meetings already with people we met at the pitching events. This 10-day trip here in China really helped us to see the different possibilities offered to us to enter the market early.
— Dominik Trost, Holo One

We would like to express our deep gratitude for the strong support of all our partners, especially to Jordi Montserrat and his team from Venturelab who produced extraordinary work with the startups, co-organizing the roadshow with swissnex China. A huge thanks to the Swiss Ambassador in China, Ambassador Regazzoni and his amazing team, our Embassy colleagues Nektarios Palaskas, Jonas Thürig, Chenchen Liu, Yijun William Wu and Tobias Werder for the stellar work they did in organizing pitching events and business meetings, to Andreas Rufer and Winnie from the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong, to Zhen Xiao and Kuno Gschwend from the Swiss Centers China and to all the other supporting partners that made this journey happen, such as digitalswitzerland, Canton de Vaud, VISCHER, Canton of Zurich, EPF Lausanne, ETH Zurich, Gebert Rüf Stiftung and the Changzhou national high-tech district. A huge thanks also goes to the company that kindly received us, Colibri and DJI, and to the speakers Melvin Mei, Nigel Wong, Haifeng Wang, Ruixing Zhu and Ren Zhanbing for sharing their valuable insights during our workshop at Rouse in Shanghai and to all the other key people who shared their experience and expertise of the Chinese market with our startups.


A big thank you to all of you who made this possible!


Vielen Danke & see you next year!