#StartUpSelfie from Impact Hub Zurich discovering Kickstart Accelerator

Swiss exploring while shifting from one Impact Hub to another. In the first story from the startup community of Switzerland we learned more about Impact Hub Geneva. This time I was eager to discover what’s behind the story of Impact Hub Zurich and how they’ve managed to grow and establish FOUR spaces in this city under the Impact Hub umbrella.

It was a beautiful sunny and warm winter day in Zurich and I was heading towards their official space at Café Auer&Co. I found this hidden gem close to the river, and I was welcomed by one of the Co-Founders and BizDev Lead – Christoph Birkholz. He’s German but lives in Switzerland for quite some time now. We grabbed our coffee and tea and I was all ears 🙂



“While doing my master studies I realized in which direction I should go with my career and most importantly what I would like to do. Many of my friends and colleagues wanted to build their own business and I wanted to build a fund for social enterprises. This was, back in 2008. It happened that we didn’t get the mandate for the fund and I got an offer for doing a PhD instead in startup finance and renewable energy. During this period, I met my cofounders of Impact Hub Zurich. Our advantage was that we were the first ones in Switzerland trying to get the license and establish Impact Hub, while at the same time we were very much involved in the global network.
With the launch we needed more than space and building a community, we wanted to bring more to the table. This is how Impact Hub fellowship was born. It is a start-up program for impact entrepreneurs in the Impact Hub network and we’ve helped other hubs to replicate it in their location.” – says Christoph.

When you are first on the market there are so many challenges. I was interested to learn what their main challenges were while setting up and looking back what is his best learning from the whole process:

“When we started with social entrepreneurship it was all new to everyone we met on our way. So for us one of the main tasks was to introduce the concepts of social entrepreneurship, social innovation and impact driven businesses. Startups need to be supported, but is hard if you deal with legal and other administrative obstacles. When I look back at that time, from day one you are bootstrapping, we grew into that. There is a lot of pressure now when your team grows, you become little bit more cautions and a bit more long term looking. While creating the program we faced challenges in selecting mentors, few of those have experienced this life and built something, and also they needed to have a pedagogic approach on how to teach the mentees. One of my biggest learnings is that community is an important factor, peers around to share ideas and start collaborative projects together, a value that it is reassuring that what we offer makes an impact!” – adds Christoph.



Want to learn more about Impact Hub Zurich programs and how you can join? Well, in time for startups to apply for their Kickstart Accelerator, let’s get all the details:

“Kickstart is one of Europe’s largest zero equity, multi-corporate accelerators. It was founded in 2015 and is an initiative in cooperation with digitalswitzerland, a cross-industry initiative which aims making Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub in Europe. Kickstart Accelerator is backed by experienced entrepreneurs, investors, academia and top companies in Switzerland and offers a unique opportunity to bring your startup to the next level in just 11 weeks! All finalists get 3 months of co-working where we do a follow up with the most promising and we facilitate the procedures in potential investment. Some of our startups already got investments around 5 million CHF in total.” – says Christoph with a proud smile.

Start your company with Kickstart Accelerator! All international startups and intrapreneurial teams operating in the following areas: Food, FinTech, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, Smart Cities (in Zurich) and Healthcare (in Basel) – Apply for a chance to be one of the selected startups!



Before we wrapped up our talks I wanted to get some advice from Christoph aimed for all who feel like they have ‘the entrepreneurial bug’, those who want to change things and have an impact:

“Use this global network to experiment new ways of working together, living together. Here we are trying to help people change their career and help people that hate their job to utilize their full potential and pursue the career that they would love. In the startup world, I think we should focus more and care about which problems startups are solving. People should work and build companies to help solve all the issues that are still happening in 2017. It’s not about financial exit, and selling your company. Young entrepreneurs should get the startup experience before they move to startup support programming. Think as big as you can and double the scope of your initiative. It is not only worth it but it is necessary.” – Christoph explains.

Enjoyed learning more about Impact Hub Zurich and Christoph story and I highly encourage all startup teams to apply by 30th of April, for their new batch at Kickstart Accelerator. Grab this opportunity and build your startup from Zurich – one of the fastest-growing startup hubs and one of the world’s leading financial centres!

New story from the Swiss startup community coming soon…


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