Five years after moving to Switzerland. Why I am still here

The Matterhorn — symbolizing Swiss exceptionalism

Tech companies

In the last five years many tech startups popped up, and grew. Also the presence of Google, Amazon, Apple increased.

Zurich’s startups

Zurich is a very expensive small place and not a famous startup hotspot. You neither have access to easy capital (like in Silicon Valley) nor to inexpensive talent (like in Berlin).

Security focused startups

Security & privacy oriented companies deserve an extra paragraph. Snowhaze.com, a private iOS browser with built-in VPN, protonmail.com, a private email service and securesafe.com, a private cloud data storage, all reside here. These firms have an unfair advantage as compared with firms elsewhere because they just have to obey Swiss law, not EU law, not US law. Historically, Switzerland takes privacy extremely seriously, with banking privacy being the canonical example. Due to international pressure full banking privacy doesn’t exist anymore. Still, the laws are quite privacy oriented and that isn’t about to change anytime soon.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency

Some of the international core Bitcoin community lives here and make use of the liberal Swiss economy to develop their ideas and products. shiftcrypto.ch is a hardware wallet manufacturer proving that even hardware startups can successfully come into being here. The first time I got in touch with the bitcoin community was at a hackathon in 2016. These “true” bitcoiners weren’t into making a quick buck but were real believers in it.

Startup failures to learn from

The most visible startup failure in the last five years was Siroop, an online shop that was attempting to be Switzerland’s Amazon. At its peak it had more than 100 employees in Zurich, advertised on every corner, tram and bus-station. Shortly after the main investors (a local supermarket conglomerate) decided to pull the plug, and sadly, 100 employee were put on the street. Money and employees are by far not enough to have success as a venture. Still, galaxus.ch/ Digitec.ch are the biggest Amazon-like online shops, with microspot.ch and brack.ch taking more or less the remainder of the market.

Consumer apps

In the last five years many “local consumer” startups appeared that made daily life even more comfortable here. Note that these are not Snapchat-like consumer startups that aim to capture the world but rather apps that can only be used in Switzerland:

On health insurance

Switzerland has a private, non-socialized health system where providers compete on price and quality. The health providers can’t deny anyone and they have to offer the same package and they can’t exclude preconditions.

Final thoughts

There could be more development in recruitment, real estate, and health care and — surprisingly — finance. Also, Swiss firms should be more open to allow remote work and flexible working hours. Often, I still see “Blockzeiten”, mandatory attendance hours, on job descriptions. Maybe a more open mindedness on this perspective wouldn’t hurt.

Referral codes

The startups mentioned above that have referral codes are listed here:

  • neon-free.ch — banking, C4UYPL gives you CHF 30 on your new bank account.
  • Use code “39494546791” to get CHF111 off on your fiber7.ch 1GB internet subscription.
  • fairtiq.ch — public transport ticket: code: “M9JL46R73” gives you 3 CHF discount on your first train / tram ride.
  • bond.info — e-bike ride sharing: “TAFJL9LF8” gives you free 10 minutes on an electric bicycle.
  • viac.ch — third pillar (“Säule 3a”) retirement savings account, either code “aunlCQ”, Ozp4J3”, “HSBhdm”, or “nCMa9A” will give you zero management fee on the first CHF 500.

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