The Swiss government’s initiative to promote entrepreneurial high-tech endeavour has reached a milestone.
It has welcomed its 100th firm, Basel-based biotech start-up 4-Antibody, into its portfolio of high-tech ventures.
CTI Start-up announced the milestone this week. Its latest label winner, 4-Antibody, is a biotechnology firm with a unique way to discover antibodies that could be used to treat a number of killer diseases.
CTI Start-up emerges from the Swiss innovation promotion agency, the Commission for Technology and Innovation, an initiative launched by the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology.
It aims to help commercialise scientific breakthroughs. Part of its effort involves the granting of a kind of seal of approval or “label”.
CTI Start-up vets hundreds of proposals a year, viewing over 800 since it started the label programme.
It will grant the label if it believes the firm has the basics, such as a strong management team, a huge market and a way to access it, and commercialisation potential.
It then provides the teams with the coaching, grants to universities to carry out research projects for the start-ups, and support to make it ready for investment.
Basically, CTI supports promising university spin-offs and start-up companies and helps them as much as it can without actually putting money directly in the firm’s coffers.
If it did that, it would be a venture-capital investor, and most experts agree that is not the business of a government agency.
The label program has been underway since 1996 and has gone through a few changes before reaching the focused functionality it has today.
There are a growing number of experienced venture-capital industry professionals that are looking to work with CTI Start-up to gain access new technology-driven start-up companies.
They include people like Alfred Gantner of Partners Group, a multibillion-franc private-equity investment firm in Zug, Daniel Wenger whose law firm advises technology firms on structuring venture-capital deals, and Rene Eichenberger, an experienced venture-capital manager recently returned from the United States to manage a new venture fund in Switzerland.
A sign of CTI’s progress is that its label carriers are increasingly able to attract venture-capital funding from leading international venture-capital companies as they grow.
Some recent examples include Heptagon of Zurich, Glycart Biotechnology in Zurich, and Innovative Silicon in Lausanne.
CTI Start-up believes it has a good eye for identifying winning teams, stating that out of 100 firms it has recognised over the years, 85 are still in business.
But “being in business” is still a long way from being a tech-driven agenda setter, and a company that makes hundreds of millions in turnover.
Such a milestone is likely to be in the future. But those at CTI Start-up can probably take some consolation from Silicon Valley.
Even the best venture firms say that it takes five to ten years to build a two-man team and hot technology into a multimillion-dollar venture, bubble times excepted.
by Valerie Thompson
In compliance with the JTI standards