From an idea to a business

The SWISS UPSTART CHALLENGE is geared to the three phases of setting up a business.

Phase I – Formulating a business idea
Phase II – Implementing the business idea
Phase III – Presenting the business professionally

Phase I – Formulating a business idea

Preparing a short presentation
The prerequisite for admission to the first selection presentation is the formulation of your own business idea. The 100 participants of the SWISS UPSTART CHALLENGE whose business ideas best fulfil the criteria will be invited to the first selection presentation in March. During this presentation, the participants must convince the internal jury of their business idea in three minutes. 50 participants from this round will qualify to participate in the second round.

Phase II – Implementing the business idea

Writing a business plan, more detailed presentation
In this round of selection the emphasis is on the feasibility of your idea. The content of a more detailed business plan of 15 to 30 A4 pages will provide the basis for a five-minute presentation to the internal jury. 25 participants from this round in August will be chosen to participate in the final.

Phase III – Presenting the business professionally

Preparing the final presentation
The final presentation differs from the previous ones in two ways: Firstly, the participants direct their attention to their entrepreneurial vision or philosophy and answer the central question: What does my company stand for and what level of business and economic performance will it attain with its product or services, and possibly with its structure or management? Secondly, their final seven-minute presentation will be made to a mixed jury, consisting of representatives of the FHNW as well as experts from the business world and society.

Evaluation Criteria

For each of the three phases there are different evaluation criteria that determine who will continue to the next round. You will find the criteria for the three phases below.

Phase I – Formulating a business idea

Requirements for formulating the business idea

In order to be admitted to the first selection presentation you must explain your business idea on a maximum of two to four A4 pages. Your business idea must include the following aspects:

Formulation of a clear, strong and understandable vision and graphic/visual presentation of the business model

  • A concrete offer: What are we going to do?
  • A brief but convincing description of the product or service
  • How exactly is it innovative, or how does it solve the customer’s problem (USP/UAP)? What value do we provide with it (also in comparison with the competition? Why should customers buy our product or use our service?)
  • A rough market analysis: Who are our customers? How big is the estimated market potential? What position in the market or market share do we wish to achieve?
  • Estimates regarding financing: How much innovation capital is required? Who will finance it?
  • Estimates regarding earnings: cost structure / break-even / profit dynamics
  • Timetable: what are the next steps planned?
  • Evaluation criteria for the business idea and the presentation

You will make a three minute presentation of your business idea to the internal jury. They will decide whether to admit you to the second round. A maximum of 50 participants will be admitted to the second round on the basis of the total number of points obtained. In order to move on to the next round you need at least 18 points. If more than 50 participants achieve this number of points, the internal jury will choose the 50 best business ideas.
You will receive written feedback regarding your evaluation and admission to the next phase within two working weeks.

Phase II – Implementing the business idea

Requirements for the business plan.

The following suggested content for the business plan forms the basis for the evaluation criteria, with a focus on the product, service, markets and marketing.

  • Summary: business idea, vision, strategy, management, products, market, finance plan, risks and opportunities, any offers of investment
  • The company: legal structure and capital structure, owners, strategic and operative partners, controlling, consultants
  • Management and staff: organisational chart, roles, education and management experience of key people, personnel planning and development
  • Products and services: detailed description of products and services as well as value for the customer, position in life cycle, further development and innovation
  • Markets: key market (potential and growth), customer structure, planned sales figures, competitors, competition and market analysis
  • Marketing: target markets and customer groups, PR, advertising, sales, distribution, product range, service and price policy
  • Business risks: analysis of potential dangers and how to avoid or minimise risks.
    Production and infrastructure: location, production facilities, capacity, storage, suppliers, cost estimate
  • Other aspects: patent and brand protection, risk and insurance policy, public commitment
  • Timeline: deadlines, milestones

The business plan content is adapted from the SME portal of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)

Evaluation criteria for the business plan and the presentation

You will make a five-minute presentation of the business plan to the internal jury. The most important criteria for the jury evaluation are the completeness of specific key topics and the evaluation grid below. You need to obtain at least 24 points in order to be admitted to the next round. A maximum of 25 participants will be chosen for the third and final round, based on the average number of points obtained. If more than 25 participants achieve at least 24 points, the internal jury will select the 25 best business ideas.

Phase III – Presenting the business professionally


Requirements for the final presentation

A seven-minute presentation using a medium of your choice must fulfil the following requirements:

  • Entrepreneurial vision /philosophy
  • Business strategy
  • Quality of management
  • Marketing
  • Presentation
  • Criteria for the final presentation

The jury will choose the winner according to the total average number of points achieved. If there is a draw, the jury will have the final word.

Prof. Dr. Arie Hans Verkuil, President of the Jury

Arie Hans Verkuil is Head of the Institute of Management at the School of Business, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Northwestern Switzerland, FHNW in Windisch. He has a PhD in business ethics and teaches management and leadership. He has many years of management and project experience in consulting and training. As the founder of several enterprises in the service sector he has practical experience of entrepreneurship. Arie Hans Verkuil is the president of the jury of the SwissUpStart Challenge.

Prof. Markus Baertschi

Prof Markus Baertschi studied mechanical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and went on to set up and build his own company, Baertschi Engineering. This company and further start-ups offered solutions related to logistics, automation and control technology. He then began lecturing in mechatronics and logistics at the University of Applied Sciences, FHBB. In 2000 he began lecturing in production facilities planning at the ETH (BWI) and gave up his group of companies. Today he is on the management board of Genilem, has a mandate with Swissmem as an innovation coach and is a member of the board of directors of SMEs in various sectors, with responsibility for strategic questions related to technology development.

Roland Brack

Roland Brack is the founder of Brack Consulting, now Brack Electronics plc and of Competec Holding plc, where he is the only shareholder. He completed his studies in electrical engineering at the HTL Brugg-Windisch and has been self-employed, trading in computers as a part-time job since he was 14 years old. He has many years of experience in the areas of import, distribution and sales (mainly via a webshop), differentiation through service, customer satisfaction and availability. Roland Brack can look back on many business successes in terms of economic viability, revenue and growth.

Florian Gautschi

Florian Gautschi is the project leader of Aargau Services Economic Promotion, with responsibility for the support and mentoring of young entrepreneurs in the canton. He has a degree in business economics and is currently completing am Executive MBA programme. He has a large network in the start-up sector and in-depth knowledge of promotion opportunities for young entrepreneurs. Florian Gautschi is a member of the executive board of GENILEM Aargau. He has contributed to developing the concept of the SwissUpStart Challenge as a representative of the canton of Aargau.

Prof. Dr. Ivan Köhle

Ivan Köhle is Head of the Bachelor’s in Business Administration at the School of Business of the FHNW at the Brugg-Windisch campus. He was awarded his doctorate in the field of accounting at the University of Zurich and teaches corporate finance, management and tourism. Ivan Köhle gained practical experience of entrepreneurship as the co-owner of a tourism company and is currently President of the Board of Directors and co-owner of the SW TravelClub plc.

Christina Loosli

Christine Loosli is Managing Director of the Aargau Technopark in Brugg and works as a lecturer and Head of the CTI Entrepreneurship Mitte at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Northwestern Switzerland FHNW. She has a degree in natural sciences from the University of Basel and a degree as a business engineer (FH) and an Executive MBA in international management. She has many years of leadership and project experience in a range of sectors at the interface between IT and business in an international context. Christina Loosli now works in the field of start-up promotion and knowledge and technology transfer.

Prof. Dr. Uta Milow

Uta Milow is Professor of Macroeconomics at the School of Business of the FHNW. She studied macroeconomics at the University of Mannheim and was awarded her doctorate in the field of political economics at the University of Tübingen. Since 2008 she has led the EMBA programme at the School of Business, which educates many future entrepreneurs. The topic of entrepreneurship is covered in-depth in a specialisation module. She is the deputy to the Head of the Institute of Management.

Prof. Dr. Rolf-Dieter Reineke, Business and Academic Head

Rolf-Dieter Reineke is a lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Northwestern Switzerland FHNW. He studied macroeconomics and business administration at the University of Münster and was awarded his PhD there on the subject of international management.
He has many years of experience in leadership and project management in consulting, training and research in an international context. As the founder of several enterprises in the service sector and consultant in many projects related to business development, he has practical experience of entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rudolf Tanner

Rudolf Tanner is Head of Research and Development at the Aargau Hightech Centre. After two years of vocational education as an auto electrician he studied electronic engineering and completed his studies with a PhD. Following this he worked for an international company in Great Britain in the area of research (3G/4G mobile telephony, signal processing, MIMO systems) and later for various SMEs in Britain and Geneva. At the same time he gained experience in the market related to testing devices, mobile telephony, software, consumer electronics and microchips.