- IMD Business School
News Stories · Start-up

More than meets the eyes

Beyond idyllic scenery, IMD’s home region is an innovation hotbed
October 2019

Lausanne, IMD’s home base in the Canton of Vaud often conjure a scene of tranquil beauty with the Alps surrounding Lake Léman.

Lesser known about that scene is that it is also home to a thriving ecosystem of startups and their later stage versions, scaleups. For over 20 years, IMD has played a role in strengthening that ecosystem.

Since 1998, more than 400 Swiss startups have worked with IMD’s MBAs and EMBAs. In 2018, MBAs and EMBAs have contributed to an estimated CHF 1.2 million of value in in-kind support to Vaud-based firms through startup and consulting projects.

Innovaud, the Canton of Vaud’s innovation agency, tasked with promoting and supporting innovative startups, scaleups and SME’s in the Canton, recently released a report on the Vaud’s scaleups. It showed that over half (13 of the 24) of the selected companies, defined by their workforce growth phase and strong future potential, have worked with IMD’s students and professors.

IMD professor Jim Pulcrano founded and has been running IMD’s Startup Competition, the main point of contact between IMD and startups, since 1998. He’s seen many of the companies go from idea to thriving businesses and he knows that’s not easy, with estimations that up to 90% of startups ultimately fail.

These firms have been through hard times and made difficult decisions; they’re still in their infancy and growing,” said Pulcrano. “It’s a point of pride for IMD that so many of our startups continue into the next stages. Once they’re further along they contribute significantly to the regional and national workforce and economy.”

To date, the scaleups have created more than 2,500 stable long-term jobs worldwide. From the Innovaud list, IMD has worked with Abionic, BestMile, ecoRobotix, eSmart, Flyability, Gamaya, Lunaphore, Mindmaze, NetGuardians, NexThink, Pix4D, Spotme and QGel.

It’s a win-win-win for the Canton, the companies and IMD according to Rémi Walbaum, Innovaud President. “We greatly value the contribution of IMD’s annual Startup Competition. It provides an excellent opportunity to expose our young entrepreneurs to an international group of executives,” said Walbaum. “The commitment of several experienced individuals on a specific project has always led to an enhancement of the startups’ business models, feeding well into our ScaleUp program.”

Nicolas Durand, founder & CEO of Abionic, said: “The startup and scaleup phases have their unique challenges, but they’re equally difficult.  We’re pleased to have survived those early days, and now have the chance to grow substantially. Working with IMD during the early stage was tremendously helpful; having Innovaud with us today is just what we need”.

Concretely, the winners of IMD’s Startup Competition work with IMD MBAs and EMBAs to address entrepreneurial business challenges, analyze business models and strategies, and develop fundraising pitches. The EMBAs travel to Silicon Valley with the Startups to pitch the companies to Venture Capitalists.

“The results from the MBA analysis were real eye-openers to us. It was a great benefit to have this very diverse, professional and energized team at our side during the past week,” said a Vaud-based entrepreneur.

IMD enjoys a similar degree of success on the national level. In a 2019 ranking of Switzerland’s top 100 startups by VentureLab, 32 of the top 100 were past IMD Startup Competition partners, with four of them in the top 10.


Find out more about IMD’s Startup Competition.