Mike Baur decided to go into a startup investing gig in 2014 because he felt there was more to gain from investing in the new and the unknown than there was in his old job in banking. His new company, the Swiss Startup Factory is where his investments have been made. It’s an incubator and accelerator for new companies that includes coaching sessions on product testing, building marketing strategies and securing funding from venture capitalists. The startup founders who come to the SSUF are a diverse group with many being young college graduates while business owners switching careers are also included. Baur has seen thousands of new companies come through the program and has never regretted leaving banking.
Mike Baur’s exit from banking is something that in a nutshell shows the change in Switzerland’s economic aspirations. For so long, the banks were the most important part of Switzerland’s economy because the way they were run attracted a lot of foreign investors. Baur started in an internship at UBS Bank and the human resources aide who welcomed him to his job told him that his career could be planned out on a chart where if he worked hard and earned promotions at various stages, he would earn pay raises and eventually retire comfortably. From his internship position, Baur made his way up to accounts manager and advisor for a variety of credit and investment services and was honorably mentioned several times by some of UBS Bank’s wealthiest patrons. Baur stayed at UBS until 2008 when the recession happened, and though he took another job at Clariden Leu for several years, it soon became apparent that his passion lay elsewhere.
Mike Baur started laying the groundwork for the SSUF by meeting with various professional financial consultants and media executives, and by the end of 2014 he had launched its first session at its Zurich facility. What attracted investors to the SSUF was not only that it carefully chooses its applicants and takes them through a testing program lasting three months, but also because it has an out-of-the-box approach to seeing startups launch. It’s not simply training like what you’d find in college classrooms, there’s also outdoor activities like skiing and hiking that are made to build teams and see what decisions an entrepreneur will make. But for those who do show the value of their startup and get access to capital, they will also get temporary free office space as well.