Crowdfunding in Switzerland: Highlights of the 1st #CrowdTuesday

The first #CrowdTuesday in Switzerland took place April 26th on the Bulle campus of Glion Institute of Higher Education. This networking event was organized by the European Crowdfunding Network and Swisscom by Andreas Pages. It was hosted by Glion Institute of Higher Education and the event logistics and refreshments were managed by Glion’s Event, Sport and Entertainment Management Postgraduate students.

The #CrowdTuesday Switzerland event brought together the representatives of crowdfunding platforms, policy makers, and financial industry authorities to discuss common challenges and create new opportunities through networking.  During the extended coffee break and closing aperitif, guests and students shared plentiful conversations and exchanged ideas with the key players of this fast-growing, fast-changing FinTech sector. They took every opportunity to make the connections that would enhance their prospects going forward. Glion students took this chance to engage in conversations with the experts.

#CrowdTuesday Switzerland Highlights

CrowdTuesday is a small to medium sized event bringing together the crowdfunding industry at a local level. Characterized by an informal and welcoming atmosphere, CrowdTuesday is a perfect occasion for anybody interested in crowdfunding to do some networking or to listen to an interesting presentation, while having an after work drink. Participation is free of charge.

“I was overwhelmed with the response and the more than 120 attendees at this event,” said Andreas Pages, Swisscom Digital Business Unit FinTech, “The level of engagement and networking in the crowdfunding industry is important for its future success. I am very happy that we could introduce such a variety of platforms. We could learn first-hand from the SECO about the most recent regulation developments as well. It was a great networking event, with a fantastic content, and a great audience.”

The first part of the event featured nine keynote speakers who had 5 minutes each to inform the audience about their company’s activities, challenges and outlook. Here are the key quotes, insights and pictures of the event.

FinTech in Switzerland

Fintech is the financial technology sector which includes crowdsourcing platforms and other companies that are using technology to make financial services more accessible and efficient.  Currently, Switzerland has a relatively small fintech industry, when compared with international markets. Data and stats on Swiss Fintech are here.

“In spite of living in the era of internet and globalization, a company must have a physical presence in a market in order to succeed. This is why there are virtually no internationally successful Swiss IT companies with a b2c focus.” 

Christian Walter, Partner, Swiss Made Software. The Swiss Made Software label stands for Swiss values in software development.

Crowdsourcing regulations and growth

“What we are lacking here in Switzerland is a risk culture, there’s a lot of money, and an interesting market, but we’re lacking people who like to take risks. If you have an idea, go for it, don’t be afraid to fail. We have to develop “crowd culture”, meaning not just putting an app online, but talking about community, empowerment, and participation. We are to see a lot of changes in how people think about money and funding, there’s a cultural shift going on and we’re happy to be part of that shift.” 

Johannes Gees, Partner, Wemakeit.com, crowdsourcing platform that supports a wide range of projects.

Keys to successful crowdfunding projects

Key insights into crowdfunding in the cultural industry based on a study done by the IFZ on behalf of ProHelvetia and the Federal Office of Culture:

  • Internet removes geographical distances – but crowdfunding still shows the importance of local ties. Geographical distance between backer and project location is 15km (median) for successful projects, equivalent number for those not reaching their goal is 50% higher.
  • Summer has not been ideal to launch a crowdfunding project. Historically, the success rates were lower for projects launched in May, July and August.
  • Crowdfunding is a rather urban phenomenon. 76% of urban projects were successful, whereas the success rate for projects from rural areas was 64% / 12 percentage points lower.
  • The first 24 hours are critical. Successful projects with a duration of 30 days collected 4 times more within the first day than unsuccessful projects, so “launch hard or go home”. Once 30% of the target amount is reached after the first third of the project duration, the probability to succeed was 94%.
  • The effort of project initiators is key, projects descriptions that are translated into multiple languages show higher success rates.
  • The amount a project collected (in % of their target) was statistically independent of the number of other projects seeking funding at the same time.

Mr. Reto Wernli, Institute of Banking and Finance, HSLU (Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts)

A multi-product approach

“Multiproduct platforms are a major challenge because every loan type is an entirely different animal with varying properties in terms of regulation, risk underwriting, client interaction etc. Unfortunately, the traditional banking industry is reluctant to supporting modern risk underwriting tools which would, for example, require an bank interface to access account data. The crowdfunding industry and the traditional banking industry should join forces to protect and further the importance of the Swiss financial markets. This obviously also requires a sound regulation and, as we believe, a more proactive than reactive regulator.”

Michel Lalive, Founder, Lend.ch, a crowd lending platform for personal loans with the aim of integrating various types of loans.

Communication and crowd equity

“With crowd equity, the investors get shares and investors will be your best advocates, so follow-up on progress is essential. It’s important for them to know how it’s going on and how they can help with their knowledge and network. So it’s essential to prepare a campaign and focus on the communication because a good crowd investing campaign will expose strongly your company and you need to take advantage from that.” 

Maxime Pallain, Co-founder, Raizers.com, crowd equity and lending platform in Switzerland and France.

Crowdfunding property investments

“Crowdhouse.ch is disrupting the biggest asset class in Switzerland to make it more accessible: Property investment. Real estate investment is advantageous now because of the current economic climate: banks have negative interest rates, the financial markets are exhibiting volatility, and often times real estate transactions are not transparent and/or are inaccessible.”

Robert Plantak, Co-founder and CEO of Crowdhouse.ch, crowdfunding platform for real estate property projects.

Co-funding European SME financing

“We offer a new type of financing based on a real economy of lenders connected directly with small businesses. This system promotes change by bypassing traditional banking and corporate loans and it avoids speculation. The process involves three simple steps: an eligibility check using an algorithm, a borrowing simulation and risk analysis, and a campaign.”

Thomas Giacomo, Co-founder wecan.fund, co-lending platform for European SME financing.

Beyond the crowd

“The need for online lending solutions is huge and it is our goal to bridge the financing gap for self-employed and SMEs. In the current market, many loan applications are still made offline and during office hours, which is expensive, slow and not convenient. This needs to change.

Fintech must not be confused with ecommerce. Financial investments are built on trust and that requires more than a fancy website. It requires professional credit underwriting, general counsel, compliance and risk management functions.

Disruption is happening in the lending market – as Bill Gates once said: “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

Teddy Amberg, Partner, CreditGate24.com. CreditGate24.com connects borrowers directly with private and institutional investors, thereby creating win-win situations.

Payment solutions

“Today, customers want to buy things immediately. At Muume, we are digitizing the retail customer service flow from shopping and ordering to paying. We have a way to make all products accessible via online retail, outsourcing the ordering and payment to streamline it, so we enter the purchasing process before the customer goes to buy.”

Daniel Gradenegger, Founder and CBDO, Muume, a digital payment application which streamlines the payment process between customers and their favorite brands.

Regulatory Challenges to Crowdfunding in Switzerland

The second half of the event focused on financial regulations and solutions, a topic that is of particular interest to crowdsourcing professionals. To spearhead the discussion, Martin Godel, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) presented the latest changes in regulatory legislature.

“The Swiss Government wants to create and maintain a space with optimal regulatory conditions also for fintech companies to prosper. As the crowdfunding industry has signaled serious difficulties with applicable regulations, the Federal Council has decided to look into these issues. The regulatory environment for crowdfunding has to improve and various government bodies are working hard on it.”

The Federal Departement of Finance, the State Secretariat for international Financial Affairs (SIF) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) have been collaborating with the crowdfunding industry, FINMA as well as lawyers over the last months in order to better understand the regulatory issues and clarify possible solutions. After the presentation, the audience had the chance to engage with Martin Godel by asking questions.

The official FDF release on regulatory improvements for Fintech companies is here.

Martin Godel, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO

Payment solution

A problem for many platforms is the need for deferred payment as crowdfunding projects typically run for up to 60 days.

“Operators of crowdfunding platforms have to answer several challenging questions regarding money flows. The most important ones are about deferred payments and financial market regulations. RaiseNow is offering specific products to build and run a crowdfunding platform. This not only includes white-labeled crowdfunding software and e-payment solutions, but also FINMA-approved marketplace and escrow services.”

Marco Zaugg, CEO, RaiseNow, a digital fundraising solution provider that aims to provide a better experience for donors and project heads with applications online and for  mobile.

Glion student business concept seeks crowdfunding

To conclude the event, two Glion students had the honor of presenting their project for a business concept that they would like to fund through crowdfunding. Their concept was for a personalized luxury fashion concierge based in Milan. They estimated a campaign goal of EUR100,000 and provided a high-level vision of how their company would work, they even included a short video for inspiration. A team of three experts provided advice towards the students on how to go forward.

andreas pageCrowdTuesday impressions and future prospects

The CrowdTuesday event brought together the Swiss FinTech Crowdfunding industry for the first time which was highly appreciated by the industry itself and received a lot of attention from outside. The event focused on being a networking event. In addition, CrowdTuesday also managed to deep dive into the most pressing issue of the industry whilst providing a broad picture of the current industry and the who-is-who.

The event organizer Andreas Pages commented: “In fact, the event received such positive comments that we will continue to have the #CrowdTuesday format in Switzerland. We had a great audience, fantastic speakers, and it was very well organized by Glion.”

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