How Swiss EP brings together program managers for learning and collaboration

4 min read
27 Feb 2020

n the startup ecosystem, there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups to meet and learn from one another. The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program has a broader approach. One of their flagship events, the Peer Exchange Meetup, gathers startup program managers from emerging markets, which bolsters the support options of emerging ecosystems. Read on to find out more. 

Now celebrating its third edition, Peer Exchange Meetup is a one week event that brings together startup program managers from emerging markets to Switzerland to share their best practices and discuss important topics and challenges concerning their work and communities among themselves and in exchange with Swiss and international peers. The event is produced by the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (Swiss EP), funded by the Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO) and operates in Vietnam, Peru and the Western Balkans. 

Photo: The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program

“The aim of the week is to inspire our guests and equip them with the concrete best practices to make plans on how to improve their operations and services for entrepreneurs and startups in their home countries,” says Teresa Widmer, the Global Manager for Swiss EP. 

Teresa began co-designing the week in early 2017 with fellow facilitator Anaïs Sägesser, integrating extensive feedback from the invited program managers into the program. “I put myself into the role of potential participant and asked myself what I would need and expect from such a week,” says Teresa. “The bottom-up approach is part of the DNA of Swiss EP.” 

The Peer Exchange Meetup centers around early stage entrepreneurial support and is sector agnostic, though a number of the program partners focus on their specific industries, ranging from biotech to tourism. Activities at the meetup include interactive sessions covering startup program trends, program deal flow and access to capital, as well as financial stability bootcamps. 

To have your accelerator selected for the Peer Exchange Meetup, you must have growth potential and be very willing to learn. “We expect from them that they open share their best practices and lessons learned, and raise questions in open exchange sessions linked to startup support,” says Teresa. 

For the last two editions, Teresa says “we not only got really good feedback from our partnering accelerator managers from our targeted countries, but also our Swiss and international contributors left with learnings in the process of exchanging.” This ultimately bolsters each and every ecosystem from which participants of the event hail. 

The Peer Exchange Meetup is only one of the many offerings of the Swiss EP, whose overall mission is to help local startup organizations grow, define their strategy, figure out what value they bring to the ecosystem and how they can leave a sustainable footprint. Most of Swiss EP’s activities take place in their countries of operation, and involve bringing in startup experts from more mature ecosystems to support the local startup programs and entrepreneurs by sharing their expertise, knowledge and mirror ideas. 

Another global event Swiss EP organizes is the global event the women entrepreneurs week, which shares the meetup’s purpose of providing an opportunity to bring like minded people together to network, learn and grow. In the 2019 edition, for instance, two entrepreneurs connected very well and the organization made sure to leave them space to get to know one another and exchange their passion for fintech. One of these entrepreneurs, who had just had a successful exit, ended up investing in the early stage startup of the other entrepreneur.

Photo: Teresa Widmer / The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program

We want more entrepreneurs to be successful in the location they call home, so that they can grow their business, be successful and ultimately create jobs and value for their local economy

All Swiss EP engagements have the overall goal of strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems. Swiss EP’s programming bolsters the ecosystems in Peru, Vietnam and the Western Balkans, consisting of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia via growth programs.  

Swiss EP’s main initiative, for entrepreneurs interested in collaborating further with the organization, is the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program, which aims to give “close support to startup programs in emerging markets.” The program brings high level professionals with the right work experience to local ecosystems in need of their expertise. 

At the heart of the Peer Exchange Meetup, and Swiss EP in general, is impact. The program focuses on building startups and ecosystems in emerging markets, creating pipelines for potential collaboration and inspiring people to become entrepreneurs themselves. 

Teresa says, “We want more entrepreneurs to be successful in the location they call home, so that they can grow their business, be successful and ultimately create jobs and value for their local economy.”

The 3rd edition of the Peer Exchange Meetup will take place from 30 March to 3 April at Chainwork in Zürich. To learn more about the Peer Exchange Meetup, check out Swiss EP’s specific Peer Exchange Meetup site.  

All photos: The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program