Creating a clear strategy and vision for financial success: Startup advice from Basler Kantonalbank
tartup founders can set themselves up for success by seeking out financial and accounting partners who are experts at helping businesses grow, and who are also aligned with the startup’s vision and strategy. According to Michael Baumberger, director of SME clients, and Stefan Janczar, senior SME client advisor at Basler Kantonalbank (BKB), key factors in the success of an early-stage startup include working with the right people, identifying diverse sources of financing and good business planning. The right partner can help with all of these.
Michael leads the SME department at BKB, supporting startups and larger enterprises in the greater Basel area. Stefan brings over forty years of experience working directly with small businesses. They agree that it’s important for founders to present themselves with confidence when approaching potential partners such as banks. “Potential partners look for entrepreneurs who have a clear vision and strategy for their business,” says Michael, emphasizing the need for founders to be well prepared. They also suggest having a prototype or MVP that can be tested with customers to get valuable feedback, and Stefan adds that if the founding team can demonstrate experience in the market they plan to operate in, this can also help to build trust with new partners.
Having a clear vision and prototype can also help founders make meaningful connections within their local ecosystem network. Going into an event or meeting with a focused strategy and vision will help founders better explain their activities and help them to connect with relevant industry players. “Basel is a great place for startups and it’s important to use the infrastructure that Basel has in place, including the network of mentors and financing options,” says Michael.
Michael and Stefan acknowledge that securing initial funding can be a huge challenge for early-stage startups, and they suggest that founders look outside of family and friends for seed funding and apply to dedicated support programs that can help them with initial research and applications.
One example is the KMUimpuls program offered by BKB. Created in 2006, the program provides assistance to both startups and scaling enterprises looking for financing, including access to public funds. An example of public funding is Bürgschaftsgenossenschaft, a guarantee cooperative provided by the Swiss government for loans to early-stage startups. This means that a portion of the loan is guaranteed to be paid back by the government if a startup does not succeed, significantly reducing the risk of the loan to providers. As part of KMUimpuls, startups can also begin making repayments on loans at a later date, giving them more time to become stable.
Potential partners look for entrepreneurs who have a clear vision and strategy for their business.
A clear business plan and model is another vital part of attracting partners and achieving success, and something else that BKB can assist with. “The business plan should be understandable for someone who doesn’t know what you do, or the market your product or service is targeting,” says Stefan. BKB has partnered with Startup Academy to help founders create effective business plans and clear models. BKB recommends that startups who approach them for funding participate in Startup Academy, and its team provides mentoring to entrepreneurs who participate in the program.
One successful example is Golex, the startup behind Sens2Go. This biofeedback system helps patients successfully recover after surgery on their lower limbs. Golex was supported by Basel Area Business & Innovation, Startup Academy and BKB. In 2019, Golex approached BKB for support. The startup was already part of the Startup Academy, had the support of the Swiss Health System for its product and was expanding to Germany. In 2020, BKB supported them with a public financing program, and in 2021, it granted Golex another financing round for the growth of the company.
Most important tips for startups:
- Have an experienced, committed team. The people behind the business should be ready to see the company through both the ups and downs.
- Create a comprehensive business plan. This should include the business case, market and model, and should be understandable for people who aren’t familiar with your product, service or market.
- Get funding from various sources. This could be from your own savings, public grants, banks or venture capital. Banks, including BKB, can help you apply for loans with guarantees backed by the Swiss government.
- Build a network. Basel Area has a strong network of support for early-stage startups that is ready to help those just starting out. Reach out to local partners who can help accelerate your business.
A version of this article is included in Startup Guide Basel Area, alongside many more expert insights and useful tips. Order your copy now!
Written by Alexandra Connerty
Repackaged by Anastasia Ilcov