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Switzerland, meet the “secret” spot of Entrepreneurship, startups and coworking of Europe.

When you think about Switzerland, the first thing that might come to your mind is chocolate or maybe Swiss cheese. If not food, you might think of its amazing nature, full of beautiful lakes and mountains that offers to outdoor activities lovers million of opportunities all year round.

No surprise here. According to the annual Mercer Quality of Living survey, Switzerland is one the country offering some of the best cities on earth to live in. Zurich, Geneva and Basel made it in the global top 10 for the year 2018, making it the country with the biggest number of cities in the highest ranks. Not bad Switzerland.

To live in a city, also means to work in it. When it comes to Switzerland, most of the people think it’s all about banks, Haute Joaillerie, pharmaceuticals and insurance but it’s not. We got curious to look at the evolution of work in Switzerland and how it has influenced the workspace as we know it and it’s pretty interesting!

A thriving startup scene.

Yes, you read it correctly. Thriving and we should even add growing. Switzerland being nestled in the middle of Europe, bigger cities like London, Paris or Berlin often get the fame when it comes to talking startups. But, did you know that Switzerland has been ranked the most innovative country in the world by the Global Innovation Index for many years in a row? Although that is not directly coming from the startup ecosystem of Switzerland, it still has an impact on the overall landscape.

  • For instance, over the last 6 years, investment in Swiss startups has nearly tripled according to the VC report of Startupkicker. The Swiss government is also starting to contribute to the overall ecosystem. It has secured, in 2017, CHF 300 million ($313 million) in private funds for a new initiative to support Swiss startups. The aim is to stop young entrepreneurs fleeing to the United States.
  • Speaking of young Entrepreneurs, Switzerland is one of the countries in the world that is home to some of the best universities such as EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale) in Lausanne or ETH in Zurich. The high level of secondary education offers a steady flow of motivated and high-qualified applicants. By offering great quality of life to its citizen, most young Swiss graduates are happy to develop their careers close to home, rather than heading to other European cities where competition is higher.
  • Because the quality of life in Switzerland is so great, Swiss consumers have a high buying-power. This means, for startups, that although the market is not big (over 8 million inhabitants), they benefit from the loyalty of their local consumers who prefer to support local products rather than international ones.
  • Lastly, startups from Switzerland also get access to a lot of Corporate companies, whom are based in the country and seek access to innovation either through funding or through acceleration programs.

But that is not it. One phenomenon has, over the past few years, heavily supported the rise of startups in Switzerland by giving them access to top-notch workspaces. This phenomenon has a name, it’s called Coworking.

Zurich, where it all started.

Back in 2007, the workspace landscape scene in Switzerland was way more different. More traditional, more fixed. But, with the rise of technology, new jobs as well as new ways of working (freelancing) have surfaced. So in 2007, Citizen Space, the very first coworking space from Switzerland, was born, with the vision to support Creatives in accessing nice and inspiring workspace with a thriving community. A few months after, Impact Hub Zurich has surfaced with the intention to support professionals working on sustainability. Over the years, the brand has expanded to 4 locations in Zurich and became one of the most active coworking spaces in the country.

From 2007 to today, the coworking scene of Switzerland kept on flourishing. Today, according to Coworking Switzerland association, there are more than 100 coworking spaces across the country. What is fascinating about coworking in Switzerland is that looking at the overall map of spaces available it seems like cities are organized around different types of professionals.

If we look closer at Zurich, the city offers a wide range of community spaces that are not just about startups. Take the example of Birdhaus or Wespace two coworking spaces for women only or trustsquare, a coworking space focusing on blockchain technologies and you can already see that the predominant aspect of Zurich coworking scene is about offering workspaces for curated communities. Remember ETH, one of the best university in the country we told you about earlier in this article? They also have their coworking space called Student Project House, a makerspace where students part of the university can create projects and build things. Zurich is also a city where coworking spaces can have more than one purpose, like Kraftwerk or Basislager and Caravan. More than just a place to work, those are also places to eat, meet and exhibit.

Zurich is, obviously a great place to work for startups. There are many accelerator and coworking spaces dedicated to them, like BlueLion, a foundation built by several Swiss institutions like Swisscom or ETH.

All does not happen only in Zurich.

Looking at the coworking scene of Switzerland, you quickly realise that not everything happens only in big cities like Zurich.

Basel, in the north of the country, has quite a cool coworking scene. Werkraum Warteck pp, a former brewery that transformed into a multi-disciplinary space for work, art and events. If you are into sounds, you might love HEI – HUMAN / ENGINE / INTERFERENCE. Rather than a pure coworking space, it’s a street lab gathering people around knowledge sharing and experiments, primarily around sounds technologies. If you love sports, Coworking Nike Basel would probably be the best spot in town. Located in one of the nike stores of the city, it offers access to a workspace as well as a fitness studios and many different nike classes ranging from yoga to running evenings and much more. In Basel, you will also find beautiful coworking environment such as in Klein Hafen (or little harbor).

Moving on to Bern, you will find Impact Hub, the place for innovation in the city. But innovation is not just about the people in the space, it’s also in the concept. Thus, in Bern, you can work in Effinger, a cafe combined with a coworking space, in the heart of the city. Whether you want to work for an hour or forever, they got you covered with their wide range of offers. There is also Der Hauptsitz, a coworking cafe with a strong passion for culture. Lastly, Entrepreneurs have a home in Bern and it’s called Urbanfish, a colorful coworking space with people from very different backgrounds.

Heading south, more precisely to Geneva, you will realise that the coworking scene there is as active as in the north! Voisins – a coworking cafe with several locations across the city offers beautiful workspaces, tasty coffee and yummy food! Geneva is also home to Foound, a living space where work meets Arts and creativity. We personally love the diversity of events they hosts not just for adults but also for kids! It is quite rare to find lawyers in coworking space, mostly because of privacy issues but in Geneva, there is lawfice, a coworking space for independants lawyers providing them everything they need to work without being afraid of privacy. Lastly, startups also have a wide range of options when it comes to finding a space in Geneva. From Impact Hub (yes they are also there) to Seedspace or Citizn, the choice is diverse!

Did you know that Lausanne is currently home to the biggest coworking space in the country? Gotham, is one of a cool spot to work for entrepreneurs seeking community and fun at work (you can use scooters to go around the space). Lausanne is also home to La Serre, a coworking space with a strong focus on well-being. Started by a naturopath and a wellness entrepreneur, members have access to yoga, healthy lunches as well as a naturopath cabinet to take care of their body. We can’t name them all because they are so many, but if you stay here and keep an eye on this blog regularly, you might meet a lot of cool coworking people from Switzerland 🙂

If you do not live in a big city or if you want to escape it, there are places like Swiss Escape – a coworking and coliving space in the middle of the mountains where you can enjoy great snow in the winter and loads of outdoor activities in the summer.

Why are we writing all of this? Because we have some news! Very soon, Switzerland will welcome a new addition to its coworking family in Morges, a city close to Lausanne. It’s name? OurPlace. If you are curious to discover more about it, keep an eye on this blog for a soon-to-be-released reveal!