Just outside St. Gallen, there is a little place that can easily compete with all of the Zürich start-up-madness. If you are a business founder, or just looking for innovation in Eastern Switzerland, Startfeld is the place to be.
What you will notice first is that it is surprisingly quiet. Located in a former printing house just a seven-minute bus-ride away from the city center, you’ll find Eastern Switzerland’s very own innovation center, Startfeld. But as soon as you cross the threshold, there is the silicon valley-like buzz… people talking, coffee brewing, computers beeping. Opened up a year ago, Startfeld is a 900 square meter office hub with the goal of promoting a start-up ecosystem for Eastern Switzerland. And they’re quite successful. Not only is the “coolest start-up of 2017,” Advertima, operating out of Lerchenfeldstrasse 3, but other promising start-ups like Meteomatics or Frontify are also part of the Startfeld ecosystem.
“We are not the typical hub, like you might find in zurich or somewhere else,” says Peter Frischknecht, managing director of Startfeld, as he leads me through the modern office halls. He points out all sorts of working spaces: glass boxes with a few desks in it, small rooms used for retreats with colourful sofas and cushions, an event space and some cozy single working spaces.
“Our work spaces were designed this way with a purpose”, says Frischknecht. “Of course, one was to give young founders a place to develop and test their disruptive ideas. But we also wanted to mix them up with already established and more experienced young businesses and with their co-workers, who are looking for an innovative and out-of-the-box working atmosphere. “
Remo Daguati, owner of LOC Consulting, is one of these co-workers. “The Startfeld hub is one of the most international, pulsating and forward-thinking places to work at in Eastern Switzerland. That’s why my employees and I located our operations here instead of in our own office. All this innovative buzz is a definite plus for my company.”
What also makes Startfeld more than a typical hub is its special scientific environment. One of its supporters is the Empa – the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology. It is located right next to the Startfeld building, so synergies can be put to work and knowledge can be exchanged. «We wanted to create a place where ideas and technologies developed by Empa researchers can be transferred to the market,» managing director Frischknecht says.
At the moment two Empa spin-offs are working at Startfeld. One of them is Mycosolutions, a start-up who uses fungi to promote plant growth and soil fertility. Co-founder Reto Vincenz says: “This is not the first start-up I’m helping to create, but it is the first time I have the opportunity to work in an environment like this. While my partner is cultivating fungi at the Empa laboratories, I’m over here developing business strategies. The forward-thinking crowd here at Startfeld and the daily exchanges I have with other founders beats working from home any time.”
So, there really is a pulsating and innovative start-up bubble in this quiet part of St. Gallen. And it’s a bubble that is far from complete in its goal of promoting a start-up ecosystem in Eastern Switzerland. In April, a brand new floor with lots of additional office space will open and there are thoughts about having their own laboratory and an educational centre for students interested in start-ups on the horizon. Swiss innovation is obviously not confined to happening only in Zürich.