Mike Baur is an investor who is sold on the power of young entrepreneurs being able to change the business world through pairing creativity with financial resources and business coaching. Baur brings these two factors together through the program he runs at the Swiss Startup Factory in Zurich, Switzerland. What this accelerator has done is brought some much needed diversity to a nation that’s put so much into the financial industry over the years. Baur knows investing in brand new businesses means new risk assessments on the part of venture capitalists, but the potential for big rewards in many of these non-traditional companies is too large to ignore.
Mike Baur was originally working towards becoming one of Switzerland’s top banking figures with his career starting at UBS, one of the largest banks at the time. Switzerland has a long history of bringing people into the workforce starting in high school, and Baur was only 16 when he started learning the duties of an account manager at UBS. He was told if he followed a plan set forth by a UBS human resources specialist that he would make it to a high role at UBS and have a wealthy retirement at the end of it. He did very well in both advisory and management roles at UBS, and he later left that bank when the recession hit to take things to the next level at Clariden Leu. But the aftermath of the recession had changed a lot in banking in the following years that he decided it was no longer what he wanted to do.
In 2014, Mike Baur gathered partners in both venture capital and private equity firms to launch his accelerator at the SSUF. The company has a streamlined system that lasts three months for bringing along startup ideas and turning them into full-fledged companies over the course of three months, and part of the process includes outdoor physical activities intended to test entrepreneurs’ thinking, and pitch competitions that allow them to become familiar with what investors are looking for. Mike Baur specifically likes the routine he follows at the SSUF because he can take care of technical administrative items in the early morning hours and spend the rest of the day meeting face-to-face with entrepreneurs. So far thousands of startups have made it through the three-month process, though few have been able to receive capital and obtain the free office space offered at SSUF.