Mike Baur – Co-Founder & Executive Chairman of Swiss Startup Factory

You should build a prototype, measure it very early in the market and learn from it.

Mike spent almost 20 years in Swiss Private Banking and made his way up from a commercial apprentice at UBS to an executive board member of one of the largest Swiss Private Banks. In 2014 at the age of 39, Mike started his entrepreneurial journey and founded his company Think Reloaded, a strategic advisory boutique for wealthy families and individuals. Mike is a mover and shaker and has become an important figure in the startup world in Switzerland. Mike was featured in the Wall Street Journal with an article about his career in early December 2016. He invests a lot of his time in Swiss entrepreneurship and supports various Swiss digital startups both as an investor and a board member. Early in 2015 Mike and two partners founded, today’s No.1 privately financed and independent startup accelerator called Swiss Startup Factory in Zurich, Switzerland. He holds an MBA from University of Rochester New York as well as an Executive MBA from University of Berne. Mike is a happily married father of two.

Where did the idea for Swiss Startup Factory come from?

The Idea for creating the Swiss Startup Factory and a purely privately financed accelerator program for Swiss startups came from my experience as an early stage startup investor. In the past I received too many average startup pitch decks and assisted with too many just average startup presentations. I asked myself, “why not create a kind of boot camp, and business execution platform for the best startup teams in Switzerland to boost the quality of very early stage startups in Switzerland to the next level?” Not just by giving them nice coaching modules like a lot of other startup incubators in Switzerland offer, but by providing to the selected startup teams a tough and execution driven experience. When I started assessing the idea a lot of people I was talking to told me that there was no necessity and market for such a setup in Switzerland because the country already offers so many governmental support programs for startups. But more people told me not to do it the more I was convinced that I have to do it and prove that they were wrong!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Startup acceleration is very intense and wild. I call it the hurricane-schedule since my day program quite often changes very fast depending on the needs of the startups I’m working with. Normally I get up around 5-5:30a.m. The great thing about this is that almost all my emails are already answered before my day really starts. With this I can perfectly focus all day on working with the people personally, and not sitting behind the laptop or computer screen working on my emails. Interacting physically with the people is the most important thing for me. Working with startups you can quite easily miss a high-level of productivity. I really try to focus on only the urgent and important topics to make it as productive as possible.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I work with the lean business model canvas approach. Which means that I have to test any idea very early in the market to make sure that you don’t start to believe in an idea that is maybe fantastic in your eyes but not really wanted by the market and the potential customers. Building a product nobody wants doesn’t make any sense and is a waste of time, money, and energy. So building a minimally available product, measuring it in the market, and then learning from the market feedbacks and validating the results is key.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The topic of virtual and augmented reality as well as deep learning excites me a lot. I am very convinced that these topics will change the world and impact a lot of industries in the near future.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Getting up very early (as mentioned before) and starting with a lot of early drive in the business day.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

At the age of 14 I had a summer job selling ice cream all day long at the lake. Since part of my salary was dependent on my sales performance I learned step-by-step how to approach people in a positive way to make them become happy buyers. At the same time I learned how difficult it is to sell a product every day.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

In terms of age I would certainly become an entrepreneur in my mid twenties and not wait until my late thirties.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I think the most important thing about being an entrepreneur is being passionate about what you do. I’m very convinced that this is the secret of success. People working with you, clients and investors feel it. That makes you unique and authentic. I try to be passionate every day.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

The strategy of letting the market tell you in a very early stage what it wants and what it doesn’t want. Having an idea or a prototype of a product needs to be tested very early in the market. A lot of founders, for example, first build their product and then go to market. I don’t believe in that. You should build a prototype, measure it very early in the market and learn from it. With this early market validation you continue to develop your product while referring to the market feedbacks and needs.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Hiring people and believing them, that they would have the same entrepreneurial DNA as I have was certainly one of my failures. You can overcome this by managing your employees on a very performance oriented schema and keeping the ownership for the final decision making process. There is a very thin line between delegating ownership and maintaining it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The idea of creating a business sales platform where talented sales people on one end and companies who want to sell a product on the other end can meet and matchmake. The companies wouldn’t have to hire expensive sales teams anymore since the platform would run on a freelancer basis with all salespeople being self employed. The salespeople could scout all kinds of products and decide what they want to sell and what they don’t. Compensation wise it’s a sales performance oriented model. It’s a cool idea, isn’t it?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Certainly the recent candlelight dinner with my wife since we don’t have so much quality time just the two of us.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Well I’m a big Apple fan and just love the connectivity and usability of the Apple tools. Another great tool I use is ASANA. It is very efficient when you work in teams on different tasks and want to track the progress and responsibilities.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

One of my favorite books is ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ from Anthony Robbins who is an amazing motivational speaker and coach. The book gives you great basic guidance and a lot of tools to reach your personal life goals.


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