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In search of innovation

Digital transformation and innovation – two catchwords that express the strategic objectives of the Helvetia Venture Fund. They play a central role when it evaluates start-ups with which it could potentially collaborate. But what does that mean exactly?

9 July 2020, text: Mirjam Arnold, photo: Deposit

A group of young business people discuss a project together.

Each year, the Helvetia Venture Fund holds talks with around 600 different fledging enterprises and evaluates them for possible investments. It ultimately invests in three to five start-ups. For example, in a further investment round, Zurich-based trust tech start-up Skribble recently received capital for its expansion into new markets. «Through the Venture Fund, Helvetia also invests in promising new themes that extend beyond the changing insurance market and evolve in adjacent areas. By doing so, we bring innovation to the company, secure the necessary skills for the future and scale good ideas in our core business,» explains Patrick Scherrer, Head of Strategy and M&A at the Helvetia Group.

When does the Venture Fund invest?

A number of factors have to be right before the Venture Fund can decide in favour of an investment or a collaboration. These include the phase the enterprise is in. The Fund’s strategy is geared to collaborating mainly with start-ups that have largely completed product development and already have their first customers in the marketplace. Geography is also important. Preference is given to fledgling enterprises based in a country in which Helvetia also operates. This way, the start-ups can be given the best possible support during their development. The need for investment also plays a role, of course.

Start-ups acting as a bridge

The fledging enterprises with which Helvetia collaborates generally act as some sort of bridge. This role is best explained using various examples:

  • Start-ups in which the Venture Fund invests can help with comparing and selling insurable products. Inzmo, for example, enables access to new insurance customers.
  • The fledging enterprises can offer Helvetia customers additional services and attract new customers. MyPass allows customers to purchase ski passes without having to queue. Conversely, daily ski insurance policies have been offered through the platform for the first time.
  • The fledging enterprises follow and develop trends relevant to insurance companies: Helvetia is convinced that Volocopter will play a role in shaping future mobility.
  • The Helvetia Venture Fund also supports the further development of ecosystems. These enable additional sources of revenue to be tapped in new areas of business, as Flatfox shows in the «Home» ecosystem, for example.

Becoming a customer and winning customers

To enable it to correctly assess all the necessary aspects and make a sound decision, the Venture Fund maintains close contact with Helvetia’s various market and support divisions. This allows needs and opportunities to be discussed directly with the business. The talks with interested start-ups can produce one of two types of collaboration. In the first case, Helvetia becomes a customer and uses the service offered by the fledgling enterprise. The other possibility is that a start-up becomes a Helvetia customer and takes out an insurance product for itself. The ultimate goal, however, is always to learn from one another, develop new strengths together and expand existing skills.