Swiss IT security for the networked world: Markets and opportunities

Swiss IT companies are in an outstanding position in the rapidly growing international IT security market – now is the right time for the next step, namely abroad. The story of Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, demonstrates this. Meet him at Impulse: ICT in Lucerne on November 15!
Software programmer with keyboard
IT software from Switzerland has good global opportunities

Whether when driving, turning up the heat or booking your vacation: our lives, our offices, our factories are becoming increasingly digital. Every single network node can be targeted and attacked, personal data stolen and abused. This, in turn, means a giant global growth market for IT security is opening up. The research company Juniper estimates that the cost for data leaks will rise globally to over USD 2 trillion by 2019, approximately four times as much as 2015.

Growing from and beyond Europe: thanks to a talent pool

Now is the time for Swiss IT companies to benefit from this development. ProtonMail – a leading Swiss provider of a free encrypted e-mail service – has demonstrated how even a startup can manage this. CEO Andy Yen will speak about this at Impulse: ICT from Switzerland Global Enterprise in Lucerne on November 17 before the awarding of the Swiss ICT Award. Together with Jason Stockman and Wei Sun, he founded ProtonMail at CERN in Geneva in 2013 and remained there – even though many start-ups have the desire to move to Silicon Valley as quickly as possible. “In Switzerland we can pursue a sustainable growth model based on Geneva's international outlook. This global framework is similar to San Francisco, we can get the best talents in the world to come here, especially qualified personnel from Europe. With a very well educated population of over 500 million people, Europe offers a broader talent pool than even the US, and also with lower wages than in San Francisco.”

USA: Great potential, great competition

The most interesting markets for IT security products are those with a high awareness for the risks of digitization – mostly those in which big attacks that impacted many people have already taken place. Above all, this is the US for Andy Yen. Nonetheless, the US is considered a very challenging market for young companies – there is a great deal of venture capital to be gained, but also high demands on the marketability of the products and the attractiveness of the pitch. A Swiss startup will meet up with competition with the best technologies from around the world here, as well as with talents from the highest caliber Ivy League universities in the US.

Yen classifies the Swiss origin as an important sales argument, and not only in the US: “The reputation of Switzerland as a neutral country with high recognition in the private sphere was very important for us in developing our international customer base. Of course, ProtonMail’s security comes about through our technology, but Swiss neutrality helps us to reach more customers – we enjoy trust in a wide variety of regions, from the Middle East and Russia to Western Europe and North and South America.”

Specific pitch for US investors

But in the US it is not sufficient to focus only on this point – IT products from other countries too, such as Israel, offer a good reputation for data protection and perfection. We at Switzerland Global Enterprise therefore recommend the development of good local partnerships that already have access to a sound domestic network. It's all about working up a specific, so-called value proposition that a US customer or investor would like. As an official Swiss exports promoter, Switzerland Global Enterprise provides active support in this.

The Zurich Information Security and Privacy Center (ZISC), a research center of ETH Zurich, helps Swiss IT security solutions to gain visibility abroad as well. For the first time, the ZISC opened an ETH Studio in New York City. The initiative makes it possible for ETH students to now work not only on projects in Swiss firms, but also on IT security projects in American firms in New York.

United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore: Security for the world

ZISC researchers have brought their ideas to the global stage also in the form of startups. For example, the company Futurae is marketing a two-factor authentication solution based on machine learning for a variety of sectors, such as the healthcare, finance and insurance industries and online trading. Unlike customary solutions, where the user has to interact with SMS or QR codes, Futurae’s system runs completely without any interaction with the end user. It was indispensable for the startup to be set up internationally right from the beginning. “In the US, you get greater financing for less equity, comparatively speaking,” co-founder Claudio Marforio explains. This, in turn, makes faster global market access possible – meaning the US itself is an important market and springboard. Yen, the CEO of ProtonMail, sees potential for its products, especially in the United Kingdom. The industrial country of Germany also offers many opportunities for IT security products from Switzerland due to the digitization of its factories.

SWISS Pavilion INTERPOL World 2017 in Singapore

In Asia, Singapore is developing into a hub for IT security software. In 2016 McKinsey classified the city-state as the most networked country in the world, with the largest stream of data, finances, services, trade and people. Large companies such as IBM and Boeing have established their cyber-security centers in Singapore. Switzerland Global Enterprise offers Swiss companies the option of participating in INTERPOL World in Singapore – which will be focusing on IT security in the coming year – as part of a Mini SWISS Pavilion in July 2017. More information on our event page soon.

Program and registration for Impulse: ICT

The “Impulse: ICT” from Switzerland Global Enterprise will be held in the KKL in Lucerne as a side event as part of the Swiss ICT Award 2016. We welcome Andy Yen, CEO of ProtonMail, Martin Bosshardt, CEO of Open Systems, as well as Marc Holitscher, CTO of Microsoft Switzerland, who will speak about their experiences in the global business with IT security. Click here to check out the program and register.


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