How did you first come into contact with S-GE?
Gaetan Vannay: Through Innosuisse - when we were admitted to the personalized coaching support program for startups. The first direct contacts were made during a trade fair trip to Germany for a group of companies that S-GE had organized as a partner of Innosuisse.
Innosuisse is the Swiss Innovation Agency. The role of the entity under public law is to support science-based innovation in the interest of the economy and society. Innosuisse specifically promotes collaboration between academia and the market through innovation projects, networking, training and coaching, laying the groundwork for successful Swiss startups as well as innovative products and services.
What were your company's needs when you approached S-GE?
We were interested in participating in trade fairs, but could not find a suitable event in the Innosuisse and S-GE portfolio of leading trade fairs. As part of the “Pick your Fair” program, Innosuisse and S-GE then made it possible for us to attend the Autonomy.Paris fair: for this Smart City event, we were offered a package that included a digital stand and help in finding business partners in the Francophone region. Later on, the specialists from S-GE helped us to find business partners in another region, which included Spain and Italy in addition to France. We were very competently supported in this by Beat Kuster, the consultant for Southern Europe, and by the teams of the local Swiss Business Hubs.
The limited «Pick your Fair» offer is aimed at companies wishing to attend international trade fairs outside the leading trade fair portfolio of Innosuisse and S-GE. Prerequisites for this include participation in the coaching support program or a certificate from Innosuisse, as well as global ambitions and the willingness to enter international markets.
What are the biggest challenges for you when searching for new business partners?
Because our technology is so new, in the past we had to painstakingly convince potential partners of the efficacy and effectiveness of our solutions. Nowadays, this is easier: our efforts to convince them have already borne fruit. What's more, other companies are now also working with comparable - but less mature - technologies.
How exactly did S-GE support your company?
The organization helped us in our targeted search for potential partners. The fact that we were introduced by strong Swiss organizations such as S-GE, the Swiss Business Hubs and Innosuisse served as a real “door opener”, which allowed us to quickly participate in important meetings and connect with the right people.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your plans?
The Smart City event Autonomy Paris had to take place in an entirely virtual format, which caused some problems: it’s very difficult to make an impression at a virtual trade fair, if you can’t present your own content, can’t participate in panel discussions and can’t hold your own events. At a “real” trade show, visitors take time to walk around and also visit stands that they wouldn't necessarily have considered being of interest to them at first. This does not happen at a virtual trade fair. However, with S-GE’s help, we managed to secure a time slot for a presentation.
What results did your virtual trade show attendance yield?
We were able to make many new business contacts and increase our company’s visibility. By attending the fair, we succeeded in making our audience aware that there is a new solution for monitoring traffic noise.
Would you consider the cooperation with S-GE a success?
Absolutely! The organization of our presence at the virtual fair went smoothly. At Autonomy Paris, we quickly connected with the right companies. The S-GE team was very helpful throughout the entire process, always immediately on hand and invariably very friendly. The organization made every effort to support us optimally against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and - together with Innosuisse - adapted the offer. We will definitely also seek S-GE’s support in future!
The pandemic: What are your most important insights from the past 18 months?
I didn’t learn any specific lessons. As a former war reporter - a defining part of my past life - I know how to operate in “crisis mode”: pause and reflect, adapt to change, make decisions, take responsibility for them - and move on. We are all much more resilient than we believe …