Could you briefly describe your company and your core activities?
Zippsafe is a startup company from ETH Zurich that specializes in smart, space-saving locker solutions for staff changing rooms. Compared to conventional solutions, our product offers maximum space efficiency and significant process cost savings thanks to the digitization of administration. The space saving of up to 70% often corresponds to several hundred square meters that can be used more meaningfully by the customer. Despite this efficient use of space, we guarantee maximum user-friendliness with our innovative solution based on locking bags. Today we employ around 40 people at our offices in Zurich, Budapest, Dusseldorf and Vienna.
What was your biggest learning experience during export and how did you make the leap abroad?
As a first step toward expansion, we decided on the German market, as it seemed extremely attractive for a variety of reasons. These included the number of potential customers, economic strength, and the cultural and linguistic similarities. When we entered the market, however, it quickly became clear that the cultural differences were much greater than initially suspected. It goes without saying that Belgium, the Netherlands, the USA, etc. were no different. Every market is different and needs to be completely rethought, tested and built up from scratch. This is incredibly challenging and exciting at the same time.
What are your most important export markets and why?
Currently, Germany is our most important export market. We have been able to establish ourselves with a local distribution company and have already managed to gain a large and loyal customer base. Austria is gaining in importance every day, and the BENELUX countries – our current focus – will also provide us with pleasing results in the near future. They all have certain things in common, such as a relatively high population density, well-developed economies and very good health systems. These are all factors that will benefit our sales success.
What positive or negative surprises have you already encountered in export?
I have been surprised a few times in the past years. Initially, I was often surprised by the enormous amount of bureaucracy involved in export business. In addition to the well-known and omnipresent customs hurdles, there are also, for example, different national certification requirements (UL, CE, etc.) and different procurement laws. The complexity that such legal frameworks entail was definitely new to me. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the positive impact that the Swiss brand has abroad. We enjoy an extremely good reputation in many places, which earns us a lot of trust in advance and makes things easier.
To what extent have S-GE’s services contributed to the success of your company?
S-GE was often helpful to us in early market investigation phases. With their numerous local staff, they helped us to get in touch with representatives of local companies. This enabled us to better understand the markets early on and to establish initial contacts. All with the aim of minimizing the risk associated with market entry as far as possible.
How were you able to benefit from the startup program SEF.Growth?
Since we were in the final of the SEF Swiss Economic Award in 2020 and became part of the SEF.Growth program, we have benefited in several ways. One of the highlights is certainly that we received the “SEF.High-Potential” label. This has earned us a lot of recognition in investor circles. We were also able to attend numerous events that strengthened and further expanded our network. Last but not least, it is an exciting community in my eyes, where I have also found many new friends. Discussions with people in and around the SEF.Growth program are great fun and really enriching.
SEF.Growth is an initiative by the Swiss Economic Forum that aims to support young companies in their growth plans. For this purpose, SEF.Growth in cooperation with Switzerland Global Enterprise and other partners and experts offers various networking and coaching services in the field of strategy, innovation and financing to advanced startups. Further information can be found at https://sef-growth.ch/en/