International Hub With A Strong Fintech Scene: Geneva

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Well positioned and being a city with high quality of life, Geneva could be home for your next startup. Learn more about the Swiss startup city here.

Geneva is a picturesque city located at the Western end of Switzerland, surrounded by France and on the shores of Lac Léman. It is the largest metropolis in the Lake Geneva region, along with the secondary metropolis of Lausanne. While the city of Geneva itself only has a population of 200,000, the surrounding metropolitan area is home to over 1 million inhabitants. Geneva is consistently ranked as one of the cities with the highest quality of life, as well as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Infamously, much of Geneva’s working population does not live in the city (or even country) itself. Other notable towns on the Swiss side include Nyon, Montreux, Morges, and Vevey in Switzerland and Thonon-les-Bains and Évian on the French side.

By The Lake: Geneva

Why Geneva:

  • Being compact, Switzerland is tightly integrated as a country. You have most of the country within a 2.5 hour train ride, including Zurich and Basel. This can be very useful for reaching potential investors, clients, employees, and partners.
  • Geneva is well positioned at the center of the continent. There are trains taking you to centers like Paris, Lyon, Milan, and Venice, along with direct flights to all the major cities in Europe. The transport systems are all very efficient and at a human scale, so you spend very little time in security or other typical time consumers related to travel.
  • The city boasts a cosmopolitan population thanks to the UN, its sister organizations, the many NGOs, and multinationals.
  • There is a large and growing pool of world-class students and researchers in the country fed principally by the 2 federal polytechnic universities, which are ranked among the highest in the world.
  • Switzerland was ranked #1 in overall competitiveness in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness report. Furthermore, it placed #2 in Innovation, #4 in Higher Education, and #5 in Infrastructure.
  • The local governments provide a lot of support at the early-stage. You can secure up to 130,000 CHF in funding as well as excellent mentoring working with initiatives like Venture Kick.
  • Geneva is a global hub of world trade and finance, and emerging as one for FinTech startups. This makes Geneva especially attractive for your startup if you are in areas such as digital currencies and payments.
  • Switzerland is also well known for its privacy laws, which it has full control over being separate from the EU. This caters well to startups in such domains as data privacy and peer-to-peer platforms.
  • Low tax rates (both personal and business) but with excellent public services and amenities.

What To Be Aware Of:

  • While Switzerland has an affluent population, the local market is relatively small in absolute terms, with a population of only slightly over 8 million.
  • The costs of an LLC or a corporation are high: 20,000 CHF and 50,000 CHF respectively. You can find full details here.
  • Housing is incredibly difficult to find throughout the country, but especially in Geneva where the vacancy rate is a mere 0.36%. Prices are high as well, expect to pay about 2,500 Euros/month for a 2 bedroom 80m2 apartment.
  • While English will get you around Geneva, French is vital for the rest of the Suisse Romande (the French-speaking part of the country).

Get Started By Exploring Geneva’s Network


While the cost of operations might be intimidating, the many advantages of the Swiss ecosystem make it an attractive place to base your startup. The startup scene in Geneva is still relatively new, and smaller than those in Berlin or Amsterdam, but growing rapidly.

One of the best ways to connect with the local startup community is to attend and participate in events. Here are some links on where to find information about upcoming events:

Regular Events:

  • THE Port is a fun hackathon hosted at CERN in Geneva. Participation requires registering your idea and team six weeks in advance. Each team gets a coach and a set of experts on call.
  • Startup Weekend Geneva is the local edition of the well known 54-hour event where startup enthusiasts come together to build web and mobile applications that could then go on to become a business.
  • The Sexy Salad community lunch, hosted by the Impact Hub co-working space, is a great way to get to know others in the startup ecosystem.
  • The kick off of Venture Kick is organized towards the start of each calendar year in both Lausanne and Zurich, offering you the opportunity to connect with coaches, alumni, and other founders.

Big Events & Competitions:

  • The Lift Conference is one of the largest in the region, extending over multiple days and exploring the social impact of new technologies. It has been held most often in Geneva, but the location does change depending on the year.
  • UX Romandie is a new but rapidly growing conference bringing together experts on UX and design.

Park At A Coworking Space In Geneva


  • Impact Hub Geneva is a branch of the worldwide network with almost 60 locations (including one in Zurich) and over 7,000 members. The location is excellent, just across the street from the main station. They host regular events and it’s a great place to network with like-minded founders.
  • Voisins co-working café has two locations in Geneva, including one very close to the train station.
  • CricCracCroc is located in the quaint neighboring town of Carouge and offers a range of memberships to suit your particular needs.
  • Eclau is half an hour away from Geneva, in the center of Lausanne.
  • La Forge is a free to use co-working space at the innovation park in Lausanne. Access is provided for 6 months at a time.

You can find a full list of coworking spaces around the country here. Keep in mind many of these, while in a different canton, are a comfortable train ride away from Geneva. Here is a useful map to see how the entities are spaced out geographically.

Think About Your Finances In Geneva


The general consensus is that it’s relatively easy to raise seed funds in Switzerland, but matters get much trickier from the Series A onwards.


  • Fongit was the country’s first incubator and supports high-tech startups in the lake Geneva region. It’s a private, non-profit foundation.
  • Fusion is the country’s first FinTech incubator. They offer a 12 month program without taking any equity in your company.

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Polytech Ventures maintains offices in both Switzerland and Silicon valley, investing an average of 1.5 million CHF per venture.
  • Vinci Capital is based out of the innovation park at EPFL (Lausanne)

Science/Tech Parks & Research Centers:

  • The Campus Biotech opened in the summer of 2015 and aims to be a driving force for the biotech sector in the Lake Geneva area.
  • The EPFL innovation Park is the largest in the region, providing over 1,700 jobs to world class scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
  • The Y-Parc in the neighboring canton of Vaud is the first and largest in the country by surface area, spanning over 50 hectares.

Find Additional Info In Geneva


A good starting point is to leverage the extensive government backed programs, notably the CTI Entrepreneurship Training. It is a great channel through which to understand the specificities of setting up a new venture in Switzerland. The canton of Geneva also has a useful website Why Geneva which, while not specific to startups, will go a long way in answering many of your preliminary questions. I would also highly recommend visiting the EPFL innovation Park and Y-Parc in person to connect with the many enablers and entrepreneurs there.

Thanks to the wealth of expats in the Geneva region, there also exists a host of sites, guides, and groups dedicated to getting you settled and feeling at home outside of work. The most active groups include internations, glocals, and those on meetup. So are you ready to startup in Geneva?


Last updated: July 31st, 2016

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