Captain’s Blog by John Jost, CEO of Enlightra – Venturelab

17.05.2022 15:00, Tracy Woodley

In early April, Venture Leaders Technology 2022 traveled to San Francisco to meet and learn from Silicon Valley investors and experts. We asked Venture Leaders technology team co-captain John Jost to share his experience and take us behind the scenes of the week-long tour.

It was a great pleasure to have been chosen as co-captain of the Swiss National Startup Team. Usually people save thanks for the end, but I would hate for such a thing to get lost in my ramblings. The organization of the whole event was amazing. Stefan and Andrea did an amazing job keeping us on track. You might think that a group of CEOs would be very organized and punctual, but you would be terribly wrong. It was more like keeping a bunch of cats.

Also, we would never have had such an amazing time without the help and support of the amazing sponsors who made travel, accommodations, late nights and many great times possible. Thank you very much Tillman Schultze (DPD), Thierry Barbey (Kellerhals Carrard), Robert Skrobak (Rothschild & Co) and Patrick Maillard (IMMOMIG).

03.04.22 – Departure and full dive
Despite the morning chaos at Zurich airport, we were all able to arrive on time and were able to reconnect and get to know each other better and grab a last minute coffee before the long flight to San Francisco. Some of us slept in and saw several diligent sponsors and CEOs sending out last minute emails. As for me, I got lucky and ended up next to Doug Griffin from Darts companieswho, luckily, was also to be our judge in one of the upcoming pitch contests.

After landing in San Francisco, I was able to clear customs as an American, but my European CEO friends were less fortunate. Everyone survived the difficult and bizarre interrogations often administered by security in my home country.

The Venture Leaders program is not for the weak and there was no time for hotel check-in. We went straight to training and preparation for the following days. Phillip Stauffer, a Swiss transplant from the Silicon Valley venture capital world, came to share his perspective on the difference between venture capital in the Bay Area and Europe, which was valuable information for days coming.

04.04.2022 – Launch of Swissnex
Again no rest for the weary as we started the day early settling into our home base for the week Swissnex at the Swiss Consulate. It was as cool as it sounds, and I really impressed some investors when I told them I was calling them from the Swiss consulate.

The Swissnex team (Sharon Ambrosio, Natalia Guecheva and company) were amazing hosts throughout the week for the events. Located at Quai 17, they do not lack a nice office space.

One of the company’s first orders was coaching on how to pitch US investors from a true professional (Stuart Paap). As you can see in the picture, everyone was trying to make last minute changes to their slides before the first presentation session.

05.04.22 – HR workshop
As the CEO of a startup, you often have to learn so many new things that are important, but one thing that all startups have in common is that the team is the most important part of everything – without that, even the best ideas will fail. Stefan and the team brought in another great expert, Jodi Johnson, to help all startups define their corporate culture. The prize for the best corporate culture must go to Corintis, which sees its business as a merry pirate ship taking on the big players in the market. Since I have a fondness for all things pirates, I was about to jump ship and join their team.

06.04.2022 – Silicon Valley
On day four of the tour, we headed to the famous Menlo Park south of the San Francisco Bay, where so many of Silicon Valley’s great ideas have been born. This is such a hot area that Swisscom has established a permanent presence there in order to spot the latest technologies under development.

Swisscom cloud lab was our host for a super cool pitch event with a great panel of investors (Doug Griffin, Adrian Stalder, Grant Weichang Ge and Alexander Fries), all of whom came prepared with tough questions for all startups.

After a quick lunch, we all jumped into Ubers and headed down the famous VC-lined Sand Hill Road. Our stop was SE companies. Again, the team had a chance to pitch in quick succession and get some valuable feedback and some great leads from investors.

07.04.22 – Swiss pitch night
Today was the highlight event: the Swissnex Pitch evening. There were more than 100 people present, including the Consulate General of Switzerland, Balz Aplanalp (in the group photo). We had been training all week for this and now it was finally time. But first, everyone set up their booth and we all had a chance to watch our slides on the big screen. I took the opportunity to take a photo for social networks.

It was a packed event and everything went perfectly except for one surprise. We knew each other’s pitches by heart at this point, so no one was expecting anything different. However, you can always count on Félix de qiio to keep things interesting. Instead of launching into his usual speech, he started off by jumping off the stage and bumping into the audience. He reversed roles and asked the audience questions, which was a great change of pace.

There were two grand prizes at the event: one that was decided by the jury and one that was decided by the public. My co-captain Matteo from xClose Won! They are changing the way farmers manage while moving them to an efficient digital platform. Next, the audience’s favorite award went to Sam from Corintis. I’m sure he wowed the audience by sharing the remarkable fact that computer chips can get as hot as barbecue grills, which is why the world needs Corintis’ innovative cooling technology.

It’s been a long day, and when it’s finally time to relax, Felix took us on another one of his adventures…

08.04.2022 – Googler and boats
Finally, the pressure was off and the throwing part of the trip was over. On our last day, Stefan and Andrea planned to have fun for us. We all met at the dock mid-morning for a relaxing sailboat tour of the bay. It was a good time, and we could sit down and chat about all the cool things that had happened during the week.

Then we had a special gift: a trip to Google and a special presentation from Gabor Ceselle. It was very inspiring and got to the heart of what it is to create a startup, which is to create something that grows, although after visiting Google, I think many of us were ready to leave our startups behind and go work for Google. What a cool place, and the view isn’t too bad either!

For our last night together, we were treated to a great dinner. But that was not all! Throughout the week, Andrea, Matteo and I had been watching the team closely to see who would take home the prestigious Venture Leaders awards. There were many important ones, like The person who was the most lost, The person who had the most difficulty pronouncing the name of the company, The person who was the most nervous…

Then we did a little reverse pitch, where we each had to present another person’s company pitch, which was hilarious (because we’d heard each other dozens of times by then).

Captain’s Blog by John Jost: I had the chance to participate in two national teams of Swiss startups (Deeptech 2021 and Technology 2022). It was a great experience and helped my business, Enlightra immensely. I’ve made some amazing new friends who are all equally on this crazy startup journey. Thank you all for making the trip so special.

Learn more about Technology Venture Leaders 2022:

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