Christian Hirsig from Atizo

Atizo: Crowdsourcing Innovation

When planning his move to San Francisco, Christian Hirsig decided to tap the wisdom of the crowd and book his accommodations through Airbnb, the site that matches people who have rooms to share with those looking for a place to stay.

Christian Hirsig Atizo

Christian Hirsig of Atizo Pitches at the Plug and Play Tech Center Summer Expo. Photo Courtesy of Plug and Play

Hirsig is familiar with crowdsourcing. His company, Atizo, crowdsources ideas.

Atizo is a brainstorming platform that allows companies to post projects to a community of innovators brimming with bright ideas. The Swiss supermarket Migros, for example, recently created a new Mojito-flavored toothpaste thanks to ideas that bubbled up on Atizo’s site. The product is now on shelves and branded with a sticker that denotes it was made with customers.

BMW Motorcycles chose the Atizo community—now about 20,000 strong—to help them create the motorcycle of the future, soliciting more than 700 ideas from the public.

Why would a company seek out the Atizo community to crowdsource innovation? Atizo’s co-founder and CEO Christian Hirsig has been busy talking about that ever since he arrived in California.

He’s here participating in the three-month US Market Entry CAMP at swissnex San Francisco, and he is pitching, sharing, and swapping stories with as many entrepreneurs as he can.

“Creating the future is all about executing the right idea,” says Hirsig, who studied economics at the University of Applied Sciences in Bern, Switzerland, and later won a CTI scholarship for a post-graduate certificate from the University of St. Gallen. “Unfortunately that doesn’t happen enough. The Atizo community co-creates, together with product managers and solution designers, better products by giving them the crucial feedback they need.”

He’s not the only one who believes in the Atizo idea. Hirsig recently won a pitch competition in a field of 25 startups at the Plug and Play Tech Center Summer Expo.

Beyond prizes, Hirsig and Atizo’s Head of Marketing (and Hirsig’s fiancée), Bettina Marthaler, hope to gain online marketing guidance through their participation in the CAMP and possibly build a local team here to help them grow.

stromer bikes

Christian and Bettina take their Stromer bikes to a meeting at Google with Wildfire’s Alain Chuard. Photo Courtesy of Atizo

Assisting the pair in getting noticed is their local mode of transportation—electric bikes from Stromer. Before moving to the West Coast, Hirsig and Marthaler reached out to the Swiss bicycle maker. Now, they travel to and from meetings on the colorful bikes, acting as brand ambassadors and arriving on their own personal conversation starters.

Hirsig and Marthaler are getting advice and introductions to the right people in the Silicon Valley through swissnex San Francisco’s Startup Services team, Gioia Deucher and Cyril Dorsaz.

“swissnex is really highly networked,” says Hirsig, who was a high school exchange student in the US state of Nebraska. “I see swissnex San Francisco as a door to the Silicon Valley. You can step through that door, but from there you have to go on your own. It’s good that there is a door. I’m happy with the door.”

But in an example of how important serendipity and just being here can really be, it turns out that one of the most important business contacts Hirsig has made so far in the region is the friend of his very first Airbnb host.

Who will the Atizo crew meet next? How will they get there? What will they win? Or, more pressing, where will they stay? Find out all this and more on their personal blog, Pacific-Catch.ch, where you can also vote for your favorite Airbnb stay so far.