SAFT Startup Challenge: Energy Solutions for 2050

SAFT is an international innovation program challenging early stage startups to accelerate Switzerland’s 2050 climate goals. The program was first held in 2016.

The first edition of SAFT was developed for Switzerland-based entrepreneurs to Sustainably Advance Future Technologies in the fields of smart cities, energy efficiency and distributed generation. The best six startups won:

  • A one month boot camp at Impact Hub Zurich focused on internationalization
  • A one week market expedition to Silicon Valley to meet potential partners, customers and investors
  • Three months incubation services at Impact Hub Zürich following the Silicon Valley expedition


Jury Members

Philipp Leo, Entrepreneurship Lead, Climate-KIC Switzerland
Peter Wildhaber, Head of Energy, Swisscom
Greg Stace, CEO, Earthed B.V
Hans Dellenbach, CFO, Emerald Technology Ventures
Markus Balmer, Head of Strategy and Innovation, IWB

Startup Winners

Decision Support Software that enables Distribution System Operators to integrate more renewables into their grid while maintaining grid stability and saving operation and planning costs.

Innovative fabrication technologies for lithium ion batteries aimed at increasing the charging speed of high energy density cells.

Carbon ratings that help investors improve the assessment of climate risks in their portfolios; a collaboration with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the rating agency Independent Credit View.

Modular heat exchangers to recycle heat from shower drain water.

Automation and optimization software that can analyze building control and energy data to identify where energy and comfort are lost.

Service that allows residential customers, corporations, and other property owners to benefit from affordable solar electricity with no upfront investment.


Mentors and Coaches



Myke Näf is the founder and former CEO of Doodle, the leading online scheduling service with more than 25 million monthly users. Before founding Doodle, he worked as an engineer, consultant, and lecturer in various organizations in Switzerland, the US, Bhutan and the Philippines. He is also active as an investor and advisor for several startups and is co-head of Swiss Life Lab.

Christian Hirsig studied business administration in Bern and technology entrepreneurship at the University of St.Gallen. He made his first work experience as an E-Business project manager at Swisscom and at the Swiss Post. In 2012 the magazine Bilanz voted him as one of the “40 under 40”. 2008 he founded the multiple award-winning startup Atizo, which he successfully sold in 2014. Ever since then he focuses on developing new business ideas, giving workshops and coaching other entrepreneurs. Christian co-founded TEDxBern and the entrepreneur network “entreBERNeur”. He regularly teaches at universities and universities of applied sciences in Switzerland and Germany.

Matthias Sala is founder and CEO of Gbanga. With an award-winning technology and a vast set of developed games the studio is defining the future of location- based gaming in Switzerland by blending reality and fiction to create immersive mixed-reality mobile games. He is co-founder of the Switzerland chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Matthias has a background in computer science and constructional architecture. After his studies he was working on a research project about targeted mobile advertising at the Palo Alto Research Center, Inc. (PARC) in California.


Rolf Schmid is co-founder, owner and Senior Partner of TEAG Advisors AG, a Switzerland based Business Consultancy for Marketing, Communications, Strategy, Business Development and Innovation. As a marketing strategist he assists entrepreneurs, boards and companies to improve their market position and to develop new business. Before devoting his work full- time to TEAG Advisors AG Rolf amongst others served as Chief Communication & Marketing Officer in one of the biggest Swiss energy companies (Alpiq). He is a specialized consultant to the Energy Industry with many years of experience and a qualified network in this field. He is also one of the initiators of the “Innovation Circle Energy”, an initiative to assist the energy sector on its path from the old into the new world and to foster new business models in the energy industry.

Alexandra Schaer-Schiller is Senior Consultant at Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official Swiss Center of Excellence for Internationalization. Building up on her expertise in business development and long years of professional experience in the industry and in consulting, Alexandra coaches and mentors companies and entrepreneurs to best prepare for their go-to-market approach in USA and Canada, supporting their efforts for market entry and business growth. She holds a MSc in Business Administration and a MAS in Corporate Development (2016).

Dr. Ben Graziano is a head trainer and startup coach for CTI Startup Camps (Eastern Switzerland) and startup coach for Runway (the ZHAW Startup Incubator). He is a former intrapreneur, professional investor, entrepreneur and management consultantwho is currently a lecturer at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at ZHAW. Previously, he co-founded Everbeam, a social enterprise that distributes pico solar lights and phone chargers in Malawi. He is an expert on low carbon technology commercialization and holds a PhD in Spacecraft Engineering from Cranfield University (UK) and a MEng in Aeronautical Engineering from Imperial College (UK).

Nathan Gold, also known as The Demo Coach, hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spends his days coaching people around the world on how to prepare for high-stakes presentations through workshops, keynotes, and 1:1 sessions both in person and online. Gold has personally delivered over 15,000 presentations and 10,000 hours of professional coaching and training and is a published author. He has worked with small and large companies, including Glue Networks,, Innovation Norway, Kaiser Permanente, and IBM on designing, scripting and delivering more compelling and memorable presentations, especially in situations where you cannot afford to miss.

Eva Keller’s experience is in carbon accounting assessment, sustainable land use and carbon offset projects. For the past year Eva has set up the Climate Accounting programme for Climate-KIC. Her role encompasses creating climate awareness within the community and developing a climate impact assessment framework. Prior to joining Climate-KIC, she has worked in a sustainability rating agency.

Peter Lemoine has 14 years of experience in environmental and energy policy, including 10 years of experience in the electric and gas utility (provider) industry, with a focus on energy efficiency. He has developed energy efficiency business plans, and performed related analyses and policy support for over two dozen U.S.-based utilities, including three major investor-owned utilities in California. Peter most recently he was called upon by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as a subject matter expert to support the development of the IEA’s Energy Efficiency Market Report 2015, and to aid in the design of a framework for evaluating the Multiple Benefits of energy efficiency. He holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master of Public Affairs (M.P.A.) degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

SAFT Milestones

September 17, 2015 Launch event at Swiss ECS
November 13, 2015 Startup submission deadline
December 10, 2015 Announcement of finalists
January 28, 2016 Pitch event in Zurich, award ceremony & announcing winners
February 2016 1-month boot camp in Zurich
March 6-12, 2016 Expedition trip to San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley
April-June 2016 Incubation at Impact Hub Zürich

Program Contact at swissnex San Francisco

Laura Erickson
Associate Director
swissnex San Francisco t: (415) 912 5901 x301 

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