"In times of hardship, there are often more business start-ups"

The appetite for starting a business remains strong in Switzerland: more than 50,000 new companies were registered last year. Simon May, co-director of the Institute for Young Enterprises, explains.

In partnership with the EasyGov platform, the Institute for Young Enterprises (IFJ) supports tens of thousands of entrepreneurs annually. After a slight decline between 2014 and 2015, the number of new companies has remained on the rise in Switzerland for the past five years. In 2022, the commercial registry offices recorded 50,015 new companies, an increase of 12.6% compared to the last ten-year average. Simon May, co-director of the IFJ, explains the reasons for the high level of company start-ups and their impact on the Swiss economy.

Is the saying "there is no wrong time to start" still valid?

Simon May: Yes, the number of new businesses over the past three years reflects the statement that every crisis is also an opportunity. The large number of new companies is a positive signal for the continued success of the Swiss economy. In times of economic difficulty, the number of new businesses is often greater. This is due to a combination of a sometimes-needed reorientation and the actualization of one's ideas.

What is the reason for this trend?

May: The main reason for starting one's own business is the desire for more freedom and autonomy. The past few years' trend (see IFJ national analysis) clearly shows that the number of new businesses had already developed significantly before the pandemic.

We are also seeing an increase in the number of business start-ups with a sideline. According to our annual national study with PostFinance, 66% of people were still working in another business when they founded their company. The combination of security and the desire for more freedom is ideal. And today, this is even easier thanks to new technologies. We also see that more and more people are starting a business at retirement age, often in order to continue working for their still active employer on a short-term basis.

Which sectors have the most business start-ups?

May: In absolute numbers, we have the greatest number of new businesses in the craft industry, real estate, consulting and retail. In 2022, the strongest growth was recorded in the marketing and communication, transport and logistics and healthcare sectors.

How do the cantons differ?

May: The majority of new companies are founded in cantons that are already strong in terms of business and population demographics, such as Zurich, Vaud and Geneva, Berne, Aargau, Zug and St. Gallen. In our annual analysis for 2022, we have also linked the number of company start-ups to the number of inhabitants: Zug is clearly in the lead with 23.12 company start-ups per 1,000 inhabitants, far ahead of Schwyz (8.36), Geneva (8.03), Appenzell Innerrhoden (7.64) and Nidwalden (6.96). On average, 5.74 companies were founded per 1,000 inhabitants in Switzerland last year.

Who are these new entrepreneurs?

May: Entrepreneurship is definitely not just a man's business, as 36.6% of all new businesses are started by women. In addition, 9.5% of new companies are created by a team composed of women and men. Thus, in 46% of new registrations in the commercial register, one or more women are involved. The average age of company founders is between 35 and 40 years.

What are the key success factors for an entrepreneurial project?

May: I would say that it takes 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration! Adequate technical and industry knowledge as well as a solid proposal with relevant benefits are essential. A willingness and commitment, an open mind and a flair for sales and communication are also decisive factors. Add to this strong customer orientation and financial discipline, the chances of success are good. Of course, a bit of luck is always required. But it is only by turning the wheel of fortune that success can be achieved.

What are the most common reasons for failure?

May: Entrepreneurs often underestimate the fact that everything takes longer and costs more than expected. This is a common reason for failure, regardless of the sector or the age of the business. Certain obstacles can also be related to administrative and legal processes of business creation. In the early phase, it is also very important to test the market and get feedback to improve your project.

What is the IFJ's track record in 2022?

May: Our team of 25 people worked harder than ever last year. Among other things, we were able to handle more than 4,000 company start-ups and changes to the commercial register thanks to our digital services. We welcomed almost 10,000 entrepreneurs at courses and events and advised over 16,000 people on entrepreneurial issues. With 380 workstations, our "startup space" real estate project has become one of the largest coworking spaces in Switzerland. This is only possible because we have partners from the public sector and economy, such as cantonal economic development agencies, Swisscom and Helvetia.

In addition to providing comprehensive support to entrepreneurs, the IFJ is investing heavily in the development of digital services and strengthening collaboration with its partners. We have just inaugurated our new site in Ticino. In addition to our efficient online services, we are now even closer to entrepreneurs and partners in all regions of Switzerland, with offices in St. Gallen, Schlieren, Lausanne and Lugano.



Simon May, co-director of the IFJ (Institut für Jungunternehmen)

Simon May is co-director of the Institute for Young Enterprises (IFJ). He studied at the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland in St. Gallen (OST) and received an Executive MBA from the University of St. Gallen, specializing in service management. He is a regular lecturer at universities and is involved as a member of boards of directors and steering committees in the promotion of entrepreneurial and sports projects.

Last modification 01.02.2023

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