Swiss exploring and Geneva as a starting point. Being part of the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (#SwissEP) as an Ecosystem Facilitator for Macedonia, I was looking forward to discovering Switzerland and learning more about its dynamic startup community.
After having a great night at the Mash-up event at Impact Hub Geneva during my first night in the city, I knew I had to come back to this inspiring place.
Sunshine woke me up on a lovely Friday morning and I was ready for my first meeting for that day. This time I had a chance to meet the co-founder of Impact Hub Geneva and main driver of the Accelerate2030 program – Alexandra ‘Santu’ Boëthius.
Originally from Finland, Santu chose Switzerland, where with 3 other amazing people she founded Impact Hub Geneva – an innovation lab, business incubator, coworking space, and a melting pot for sustainable impact-driven entrepreneurship and innovation. I was eager to learn why she moved to Switzerland and more about her journey:
“When I was 16 I decided that I wanted a different experience, and I organised a year abroad in Switzerland, where I lived at a farm with a local family and went to high school. That year I was invited to present at the United Nations and that experience opened a whole new world to me. I learned about the world of development and sustainability.
Back home, most people I knew went to business school after high school. This was before sustainability was part of the curriculum. But because of my experience in Switzerland, I decided to study international relations and human rights, and have since, always tried to connect my two worlds: business and having a positive environmental and social impact. And then finally I found the Impact Hub…” – Santu reflects.
Sitting in the coziest corner at Impact Hub Geneva, which is situated in the most central district of the city, close to the central train station and (more importantly) close to the lake, I was eager to hear her story regarding Impact Hub:
“Impact Hub is a global network of collaborative spaces and entrepreneurial communities across the world, from San Francisco to Manila. We set out to create a thriving innovation ecosystem where people collaborate across organizations, cultures and generations. Tackling today’s global challenges requires collaboration.
After 2 years of setup here in Geneva, we are implementing several supporting programs for startups and organizations. We put an emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and use them as a framework for the activities we do both locally and globally.
What makes our Impact Hub Geneva special? I think Geneva is a small world of itself – we have the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, major businesses HQs, local population as well as many expats, big banks and financial institutions. We use these resources to support innovators and entrepreneurs and help them grow their ideas into thriving ventures.
Everyone is welcome to pay a visit at Impact Hub Geneva and see the diversity of people, network, collaborate, check out the projects that we are working on and if interested and inspired, join.” – says Santu.
One of the most ambitious programs at the IH Geneva is Accelerate2030 – an acceleration program for startups from developing and transitioning countries contributing to the achievements of SDGs:
“We wanted leverage the unique resources of Geneva and Switzerland, not just locally, but also globally. That is how the idea of Accelerate2030 was born. Accelerate2030 is done in collaboration with other Impact Hubs, as well as UNDP, ITC and other international organisations and businesses.
Together we scout for and support the best impact-driven ventures with proven business model that are ready to scale their impact internationally. The startups that we want to see in this program are creating value for their communities and contribute to the achievement of SDGs.
Last year, 5 international finalists from Colombia, Armenia, Mali and Ghana got the opportunity to accelerate their venture for 9 months through a customized support program, with tailored match-making, customized support, mentorship and coaches. They also came to Geneva, where they participated in bootcamp and the Social Good Summit Geneva – an exclusive closed door event that brings together impact investors, corporates and international organizations”.
Accelerate2030 provides access to support network and expertise. From Geneva we have connections to anywhere in the world to help you scale your impact-driven business.” – adds Santu.
Before we wrapped up our conversation I wanted to ask Santu about her thoughts of working with young entrepreneurs and starting a business without years of experience:
“Change happens in teams; it doesn’t come from one person. Everyone brings his own strength to the table. Find your passion, work hard and strive to be the best at whatever you do. Go and find your local Impact Hub or other similar network where you can access a supportive system and connect with like-minded people, that will help you in building your business! ” Santu says.
It was a real pleasure meeting and talking to Santu. Impressed by the work they are doing and the whole vibe at Impact Hub Geneva, I must say that it’s a place you MUST VISIT in Geneva.
Also, check out the amazing programs and events from the Impact Hubs across the world and see how you can get involved in #Accelerate2030.
I will for sure follow their work and the global scaling of the selected startups and hopefully share their stories via #StartUpSelfie.