Mobility has never been as smart, fast or inclusive as it is today. Aware of this burgeoning market, the Swiss insurance company Baloise, has been working hard on developing its own mobility ecosystem in the past few years.
Having just concluded the first edition of their 10-week Mobility Accelerator, we caught up with Alice Repetti, Mobility Venture Developer at Baloise, who tells us about their motivations, the challenges they encountered and what advice they would give to mobility startups.
What motivated you to launch Baloise’s first Mobility Accelerator?
The Mobility Accelerator was part of our overall effort to build a mobility ecosystem and to diversify the core business of Baloise by building entirely new revenue streams. Since mobility is such a dynamic market which is evolving at unprecedented speed, we are constantly looking for different ways to be close to the market to understand how it develops.
Startups really work on the hot topics in mobility. By meeting these founders and learning what they’re working on and what problems are pressing for society, we can better understand the market and, of course, ultimately find promising startups and great teams to work with after the programme.
One of the objectives of the programme was to find new startups that we can include in our portfolio of mobility companies with the overall goal that by 2025, we have created a sustainable mobility business for Baloise next to our core financial one
What kind of support did you offer to the startups?
Taking a step back, what was very important to us, was to offer the right balance between flexibility and structure in the programme. On the one hand, you need a standardized structure to give focus and to create the dedicated space and time for startups to learn, mingle and to receive support. But on the other hand, you need to leave enough room for flexibility and spontaneity so you can really tailor [the programme] to the different needs of the startups, which can rapidly and sometimes unexpectedly change
The startups also benefited from hands-on support during the 10 weeks. They had one personalised coach that they could meet every week. Every Monday morning, we invited people from our network, so experts in mobility as well as founders of our existing mobility startups to share their first-hand experience.
I think what they appreciated the most was the connection to the experts of our network. They could really just reach out to us anytime and ask for support on any topic, and we always tried to find the right person to talk to. This was possible thanks to the broad set of skills and expertise we could activate within Baloise and our larger network. Ranging from, of course, insurance experts, but also some legal advice, HR, marketing, branding – any major topic really.
If you could change one thing about the programme, what would it be?
Due to the pandemic, we decided to design the program completely remotely. I am so grateful to live in a century when this is possible and actually it can be done successfully. However, I noticed that the human touch and the human connection were missing at times and this can really make a difference. So next time, I would definitely like to have more in-person interactions with the teams. Both between the startups but also between Baloise and the startups. That way we can really get to know them better, and establish the fundamentals of a relationship that o can last beyond the programme.
How did the selected startups do? Who won?
I was happy with the final results of the demo day. I think really every startup improved significantly over the course of the programme. We listened to the pitch when they applied and if you compared it to the pitch they presented in the end, in most cases they did really amazing work and all of them made good progress. In the end all of them could also propose concrete ways in which we could collaborate and form a partnership in the future. So now we are in talks about possible partnerships with 3 or 4 startups, so I think that is a really good success.
We did not put investment capital as the final prize by default on purpose. Because for us, it’s very important to invest in the right teams and under the right circumstances. And it’s important that we both feel comfortable with the decision.
But we did have a final prize on the demo day for the best pitch which was voted by the audience. This prize was won by AYES, a startup that helps blind and visually impaired people to navigate as well as RIBE, a motorbike subscription and sharing platform. They both won a prize of 5000 Swiss Francs which they could spend on anything they wanted.
Why should mobility startups join your accelerator next time?
Our accelerator is really focused on mobility and we really try to make it our USP. All the founders and most of the experts that we invited to collaborate in the programme have mobility expertise. Furthermore, Baloise has a lot of know-how in the industry that we gathered during the many years working on the topic as a mobility unit. I think that’s what’s really unique about the programme, it being mobility specific, there aren’t many programmes out there that only focus on mobility.
What advice would you give startups wanting to participate in the next edition?
If you decide to join the next accelerator programme, my advice would be to try to understand what kind of support you need and what are you looking for in a potential investor/partner. In general, what you can expect from Baloise is that we are not acting just as advisors or potential investors but we are really a sparring partner. We try to dig deeper into your work so that we can really support you in the best way possible.
Baloise is there to help founders think about the future, solve bottlenecks and give them feedback without forcing them to take one direction or the other, because that’s not the point. In the end we want the success of the startup as much as they want. Their success is our success, so we will do anything that is possible to make this happen because that’s also our incentive. I think if startups are looking for this type of interaction, then this accelerator is right for them.