Interview with Simone Riedel for Startup Radar

“ Ready for the big stage”



Bcomp, Pexapark, Planted: it’s hard to think of a successful Swiss sustainability start-up that has not benefited from the support of the Technology Fund. Director Simone Riedel Riley on CO2 equivalents, technology trends and the effects on the ecosystem of the pandemic, war in Ukraine and inflation.

The Technology Fund – a federal funding instrument anchored in the CO2 Act – has been operational for eight years. What is the interim assessment?

Simone Riedel Riley: At the moment, we guarantee the loans of 124 start-ups and SMEs. The secured loan volume averages CHF 1.8 million. The term of the guarantee is a maximum of 10 years; the average use is seven years. The default rate is in the mid single-digit percentage range.

What distinguishes the companies in your portfolio?

The central themes are, of course, ‘clean’ technologies and the development of renewable energy sources. But we go far beyond the classic cleantech sector. A company must be able to show us that its products and services have a climate impact in CO2 equivalents.

How is an equivalent calculated?

With evidence-based models. An example is reduction of food waste in the food industry and gastronomy: science says that for every kilo of food not wasted, 1.4 kg less CO2 is released into the atmosphere.

In view of rising energy prices and the steadily increasing price of CO2 certificates, your portfolio companies should be in seventh heaven. Are they?

Some start-ups are sure to benefit from the recent price hikes. I anticipate that we will see a jump in sales over the next 12 to 18 months, particularly from companies that help to reduce energy consumption.


The theoretical quality of the business case is not everything. Companies that market sustainability solutions are also affected by the shortage of skilled workers, inflation-related uncertainty and stagnating international flow of goods. In the case of start-ups, this is compounded by the specific conditions of venture capital financing. For example, the Technology Fund saw an increase in enquiries after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic because founders feared – wrongly from today’s perspective – a decline in venture capital investment.

What impact did the Russian invasion of Ukraine have on your portfolio companies?

For the first time in several years, there was a marked decline in company valuations – a big challenge for founders looking for money.

In addition to your function as head of the Technology Fund, you are also a partner at Emerald Technology Ventures. How does the sustainability sector look from the perspective of professional investors?

We deal with constant ups and downs: we have volatile energy prices, favourable and less favourable political decisions and so on. But one must not forget that investment in sustainability start ups has tripled worldwide within a few years. Personally, I am convinced that the sector is about to step on to the big stage.

You read more than 100 business plans from young companies every year. In which areas currently is there particularly intensive foundation and innovation?

Everything to do with e-mobility is booming; battery power is conquering roads, water and even the skies. A second focus area is digitalisation and big data in the B2B sector. We see many start-ups that want to use their tools and processes to improve the resource efficiency of energy generation and industrial production.


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