Cloud Foundry

Cloud Foundry

Stephan Massalt
VP, Cloud

Stephan Massalt elected to the Board of Directors

Stephan Massalt has been elected in the Cloud Foundry Board of Directors on behalf of Swisscom. Cloud Foundry is an open source cloud application platform which helps modernize existing applications and start cloud-native transformation for new applications. Cloud Foundry is backed by Cisco, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Pivotal, SAP, SUSE and other companies. Swisscom has now been on the Board for 6 consecutive years. After Marco Hochstrasser and Jörg Wagner, Stephan is the third person representing Swisscom.

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20 Years of the Outpost (Part 2)

20 Years of the Outpost (Part 2)

Stefan Kuentz and Thomas Jakob

Stefan Kuentz

“The speed of technology adoption was unprecedented”

In a multi-part series, we look back at the Swisscom Outpost’s 20 years in Silicon Valley. In Part 2, Stefan Kuentz, who was at the Outpost from 2007 to 2010, takes his turn.

When Ursula Oesterle left for Singapore in 2007, I took her position in Silicon Valley. My personal goal was not only to establish a strong and conspicuous foothold in Silicon Valley, but especially to discover new commercial potential for our enterprise business as well. In the first phase I was still with Thomas Jakob until he decided to pursue training in Boston. After that, the Oupost was a “me, myself, and I” operation for some time, which was a very intensive phase for me.

The arrival

Our first task was to find a new office in Palo Alto. We struck pay dirt with Regus in the Bank of America building on 530 Lytton Avenue, which gave us the chance to dynamically lease additional rooms when there were visits from Switzerland. At this point there were still almost no start-up accelerators where we could have rented space, which is actually almost unimaginable today. Plug&Play was still under construction directly across the street, but it was only dedicated to hosting start-ups.

My early days here were dominated by scouting out new opportunities. The discovery of innovative companies that were relevant for us was still pretty adventure-filled back then, and also time consuming. It was like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. There was an enormous number of events, often smaller ones that were to a certain extent invisible, mostly evenings with free drinks and networking. What really mattered was somehow managing to be present everywhere and establishing as many contacts as possible and thus spreading out into the Silicon Valley network. One advantage was that most things back then took place in the area of Palo Alto. Not much was going on yet in San Francisco as far as these things were concerned.

The Game Changers

At that point, many of today’s Silicon Valley giants were just emerging. Facebook – still with an invisible office in the middle of Palo Alto – was in the process of superseding MySpace. I also remember my visit to Tesla. It was in a small garage in Menlo Park, where they were busily working on three Roadster prototypes.

The most dramatic event for me, however, was the introduction of the first Apple iPhone. Investors had previously pumped enormous amounts of money into mobile solutions. With the platform that the iPhone suddenly offered, and later with Android as well, many of these developments were made obsolete and numerous companies then disappeared pretty quickly. This transition brought an enormous boost to innovation in the Valley, and with it came the opportunity to bring new start-up solutions into Swisscom. As one of the first telcos, for example, we managed to bring the management platform MobileIron to our Swiss customers via the Outpost.

And then there was the emergence of the Cloud. This was the time when you still had to explain what that even meant back home. The somewhat shaky analogy was “electricity from an electric outlet.” Interestingly, in the phase between 2007 and 2009, in addition to Amazon, Verizon was a pioneer of CaaS (computing as a service), of course in addition to numerous start-ups. I still remember vividly the “Web 2.0 conferences” dominated by Microsoft with small, hidden booths of and Dropbox.

The Financial Crisis

In 2008, the financial crisis finally reached Silicon Valley. Not as severely as in other areas of the USA, but still very noticeably. It could be seen most clearly from the traffic on US 101. Suddenly it became possible to drive from Palo Alto to San Francisco in around 40 minutes, including stopping for coffee at Starbucks. Today you have to plan a solid two hours for that trip. Numerous acquaintances of mine lost their jobs and saw their pensions/401(k)s cut in half. Unusually for the Valley, the mood for once was only halfway optimistic.

It was also a time when scouting was less necessary. High-quality start-ups were proactively knocking on our door in the search for cooperation and naturally for capital as well. The “giving and getting little favors” culture of Silicon Valley, which meant helping one another out with introductions, expertise, or access to know-how, was crucially important at that time. Many of my best relationships with the CEOs and VCs I still interact with today are from this time. In retrospect, the financial crisis made the Valley somewhat more down-to-earth and approachable, at least for a short time.

Recognition and Change

The visibility and recognition of the Swisscom Outpost in Silicon Valley was enormously important for us and the foundation of our activities. This was crowned with an award for “Most Supportive Carrier” by the Silicon Valley Telecom Council. This award is determined by a poll of over 200 startups and entrepreneurs. For us, this was a huge boost in motivation and a direct confirmation of our work in Silicon Valley.

Shortly afterward came the time when I was operating alone in the Valley. So the offer from SK Telecom Ventures, who invited me to move into their office in suite 100 at 2460 Sandhill Road, came at just the right time. In the middle of all the big Silicon Valley VCs, this site represented an impressive foray with a new profile for a Swisscom Outpost location.

The proximity to SKT Ventures was very valuable and inspiring. We had direct exchange with high-potential start-ups, and of no small importance was that I was permitted to make use of high-quality infrastructure, with board rooms that made it possible to receive distinguished visitors from Switzerland. And there were an increasing number of visitor of that type since the Outpost was gaining in prominence in Switzerland. Among others, we had the Swiss Post and the Swiss Economic Forum as guests. 

The Foundation for the First Cloud

Looking back at my activity, one of the biggest highlights was the launch of the first Swisscom Cloud in late summer 2010. Still a bit ahead of its time, it was based on start-up technologies from Silicon Valley and on cooperation with Verizon’s CaaS. A new Customer Enterprise Service arose from a developmental idea for which the cornerstone had been laid at the Outpost. The idea of the cloud substantially influenced activities at the Outpost during the following years. At that point, the time had come for me to return to Switzerland.

Radical Revolutions

My attachment to Silicon Valley never ended, however. After my return to Switzerland, I transferred to Swisscom Ventures and thus was able to maintain the majority of my contacts and relationships, and my feelings of closeness to Silicon Valley along with them. This made it possible for me to make numerous successful investments, the majority of which would not have come about without this foundation.

It’s incredible how Silicon Valley has continued to develop during this time. I admittedly underestimated how rapidly Silicon Valley start-ups would scale globally once the internet was ubiquitous – the speed of technology adoption was unprecedented. Such a fundamental step from the semiconductor era in such a short time was difficult to imagine only 10 years ago. That’s reflected today in how large the companies from the backyard garages and with the hidden conference booths have become. The concentration of wealth that has accompanied it is likely an indication as well.

An Uncertain Future

Success also had a downside, however. With every visit, Silicon Valley seems even more crowded and expensive. The scale it has attained is not healthy. It’s almost impossible to find a company there today with founders that do not live at the “poverty line.”

The young talents who flock here from around the world still form the sustainable breeding ground for Silicon Valley. I believe this source is increasingly in danger of running dry, with the result that Silicon Valley is more of a hub where the “picks and shovels” are. The pools of young talent and the innovation that goes along with them are elsewhere, however.

Corporate innovation and the important core function of “outposting” can no longer rely only on one or two outposts at the heart of high tech for discovering innovations. A targeted expansion of these activities in the future therefore seems essential to me.

Part 1: “Like in a research laboratory!” – Ursula is the first to share her memories

Recorded by Mark Walti, Palo Alto, 10 January 2019. Stefan Kuentz is now a partner at Swisscom Ventures with a focus on B2B enterprise technologies and is responsible for US investment activities.

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Die Weltwoche

Die Weltwoche

Simon Zwahlen, VP of Business Development & Innovation & Head of Fintech, U.S.

A Letter from Silicon Valley

Swisscom tracks what’s going on in the digital world around the globe, with their network stretching from Shanghai to Silicon Valley. Simon Zwahlen is one of their leading specialists. He provides Swiss weekly newspaper Weltwoche with first-hand monthly reports on the hottest trends and most fascinating developments.

January 16, 2019
The space capsule that can fly itself
Everyone’s talking about autonomous driving, but that’s just the beginning of the mobility revolution. The pioneers of the high-tech world already have air and space in their sights – and developments are progressing at breakneck speed.

December 19, 2018
Names that should ring a bell
There’s no doubt that Google’s Urs Hölzle is the most famous Swiss export to Silicon Valley. However, there are other Swiss movers and shakers based in this high-tech metropolis who are rather less well-known. A report from the city where two cultures meet.

November 14, 2018
Observing Tesla’s inner machinery
In Europe, Elon Musk is often viewed with some scepticism. This view is marred by misunderstandings. He started with electric cars, but now the Tesla founder has kicked off a revolution that will also have a major impact on Switzerland’s future.

October 17, 2018
The butler who lives in the cloud 
Until now, personal assistants have been a privilege enjoyed by busy managers. However, the masterminds of the high-tech industry are now planning a service revolution: a butler for everyone. In the future, artificial intelligence will organise your car’s service, make hair appointments and even look out suitable singletons for you to date.

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20 Years of the Outpost (Part 1)

20 Years of the Outpost (Part 1)

Ursula Oesterle and Daniel Gerber

Oupost Office at Waverly Street, Palo Alto

“Like in a research laboratory!”

In a multi-part series, we look back at the Swisscom Outpost’s 20 years in Silicon Valley. Ursula Oesterle, who spent eleven years in all at the Outpost between 2002 and 2015, is the first to share her memories.

Swisscom came to Silicon Valley in 1998 at the beginning of the Internet boom. Walter Steinlin, at that time head of Swisscom Corporate Technology, wanted to find out what the Internet meant for telephony.  So he sent a team with Christoph Rytz, Andreas Wettstein and Erich Zahnd that was driven purely by technology to California. You could almost call it the prehistoric phase of Swisscom’s time in Silicon Valley.

In 2002, when the Internet wave was receding and most telcos were closing down their offices, I joined them. I think my transfer only went through because it had already been promised to me. As a trained physicist, I have a different approach. I love to investigate the unknown and to discover new things. For me, Silicon Valley was like a research laboratory.

The real launch came in 2003

At first I was alone. From the outset, I sought contact to the business units Swisscom Mobile and Swisscom Fixnet and was able to convince them to cooperate in areas such as development and new products. This shifted the focus of our presence in Silicon Valley from pure technology to innovation and business development.

The potential that existed in the ecosystem here was quickly recognized, and so Adrian Bult, CEO of Swisscom Fixnet at the time, sent an additional person to Silicon Valley. The chemistry between Christina Taylor and me couldn’t have been better. With her marketing background and with my knowledge of startups and innovation, we started to build the Outpost. We really went wild!

Thus the real launch of the Outpost as we know it today was in 2003. At first, the Americans made fun of the term “Outpost.” To them, it sounded like we were operating a fort from 150 years ago to protect newly arriving settlers from the Indians. In this case, we were trendsetters in the redefinition of this term, which has almost become standard in Silicon Valley today.

From Starbucks to the consulate general

At the beginning, we had no office and nothing else was available. So we primarily worked out of Starbucks coffee shops, because they were the first ones to have Wi-Fi access. Six months later, we moved into the Swiss consulate general on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. We were able to use two workspaces on the premises of the predecessor organization of swissnex, which – please note – was co-founded by Swisscom.

On diplomatic ground, certain regulations and practices also applied to us. That always astonished the start-ups that came to us. It created the impression that we had to be something very special. In addition, federal government employees from Switzerland were always coming to check the building’s safety and earthquake readiness.

This first phase up through 2007 was very exploratory. At the time, scouting really was still scouting. You literally had to go looking for start-ups on the street. All the networking platforms we’re familiar with today for finding companies and getting to know them didn’t exist yet in any way. This phase was still very much the wild, wild West.

Enduring appeal

After a two-year stay in Singapore, I returned to Silicon Valley in 2009. As I had already noted in Asia, the valley’s appeal kept increasing. Even more companies were there, scouting wasn’t so exotic anymore, there were more and more networking and sharing platforms, and everywhere cooperation agreements were being made and working groups were being formed.

At this point, we were housed at SK Telecom Ventures on Alma Street in Palo Alto. That was a great office. There was decent coffee and the infrastructure and the videoconferencing were first rate. For our small team, that was pure luxury. In addition, we had great interaction and even a cooperation agreement with the Koreans.

After SK Telecom decided to combine their offices in Sunnyvale, we spent a brief period in coffee shops again. Since Swisscom wanted to build more business relationships during this time in addition to business development, we kept looking for our own office. That’s how we came to Waverly Street in Palo Alto.

The infamous Swisscom garage

Number 636 was a plain old building with only a single room. In our view, you would have called it more of a garage than a building. In addition, it had no heating. The start-up that previously had been in there had run so many servers that it didn’t need any. So we bought an electronic heater and the first person to arrive each morning turned it on and went to the nearest coffee shop until it got warm.

Waverly Street had a certain charm, although it was somewhat strange at first for most visitors from Switzerland.  But since we ourselves exemplified the garage and start-up groove, people quickly came to think of it as cool. We also maintained an open-house policy and thus enjoyed lively interaction with a highly diverse range of people. Many meetings and events were also held in the back yard.

This time period also marks the beginning of cooperation with companies like Mobiliar and the Post. Since these were important customers for Swisscom, we offered to let them send their employees to us. They were able to make use of our office infrastructure and tap into our network for up to six months. This productive exchange is in part still practiced today.

Unfortunately, under the new owner, the purpose of the building changed and it was converted into a more profitable three-story building. So we had to look around for new lodgings one more time. During this phase, the team from Swisscom Cloud Lab also came to Silicon Valley. Since the original assumption was twenty to thirty employees, a search was made for a larger office for everyone together.

From start-up to Ltd.

Because of these changes, the Swisscom Cloud Lab Ltd. was founded, which represented Swisscom in Silicon Valley for the first time in the form of a legal entity. With this step, we emerged from our own start-up cocoon and became a real company. This enabled us to formally take the role of tenants and to find lodging in 2015 on Chestnut Street in Menlo Park.

This represented the end of our prior nomadic existence and we settled down. For the first time, we invested in the infrastructure and the furnishings. That set a new milestone and represented a commitment to a continuing and enhanced presence in Silicon Valley. For me personally, that was on the one hand a confirmation of the years of activity there, but on the other hand it also marked the end of the pioneering period.

Significant change of Silicon Valley

In addition, I didn’t really perceive the increasing flood of start-ups in Silicon Valley as an improvement, the more so as the quality noticeably declined. What was once a project was now called a start-up. There continued to be two or three good approaches to almost any subject or area, but most of the rest were either interchangeable or entirely unusable.

The new challenge now was filtering it out. The approach had also changed because the really good start-ups were now able to select who they cooperated with or wanted to keep developing with. For these cases, not just financial possibilities but also a high degree of credibility as well as special competencies from which the start-up could profit were needed.

I’m convinced that the local presence of a company like Swisscom continues to be useful and necessary. Times have changed, and circumstances with them. New energy and different approaches are now required in order to absorb current developments and anticipate future ones. For me, the research journey continues in another field, but partially still in Silicon Valley.

Recorded by Mark Walti, Palo Alto, 14 November 2018. Ursula Oesterle now works as director of corporate innovation at Philip Morris International (PMI).

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Swisscom Startup Challenge

Swisscom Startup Challenge

The Start-Ups of the Swisscom Challenge 2018:
AAAccell, Dotphoton, Sentifi, Rovenso, Exeon
visiting Ebay

Trial by Fire in Silicon Valley

This year’s Swisscom Startup Challenge was again a tremendous success. During their stay in Silicon Valley, the five Swiss start-ups were able to take advantage of various meetings with prominent partners. In addition to new insights and helpful tips, most events led to follow-up meetings. Thus the start-ups’ expectations were more than met.

The Swisscom Outpost in Palo Alto was entrusted with organizing the week-long visit. Event participants were selected according to various considerations, resulting in a mix of mentoring, venture capital, and business development meetings. The start-ups were also able to present their innovations to a large audience at Swisscom Pitch Night. Also present was a delegation from Zurich led by Mayor Corine Mauch and Government Councillor Carmen Walker Späh.

Swiss Know-How from Silicon Valley

Especially the meetings with two Swiss Silicon Valley experts, Alain Chuard and Johannes Köppel, left a lasting impression on the start-ups. Alain, who successfully sold his company Wildfire to Google, convincingly explained how he was able to preserve his company’s culture even when it grew from 30 to over 400 employees in a very short time. Johannes, who runs WeTravel in San Francisco, in turn answered all the questions of the new Swiss start-ups with a rarely encountered openness and was able to point out some interesting approaches while doing so.

Revising Pitches in the Car

A good example of the dynamics of the Silicon Valley ecosystem came about when a start-up was coached by a mentor in the car on their way to a meeting. They were so absorbed by the experience that they missed their freeway exit—and the appointment along with it. But instead of canceling or postponing, a completely new pitch was prepared right there in the car that they then were able to carry out over the phone. The meeting turned out so well that they were already able to schedule a follow-up appointment.

Presenting According to Insights from Neuroscience

The start-ups were more than a little astonished when they were offered training in making pitches from Antoine de Morrée, a Stanford University neuroscientist. Antoine demonstrated which words should be used in a pitch and which should be avoided from a psychological perspective. As a matter of fact, many start-ups have the flaw of pitching the problem they solve, but forgetting to emphasize how their specific counterpart would benefit from their solution.

A Final Surprise

Typical for Silicon Valley was also how the last event came about. Only as their visit was already underway and on very short notice did the start-ups learn that they would also be allowed to present a pitch at Plug and Play, one of the largest incubators and accelerators in the Valley. Thus the start-ups were granted the chance to appear in front of more than fifty corporate venture capitalists and enjoy a moment in the spotlight as they bid farewell to Silicon Valley.

Targeting the US Market

It was evident once again that Switzerland doesn’t need to shy away from comparison when it comes to high tech. Swiss start-ups should instead dare to take the leap into the USA, as Jeffrey Gantner, head of the Swisscom start-up program, states: “Even if the technology in Switzerland is at the same level or higher, we first have to learn from the Americans how to market ourselves better, and second, Swiss start-ups have to enter the American market. One more successful small business in Switzerland won’t make the world a better place.”

For more information, check out the Swisscom StartUp Challenge website as well as the program partner Venturelab.

Marc Wälti, 31 October 2018

The Start-Ups of the Swisscom Challenge 2018:
Exeon Analytics

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Valuable exchange with Zurich

from left: Lukas Peter (Swisscom Outpost), Carmen Walker Späh (Government Councillor, Canton of Zurich) and Björn Jeker (Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce)

Together with the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce (SACC), the Swisscom Outpost in Silicon Valley welcomed a delegation with around twenty members from Zurich. Led by Carmen Walker Späh, Government Councillor and Head of the Department for Economic Affairs, the representatives of the canton, of the cities of Zurich and Winterthur, and also Zurich Tourism listened to remarks by Lukas Peter (Swisscom) and Björn Jeker (SACC). The shared conclusion: There’s more than a little that links Zurich and Silicon Valley, and cooperating even more closely with each other in the future will pay off. Zurich is a sister city of San Francisco and maintains not just political contacts, but also economic and cultural ties to the Bay Area.

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