SIRA Startup Event -- May 4, 2018

Startup for Academics in Switzerland: Challenges and Opportunities

May 4, 2018, SIRA 2018 Event

Aim and scope

Startups and spin-offs have become a major element of academic life in computer science. Running a startup, however, is not necessarily what successful academics are trained for. Indeed, we have heard some world-renowned academics, that running a startup was their most humbling experience. Others, in contrast, have become serial entrepreneurs and have combined their research capabilities with a steady pipeline of companies.

The goal of this workshop is to share some first hand experience on how to start your own startups. To that end we invited 3 successful colleagues, who will provide the inside view and one outsider, who will provide the outside view as an angel investor on succeeding with a startup. 

The event is free of charge to SIRA members (Swiss CS/IS professors), MERs in CS/IS, and postdocs in research groups of SIRA members.



11:15 Welcome

11:20 Session 1: Academics and Angels in Startups


  • The Startup: An Academic's Rite of Passage? (PDF, 3 MB) – George CandeaEPFL
    As researchers in a field of engineering, we have the responsibility to shepherd our ideas toward real products that solve real problems for real people, and a startup is one way to do this. It provides a unique opportunity to grow as a professional, it offers a clear view of what the real problems are (and thus inform our future research), and it's an incredible thrill. Just like bungee jumping. Doing a startup is a high-risk/high-reward journey with pros and cons, and this talk will lay down some of the good and bad surprises that the academic may encounter along the way.
    slides (PDF, 3 MB)

    ​About George Candea
    George Candea joined the EPFL faculty in 2006, where he leads research on computer system reliability and security. Until last year, George was CEO and Chairman of Cyberhaven, a cybersecurity company he co-founded in 2015 with his former students, developing a data isolation platform that protects sensitive data from advanced cyber attacks, social engineering, and malicious insiders. In the past, George was CTO and Chief Scientist of Aster Data Systems (now Teradata Analytics), a Silicon Valley big-data company he co-founded in 2005 with two Stanford colleagues. Before that, he held positions at Oracle, Microsoft Research, and IBM Research. George is a recipient of the MIT TR35 Young Innovators award, the Eurosys Jochen Liedtke Award, and an ERC StG award. He received his PhD from Stanford and his BS and MEng from MIT.
  • The role of Angel Investors in the Swiss startup ecosystem (PDF, 2 MB) – Thomas Dübendorfer, Swiss ICT Investor Club
    The talk gives answers to the questions: How, when and from whom should startups get venture capital? What's the role and motivation of angel investors? Which are the do's and don'ts when choosing investors? How to get much more from your investor than just money? What is a business angel club? It also illustrates some recent developments in the angel investor scene in Switzerland and gives a case study of a Swiss tech startup from incorporation to exit in less than five years.
    slides (PDF, 2 MB)

    About Thomas Dübendorfer:
    President, Swiss ICT Investor Club, Business Angel, Security Expert, former Googler

    Thomas Dübendorfer holds a Ph.D. in computer science from ETH Zurich and lectured at ETH on information security for ten years. He worked as software engineer in Silicon Valley and seven years at Google in Zürich, receiving three Google OC awards for his engineering contributions. He is board member or angel investor in more than twenty companies and has co-founded several Internet technology based product startups in Switzerland, among them Spontacts (Social Network, exit to Scout24), Fintech startup Contovista (Personal Finance Management, exit to Aduno) and Frontify (brand management) that serves customers like Lufthansa, Nasdaq, Adobe and UBS. He is co-founder and president of the Swiss ICT Investor Club (SICTIC), the fastest growing tech startup focused angel club in Switzerland. He served as CTO of digital identity startup and as Chief Information Security Officer of Beekeeper.

12:20 Lunch

13:30 Session 2: Entrepreneurs, Academics, and Business Models


  • Some takeaways for current future entrepreneurs – Edouard BugnionEPFL
    In this talk, I will distill some takeways from my 14 years as an Entrepeneurs in the high-tech space and try to draw some suggestions for current and future Swiss entrepeneurs.

    About Ed Bugnion:
    Prof. Edouard Bugnion joined EPFL in 2012, where his focus is on datacenter systems. He is also the academic co-director of the Swiss Data Science Center, a national initiative to accelerate the use of data science throughout Swiss academia.  Since January 2017, he is also the Vice-President ad Interim of Information Systems of EPFL.
    Before joining EPFL, Edouard spent 18 years in the US, where he studied at Stanford and co-founded two startups: VMware and Nuova Systems (acquired by Cisco). At VMware from 1998 until 2005, he played many roles including CTO. At Nuova/Cisco from 2005 until 2011, he helped build the core engineering team and became the VP/CTO of Cisco’s Server, Access, and Virtualization Technology Group, a group that brought to market Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) platform for virtualized datacenters.
    Prof. Bugnion is a Fellow of the ACM and a member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW).  Together with his colleagues, he received the ACM Software System Award for VMware 1.0 in 2009 and one of his papers was entered into the ACM SIGOPS Hall of Fame in 2008.
    Edouard Bugnion is also an independent Board member of Logitech, of Innosuisse, and of the Assembly of the ICRC.
  • It’s not just about the technology!  Connecting your technology to your business model – Christopher TucciEPFL
    What is a business model and why is it important?  There are many cases where the best technology doesn’t win in the market.  In this talk we will discuss what a business model is, how to articulate it, and how to interact with your users, payers, or customers to find out what they really need using design thinking techniques.

    About Chris Tucci:
    Christopher L. Tucci is Professor of Management of Technology at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), where he directs the Chair in Corporate Strategy & Innovation. He received the degrees of Ph.D. in Management from the Sloan School of Management, MIT; SM (Technology & Policy) from MIT; and BS (Mathematical Sciences), AB (Music), and MS (Computer Science) from Stanford University. Before returning for his PhD, he was an industrial computer scientist involved in developing Internet protocols and applying artificial intelligence tools to solve industrial problems. Professor Tucci joined EPFL in 2003 where he teaches courses in Design Thinking, Information Technology Strategy, Innovation Management, and Research Methods. His primary areas of interest are business models, open innovation, crowdsourcing, and dynamic capabilities. He is also studying how the popularization of the Internet affects firms in different industries.  He has published articles in, among others, Academy of Management Review (AMR), Strategic Management Journal, Management Science, Research Policy, Communications of the ACM, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Academy of Management Annals, and Journal of Product Innovation Management.  His 2012 article with Allan Afuah, “Crowdsourcing as solution to distant search,” won the Best Paper of 2012 for AMR.  He was the Technology & Innovation Management (TIM) Department Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management and was on the Editorial Board of Organization Science.  He is currently an Associate Editor of Academy of Management Discoveries.  In 2004, he was elected to the five-year division leadership track of the Academy of Management’s (AOM) TIM Division.  In 2010, he was elected to the leadership track of the SMS’ Strategy & Entrepreneurship Interest Group.  In 2013, he was elected to the AOM’s Board of Governors.

15:00: Close



The event will take place at the EPFL in Lausanne

Room BC 420, 4th floor of BC Building, School of Computer & Communication Sciences

EPFL Campus Map 
How to reach the EPFL

EPFL Map BC Building (Computer Science) (PDF, 1 MB)


Zoom (PNG, 256 KB)



Registration deadline

April 20, 2018


Please register here for the SIRA Startup Event.
The event is free, but we need to gauge the number of people presents for our logistics.

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Please enter your First and Lastname (Donald Duck)
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(please let us know if there are special dietary restrictions that we should know about.