Liechtenstein Grows as a Base For Start-Ups

In March of 2016 Liechtenstein's Prime Minister Adrian Hasler, along with Liechtenstein's Financial Market Authority (FMA), began an initiative to attract and boost innovation and investment in Liechtenstein. Under the name of "Impuls Liechtenstein" the initiative sets out to make Liechtenstein a hub for digital technology, especially in the area of financial technology or so-called Fin-Tech. With Liechtenstein's unique business location entailing access to both the entire European Union Single Market and the Swiss market, "Impuls Liechtenstein" has set out to make the Principality an even more attractive private sector destination.

A team of experts at the Financial Market Authority (FMA) has also formed a so-called "regulatory laboratory" that acts as point of contact for companies with innovative business models.

At the launch of "Impuls Liechtenstein," from left: Urs Philipp Roth-Cuony, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Liechtenstein Financial Market Authority; Adrian Hasler, Prime Minister of Liechtenstein; and Patrick Bont, Head of the Banking Division, Liechtenstein FMA.

Prime Minister Adrian Hasler is convinced that capacity for innovation is one of a country’s key competences in the globally competitive marketplace. “Promoting innovation means creating a governmental framework that provides an ideal breeding ground for people to realise ideas and bring them to market fruition.” Liechtenstein should be perceived as a center where innovative products and services are welcome. “Anyone who has a good idea should be encouraged to put it into action in Liechtenstein.”

In 2016 Liechtenstein has already seen the creation of several initiatives to boost collaboration and use its location in a regional technology corridor to its advantage. Technopark Liechtenstein (website in German only) will be rooted in innovations of the region's training centers and academic institutions, namely the University of Applied Sciences and Technology Buchs (NTB), the University of Liechtenstein and the University of St. Gallen. Start-ups in the Technopark will benefit from an advanced infrastructure, an experienced network of contact persons and the opportunity to interact with other entrepreneurs.

From left: Klaus Tschütscher, Thomas Büchel and Jan vom Brocke of Home of Innovation.

The new HOI Home of Innovation (website in German only) project offers start-ups in Liechtenstein space and expert know-how. The initiative is the brainchild of the prorector of the University of Liechtenstein, Jan vom Brocke, and ex-Prime Minister Klaus Tschütscher ("Hoi" is Liechtenstein dialect for hello). There established entrepreneurs, scientists and experts will be on hand to provide start-ups with advice and a raft of know-how in all areas of business. HOI sees itself as a further private-sector complement to already existing initiatives such as Technopark or Impuls Liechtenstein.

Investor Frank Thelen is at the forefront of the new Liechtenstein-based start-up incubator SeedX unveiled in Liechtenstein in October. Thelen is known throughout the German-speaking world as a celebrity investor on the German TV show "Die Höhle des Löwens" (The Lion's Den), much like the US reality show "Shark Tank." According to the outline of the government's Impuls Liechtenstein initiative, the incubator will aim to direct available capital from Liechtenstein more into venture capital.

One Liechtenstein-based start-up has already been making headwinds, namely Froogies (website in German only), which produces different powders from freeze-dried fruits that can be mixed with water to make smoothies or added to muesli. Froogies was featured on Germany's "The Lion's Den" TV show in which they received funding from a celebrity investor. To make Froogies, the fruit is first freeze-dried to remove all water, before being ground into a powder. Thanks to gentle production methods, the fruit retains all its valuable vitamins and nutrients, as well as its color and flavor, according to the company. As such, the Froogies smoothies are free from stabalizers, flavor enhancers and added sugars. The product is not yet available in the US.

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