Switzerland’s Crypto Valley Thriving Despite Bitcoin’s Crash
The crypto and blockchain scene is booming in Switzerland more than ever, despite the recent cryptocurrency crash. Over 1000 start-ups and firms are already working on the next internet revolution. Crypto Valley, the largest blockchain and distributed ledger ecosystem worldwide and based in Switzerland, is alive and well. And our very own aXedras, having now cracked the top 50 of the “CV VC Top 50 Report”, features prominently in this boom, as well as in this feature article from one of Switzerland’s largest newspapers.
The following article, published February 14, 2022, comes courtesy of Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger, a Swiss German-language national daily newspaper based in Zurich, which prominently featured our very own aXedras Group AG. aXedras was added to the CV VC Top 50 Report for 2021, a report done in collaboration with PwC Switzerland that analyses the top 50 best-performing blockchain projects in Crypto Valley. aXedras has dug out its own unique niche which is helping to drive Crypto Valley’s boom.
NOTE: this article, with the original title Der Wunder von Zug: Wie das Crypto Valley trotzt Bitcoin-Crash gedeiht, is electronically translated from the original German language it was published in, and some parts may not properly reflect the original German language it was written in. We’ll include the original article at the end here for our German-speaking readers. The article was written by Simone Luchetta, business editor at Tamedia.
Tages Anzeiger, published February 14, 2022, 5:48am
Three o'clock in the afternoon. The offices in "Crypto Valley Labs" not far from the train station are deserted, the around 150 rented start-ups work in the home office. There is little sign of start-up euphoria.
But in the corner of the lounge stands a unicorn. Oversized, white and proud. In the start-up scene, the unicorn is the symbol of companies with a market valuation of over one billion dollars. And there are currently no fewer than fourteen of them in Zug’s crypto world…compared to eight last year.
The hub of the Zug crypto scene: Investor Mathias Ruch (right) with the management team from CV Labs, Tracy Trachsler and Nicolai Reinbold. Photo: Ela Çelik, for the Tages Anzeiger
"Crypto Valley is literally exploding," says Mathias Ruch. The CEO and co-founder of the investment company CV VC smiles and happily pats the plastic neck of the unicorn.
In fact: For the first time in Switzerland there are more than 1000 start-ups dealing with blockchain technology, more than half of them in Zug. They employ a total of 6000 people. The 50 largest crypto companies are valued at over $600 billion - four times more than last year. These records come from the current «CV VC Top 50 Report».
This happy news from the crypto valley may not really fit the time. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are on a rollercoaster ride, and one reads now of the impending “crypto winter”. And yet the local scene is growing splendidly. "This shows that something has grown here in recent years that has endured over the long term," explains Ruch.
Born in Bern, he is the linchpin of the Zug crypto scene. With his investment company, he has been specifically promoting blockchain start-ups for around six years and offers them affordable office space. In addition to the CV Lab in Zug, he also runs ones in Liechtenstein, in the Emirates, and now also in Cape Town.
,Blockchain legislation in Switzerland
Every year, Ruch's people appraise 2,000 to 3,000 projects worldwide, two thirds of which come from the financial sector. “They get more from us than just money,” he says. For example, a network and participation in a three-month incubation program where young programmers learn how to run a company. This "ecosystem approach" is showing success, according to Ruch.
In fact, Zug and Switzerland are at the forefront of crypto. Nowhere else is there a higher density of young entrepreneurs, experts and universities who rely on blockchain technology. In no other country are the framework conditions so clearly regulated. Last year, the Council of States and the National Council unanimously approved new blockchain legislation. This also attracts the community from abroad.
Without Blockchain there is no Bitcoin
They all believe in a technology whose most famous application is Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies only exist thanks to the blockchain. But the technology can do much more. It is a decentralized database operated jointly by users, which enables people to transmit information to one another transparently and in a forgery-proof manner. And it has the power, its followers believe, to turn the world upside down.
Are there now blockchain solutions that are changing our everyday lives? Or that are making large corporations superfluous? Anyone looking for clues in the Valley will quickly notice that this crypto world is still something for the initiated. But a visit to Crypto Valley shows that there is a lot happening along value and supply chains.
A certificate for "clean gold"
One example is with the company ,aXedras. It uses counterfeit-proof technology to prove the clean origin of gold. "Each individual gold bar has a digital twin on the blockchain," says CEO Urs Röösli. Space is scarce in the glass meeting room of the company's subsidiary in Zurich's Technopark. Röösli speaks calmly, matter-of-factly, and calmly.
From the where the gold is mined, to suppliers, refineries and the bank, every station of every single bar is recorded on the blockchain database, and every real bar is provided with the corresponding information. Röösli reasoned, “This ensures that no illegal manipulations are carried out on the material and the associated digital data. Clean production is guaranteed for the buyer.”
aXedras was founded in 2018 and today has 20 employees. According to the CVVC report, the start-up recently completed another round of financing of over ten million dollars for planned growth.
Mr. Röösli, a long-standing member of the group management at the security transport company Loomis, says they haven’t reached their goal yet. One day the entire precious metals industry should be networked and digitized via blockchain. The biggest challenge is getting the companies involved from five continents on board.
Much of the value chain is still processed on paper, and the suppliers work with different data formats. The blockchain solution now makes the delivery process much more efficient and transparent, says Röösli. He is convinced that many companies will soon follow suit.
But not everything that the flourishing industry between Zurich, Zug and Vaduz produces is new and great. Nobody in Crypto Valley denies that either. Among them is Sebastian Bürgel, managing director and founder of the Zurich company, Hopr.
In the video call, the biomedical engineer, who has a doctorate, localizes “a lot of smoke and mirrors” in the crypto valley. Not everything that goes under the buzzword "blockchain" is actually based on this technology, he warns. And a blockchain would not be necessary for every application: "A lot of it is nonsense," he says succinctly.
Bürgel himself is building a blockchain solution for the secure bilateral exchange of data, for example between hospitals: "The data sent should not only be encrypted. The cloud provider should also not be able to find out where someone was when they sent the data."
The goal is to create a neutral Internet that belongs to nobody and that nobody can influence: "What happens at Hopr is determined by the participants," says Bürgel. This is supposed to be an alternative to today's Internet, where central service providers such as Google or Facebook make big money with their users' data.
The Crypto Valley not only attracts do-gooders, but also people who smell quick money. Despite the Blockchain Act, the crypto world often still has a dubious reputation.
The “Financial Times ” recently even wrote: “Crypto technologies and businesses are increasingly at the center of global illegal financial flows and criminal enterprises.” There are a few unscrupulous companies in Zug's Crypto Valley, the City of London's main journal warned.
Nobody denies that in Zug. Neither does Guido Bühler, managing director of crypto bank Seba , which is valued at $750 million. Together with Sygnum, it is up to now one of the only crypto institutions to receive a banking license from FINMA in 2019 and to offer comprehensive financial services for crypto currencies. There are branches in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Companies that do crooked crypto deals here are short-lived, says the former UBS banker, sitting casually on the lounge's fluffy sofa. The bank is housed in one of the oldest buildings in Zug, the interior is reminiscent of a posh boutique hotel. Bühler emphasizes: "In Switzerland there is no bank that is not compliant." Translated, this means the Swiss banks play clean.
Despite the dizzying developments in finance, the Tour d'Horizon in the crypto valley cannot hide the fact that no project based on blockchain technology has really taken off so far. It has still not arrived in everyday life, it has its existence, for example, in the niches of logistics and the organization of supply chains. Even the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ether have not yet reached the general public.
Blockchain is the future
Nevertheless, the makers in Crypto Valley are convinced that the technology will prevail. In ten years, nobody will be talking about blockchain anymore because it will have become a matter of course, and they all agree in unison. But until blockchain technology becomes as commonplace as a smartphone, the white unicorn that stands for the crypto world in the CV Lab still has a few hurdles to clear.