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Interest from startups in the BaseLaunch healthcare accelerator exceeds expectations

Startup accelerator BaseLaunch received 112 applications from over 30 countries until the program’s deadline of June 30th 2017. „The number of applications exceeded our expectations by far“, says Alethia de León, Managing Director, BaseLaunch.

The accelerator program initiated and operated by BaselArea.swiss aims to attract the next generation of successful healthcare companies by harnessing the unique position of the Basel region as a global life sciences hub. Projects that are being accepted into the first phase of the program will receive grants of up to 10'000 CHF starting in early September 2017. They will then have three months to develop their business idea further, in close collaboration with the BaseLaunch team and a network of experienced entrepreneurs and consultants. Up to three startups will be selected from these companies for the second phase. They will each receive up to 250'000 CHF of funding and the opportunity to use the lab facilities at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area for one year to generate research data and to achieve their next mile stones in their business plan.

Baselaunch has been initiated by BaselArea.swiss and is supported by the three Cantons in Northwestern Switzerland Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura. Novartis Venture Fund, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Pfizer support BaseLaunch as the program’s official Healthcare Partners. BaseLaunch also collaborates with digitalswitzerland as a healthcare vertical of Kickstart Accelerator.

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Interview with Alethia de León, Managing Director BaseLaunch:

There are already various accelerator programs in Switzerland. What is special about BaseLaunch?

A. de León: BaseLaunch was designed to be entrepreneur-centric. Instead of equity capital we offer the participating startups grants that don’t have to be paid back. Our private partners financially back it up. BaseLaunch’s expert and investor network in Basel, which is a truly global life sciences hub, is also unique. With Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Novartis Venture Fund and Pfizer we have partners, who offer expertise from their trusted network. This allows us to give market-relevant advice suited to the needs of every single startup company. On top of all this, the density of biopharmaceutical companies in Basel is the highest worldwide, and the location Basel offers a deep pool of talent and experts.

How can local companies in the city of Basel benefit from the fact that an accelerator program is being offered here for the first time?

A. de León: BaseLaunch is open to all startups or projects in life sciences, no matter whether they come from Basel or from other parts of the world. Local companies also benefit from these innovative startups that the BaseLaunch program attracts to the region as they bring well-educated experts and talents with them.

Critics claim that the financing through the accelerator program won’t be enough to cover the costs or that there are hidden obligations. How do you respond to these objections?

A. de León: We carefully assessed all critical aspects when we planned to program. We have requirements, but they are not hidden: The startups that we support need to incorporate in the region during the second phase of the program. With this, we want to avoid that projects only profit from our support without generating value for the region. At the same time, participating startups have the chance to benefit from the local know-how through our network of companies and advisors, and they can be fully integrated in the local life sciences value chain. As mentioned before, we offer non-repayable financing to the participating startups. Many other accelerators require a relative high share of equity and ownership from the startups in exchange for their support. This can be cumbersome for the start-up when looking for next fundraising rounds. Our pharma partners don’t have ownership rights with the participating startups.

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