Mi. Jun 19th, 2024

The Swiss startup scene grows year by year and has reached international acclaim. At the same time, those outside of its inner circle know little about the daily business, the troubles, sorrows and challenges of the young founders on their quest to build innovative business models that reach global success. The world of deep tech startups is the central theme of the documentary miniseries “Start-up” by director Manuel Stagars. It premieres on July 16 2020 at 4 PM CET.

The first film about the Swiss deep tech startup scene

“Start-up” is an observational documentary miniseries with three episodes of 30 minutes length. It follows young entrepreneurs who work on future technologies, such as artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing, Cleantech and biotech. Much is written about startups, mostly about the glamor of those that have become unicorns and succeed with world changing innovations, and unless they are famous, scientists and entrepreneurs are often invisible to the public eye. But what does it take to make it as a startup entrepreneur? “Start-up” is the first film that focuses on the real life of startup founders and also looks behind the scenes of the startup life, warts and all. This independent miniseries gives a broad audience access to entrepreneurship and future technologies that often emerge out of startups in Switzerland with teams from all around the world, far from Silicon Valley.

For half a year, former entrepreneur, researcher and now film director Manuel Stagars followed six Swiss startups on their journey. The founders and their teams gave him access to their private labs and workshops, some of them in universities, where they toil on commercializing ideas that change the world.

“This film took me on a fascinating journey. The garage was yesterday. Today, some of the best startups come directly out of universities”

says Stagars. He selected founders working in the field of deep tech, which includes artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing, biotech, Cleantech. Next to insights into their technologies and working alone and in teams, presenting to investors, or participating in trade shows, the audience gets to observe the small wins, challenges, and emotional setbacks that entrepreneurs deal with on a daily basis. The approach of “Start-up” is unique for a film on startups in the deep tech space, in Switzerland and beyond.

Detlef Günther, Vice President for Research, ETH Zurich adds the following:

“According to data from the Federal Council, Switzerland spends close to 3% of its GDP on research and development. Knowledge transfer represents an important element of a university’s role in society, but the journey from the lab to the market is certainly not an easy one. This documentary reveals the challenges, the successes, and provides insights into Swiss startups.”


The Gebert Rüf Stiftung is the main supporter of this film project, which also includes eleven interviews with the startup founders in the film. These interviews are accessible on the film website (www.startup-documentary.com) and as a podcast. Pascale Vonmont, CEO/Director of the Gebert Rüf Stiftung, says about the project:

„Swiss deep tech startups are still little known to the wider public. This documentary by Manuel Stagars, the first of its kind, will change that: ‚Start-up‘ gives unique insights into the fascinating but widely unknown startup scene in Switzerland.“

About Manuel Stagars

Manuel Stagars knows the startup scene first hand: The film director was a startup founder himself, a senior researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), and the author of the book “University Startups and Spin-Offs: Guide for Entrepreneurs in Academia” (2015). Making audiences think is one of the main goals of his films. Since 2005, he directs films about creativity, innovation, science, new technologies, and their impact on society. His films won several prizes, reached hundreds of thousands of viewers, screened at international film festivals, and were translated in several languages.

His motivation to make films springs from his own curiosity to better understand complex subject matter. With „Start-up“, he succeeds in putting those people in the spotlight who want to change the world. It’s not the first time for him to make a film about a complex topic that is hard to grasp. His documentary film “The Blockchain and Us” (2017) captured the enthusiasm about blockchain technology when it became a global phenomenon and won prizes at film festivals around the world.

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