Seedstars, an idea born in Switzerland

In 2013, three Swiss nationals launched an international organisation called Seedstars, whose mission is to impact people's lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship. One of its flagship activities is Seedstars World, an international entrepreneurial competition that has allowed us to build an extensive international network of stakeholders in over 90 ecosystems – from Lagos, to Bogota to Karachi. We are working on building a global brand that people will equate with professionalism, quality, and getting things done. We call this KIS (keeping it Swiss).

When most people think of emerging markets, they still assume them to be hubs of low-cost manufacturing and unskilled labour. But this perception is about to change. Emerging markets are rapidly transforming themselves into centres of innovation. Did you know that in today’s emerging markets, millions of people use mobile text messages to receive health advice, send money to their family and to apply for jobs? Mobile phones are an example of technological leapfrogging that has taken place in the emerging markets we have visited. Nigeria, Colombia and Indonesia are no longer symbols of corruption, drug wars or disease. Without ignoring the impact of these terrifying realities, it would be unfair to judge these countries through this prism because by doing so we would miss the bigger story of how these countries are fast becoming incubators of creative entrepreneurs and innovators. There are always at least two sides to the same story...

Winners at Seedstars World Summit

Crisscrossing the world

This is why we at Seedstars are crisscrossing the world, both online and in personto collaborate with the biggest upcoming tech hubs and learn from innovative and like-minded entrepreneurs. We believe that talent is found everywhere but resources unfortunately are not.  In many parts of the world talented people still lack access to education, finance and appropriate infrastructure. Our aim is to provide them with the tools they need to grow and secure investment. 

What does Switzerland have to do with all this?

Over the past years, Switzerland has topped the charts of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index, performing particularly well in three areas: creative outputs, knowledge and technology outputs, and business sophistication. And over the past five years, no other country has come close.

Switzerland’s performance owes a great deal to the stable, efficient and active contribution of the Swiss government. Largely thanks to its longstanding neutrality and forward-looking government initiatives, Switzerland is currently one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and has the necessary resources and willingness to provide continuous support to the local startup scene.

Nevertheless, in view of the rapid pace of globalization, the crisis of traditional industries and the overvaluation of the Swiss franc, today more than ever Switzerland aims to develop its network in emerging markets in order to boost its trade, assure its growth, diversify its trading partners and reinvent itself. Switzerland is a small country and our economy is therefore largely based on exports. Within Switzerland, there is big demand by Swiss companies to export their products and explore all kinds of partnerships and markets. From the perspective of emerging markets, the fact that Switzerland is a neutral country located at the heart of Europe makes it the perfect point of access to Europe. By collaborating closely with our European neighbours and with emerging markets, we can become the hub of innovation between Europe and emerging markets and build long-term relationships. 

From left to right: Co-Founder and CIO Charlie Graham-Brown, Co-Founder and CFO Michael Weber,
Co-Founder and Co-CEO Alisée de Tonnac, and Co-Founder and Co-CEO Pierre-Alain Masson.


At Seedstars, we are not just about talking – we are also about going to the field and making connections. Our aim is to bring people from Switzerland and emerging markets together because it is through close communication and cooperation that unexpected and innovative ideas are born. By talking together, we think out of the box, learn from the different cultural contexts and draw inspiration. As the African proverb puts it, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". Join us.   

Adapting to a new reality: online events and connections

In light of the recent challenges Aposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Seedstars has adapted its onsite events, such as the Seedstars World competition, to an online format, allowing for even further reach and engagement beyond physical limitations. The culmination of the competition, usually taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland, was transformed into the Online Seedstars Summit , which gathered over 20,000 registrations from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia.

seedstars members
Members of the Seedstars team gathered in Geneva

Seedstars International and its Investments

Besides running events and competitions, Seedstars has also launched a venture capital fund focused on impactful seed stage tech companies. The Fund has invested in 59 entities in 28 countries covering key sectors such as financial services, health, education and agriculture. The team invests in batches of 10-15 ventures that are supported through an intense three month program focused on growth and fundraising. 54% of portfolio companies have already gone on to raise follow-on capital from later stage
investors including Omidyar, Sequoia and YCombinator. As one of the few reputable institutional names available to early stage founders in emerging markets, Seedstars will continue to strengthen this positioning in order to support more high growth ventures that drive economic, social and environmental change.

About Seedstars

"They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds." - Mexican proverb Seedstars is a Swiss-based group with the mission to impact  people’s lives in emerging markets through
technology and entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.
Seedstars connects stakeholders, builds companies from scratch with public and private partners and invests in high-growth ventures within these ecosystems. Seedstars aims at fostering impact investing and impact entrepreneurship over the world. Through different activities, that range from venture scouting, events organization to company building and entrepreneurial education programs, Seedstars has built the world's biggest community of changemakers in emerging markets. Seedstars group includes the largest entrepreneurship competition in emerging markets ( Seedstars World Competition ), the Entrepreneurship Forum for Emerging Markets ( Seedstars Summit ), physical entrepreneurship hubs ( Seedspace ), acceleration and growth programs ( Seedstars Programs ) and a venture capital fund ( Seedstars Investments ).

Alisée de Tonnac, CEO and co-founder of Seedstars World

After traveling for a year around the world to set up the first edition of the Seedstars World start-up competition back in 2013, Alisée is now managing the company and taking it to the next level. She has accumulated deep knowledge of trends in technology, social media & consumer behaviour in Emerging Markets. Alisée is a board member of the School of Management of Fribourg and a member of the Swiss National Innovation Council. She was nominated Social Entrepreneur Forbes 30 under 30,
Innovation Fellow of Wired UK, 50: Europe’s most influential women in the start-up and venture capital space and the 29 Powerful Women by Refinery29.

Alisée de Tonnac
Alisée de Tonnac

Pierre-Alain Masson, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Seedstars

Pierre-Alain graduated from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland where he founded his first
company at age 20. He is a serial entrepreneur and has advised on multiple $100m+ M&A deals/exits. He was also the CFO of an international insurance company and travelled to over 20 countries to launch the first worldwide start-up competition. Pierre-Alain is now running Seedstars, which he co-founded, and is focused on impacting people’s lives in 85+ developing economies by investing and supporting entrepreneurs.

Pierre-Alain Maisson
Pierre-Alain Masson

Charlie Graham-Brown, Co-Founder and CIO of Seedstars

Charlie started out as a mechanical engineer working on projects such as A380 at Airbus. Following an MBA at the Collège des Ingénieurs in Paris, he moved to Geneva and into impact investment management with BlueOrchard Finance investing in 20+ countries across Africa, Asia and MENA. In early 2014 he joined the founding team of Seedstars to manage the growth from just 20 countries to over 70. Responsible for the start-up screening, acceleration and investment, he has accumulated deep knowledge of technology trends in emerging markets. 

Charlie Graham-Brown
Charlie Graham-Brown

Michael Weber, Co-Founder and CFO of Seedstars

Michael studied business at HEC in Lausanne, Switzerland and proceeded to work in M&A
amassing valuable work experience with a focus on medium sized-transactions in Europe. Passionate about tech, the move to launch his own company and sell it a couple of years later was a natural fit. Then, Michael founded Seedstars with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets through technology and entrepreneurship.

Michael Weber
Michael Weber