Billion-Dollar Startups Flourishing in Switzerland’s ‘Crypto Valley’
The top 50 cryptocurrency and blockchain-related companies in Switzerland’s version of Silicon Valley are now worth $44 billion combined, underscoring the steady growth of the Swiss crypto industry. Altogether, cryptocurrency firms employ about 3,000 people throughout the small country. Included among the top 50 are five “unicorns,” or startups with a market valuation of more than $1 billion, according to a new report by Zug-based investors CV Venture Capital.
Top 50 Swiss Crypto Firms
Now Worth $44B
The report shows that the number of companies working either with digital coins or the blockchain in “Crypto Valley,” the heartland of cryptocurrency activity near the Swiss municipality of Zug, has almost doubled to 600 in the past year. The figures, contained in an online directory by CV, include companies operating in neighboring Liechtenstein. About 350 entities were featured in the directory when the CV Maps database was first launched in April 2017.
Of the top 50 companies listed, five are unicorns that are either based in Crypto Valley or originated from the area. They include the world’s biggest bitcoin miner, Bitmain, as well as other leading cryptocurrency businesses such as Cardano, Dfinity, Ethereum and Xapo, CV said. Bitmain’s revenue soared 1,700 percent to $2.5 billion in 2017, from just $137 million two years earlier. Its full-year net profit rocketed to $1.2 billion.
More than 440 people, most of them expatriates, work for Zug’s top crypto firms. All of the region’s companies appear to be well-funded, boasting a combined market value of more than $44 billion. Capital levels often run “into the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars” for several companies — a feature that distinguishes them from startups in other parts of the world, CV said in the report.
“The top 50 report shows that Crypto Valley has retained its appeal as a location for blockchain companies from all sectors,” said Ralf Glabischnig, founder and managing partner of technology firm Inacta, which built the database, in an emailed statement to news.Bitcoin.com.
CV Venture Capital, a blockchain-focused investor and incubator in Zug, worked with accountants PwC Strategy & Switzerland and Inacta to identify the top 50 Crypto Valley companies based on data from CV Maps, various crypto exchanges, media reports and social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
Switzerland has taken a progressive stance towards cryptocurrency, legalizing its use and formalizing crypto transactions in a range of contexts. But some crypto project teams still find it difficult to open bank accounts and some crypto-focused bankers and investors have highlighted the need for greater regulatory clarity.
Nonetheless, the country sees virtual money and blockchain technology as strategic innovations in global finance and is intent on maintaining the growth of the industry, while expanding the number of jobs it has to offer in the field. The country’s tax regulator considers cryptocurrencies to be assets, subject to wealth taxes that must be declared in annual tax returns.
However, uncertainty among legacy Swiss banks on the policing and implementation of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the financial market has made them cautious; many remain reluctant to issue company accounts to participants in the nascent market, leading to the departure of at least two major players this year alone. Despite this, many banks have started to open up. Maerki Baumann, an 86-year-old private bank, now accepts crypto assets, for example.
To qualify for CV’s self-described “crypto super-league” list of Switzerland’s top-rated companies, firms must meet three criteria. First, blockchain technology must be part of a company’s core business. Second, qualifying firms should employ more than one person in Switzerland or Liechtenstein. Finally, companies hoping to make the cut “should make some contribution to the blockchain ecosystem and the wider Crypto Valley community.”
Additional requirements include ticking one of the following three boxes: funding in excess of $10 million, a valuation of more than $10 million or the provision of at least 10 full-time positions in Switzerland or Liechtenstein.
The report by CV also sheds light on the growth of various subsectors of the crypto industry in Zug, including details on market capitalization and headcounts at specific companies. From health tech to data analytics and the e-government sphere, several industries are running businesses based on cryptocurrencies and the blockchain in Crypto Valley. Two secondary segments feature in the top 50 list: brokerages, trade and exchange, as well as platform and protocol. Each sector is represented by 11 companies. Other areas covered include the hardware and middleware industries, as well as services related to community, peer-to-peer and loyalty.
Daniel Diemers, partner at PwC Strategy & Switzerland, said: “Crypto Valley has grown enormously in just three short years. Even two or three years ago, there were just 10 to 15 companies in the blockchain industry. PwC (realizes) … the potential of blockchain and how it is important for companies to understand the technology and to get close to innovative startups in the field.”