Research - 05.11.2021 - 00:00 

HSG Spin-Off Barometer 2021

In the pandemic year, many HSG spin-offs are devoting themselves to social issues. This is revealed by the HSG Spin-Off Barometer, which is published today and is the result of a survey conducted by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of St.Gallen for the fourth consecutive time. 23.4% of the 154 companies that were interviewed are completely self-financing and have the effect of a job engine in the German-speaking area, in St.Gallen and in their business activities worldwide.
Source: HSG Newsroom

5 November 2021. In spring and summer 2021, the Center for Entrepreneurship (CfE-HSG) conducted the fourth survey for the HSG Spin-Off Barometer, in which 154 start-ups with the HSG Spin-Off Label participated. The label has been awarded by the University of St.Gallen (HSG) since 2017. Owing to the current situation, many questions concerned the pandemic and the entrepreneurial responsibility which numerous start-ups are facing. “The start-ups that have been awarded the label form a strong community and enable us to track business developments with this broad-based random sample,” says survey leader Prof. Dr. Dietmar Grichnik.

Entrepreneurial focus: sustainable development

87% of the HSG spin-offs pursue business activities which concern at least one or several of the sustainability goals (UN SDGs). This high percentage is an indication of the companies’ awareness of the significance of individual contributions and immediate measures in the field of sustainability. One case in point is the Blumenpost company of Jan Neuenschwander, Joelle Hersberger and Julia Krieg, which exclusively supplies flowers that are organically cultivated in Switzerland and delivered in plastic-free packaging. Another is Switzerland-based GartenGold GmbH, set up by HSG alumni Albert Gebhart and Ann Kristin Seige: GartenGold “rescues” unused windfall from private gardens from disposal and uses it to produce directly pressed apple juice. Besides the value-preserving product, the company provides meaningful jobs for people with disabilities, who are involved at every step of the company’s supply chain.

Strong financial independence and economic driver

All the companies surveyed in the Spin-Off Barometer have their head office or at least one main administrative office in the German-speaking area. A majority of companies also operate on a global scale through cooperation ventures, trade relations or subsidiary companies. As the Barometer demonstrates, HSG spin-offs have a high degree of financial independence and successfully procure growth capital at various funding stages: “23.4% of the companies are completely self-financing,” says Diego Probst, who runs the survey together with Dietmar Grichnik. 32% of the interviewees exceed the milestone of turnover amounting to one million Swiss francs. This is particularly remarkable against the background of the pandemic, which has placed companies in a predicament in almost all industries ever since the first quarter of 2020.

HSG start-ups are a strong driver for Eastern Switzerland’s economy and far beyond: 96% of the spin-offs surveyed have a larger team than at the time of their establishment. This indicates a positive effect of HSG start-ups on the local and supranational labour market. “We assume that HSG start-ups’ positive overall impact on employment is far greater than represented by data collected recently,” says Diego Probst.

Industrial focus: technology, media and financial services

45% of the companies operate in technology or the media, 21% in financial services. This is a generally prevalent trend in the start-up scene. The financial service sector is the second most frequently represented sector among the spin-offs. One example: Kaspar&, set up in 2020, provides an innovative banking solution with an AI-based investment manager for micro-investments in traditional investment classes. The Barometer also reveals that HSG start-ups cover a wide range of different industrial sectors.

Challenge: diversity

HSG spin-offs mirror a very frequent pattern among the founder teams: 87% of the founder team members are men. This tendency appears to continue despite several HSG programmes and initiatives such as the Female Founders initiative launched by Startup@HSG, which aims to encourage more women to engage in entrepreneurial activities. 63 of 106 interviewees are Swiss by birth, which makes Switzerland the most frequent country of origin among HSG spin-off founders. This illustrates their strong rootedness in the Swiss economic area, on the one hand, but on the other hand also their market international orientation. “Wefox is just one example of a unicorn (company with a market valuation in excess of a million dollars) with an international orientation, which tap into a global market and operate in it with success. Further HSG start-ups are on the way there,” says

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Grichnik.

154 companies have been awarded the label

Since 2017, companies with connections to the University of St.Gallen have been able to apply for the HSG Spin-Off Label. People who already run a successfully established company or have been on the market with their start-ups for a minimum of twelve months may submit an application for the seal of approval to the Center for Entrepreneurship. The HSG Spin-Off Label is sought-after: by September 2021, 154 companies have been awarded the label. The current list of companies with the HSG Spin-Off Label can be found at website of the CfE-HSG.

The complete HSG Spin-Off Barometer 2021 can be found at

Contact point for questions:

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Grichnik, Director, Institute of Technology Management (ITEM-HSG)

+41 71 227 72 01, dietmar.grichnik(at),

Diego Probst, Head of Startup@HSG

+41 71 224 72 02, diego.probst(at),

Picture: Unsplash / Patrick Tomasso