The Founder Story Event in Zurich – From Vision to Reality


On November 30th, I attended another event hosted by Google. This time, it wasn’t all about SEO but focused on the awesome Founders Community here in Zurich. 

The Event was called “The Founders Story,” and in the November edition, we dived deep into AI. Founders shared how they use AI in their products. These entrepreneurs were using AI long before ChatGPT launched exactly one year ago. But, more on that a bit later.

As usual, events like this offer a great opportunity to network and meet new people. And as always, the food and drinks were great, thank you for that Google. 

Now, let’s jump into the world of AI with these industry leaders.

Before we dive in, a quick disclaimer: what follows is my personal takeaway from the event, capturing the highlights as I remember them. This isn’t an exhaustive account of all the fantastic discussions, and it’s shaped by my own opinions and my background. Keep in mind that different perspectives and insights may exist, so consider this a personalized lens on the noteworthy moments from the event.

Fireside Chat with Bianca End

The event begins with a fireside chat featuring Bianca End, Head of Sales Switzerland & Austria at Google Cloud. In this conversation, Hans Tran and Bianca unveils the origins of Founder’s Story – a testament to dreams, ideas, and visions that took shape just two years ago.

Google Stage at the Founders Story with Hans Tran and Bianca End having a "fireside Chat" about the Story of the Event.
On the Google Stage: Hans Tran with Bianca End

Here are some of the main points from the chat:

  • Swissmade: It all began as a Swiss initiative led by Hans, starting with just 13 people in a room.  Now it has evolved into a significant event, expanding its influence to 11 additional countries.
  • Community Building: The core idea revolves around creating a community for founders. Bianca highlighted the crucial role of networking in nurturing innovation within the Swiss business landscape.
  • Innovation Imperative: Given that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries, competing solely on price isn’t feasible. The pressing need for innovation arises from this higher cost structure, driving the entrepreneurial community to seek inventive solutions.

At the event, I picked up a cool phrase I really like: “Casual Coalition.” It’s all about networking and meeting folks away from your desk and the daily work routine. And guess what? Google is all in to assist us with that. They shared a little peek into their plans for 2024, and one goal is to create even more communities. I am really looking forward to that!

Panel Discussion on AI

Now, let’s jump into the panel discussion. Meet Manuel Heuer, Sasha Schriber, Philippe Sahli, and Google’s Patrick Schilling. They shared incredibly useful insights from their businesses and experiences with us. Get ready for some great thoughts from these AI experts!

The Panelists

  • Manuel Heuer (decadoo): At the forefront of health tech, Manuel shares the journey of decadoo, a company utilizing AI for a revolutionary health risk calculator and a platform to get people to life more healthy. Explore decadoo.
  • Sasha Schriber ( The Founder & CEO of, Sasha, sheds light on their AI-powered approach to Digital Advertising. Discover
  • Philippe Sahli (Yokoy): Co-Founder & CEO of Yokoy, Philippe delves into the world of 0 touch, automated invoicing and expense management. Learn more about Yokoy.
  • Google’s Voice: Adding a touch of Google expertise, Patrick Schilling, GenAI Customer Activation Lead, shares insights from the tech giant.
Google Stage at the Founders Story with the Panel Discussion. On the stage there is Hans Tran as Moderator and his Guests Manuel Heuer, Sasha Schriber, Philippe Sahli and Patrick Schilling.
On the Stage of Google: Hans Tran, Manuel Heuer, Sasha Schriber, Philippe Sahil and Partick Schilling

The Early Days and Hurdles in the AI Journey: Overcoming AI Challenges

All these companies began way before everyone was buzzing about AI. Decadoo kicked off 12 years ago, and back then, ChatGPT wasn’t even a thought. Even when Sasha started her marketing AI company in 2018, many of us didn’t know much about what AI could do. The same goes for Philippe, who started 5 years ago with his 0 touch idea on invoicing.

decadoo’s Challenges:

  • Navigating AI in the Medical Sector: There are many challenges of using AI in the highly regulated medical sector.
  • Building Trust: Initially, there was a struggle to introduce AI when it wasn’t well-known or trusted. Manuel mentioned they didn’t even talk about using AI back then. 
  • Data Protection: With sensitive data in the medical sector, there’s an even greater need for a company to focus on security and data protection.’s Challenges:

  • Trust in AI: Sasha reflects on a survey they conducted in 2018 where 50% expressed trust in AI, while the other 50%, remained skeptical.
  • Hiring Struggles: At the beginning, it was hard to find AI professionals, especially as Google hired at the same time here in Zurich.
  • Getting Data: Back in 2018, getting reliable data wasn’t easy because most of the available data was generated or collected in recent years. 

Yokoy’s Challenges:

  • Resistance to Change: Philippe discusses the hurdles faced in the finance sector, where objections and hesitations toward embracing new technologies were prevalent.

Philippe also shared an anecdote from Yokoy’s early days. They were so eager to get clients that they tried everything. He recalled a time when they flew for 10 hours, rented a car, and visited a potential client in person to sell their software. However, upon arrival, the client explained that they had family members handling their finances and weren’t keen on replacing them with software. They even told Philippe, “You are the worst,” for trying to sell such software. This little hiccup illustrates how objections to new technology can sometimes come from unexpected places.

From Skepticism to Acceptance: What has changed now that everyone is talking about AI?

Years later, everything changed. Now, everyone is talking about AI, and every company tries to add some AI feature to their products. So, the next question for the founders was how they experienced this change and what exactly changed for them and their business.

Their main points were:

  • Client Understanding: There was a shift towards better client acceptance and understanding of AI’s capabilities.
  • Shortened Sales Cycles: Corporate clients are now less concerned about job losses, leading to significantly shorter sales cycles.
  • Increased Awareness: A broader understanding of what AI can achieve, driven by the ever-present pressure on costs we’re facing at the moment.

Unlocking the Potential: Patrick Schilling Joins the Discussion

After that, Patrick joined the discussion, and we shifted a bit from the past to the future of AI and what’s to come.

His first point was that many things have changed since the initial AI hype. We’re cruising in the 3rd Stage of AI now, where it’s not just about buzz but real-world use cases and how this tool can supercharge you and your business.

The main advantages are:

  • Top-Notch Talents: A good programmer can become a coding wizard with AI, doing more in less time. Talented folks, not just techies, get even better and faster.
  • Talk Like Humans: Now we can chat with computers in a more laid-back, human-like way.
  • Innovation & Business Savvy: If you’ve got a killer idea, you can build it smoother, test it quicker, and learn from failures without breaking the bank.

GenAI is like any other technology – a tool you can and should use to solve your problems. The big story of how we will use it is still to be written. As I already mentioned in the benefits, AI is a platform where ideas can be swiftly built, tested, and deployed. It facilitates faster innovation, quicker testing, and more affordable failures.

As for Google’s plans with GenAI, they’re thinking big – a platform approach. They’re nudging us to craft our own models and tap into theirs to solve our unique problems.

And with that, we wrap up this recap. Stay tuned for the next one – I’m definitely making a comeback.  And maybe, if you are around Zurich, we will meet at the next event at Google.

Your SEO journey partner,


Selfie of Dani Leitner at the Founders Story Event in Zürich at the office of Google in Europaallee.

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