Customer Experience

Zühlke Ventures: Start-up Trend Analysis 2020

6 minutes to read

  • Zühlke holds a competition for start-ups and examined how the topics and focus of the participants have changed

  • The most important trends are platforms, web and mobile

  • Robotics, IoT and AR/VR have lost in importance


As part of product scale-up coaching, Zühlke examined how the topics and focus of the participating start-ups have changed. What are the current trends and which topics were just hype? The trend anal-ysis summarises the most important findings.

Twice a year, Zühlke in collaboration with venturelab holds a competition for start-ups to win a product scale-up coaching package worth CHF 20’000. Selected start-ups will get an individually tailored coaching by Zühlke engineers to overcome challenges surrounding the transition from prototype to product.

Over the last few years, more than 200 start-ups coming from various backgrounds have applied for this package. On these grounds, we asked ourselves what kinds of start-ups we attract and which start-ups we can help best. Using this information, we have put together an analysis of the most interesting start-up trends over this time and want to share our findings with you.

So, what is it that concerns start-ups the most nowadays and has it differed in the last few years?

Focus on technology trends

All started with the start-up applications of the last three years. Every applicant answered a set of fixed questions about their business and their future goals. They also had the option to add a custom pitch of their business. This was then accessible to our data analytics team via PDF’s that could be processed. After extensive data pre-processing by implementing a natural language processing pipeline, the raw text data was transformed into a set of trends, identified separately for each start-up. The trend groups themselves were defined by our business specialists and the relevant key words for each trend were determined. Hereby, we focused on technology trends. Of all identified trends, the top five were kept for each start-up to focus on their core trends. This analysis has led us to the following findings.

All plots shown below feature measures of a trend’s share in each batch. For each start-up, only the five most identified trends are included, measured by number of key word hits. These identified trends were added up per batch and then normalized by dividing it by the batch size (number of applications per round). The reported numbers therefore show the percentage of start-ups for which the specific trend was identified in the top five in one batch. Hereby, it is important to note that all the percentages of one batch exceed 100% since one start-up can feature multiple trends at once.

Platform, web and mobile are trending

The first graph shows the change in the share over the whole period for each identified trend. This was measured by the slope of the linear regression lines through the data points. The plot visualizes the trends that changed the most over this time as well as those who had approximately the same share at the beginning and at the end of the period.


The most noticeable positive changes concern platforms, web and mobile whereas VR & AR, IoT and Robotics show the largest negative course. Trends like gamification, cloud technologies, API and 3D Printing concern approximately the same share of companies at the beginning as at the end of the period.

The four most increasing trends over the observed period are platform, web, mobile and user experience. Their respective progression over the batches is shown in the next plot. User experience is the trend that has seen the largest growth over time, even though its share per batch stayed below 10% for the first four batches and only reached around 14% in 2020. The jump in the last two batches has been proven statistically significant. The two related trends mobile and web also show increasing interest over time with mobile already going down slightly in 2020, but only web delivers significant results. The fourth most increasing trend, platforms, has occupied over 40% of applicants in the second batch of 2019 and remains a popular trend in 2020.


Reflection of the Gartner Hype Cycle

On the other side of the spectrum, the four lowest performing trends are depicted in the next plot. The two trends robotics and IoT show the largest drops from high shares around 30% down to below 10% and 20%, respectively. Especially the development from the first batch in 2019 to the first in 2020 is statistically significant. Looking at the Gartner Hype Cycle over the last few years seems to reflect the progress of IoT we observed. The other two trends with high decreases, VR & AR and drones, have not been as popular as robotics and IoT have been in the first few batches. At the moment, only a few select applicants for the Zühlke product scale-up coaching concern themselves with those topics which may also explain the lack of statistical significance.

Gartner Hype Cycle

User experience becomes more important

There are a couple of additional trends we want to highlight. The first two concern AI & ML as well as analytics which has been a large buzzword over the past couple of years. At Zühlke, we have noticed these trends, as well. As seen in the plot below, AI & ML has been identified with a high proportion over the whole period, peaking at the end of 2018. Analytics has been a popular mention, too, but has made a statistically significant jump in 2020 where over 40% of start-ups mentioned it.


Secondly, the progression of both customer and user experience is noticeable, as well. Only user experience has statistical grounds for the change from 2019 to 2020, though. This development can be explained a few different ways. For starters, the differentiation of products to alternatives from competitors is getting harder and harder in many spaces. A better customer und user experience can convince customers to choose a product over one of the competition. Furthermore, working on delivering new experiences along the customer journey can create new opportunities. Finally, the demand for UX has grown largely due to big corporations like Apple and Google focusing on deliverying highly customer friendly products and operating systems.

This analysis has given us a couple of valuable insights of what start-ups look for when they turn to Zühlke for their guidance. We monitor the future development of these trends carefully and are eager to learn more about our customers and the ways in which we can support them in their quest. We are already looking forward to the next batch of applicants.

If you would like to check out the current application round, please check out venturelab’s website:

customer experience ove rtime


This trend analysis gives information about start-up applicants for a specific competition hosted by Zühlke jointly with venturelab. We do not state that the findings from this analysis can be transferred to the economy as a whole, but rather gives us a picture of our applicants, has potential relevance to our customer base and the gives us an indication for skill growth. The amount of data available to us is also not sufficient to give overall statistically significant insights and should serve as a general idea of the trend progression.