Staff Finder, the just-in-Time recruitment services from Switzerland continues growing. Despite these successes, founder Viktor Calabrò is currently in London and is considering whether to relocate his company to the British capital because of tax issues. He himself had to move from Zürich to Wollerau SZ.
Viktor Calabrò, you are in London at the moment. What are you doing there?
We started running some pilots in London and have a little team in place. Hopefully, it will work out and we can start in London with Staff Finder.
Are you staying in London now because you were no longer happy with the Swiss startup environment? Are you considering moving your company to London?
First of all, there are also personal reasons involved. I moved into an apartment in London, and also have one in Zürich. This is the first step to see how the market is outside Switzerland. I love Switzerland but it’s harder to succeed there than here in London. The market here is much bigger and everyone speaks the same language. Switzerland has a really good innovation scene and I support Swiss startups when I speak at ETH. I can see a lot of good people and ideas. But there is a lack of support. When you start to grow and take more risk, there is not much support in Switzerland. That’s also why we had to find more financial support in London and abroad.
So Switzerland is a good place to start a startup but not to grow a startup?
I sometimes feel that the more successful you are, the more you are punished for it. The tax system is a pain point. It forced me to move from Zürich to Wollerau to least pay my taxes. But other startups have no chance to pay their taxes. The tax system in Switzerland is a painful thing. But it is also painful to find people who invest in high-risk startups that want to conquer the world.
That’s not really good for the Swiss Startup scene. So successful startups have to leave the country?When there is another financing round [for Staff Finder], the question will be if we can afford to stay in Zürich. It’s not a question of whether we want to move, it´s because we are forced to. We really have to think about where our headquarters will be in the future. When we have investors from the UK or the US, then we have to stay and commit to these markets. It would be better to move away in that case.
There are a lot of big companies in Switzerland because of the tax system but startups have to move away from the country. That is a paradox situation for the future.
The point is that the regulators just look at the invested value which is a projection of the future and not representative of the moment. I just think that the tax authorities don´t know what we do. First of all, we provide jobs for this country. They should support startups because this is the future of Switzerland. I love Switzerland, all my friends are there. But London became an option instead of losing everything.
The Zürich tax authorities changed again their tax benefits for startups in the last weeks. Is that not helping you?
Not at all. The big investments for a startup start to flow after five years. Then this policy will not work anymore. As long as startups are small they receive tax benefits but when they become more mature then they have a problem. We are in a critical time right now concerning the growth and future strategy of Staff Finder. So I would rather give tax benefits to investors who support companies like us. The authorities have to give them a better deal. They should go in another direction and say: „These are the brave guys who believe in the future!“ In the UK, there is tax relief for private investors up to a certain amount. It pushed investments for young seed startups in the UK. For a startup in Switzerland, it´s hard to grow.
Do you believe that Switzerland can become a startup hub in Europe?
Switzerland should decide which way they want to go. We could also define that we are not a startup hub, and encourage young entrepreneurs to start abroad. But we cannot push startups in the beginning, and then when they are growing, just let them go. A little country like Switzerland does not have much opportunity to get in business with the world. We have a brilliant infrastructure and a good education. So we definitely have to invest in startups and bright ideas! When a startup grows up and goes this extra mile it also needs the support then, and not just in the beginning. I hope things change and I can move back to Switzerland again.