Zurich Actually is a Little Big City




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AWstrmindA long-time Zurich resident, Alexander Wyss, MBA ‘01D, practices business law and is a Partner at Baker & McKenzie. Serving as Zurich Chapter President for almost six years, he’s been active in the INSEAD Alumni community since 2002.  He’s shared with us his favourite places for dining, wine and freshly-roasted coffee, along with insights about the entrepreneurial vibe in the city, and memorable Alumni events.

This article is the second in a series entitled City INSIDER Views produced by the INSEAD Alumni Association of Switzerland.

Swiss Alumni Events

One of the most memorable was the 2010 Annual General Meeting where we sat next to Van Gogh and Picasso. It was held at the Buehrle Collection museum. My seat was beneath a Monet, if I recall correctly. 

Two other recent business events equally impressed and inspired: a visit to Google’s steel and glass R&D center on the banks of the Sihl, and a talk by Monisha Kaltenborn, a trained lawyer, mother of two, CEO and part owner of Sauber. She’s the first female top manager in Formula 1 racing. It was not necessarily her presentation that struck me, but the Q&A afterwards [a regular feature of Swiss Alumni Association business events] where she was open, inspiring, articulate and candid about her experience and her business.

 The Startup  Vibe in Zurich

Together with the Arc Leman, Zurich is the most important centre for entrepreneurship. The >>venture >> competition, which started in 1998, is a spectacular success, boosting entrepreneurship [and attracting dozens of high-profile industrial, academic and financial partners].  I speak at the toolkit event focusing on legal tips and ideas, and am on the board of several startups. It’s not something that one could earn a living at, but it is fascinating to see what these young and very bright people are doing. [pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Being active in the Association is all about the people. Overall, it’s enriching [/pullquote]

On the INSEAD Experience 

I met a Brit who was a fantastic cook and a native of France who spoke English perfectly. All my prejudices were proven wrong. Most importantly, I made lifelong and close friendships.

Why Be an Alumni Association Volunteer

The Alumni community is very appreciative and thankful towards volunteers and that makes it satisfying, not to mention the fact that it keeps you young! Being active in the Association is all about the people. Overall, it’s enriching to interact with graduates, new and older, to share experience and exchange inspiring business insights.

Best place for coffee

Teecafé Schwarzenbach

Münstergasse 17, 8001 Zürich

A tradition-rich coffee roaster serves up the best of its imports in the Old Town.

Best place for vegetarian food


Seefeldstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich

One of the best places for vegetarian food since 2000, it is part of the Hiltl House, a family business.

Best restaurant with attention to wine

Coco Grill & Bar

Bleicherweg 1A on Paradeplatz, 8001 Zurich

Located in a place you wouldn’t expect. A set menu offers culinary surprises each day. Don’t miss selecting your own wine in the extensive CoCo cellar.

Caduff’s Wine loft

Kanzleistrasse 126, 8004 Zurich

A classic, and the wine cellar is simply spectacular!

Dal Nostro

Sihlporte 3, 8001 Zurich

Great atmosphere, in particular the after-work drinks, and great Italian wines at reasonable prices. It is co-owned by our friend and fellow alumnus Fabrice d’Erm, YMP ’04. I can warmly recommend it.

27 January 2015 Byline: INSEAD Alumni Association Switzerland

Lac Leman, Mountains, Lausanne

Ludovic ChoppinA former resident of Paris and now the Geneva Chapter President, Ludovic Choppin, MBA 12D, still gets a thrill driving to work with a view of the Alps, or being able to jog along the lake and ski in the nearby mountains most weekends. Here he provides tips about the best places for coffee and wine in Lausanne, insight into the region’s startup scene and a recent Swiss Alumni event that left a lasting impression. Besides being a active Alumni community member, he is a business developer, specialized in startup companies. Ludovic settled in Lausanne in 2013 when his partner, Magali Larangot, MBA12D, acquired Soleil Vie, a brand focused on nutrition and gluten free products.

This article is the first in a series entitled City INSIDER Views produced by the INSEAD Alumni Association of Switzerland.

Most Novel Alumni Association Event

The Geneva chapter hosted a dozen business events in recent months and they were all great, but the one that touched me the most was the visit to the ICRC with a presentation by its General Director, Yves Daccord, especially in view of the recent developments in France.

It was a profound contrast being in Geneva but hearing details about what it is like to work in the world’s most dangerous countries. It was surprising too to learn that Twitter is an essential tool for the Red Cross, used to communicate with local groups to negotiate safe access to hotspots and pass through checkpoints. At the same time, Daccord cautioned that technology has its limits. Despite the Internet and all of today’s social media and search technologies, the ICRC did not see the Arab Spring movement coming. It was an unexpected event.

Startup Vibe in Lausanne

The nearby presence of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL) makes Lausanne more of a hub for entrepreneurship than Geneva. There is the right mix of incubators, networking events, corporates, and research activity. If I had to highlight one group it would be the A3 Angels, associated with the EPFL, which has the kind of mentoring programme that they have at MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts).

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Being an active volunteer keeps the INSEAD spirit alive.[/pullquote]

Why Volunteer?

Being an active volunteer keeps the INSEAD spirit alive. I liked my experience at INSEAD so the Alumni Association helps to maintain relationships after graduating, and to make new friends, especially when you move to a new country.

On the INSEAD Experience

One word: diversity. It’s a very real experience and a case where the corporate image of a business school really does match reality. Fully half of the MBA experience is done in a group, working on classroom projects together for two terms. My group had four other nationalities besides mine which is French (Canadian, Russian, Singaporean and Lebanese). It was challenging. A good deal of the time was spent stabilizing the group dynamic. It’s tremendously enriching learning how to work with other cultures, and even if you end up working in a company that is very local, you will always have different personalities within the organization, and that’s where the group-work experience really pays off.

Best place for coffee

Café de Grancy

Av. du Rond-Point 1, 1006 Lausanne

Located about 200 metres from the train station, this place has a young vibrant atmosphere. It’s always busy, so it’s more suitable for informal meetings.

Best for wine

Yatus Œnothèque & Winebar

Rue du Petit Chêne 11, 1003 Lausanne

It has a young crowd, a nice design and a good list. It’s not too expensive, although compared to France it is.

Best for place for business meetings

SBB Businesspoint

Geneva, Cornavin

This is a new venue located at the main train station in Geneva, available for CHF 100/hr. We used it for a recent annual general meeting. It is convenient for commuters, fully equipped for presentations and a great value for money. Any of the grand hotels in the region are excellent for quiet discussions. The Lausanne Palace is one that INSEADers have used for get-togethers.