Tracy Trachsler (29) has been in the crypto industry for four years. “The blockchain will change our lives,” she is convinced.
She is the conductor of Zug Crypto Valley: Tracy Trachsler (29) holds the title of CEO at Crypto Valley Labs (CV Labs), a coworking office right next to the Zug train station. It’s in the heart of the elusive Crypto Valley. An ecosystem of nearly 1200 blockchain companies that has spanned the central Swiss Alps to Liechtenstein since its creation in 2015.
“We are the focal point of the scene. With us, the threads are connected,” says Trachsler. The Swiss-American dual citizen has been with CV Labs for two years. Since then, she has had her hands in everything. Organize workshops, connect people who run coworking offices in Zug, Cape Town (South Africa), Berlin and Vaduz. And she also organizes events at the same time – at international conferences such as the World Economic Forum in Davos. “16- or 18-hour days happen. But it doesn’t bother me,’ she says. “I like the startup feeling.”
The vibrant feeling of a young company daring a lot and creating something new is not to be found at CV Labs these days. No table tennis or pool tables. Instead, empty corridors and many abandoned coworking offices. At the large bar on the top floor, the beer is just decoration. Where are the 150 companies and their employees who are said to be renting here? “People travel a lot,” Trachsler says as she walks past the abandoned office of Cardano — one of the biggest crypto projects in the world. “This is due to the decentralized structures of our industry, you can work anywhere.”
First blockchain education in Switzerland
Robin Röösli (26) is one of the few who are there. With his company TIE International, the Aargau native offers the first blockchain course in Switzerland. “The companies from Crypto Valley send around 40 apprentices to us every year. And we train ten more apprentices ourselves,” says Röösli over a cup of coffee. The teenagers complete a four-year computer science and mediamatics apprenticeship with him, expanded to include a focus on blockchain technology Talents that Crypto Valley urgently needs.
The industry has literally exploded since 2015. Last year, there were over 1,100 start-ups in Switzerland dealing with blockchain technology – more than half of them in Zug. The sector has already created 6,000 jobs in Switzerland. And according to the current Crypto Valley Venture Capital (CV VC) Top 50 report, the 50 largest crypto companies in Germany are valued at over $600 billion – four times more than the previous year.
100,000 francs for a specialist
Impressive numbers that make Zug the crypto epicenter of the world. In order for the crypto valley to continue to grow, trained personnel are needed in Switzerland. The problem: talent is rare – those from ETH and other top universities often end up at Google or Facebook parent company Meta in Zurich. The blockchain companies have to resort to headhunters. It’s in the money. According to Robin Röösli, it requires an investment of 50,000 to 100,000 CHF to fill just one job. “That’s why this apprenticeship is so important and a huge opportunity,” he says. “We create skilled employees. And anyone who completes an apprenticeship with us has a very good handle on the labor market.’
Michel Studer (16) from Zurich is in his second year of the programme. «At first I didn’t even know what blockchain was. But I was interested in Bitcoin – so I applied,” he says. After just one year, he already understands blockchain better than 99 percent of the Swiss population. “This apprenticeship is a huge opportunity that will open many doors for me,” he is convinced. He also explained it to his parents. “You might not understand what I do every day,” Studer says, laughing. “But they support me.”
The biggest NFT game in the world is in Zug
Meanwhile, Tracy Trachsler has skipped her lunch. Instead of the break, she attended a workshop. The approximately 40 participants have already disappeared again in the early afternoon. The only thing left on the top floor – right next to the deserted bar – is a large, white unicorn. “Our source of inspiration,” says Trachsler, slightly embarrassed, as he strokes the unicorn at the photographer’s prompting. She makes it clear: “I’m guaranteed not to sit on it, otherwise it will collapse.”
In the startup scene, the unicorn is the symbol of companies with a market capitalization of over a billion dollars. There are now 14 of them in Zug, compared to eight last year. “We’re not a unicorn yet, but hopefully the daily reminder on the fourth floor will get us there,” says Sarojini McKenna (40). She is the co-founder of Alien Worlds, the largest NFT (Non-Fungible Token) game in the world. An online game in the Metaverse where you travel to different planets, fight against opponents and earn virtual items.
“NFT games are less about fun and more about making money,” says McKenna. Players can exchange their virtual possessions for cryptocurrencies – and then cash out. According to McKenna, six million people have already played “Alien Worlds.” 200,000 users are there every day. “It’s not hype, it’s a trend,” says the Canadian. She is convinced: “We will continue to grow.”
“Blockchain will change our lives”
In Zug, companies strive for the unicorn – and sometimes even create castles in the air. No one in Crypto Valley denies it. Neither does Tracy Trachsler: “We only invest in blockchain companies that have a real use case.” She means the blockchain incubator with which her company invests in young start-ups. The second mainstay of CV Labs next to the coworking offices.
Despite the good mood that often spreads in Crypto Valley: Blockchain technology has not yet arrived in everyday life. So far, apart from cryptocurrencies and NFT games, it has only been used to organize supply chains. Trachsler remains convinced: “Blockchain will change our lives.”
When she entered the crypto scene four years ago, it was a closed community, she recalls. “It’s gotten better, but we have to pick everyone up.” Everyone should understand how to manage a digital wallet, for example. “This is perhaps our biggest and most important task here in Zug.”