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Tips for setting up a company

So start-ups don’t get lost in legalese.

Startups Rechtsfragen

Form of organisation

One of the very first things to decide is what type of company to establish. The choices lie between sole trader, AG, GmbH or a collective. The last option is the one we see the least often in Switzerland.

For sole traders, the founder’s personal assets are liable, since the company and the person are one and the same. In this case, it is simply a question of filing a tax return.

As soon as more than one founder is involved, a GmbH or AG must be formed for liability reasons.

  Single proprietorship GmbH AG Collective enterprise
Stakeholders Individual person Company member Shareholders Two or more company members
Starting capital CHF 0 CHF 20,000 CHF 50,000 CHF 0
Liability Personal liability GmbH is liable AG is liable Joint liability

Possible sources of funding

  • Private loans
  • Pension fund money
  • Bank loan
  • Development support


It is essential that all contracts negotiated are recorded. They should be clearly formulated and binding policies should be specified.

In longer-term contracts, it should be remembered that the obligation remains even if circumstances change. Signing a long-term rental contract, for example, makes it more complicated to move offices. This can create difficulties where a location is found to be not suitable in terms of attracting the right target group.

Human resources

Detailed employment contracts should be drawn up for employees. Particular points such as sickness, accidents, overtime compensation and termination of contracts should be clearly explained. These contracts are governed by labour laws.

Under no circumstances should payment of social security contributions be missed. The personal assets of sole traders or the board of directors are otherwise liable.

Protection of intellectual property

If products or services are not legally protected, they may be copied by competitors or staff members. To avoid this, brands, logos and patents should be registered with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property. It is worth noting that patents are not internationally recognised. It is, however, not always possible to register a foreign patent, except within a certain timeframe. Good preparation is very important in this context to ensure that costs don’t spiral out of control.

Start-up companies are no longer left to their own devices in the early stages. The entire process has been professionalised and institutionalised. Various points of contact and support programmes are available for people aiming towards self-employment. If the most important issues are resolved in the early stages, many potential stumbling blocks can be avoided. For start-ups in Zurich Institute for young companies Start-up training programmes Competition for start-ups Easily create a company online