L’entrepreneur soleurois William A. de Vigier a voulu aider les jeunes entrepreneurs en Suisse en leur procurant ce qui lui a cruellement fait défaut lorsqu’il a constitué sa propre société en 1935: un capital de départ. C’est là le principal obstacle à la concrétisation d’une idée, aussi géniale soit-elle. Depuis sa création en 1987, la Fondation W.A. de Vigier a pour objectif d’assurer une promotion active de l’économie en soutenant – par une aide financière directe (à fonds perdu) – des jeunes qui ont des idées et qui ont le désir de monter une entreprise en Suisse, de la rendre performante et d’assurer sa croissance.
En 28 ans d’existence, la Fondation a distribué plus de 10 millions de francs à titre de capital initial. Il en résulte à ce jour plus de 75 start-up performantes, une entrée en bourse réussie, plusieurs ventes d’entreprises tout autant couronnées de succès et surtout de nombreuses nouvelles places de travail.
If you would like to obtain more information about the W.A. De Vigier Foundation, view and download the foundation regulations of the beneficiary foundation, which are based on the Swiss law.
Dr. Daniel Borer
President of the W.A. De Vigier Foundation
Daniel Borer has presided over the Board of Trustees of the W. A. de Vigier Foundation since 2012 as a competent and committed successor to Moritz Suter. The family father and passionate hobby pilot works as a general practitioner in his own community practice in the Seeland. At the same time, he is active as a shareholder or board member in several companies and institutions. He is responsible for Hospitality and Health (Hospital Center Biel) as well as investment banking, trust companies and real estate companies.
Daniel Foundation’s many-sided interests and its far-flung, economic and scientific contacts can benefit greatly our foundation.
Vice President of the W.A. De Vigier Foundation
Corporate finance, especially for SMEs and start-ups, as well as the development of entrepreneurial networks, are a common thread in the career of Beat Graf. The knowledge and experience he brings to the Foundation is the result of various management functions at a major bank, as well as a long-standing CEO of the entrepreneur network Swiss Venture Club. Beat Graf has been dedicated to the management of various foundations since his early retirement. The tasks in the W.A. De Vigier Foundation, who has been a member of the Board of Trustees for 20 years, is a matter of heart for him.
Dr. Pirmin Bischof
Member of the Foundation Board, Solothurn lawyer and member of the Swiss Council of States
Dr. Felix Grisard
Member of the Foundation Board, Entrepreneur and investor, Chairman of the Board Hiag/GRT-Immobilien-Gruppe
Lic. iur. Sven Hoffmann
Member of the Foundation Board, Attorney-at-law and owner of a law firm in Basel, Various administrative board mandates, seat in various foundations
Member of the Foundation Board, Dipl. Electrical Engineer and Entrepreneur, experience with more than 12 startups worldwide, founder and managing director of Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne
Member of the Foundation Board, Dipl. Ing ETH and MBA from Harvard University, Entrepreneur, President of Falu AG in Rüti
Anne Sweetbaum-de Vigier
Jeanette de Vigier
Norah de Vigier
William A. de Vigier
Entrepreneur, example and patron
William A. de Vigier passed away on December 10, 2003, shortly before his 92nd birthday. His significant contributions as a patron of young entrepreneurs in Switzerland are still appreciated today. According to the wishes of its founder, the W.A. de Vigier Foundation has continued its patronage activities since its creation in 1987.
Anne Sweetbaum-de Vigier
Jeanette de Vigier
Norah de Vigier
With no family support, he embarked on a brilliant idea
William A. de Vigier, or “Bill” as he was commonly known by many, experienced first-hand how difficult start-up funding for initiative and innovative young entrepreneurs is to procure. He was born to a wealthy Solothurn family in 1912. He completed a commercial apprenticeship at Von Roll in the Klus and then worked at the Scintilla in Zuchwil SO. Contrary to the wishes of the father, and breaking the family tradition of becoming a lawyer, the young de Vigier embarked on his own path. In the face of paternal pressure Bill was drawn abroad to begin his own journey. After hearing his father say “So you will not get any more money from me.”, the aspiring 24-year-old soon found himself in London with barely a thousand francs in his pocket. But as fate would have it, he had an idea in mind: creating flexible parts for scaffolding.
De Vigier’s successes have been recognized in various countries with the English royal family encouraging his plans. As one of the most successful foreign entrepreneurs in Great Britain, he was honorably appointed “Commander of the British Empire” by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978. Realizing further success, he received the title of «Chevalier du Grand Ordre Suédois Nordstern» and «Grand Commander of the Star of Africa» (Liberia). In his homeland, de Vigier was also bestowed with an honor. The canton of Solothurn awarded the 89-year-old with the “Solothurner Entrepreneurs Prize 2001” for his entrepreneurial life achievements. This prize encompassed his generosity of spirit to share the fruit of his successes with young, innovative people”.
From three to ten thousand employees
With the financial help of a prominent English lawyer, de Vigier founded his first company, “Acrow Engineers Ltd”. It began as a small company with three employees and operated from a more modest little workshop under a railway bridge in London. It was here that he first developed his inaugural product known as “The famous Acrow Prop”. It was a revolutionary metal scaffold and remained a bestseller for decades. The small company was then listed on the London stock exchange and began to flourish. Eyeing larger market opportunities than the limited Switzerland and England potential, the proactive entrepreneur de Vigier bravely sought new territories. He smartly founded “Acrow Corp of America” in the USA. This was followed by “Acrow Argentina”, “Acrow Peru”, “Acrow Rhodesia”, “Acrow Iraq”, “Acrow South Africa”, “Acrow Canada”, “Acrow Egypt”, “Acrow Spain”, “Acrow India”, “Acrow New Zealand“, and other regions. At the height of his entrepreneurial activity, de Vigier led a global steel group with over 10,000 employees and had a seat in three dozen administrative boards, including holding a prestigious seat on the Board of British Airways.
Generous towards the capable and willing
“Switzerland needs young entrepreneurs. This is the future. “ De Vigier was convinced of this. Drawing from his own experience, he knew how challenging it is to get set up funding for a start-up company. This challenge became the basis for the initial creation of the W. A. de Vigier Foundation in 1987. The foundation would promote young Swiss entrepreneurs and the De Vigier foundation became known far beyond our national borders. This award remains Switzerland’s most prestigious prize and the foundation has endowed vast funding to achieve its goals awarding up to five 100,000 Swiss francs prizes every year. it is the standard bearer for rewarding innovative business ideas. The Federal Office for Vocational Education and Technology (CTI Start-Up) also proudly participates with the W.A. De Vigier Foundation in order to promote young companies.
Closely connected to his homeland – traits of an extraordinary man
Empowering Trust, fidelity and loyalty were three qualities that de Vigier always encouraged. He was both a supporter and a promoter. His generosity was directed to earnest individuals with a realistic path to success. To inspire others, he often remarked, “God gave you a brain – use it”. His friendliness and cordial nature, and his respectful demeanor with all that he met, were hallmarks of his character. Whether speaking to a Director or a simple shop worker, he was always open, friendly and interested in the lives and aspirations of others. He enjoyed talking to taxi drivers in New York, saleswomen in Parisian costume shops and always found time with his butcher in Solothurn. Traveling all over the world, de Vigier never forgot his Solothurn roots. Among other things, he spent the summer months at his summer house in Solothurn. He always extolled the virtues of the canton and the city during his phone calls from here and abroad.
As a faithful cantonal patron and true Solothurner, De Vigier dedicated himself to matters in his homeland whether he was home or abroad. He inherited a love for the town band from his father. In 2001, he donated over a million Swiss francs to them with an obligation that the band use a portion of the sum for a music competition. Thanks to his generosity and solidarity, new uniforms were financed and during autumn each year, the inhabitants of the city of Solothurn relish in the festive “Marching Parade”. He also provided means for the restoration of the harness collection in the old Zeughaus. Thanks to his generous donation, the summer house is also available to the public for decades to come. William A. de Vigier is no longer with us but his legacy lives on the hearts and minds of all Solothurners.
As of September 1, 2015, Regula Buob has taken over the management of the company with an outstanding leadership personality. The coaching specialist (Employee Engagement, Change Management, Talent Management, Human Resources Development) is currently working as an independent communications and leadership trainer as well as a personnel developer in national and international companies, among other things in cooperation with business partners in Dubai and the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.
After successfully completing her pedagogical master’s degree in Zurich, Regula Buob moved to the USA. During her six-year US-stay, she received the “Master in Counseling and Guidance” at Point Loma Nazarene College San Diego. She then worked as a university lecturer and consultant at Mesa Community College.