There is no shortage of ideas, opportunities, or economic growth in Switzerland. For the first time in Swiss history, more than 50'000 companies were formed throughout the 12 months of 2021.

However, only 35% of these companies will make it further, based on the numbers by SPD LOAD. That represents a colossal 65% failure rate.

According to a press release by the Institute for Young Enterprises, the number of new entries in the commercial register came in at 50’545. This equates to growth of 7.9% versus the previous record year of 2020. Moreover, in a ten-year comparison, 2021 was 17% above the average, representing another new record. Over the past decade, the average number of registered companies per year is approximately 43’000.

These companies span dozens of industries, from real estate to manufacturing to technology. Collectively, they employ millions of people globally.

But what separates the 35% of those who succeed from the rest who don’t?

Many of you would previously have been familiar with Le Bijou as a luxury apartment provider pushing the envelope in the real estate space. But do you know its origin story? In this article, we will share with you how Le Bijou transformed itself from a single luxury Airbnb in Zurich into a leading provider of high-performance, tech-enabled real estate.

“By definition, it is not possible for everyone to be above the average.”
— Jim Collins, Good to Great

Where is the “need” in real estate?

Throughout the hospitality industry, travelers must choose between two flawed options: antiquated hotels or short-term rentals. The former means tiny, high-priced rooms. Most of these shell spaces lack privacy, kitchens, and personal touches. Instead, they are soulless business transactions: Pass over your CHF and here is your room. The second option involves individual hosts. Given that it is unregulated, there is no quality standard to adhere to, it is not always private, and sometimes check-in processes can be laborious. One could say it is problematic for a “host” of reasons.

Pivoting to the rental industry, the buy-to-rent model is the traditional real estate investing approach, but it has been declining in efficiency in recent years because asset prices are rising consistently while rental income is stagnating or declining. The issue with this model is that it does not tap into a property’s full earning potential.

Why not offer more flexibility for both guests and investors and create more optionality and customization? Central banks can raise interest rates to combat stagflation, and lending institutions can raise mortgage rates. The investing side needs countermeasures too.

This points to slow innovation. Even the term “brick-and-mortar” connotates permanence or stagnancy, which leads to sluggish changes, considering current valuations, what happened worldwide in 2020, and what we see happening now. Rural and suburban real estate assets in particular are experiencing strong headwinds as the mortgage rates to refinance often exceed current post-tax rental income.

Le Bijou observed these inefficiencies and decided to create alternative pathways for real estate investors. Our operational umbrella encompasses three primary arms of business servicing the hotel market by providing an alternative to leading hotels, the high-margin residential rental market where tenants are ready to pay high rents, and the event and communication market by turning our units into exclusive, sought-after event venues.

We have also created offerings on a deal-by-deal basis, thus mitigating risk and making each development a prominent focus. Some of our projects that are currently in progress include:

  1. Schauplatzgasse 22, 3011 Bern, poised in an unmatched location right next to the Federal Palace in the Swiss capital. The street connects the primary train station with the center of Swiss politics and downtown life.
  2. Bahnhofstrasse 89, 8001 Zurich, mere steps away from Zurich's central traffic hub of exclusive boutiques, restaurants, and top-tier corporations.

These new projects are in addition to another two offerings by Le Bijou: each presents a well-diversified portfolio of fully operational units in Lucerne and Zurich respectively. These portfolios are managed and operated by our independent local franchisees and are open to investors. They have a strong track record and operational models that have produced up to 10.14-11.57% yearly returns since their inception in 2018-2019.

How does Le Bijou provide above-market returns?

Automation is Le Bijou’s central focus. Inefficiencies in the hotel industry typically stem from the human component, which consumes much of the overhead cost. Our proprietary technology bears the burden of complexity, removing it from guests.

Our goal is to turn buildings into autonomously operated cashflow powerhouses, as reflected in the figures below.

Gross yield comparison (without leverage) per year based on historic sqm prices in Switzerland
Sources: Real Advisor, Moneypark, and Numbeo Property Prices Index by Country 2022

In short, Le Bijou is a hotel alternative, a serviced living operator, and an award-winning event location combined that has been outperforming traditional real estate investments for over a decade.

Since the hospitality industry is starved for innovation, we use our innovative technology to service clientele looking for a next-level accommodation experience. Our approach to the high-margin residential rental market involves offering tenants more optionality. We only seek those ready to pay top-of-market prices, and in return we provide them with a range of unique benefits. Lastly, we transform our units into sought-after event venues by driving exclusivity. Word-of-mouth counts considerably, so it is crucial that each guest and event member has a truly unforgettable experience.

Le Bijou’s hybrid model has some defining characteristics:

  1. No rental caps – Tenancy law is very tenant-friendly, which means most properties can barely increase their rent.
  2. No unpaid rent – A rental nomad can stay in your property for years without paying rent. The law protects them, and you cannot do much about it. Le Bijou is able to cater to up to 31 monthly tenants per unit and can easily adjust to new trends.
  3. Daily market adjustments – We are positioned to adjust our prices to the market environment.
  4. Diversified income streams – Le Bijou’s income streams all stem from different markets, offering numerous benefits such as significantly lower contingency risk in the event of a market crash, high resilience even during worst-case scenarios like a pandemic, steady income from non-correlated markets, and a competitive edge against other rental offerings.
  5. Only the best locations – Our properties are where tenants and guests want to be, in the heart of the city.
  6. Automation and technology – Our concierge system is half-human and half-machine, turning every guest experience into a 5-star review while halving operational costs.

The Le Bijou success story may sound incredible, but you might still be left wondering how we got to this point, so let’s explore Le Bijou's origin story.

Our transforming path

We believe the best way to predict the future is to create it. From the first Le Bijou room to the latest deal-by-deal model, here is a brief chronology of our key milestones:

1) Initial idea and first units

Alexander Hübner, the founder of Le Bijou, first conceptualized the idea as early as 2009. He became one of the first Airbnb hosts in Switzerland when he opened his high-end apartment in Zurich. This launch facilitated his vision of merging the privacy and exclusivity of an apartment with the service and quality standards of a hotel.

Around 2010, Alexander recognized that overhead costs cut down the high margins of short-term rentals. He tested existing technologies, but these fell short, so he sought help to make his vision of a fully automated 5-star hotel alternative a reality.

2011 was spent in an arduous search for a computer genius. Alexander eventually met his first co-founder, Renato, who brought a wealth of knowledge on the tech side and shared Alexander’s core vision.

After that, the team needed a salesperson, and Madeleine entered the picture. It only took Alexander two years to sell the idea to her. Madeleine is not only a gem herself, but she also came up with the name “Le Bijou” while jogging around the Eiffel Tower in Paris with Alexander.

Alexander Hübner, Madeleine Hübner, and Renato Steiner in the Le Bijou apartment

2) Further expansion

In 2014, Alexander opened the second Le Bijou apartment and soon received celebrity guest endorsements. Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak called Le Bijou “the most outstanding hospitality experience of his life.” His tweet, which was posted during the release of the Apple Watch, even made our web hosting crash. We knew we were on the right path and opened apartments three, four, and five while working to make the model scalable.

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak about Le Bijou

Filled with the desire to grow in 2015, we onboarded our first investors with the help of lucrative yields and a bold vision to raise our bonds.

After pushing to open larger units in 2016, we grew by double-digits for the first time. Revenue quickly surpassed CHF 1 million and catapulted Le Bijou to the status of a rising star in the Swiss hospitality sector.

Having raised our first significant external investment, the Le Bijou Bond 01/2016 was born. It took us no more than 30 days to raise another CHF 1 million and retain investors who were interested in investing throughout the coming rounds.

3) The Le Bijou Owners Club, brand growth, and media attention

We opened new units in 2017 and sold the second bond issue. During this time, Le Bijou started to garner considerable attention from media outlets including Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Tages Anzeiger, SRF, and National Geographic.

SRF (Swiss Radio & Television) reports about Le Bijou

We then closed our first property development deal with Credit Suisse, ranked as the second-largest bank in Switzerland and the sixteenth-largest in Europe. Other co-developments with two of the largest Swiss real estate companies followed.

After serving thousands of tourists in only a few years, Le Bijou quickly grew to a team of 60 people consisting of its own employees and external partners and expanded its offering to high-end events for high-profile customers such as Google, Uber, UBS, Gucci, Rolex, Adidas, Hugo Boss, and more.

Our next innovation came in 2018 when we launched our holistic approach: The Le Bijou Owners Club. This was designed to give investors more meaningful involvement in our business, which was a logical next step and flourished into an incredible success for Le Bijou. Our unique model attracted interest from investors outside our typical archetypes.

In 2019, after quickly closing the fundraising for our Zurich franchise, we continued our expansion in Lucerne, one of Switzerland's highest-performing touristic markets, and successfully raised more capital.

4) COVID-19 and the transformation to a leading real estate provider

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Le Bijou’s business model had three revenue pillars: tourists, events, and long-term tenants. Due to the impacts of the pandemic, we temporarily lost the first two pillars. However, Le Bijou pivoted and offered quarantine apartments to stranded guests or those who were required to self-isolate. This move received global recognition and was referenced in over 3'000 international news articles.

Moreover, Alexander Hübner donated his salary to enable healthcare workers to relax in our apartments free of charge. Other donors followed his example and gifted stress-relief stays, which helped keep our units and staff busy, in addition to protecting our investors' capital.

Le Bijou's innovative approach — featuring Uber-like services and contactless check-ins with a digital butler — proved to be the model of the future.

James, the face of our virtual concierge service - Demo from 2017

Faced with huge customer demand in 2021, we started to look for new properties and destinations in the largest Swiss cities. That proved to be the key to transforming our business model and unlocking numerous new investment options for investors by introducing deal-by-deal opportunities in the second half of 2022.

Tips for growing a successful business

As you can see from our story, it was a constant balance between capitalizing on opportunities and hedging against risk. It’s been a successful journey to date, and we’ve learned some things along the way.

1. Analyze your competition

Competition is a good thing. Observe your competitors and recognize their strengths and weaknesses. How you analyze the competition will vary between sectors, as some are more limited than others. In industries with limited access, it can help to work with a third-party association to review what a company is offering and to try to get some intel.

2. Understand the risks and rewards

The key to growth is taking measured risks. Le Bijou learned to weigh the risk against the reward and to capitalize on opportunities, such as when Alexander decided to bring on investors in 2015 rather than go the more conventional route of securing a bank loan. Risk-taking can pay off, but sometimes it does not, so it is important to always weigh the downside.

3. Be creative

Le Bijou prioritizes innovation and creativity with new spins on old ideas, like hotels and rental income. We have three arms of operation, thus diversifying our income streams, as well as branching into new development projects. All of this stems from our initial core idea of providing tech-enabled luxury stays.

As a business, let your creativity flow. You do not have to reinvent the wheel, but instead, look for ways to address needs and differentiate from the competition.

4. Stay focused

Opening a new business does not guarantee success. It takes time and patience. Stay focused on achieving your goals. Remember that most small business owners do not see a profit for years while they use the revenue to recoup investment costs.

However, if a business is not turning over a profit after a substantial period of time, you should find out if there are issues with the product or service, assess whether the market still exists, and evaluate any other possibilities that may be impeding growth. Knowing when to pivot is critical.

5. Prepare to make sacrifices

Starting a business is hard, and so is running it. In most cases, you put in more time when you are working for yourself than if you were working for someone else. It might mean sacrificing time with friends and family, but the motivation is that short-term sacrifices will pay off in the longer term. It is important not to underestimate the time commitment required and to understand that sacrifices involved.

6. Provide great service

Companies need to provide exceptional service, as it can tip the scales against competition and generate recurring customers. Le Bijou offers every guest 24/7 concierge services, in-room services on demand, exponential technologies, a fully equipped kitchen, automated check-in, and more.

7. Be consistent

Along the way, we have learned that consistency is crucial. Keep delivering value, creating, and staying focused. Anyone can show up, but consistently doing so separates the good from the great.


Le Bijou has grown from a single high-end Airbnb in Zurich into a leading provider of high-performance real estate and a globally recognized brand. The lessons we have learned throughout our metamorphosis are principles that have kept us on track all these years.

At Le Bijou, we are confident that our ever-evolving operational mode and unique mission will continue to generate ongoing success. Our cutting-edge, tech-enabled approach heralds a new type of hospitality able to withstand even the most extreme circumstances.

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