An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Copenhagen’s Thriving Startup Scene
This September upwards of 7000 startup enthusiasts, founders, investors, and representatives of the world’s biggest tech companies flocked to Copenhagen for TechBBQ, the crown jewel in the Danish startup event calendar. The event is now heralded as the biggest startup and innovation summit in the Nordic region but began with humble beginnings back in 2012. While tech events tend to flower from the ecosystems around them, in Copenhagen the opposite seems to be true. Grassroots nonprofit organizations like TechBBQ and Copenhagen For The Win (CPHFTW) played a key role in laying the seeds for the strong ecosystem which has flourished, to make the Danish capital the ‘unicorn factory’ it is today. But while CPH might be great at launching billion dollar companies, it has traditionally struggled to keep a hold of them. Zendesk, Unity, Sitecore, Tradeshift, and Trustpilot have all jumped ship, and while they are are estimated to have created more than 14,000 jobs, only 700 of those jobs are in Denmark today. But today, a number of exciting new initiatives have their sights set on providing the capital and talent needed to stop Danish unicorns from flying the coop. I recently had the opportunity to connect with a number of local players and ecosystem builders in the city to discuss the advantages, and limitations of launching a startup in Copenhagen: The roots of the ecosystem Despite global organizations like StartupBootcamp being present in the city since 2010, Camilla Ley Valentin, CCO, and founder of Queue-it, told me that looking back to the start of this decade, there was not much of a cohesive startup community to speak of. VentureCup, a competition designed to showcase innovation from Danish university students, was launched as early as 2000, but it wasn’t until much later when a real startup cohesive community began to emerge. In 2012 a group of local entrepreneurs including Klaus Nyengaard the former CEO of JustEat, Pia Elmegård co-founder of Nordic.AI and Growth Tribe Academy, Martin Bjerregaard, founder of Rainmaking and serial entrepreneurs Daniel Laursen and Esben Gadsbøll, started to organize ‘BYOB’ BBQs in Kongens Have park. The first event was attended by about 150 people, and was organized to bring entrepreneurs together to discuss achievements and challenges in their own projects. Around about the same time, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, Martin von Haller, Michael Reibel Boesen, and others co-founded Copenhagen For The Win (CPHFTW). Both TechBBQ and CPHFTW were self-funded and began to scale their communities, and also to create newsletters, social media groups, and meetups to allow members to share news, and cooperate on projects. Both organizations were also integral in bringing together local Angel investors, and inviting international investors from more developed ecosystems to get involved in events, and meetups, and engage with local founders. Around about this time, a number of local startups starting to raise big rounds started to bolster the confidence and enthusiasm of the emerging community. Credit: TechBBQ Support organizations Today there is a surprising wealth of different coworking spaces, and startup hubs to choose from for a city of only 600K people. Located just across the canal from the Christiansborg palace is Matrikel 1, a beautifully designed coworking space founded by serial entrepreneur and ecosystem builder Tine Thygesen. Amongst other projects, Thygesen is the founder of The Creators Community, a network of coworking spaces which also includes Founders House and Startup Village within Copenhagen. Other notable coworking spaces include Republikken, duop which offers access to workshops for product development, and co-work slash art gallery Nomad Workspace. For those looking for more support, Talent Garden Rainmaking offers workspace, events, and mentorship to 300+ entrepreneurs,…
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