Publiceret: 22.09.2016Af Felix Bekkersgaard Stark mail
“Are Danish entrepreneurs too humble?”
That was one of the questions put to Jared Friedman, partner in Y Combinator, the American seed accelerator, which has provided financing for many of the world’s biggest digital success stories.
Friedman was one of the speakers at the Tech BBQ event held on Tuesday for 2,000 Danish and international guests at the Copenhagen Opera House.
His answer can be found at the end of this article.
“We are very happy to have reached our goal. When we started planning the project in March this year, we had a brand and no money. Now, we have reached our goal with the help of a number of businesses, the Danish Industry Foundation, the Danish Business Authority and many others who have viewed our project positively, a project that is designed to put Danish tech entrepreneurs on the global map,” says Avnit Singh, one of the two main organisers of the project.
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Guests at the event were a diverse mixture of young people who either already are or dream of becoming entrepreneurs and investors chasing the next international success story.
A wide range of more or less established companies also attended the event to showcase themselves, find future employees or maybe even identify the business model of the future. Most of them were informally dressed in jeans, t-shirts, trainers with a conspicuous lack of business suits and ties – which seems to be typical of this type of environment.
“We want to help by showing that entrepreneurs are important to the creation of prosperity and growth in society as a whole. Denmark offers a strong and expanding entrepreneurial environment, but we are not very good at making our entrepreneurs grow and stay in Denmark. We lag far behind Sweden, for example. In Sweden, successful entrepreneurs are much more likely to stay in the country when they have become established. This ensures fertile soil for the next wave of entrepreneurs because you build up the knowledge and talent that is required to generate innovation,” says Avnit Singh.
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Among the guests were Nicholas Blicker Larsen and Frederik Petursson Madsen who got to know each other at Copenhagen Business School and have both already come far as entrepreneurs. Nicholas Blicker Larsen has started up two companies while Frederik Petursson Madsen is working on his first biotech company which has developed an alternative contraception product.
“I usually sit around in a boring warehouse in Ishøj so for me this is a good way of getting out, meeting old friends from college and getting a feel for what is happening among entrepreneurs across the board,” says Nicholas Blicker Larsen.
He believes that Denmark offers fantastic opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“Denmark offers very good funding opportunities as well as technical assistance. You are able to start something up secure in the knowledge that you have a safety net to protect you if your project fails. That is why it is tiring listening to people complaining about high taxation levels. For most entrepreneurs, the problem is not how much tax you have to pay, but how to generate the income that you need to pay tax on,” says Nicholas Blicker Larsen.
That is why he does not understand entrepreneurs who build up a business and then move abroad as soon as possible.
“It seems like people are pulling the plug on the country they grew up in, a country that has given them an education and a lot more besides. Right now I cannot imagine moving abroad, but I suppose you never know what will happen if you get a good offer or other circumstances mean that it may be sensible to make the move,” says Nicholas Blicker Larsen.
He appears to be right. According to Senior Consultant Alexander Ulrich from the Confederation of Danish Industry, Denmark is simply not good enough at retaining the so-called ‘scale-ups’ and ‘unicorns’ coming out of its entrepreneurial incubator.
“This has nothing to do with egoism. It is a question of moving to wherever the market access, capital and manpower are that you need in order to grow. A fantastic event such as the Tech BBQ can contribute not only to attracting foreign investors, but also perhaps the foreign employees that will enable Danish entrepreneurs to stay in Denmark. But we need to become much better at retaining Danish entrepreneurs and attracting their foreign counterparts,” says Alexander Ulrich.
So what was Jason Friedman’s answer to the question of whether Danish entrepreneurs are too humble?
“The best entrepreneurs are incredibly humble. An entrepreneur who is not humble will often turn out to be a disaster. So Y Combinator very much wants to hear from humble Danish entrepreneurs who want to be the sixth Danish company that we invest in,” says Jason Friedman.