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Acclaimed entrepreneur: Immigration Service in Denmark needs to improve

Russian entrepreneur Gulnaz Khusainova wishes for easier access to hiring international talent. Gulnaz is CEO and Founder of start-up Easysize - and one of the talented 30 under 30 on the Forbes list for people reinventing how we shop online. We talked to her about her four years in Denmark.

Publiceret: 25.01.2018
Af Virginie Morlet mail

Gulnaz, you moved here four years ago. Why Denmark?
You don´t know how many times I´ve been asked. Probably because people think high taxes when considering Denmark, and especially high corporate taxes. Well, it is not true for start-ups. In addition to that, Denmark is a very easy place to start your company. It literally only took me a few hours to register my company. I used the online electronic registration system provided by the Danish Business Authority. A bit of Google translate, and I was all set. 

Had you ever been in Denmark before moving?
My first time in Copenhagen was during Selection days for Startupbootcamps (red; a program to help ambitious early-stage tech entrepreneurs shake up industries), where I was selected to enroll a 3-month programme. I had the opportunity to talk to many inspiring people, fellow tech Danish and international entrepreneurs, as well as organisers and people supporting the start-up tech industry.
I enjoy very much the openness of the business environment in Denmark and the non-hierarchical culture. I found it very easy to reach out to people. I got a lot of positive response, especially from B2B. It is such an important add-on when you start you own business and you are new in the fashion industry, because you really rely on people´s knowledge, network and experiences.  I also liked the simplicity and the straight forwardness of the Danes I have met. It fits very well with my own personal values.

Were you familiar with any Danish start-ups before your arrival?
I found out that some of the companies I knew back home and admired such as Zendesk or Unity were Danish. It was important to me to know that there are successful entrepreneurs coming from Denmark.

Was language an issue to start your company?
No, it wasn´t at all, and it is such a game changer. I knew before I arrived that anyone could speak English at a conversation level. I had the chance to meet nice and helpful people, for instance people from the Tax office who could help me filling out my papers. It helps a lot.

What is your biggest challenge today as a start-up in Denmark?
Hiring is the hardest challenge. We need people with specific skills such as data scientists or international business developers. Additionally, they need a certain mind-set to work in a start-up. So, if you are looking for experienced people, the offer is clearly limited. They are for instance very few data scientists being educated in Denmark, and many companies are hunting them. As a start-up, you can´t always compete with big companies. We can´t match their salary offers, even if we try to match as much as possible the average salaries for a data scientist.
We are a very international team, and we hire people from abroad. Recently, we wanted to hire a data scientist from India, but it took so long to process the visa application that she decided to go with a different offer in the US. It is a real problem. We are moving fast and it does not look like the system is geared for it. It can be a hurdle in start-up developments. At the end, it is not a good business for Denmark.

I had myself a miserable experience with the immigration service. As a non EU-citizen, it took me so long to get a resident permit. At a certain point, it became critical because my investors were getting nervous about it. I had to seek help from lawyers to clear up the process and I finally got the permit approved after a long wait.
It was a frustrating experience. I am here to start my own company. and contributed to Denmark´s growth. It should be an easier process. As start-ups and as people, we need to feel that we are welcome in Denmark. At Easysize, we propose a relocation package for our new employees. If they come from abroad, they will get a full month of accommodation and a booklet with all practical information they need in order to settle down. It helps our employees to focus on their jobs instead of being distracted by a bunch of practical matters, and they feel welcome.

I know that you are very engaged in getting more women in tech. As a female entrepreneur, how was your experience in terms of convincing investors and so on?  Do you think more should be done to get more women in tech?
In the very early days It was difficult to get in contact with investors, but I don´t know if it is either because I am a foreigner or because I am a woman. I did get questions about maternity plans, etc. Generally speaking, I found it hard to break into the circle of investors. It seemed like a private boys club. At some point, I decided to move on and raise money from international investors instead, so today the majority of our investments come from overseas, countries like UK, France, India, Singapore, USA.

Regarding what should be done to get more women in tech, I think it is important to have role models- both female founders and women who have been moving from a non-tech industry to the tech industry. I remember meeting a woman with a key operation manager position in the corporate world. She got tired of it and wanted to be integrated into a tech start-up. She had a lot of experience that could clearly be a fantastic add-on for a tech company, but she started almost asking to work for free. I think you need to be confident in your own skills- we need people with different work experiences in tech too. 

There is a fierce completion worldwide to attract promising start-ups. In your opinion, what should a country do to make itself attractive to young talents like you?
The ease of raising investment is, of course, essential. Today, I think France is doing a great job in creating a valuable ecosystem for tech companies. We have an office at Station F in Paris, which I really like. President Macron is positioning France as a tech start-up nation. He gives a clear signal to the young start-ups that we are welcome- and needed.
It’a also very important to be a desirable and welcoming place for international talent. To build a successful company you need to have the best talent and if often comes from different parts of the world. I strongly believe that policies need to reflect that and make it easier to hire international talent.

Is France the next step for you? 
We’re building an international business and it’s important for us to be close to our customers, whether they’re in France or in India. Denmark is a good place for our headquarter to be right now. Furthermore, I personally believe that you should pay back to the community that has helped you.
Thanks, Gulnaz!

We need people with specific skills such as data scientists or international business developers.

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PUBLISHED: 1/25/2018 LAST MODIFIED: 1/25/2018