The one-day-only event was jammed packed with networking, keynote speakers, and panels focusing on the new technologies coming out of the Nordics, how to attract investment, and how to better construct the startup ecosystem to support the growing number of budding entrepreneurs.
There was a lot of enthusiasm throughout the day, especially with regards to Copenhagen. According to Max Niederhofer, a Partner at Sunstone Capital, there is no better place to physically be in Europe for entrepreneurship. Although Denmark’s regulatory infrastructure may be lacking in some respects, geographically Copenhagen is perfectly situated between Berlin, Stockholm, and London – Europe’s most important startup hubs. With the ability to leverage its environs and a track-record of impressive startups (Podio, Endomondo, Just-Eat, Airtame, Tradeshift to name a few), Copenhagen seems perfectly poised for success.
This was a message that everyone needed to hear. Strong focus on America’s Silicon Valley has created a definitive benchmark for what a great startup ecosystem looks like. So much so that constant comparison between us and them makes us forget all the wonderful things that the Nordic communities have to offer.
Thus, the day helped to serve as one big reminder and confidence boost that the Nordics are a great place to locate your business and that you should keep it here as opposed to moving abroad and starting from scratch.
Working Together Towards a Better Community
Right now, the big problem is that fellow entrepreneurs and investors are not talking to each other. There lacks a feeling of trust to share ideas and information. Instead, there is preference to keep information confined to your business rather than pass it on. This view of everyone as a competitor is detrimental because it slows our ability to advance. Instead, we should be collaborating and paying our successes forward. Venture capital, government funding, and angels should be working together and pooling their money to invest in great ideas while entrepreneurs should be sharing technology and talent to develop the market as opposed to just competing within it.
Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, an angel investor who was influential in the building of Podio, was a particularly strong proponent for cross-pollination between the startups. He stressed the need to share talent and steal each other’s people because there is so much we could learn from one another. It also pushes us to be better and more alert.
The all-in-this-together sentiment has potential for big impact on the mindset and power of the startup community. For example, it was suggested that instead of always talking about your own startup, mention other cool projects and companies that you know of. Disseminate information to create a buzz and get people outside of the inner circle talking.
Creating Opportunities to Connect
The Nordic Startup Conference helped to stress a dialogue not only between nations, but local companies to break out of their silos and focus on cooperation and advancement. As founder Jasenko Hadzic stressed, “the Nordic Startup Conference is important, not only because it assembles entrepreneurs and investors across the Nordic borders, but also because it tells the international startup scene that we exist.”
Hadzic founded the conference with Henrik Lysgaard after returning from Malaysia in August 2013 where he had been working with an accelerator growing businesses in South East Asia. Both Copenhagen Business School’s alumni and entrepreneurs in their own right, the two friends quickly identified a gap in the startup ecosystem. Looking around, they saw no forum that assembled all of the Nordics together.
“Previously, both of us were involved with organizing the Nordic Private Equity Conference as a side project next to our CBS studies,” Hadzic explained, “So we decided to create the Nordic Startup Conference and leverage our network of Nordic investors and entrepreneurs.”
Their suspicions were spot on and the conference quickly gained momentum, exceeding expectations in attendance and enthusiasm. The conference had planned to welcome 400 Nordic entrepreneurs, but ended up opening its doors to over 600.
From the looks of it, initiatives like the Nordic Startup Conference are just the beginning. The vibe in the North has changed. Startups here are gaining ground, investment, attention, and most importantly are finding a unified voice. It’s a very exciting shift and one that we should embrace the chance to be a part of.