"I’ve seen several cases where highly talented people have been forced to choose not to join a Danish startup, simply because the process sometimes takes up to 6 months. So they move to Stockholm instead. Or London or Berlin. Because these are the cities we are in competition with here," writes Michael Bak, Managing Director, #CPHFTW

#CPHFTW: “Let’s become the startup nation we are born to be”

Guest Entry: Danish startups have the basics in order. But we are still seeing many of the most talented Danish students choose to work in big corporations and at the same time, we repeatedly see the extreme difficulty of attracting the right foreign talent to Denmark and take key positions within one of our many interesting startups, writes Michael Bak, Managing Director, #CPHFTW

Blog: When I look at the constant cry out for talent – foreign or domestic – that we see in the tech startup industry here in Denmark, I sometimes find myself weirded out.

Because I fundamentally believe Denmark is an ideal startup country, with an ideal infrastructure enabling us to both develop and attract talent.

Our social security system allows us to take risks, and through our educational system and culture we learn to be independent, flexible, take initiative, challenge authorities; everything it takes to work in a startup.

Before anyone draws the tax card, I know for a fact that this is hugely exaggerated as foreigners’ reasoning for not settling down here.

We also have a way of life and a level of trust that is a fantastic asset in the world today and something that can REALLY attract people from all over the world to come live and work here. And before anyone draws the tax card, I know for a fact that this is hugely exaggerated as foreigners’ reasoning for not settling down here.

Add to that a relatively high level of education, which I might add is accessible to pretty much everyone, and we should be spawning out startup talent by the barrel!

We should be set, right?

The unfortunate fact is, that we are still seeing many of the most talented Danish students choose to work in big corporations with a fixed hierarchy and dominated by rigid structures. At the same time, we repeatedly see the extreme difficulty of attracting the right foreign talent to Denmark and take key positions within one of our many interesting startups.

Traditionally though, we have been good at starting companies out of Denmark, which are today global winners. Look at Unity or Zendesk for example. But unlike Sweden, where they have managed to retain unicorns like Spotify or Klarna and have them continuously attract the right skills and talent, the biggest Danish scaleups are today no longer inherently Danish, and as such no longer part of the daily Danish startup story.

Traditionally we have been good at starting companies out of Denmark, which are today global winners. (…) But unlike Sweden, (…) the biggest Danish scaleups are today no longer inherently Danish

So, the Danish startups have the basics in order; but we are still lacking behind on a few fundamental areas:

 

  • We as a country need to act faster and be more flexible when it comes to approving visa applications for foreign highly skilled workers.

 

I’ve seen several cases where highly talented people have been forced to choose not to join a Danish startup, simply because the process sometimes takes up to 6 months. So they move to Stockholm instead. Or London or Berlin. Because these are the cities we are in competition with here.

We need these special talents. Skilled individuals who have performed and succeeded in the new economy, with the newest business models and marketing dynamics and who have been part of building and scaling companies and departments of hundreds, even thousands of employees.

I’ve seen several cases where highly talented people have been forced to choose not to join a Danish startup, simply because the process sometimes takes up to 6 months.

 

  • We as a community need to focus on the startup company culture and not just the founders or the investments.

 

Creating a stronger focus the positive company culture and on employee role models and not just focus on the latest investment or sale of a company, can help shift the mentality for our talented young generations. Why spend years working entry level jobs for Maersk or Novo Nordisk when you can accelerate together with a tech company, taking the business global in a matter of months with all the responsibility you could wish for.

By the way, perhaps we could kill two birds with one stone if we would be better at #1.

These seasoned and high performing individuals are the people who inspire young talent and the ones we need to act fast to get to move here. Only then, we can build dominating marketing or sales departments in the next global companies out of Denmark.

Let’s pull together, solve this challenge, and become the startup nation we are born to be.