At a time when the world's attention is nervously focused on the European economy, there is a bright spot worth noting, and it can be found in Denmark .
I know a little something about this: The organization that I co-founded, SCALEit , based in San Francisco, matches Denmark’s innovators with US partners, and over the last 18 month we’ve arranged partnerships for 35 Denmark-based technology companies to help them tap opportunities here in the US to scale their companies globally.
Though I cant claim any participation in Microsoft's $8.5 billion play for Skype last year, it certainly helped spread the word about the opportunities and innovation coming from Denmark – but also showed the huge impact small skillfull tech teams could create. You might be surprised to learn that this is merely the tip of an enormous iceberg for Denmark. Just last week the Danish startup Zendesk raised its C-round of $30 million from Silicon Valley investors, on its way to an IPO. And we continue to look at new, intriguing deals every week. I can’t disclose the details yet, but another one of our SCALEit companies is ramping up for an exit within the coming months.
Why success in Northern Europe when our country cousins to the South are dealing with such economic angst and challenges?
In Denmark the tech talent pool is extremely deep, and with one of the world’s highest rates of startup companies created per capita, a lot of innovation is happening there. Our country has the highest broadband adoption in the world; 4G coverage is practically universal. Substantial investments have been made to our infrastructure, and with the upcoming, direct SAS Airline route between the efficient Copenhagen Airport and San Francisco’s SFO, we now have even better opportunities for creating and expanding global business. For my organization, this is crucial. Tech entrepreneurs would often pick New York based on the simplicity of travel, but now the US West Coast is even more convenient for these new partnerships and opportunities.
Our population is very tech savvy, and with about 85% of our 5 million citizens speaking English, the country is often used as the perfect test market for tech companies, not to mention as a gateway to the rest of Europe. These factors are only some of the reasons why we will continue to be one of the world’s leading innovation countries.
It’s certainly not all perfect and there’s absolutely room for improvement, but the signs are there for speedier and stronger economic recovery. Nordic unemployment stands at 7.2 percent, and while still too high, it’s far below the rest of Europe, averaging 10 percent. Nordic GDP, at 2.6 percent can certainly be stronger, but it is outpacing the rest of Europe at 1.8 percent.
My group is a good example of another key factor why innovation and entrepreneurship both thrive in Denmark. We are partly funded by the government, a public/private partnership that’s driving so many of these initiatives. We seek partnerships for companies in Denmark that show the greatest potential for global success, matching them with US counterparts, tapping the unique, Silicon Valley ecosystem, strengthening momentum, and creating even more opportunities. We can help young companies build their R&D and tech development in Denmark, and then in Silicon Valley, set up a subsidiary of their company, with a focus on business development.
And the U.S. is noticing these partnership opportunities. Though not part of SCALEit, Podio was acquired earlier this year by a US suitor, Citrix. Endomondoand Tradeshift are also building their companies based on this model. With SCALEit we expect more to see strong growth in this new transatlantic company model.
Non-traditional partnerships, understanding the dynamic, changing global entrepreneurial landscape is what we do, and may serve as an influential tale to others trying to come up with new ways to succeed economically. In Silicon Valley we can bridge the access to tech development. In Denmark you can get access to unique innovation - and to a business environment the countries surrounding us are only dreaming of having.
My dream for my country is for us to be even more connected with the world. We are a nation of travelers - as Vikings we used to sail everywhere. Today we fly. In the future we may teleport our self around, and with the innovation happening in Denmark, we might be the country to invent such futuristic technology.
Europe needs some good news right now and we have some to offer. Opportunities for growth, innovation, prosperity can be found if the entrepreneurs, investors, innovators know where to look. To win globally, you need to think big - you need to act big, and with the global partnerships we’re helping to forge, we can see huge opportunities way into the future.
Follow us on SCALEit.us Note: This blog post was a guest post by one of the SCALEit founders, Søren Therkelsen. The post is reflecting his personal opinions.
Søren Therkelsen is a Danish entrepreneur, based in Silicon Valley and Copenhagen. Before age 16, Søren had became one of the world's most successful internet pirates, sharing pirated materials to millions of Internet users. Since then he has focused his energy on building partnerships between Danish companies and innovators all over the world, particularly technology companies in the Silicon Valley. He is the co-founder of SCALEit, an organization that works closely with the Innovation Center Denmark in Silicon Valley to create new growth, research and development and entrepreneurial opportunities for technology companies in the US and Denmark.