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Denmark’s startup scene is flourishing, judging by this year’s TechBBQ, the two-day festival in Øksnehallen, a former cattle market in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. What began five years ago as a small gathering around a barbeque attracted 150 startups and 6000 delegates this week, as well as a number of international businesses including Microsoft, Siemens, Gooogle, and Tesla.
The festival might be fun – with huge spits of meat roasting outside, a meditation and a beer tent, Teslas to sit in and a cracking after-party – but its purpose is serious. TechBBQ has some heavyweight tech figures on its steering committee, including business angels David Helgason, the founder of 3D games company Unity and Klaus Nyengaard, Co-founder of GenieBelt and the former CEO of JUST EAT, both partners at venture capitalists Nordic Makers.
After Stockholm , Copenhagen – linked to the biotech hub around Malmö and Lund by the Öresund bridge – leads the Nordic league table in startups. As a whole, the Nordic startup hub is doing well: after the U.K., Germany, and France, more venture capital funding goes into the Nordic region than anywhere else in Europe. Indeed, on a per capita basis, the Nordic region ranks first in Europe in startups. So far, 12 Nordic unicorns have emerged with a combined value of $69bn, according to market intelligence provider Dealroom.
In Denmark, this year looks like being a record year in terms of venture capital raised. But the Danes want more.
The outlook for the Danish startup scene is good. The local startup community is interconnected, friendly and open to newcomers. Capital is reasonably available: although business angels are making fewer investments, the ones they are making are larger. Aggregate initial investments in Danish companies by Danish venture funds sit at their highest level since 2011, with each fund making some 20 investments each year.
In addition, she says, the high salary levels required by the Danish government for foreign workers is contributing to a shortage of talented employees for startups.
The Danish Growth Fund uses government money as loans, funding and venture capital finance for startups, and helps them IPO on the Danish stock exchange. It recently launched a new fund to help increase the pool of liquidity available on the stock market for IPOs. The reason is clear: Denmark needs its companies to become global, but it needs them to stay in Denmark. As Rude Moncur adds, “We want the activity to stay in Denmark because we can see that when that happens, it creates a positive effect throughout the ecosystem”. She points to Universal Robots as an example of a Danish company that became global but remained in its original location in Odense.
And Denmark needs its startups: as Tommy Andersen, Chairman of the Danish Government’s Entrepreneurial panel points out, large-cap Danish companies are cutting back on domestic jobs and yet expanding abroad. The top eight most valuable companies in Denmark are considerably older and less digital than the top eight in the U.S.
With this kind of background then, it wasn’t all that surprising that at the Nordic Startup Awards 2018 awards, presented by Jakob Lindmark Frier, founder of Tech Savvy, the winner of the Best Danish Newcomer award was a digital matchmaking platform for investors and startups called Valuer.ai.
Founded last year, Valuer.ai matches startups and accelerator investors through data and interviews and uses artificial intelligence (ai) to simulate the process of screening a startup. It specializes in fintech, the internet of things (IoT), cleantech, ai and corporate intelligence. The potential for disruption of the venture capital industry is clear: no doubt the irony of this has not been lost on Valuer.ai’s investors.