Tel Aviv, Berlin and Stockholm have impressive and expansive startup ecosystems, but each city has its unique historical and cultural circumstances that have contributed to the initial growth and current success of the ecosystem.
Emerging ecosystems are often faced with the following dilemma: to copy or not to copy a success story of another city from a faraway land. While emulating a winning recipe might be a good idea, it seldom is enough to create a self-sustaining and continuously expanding startup scene bursting with creative energy. What works for Silicon Valley, might not work for a city like Copenhagen.
Historically lacking in the wild entrepreneurial spirit of the US and the sheer chutzpah of Israelis, Scandinavians tend to employ a different approach. Supreme technical skills with a calm and analytical approach coupled with a bit of Lutheran work ethic and humility can create great things. Stockholm is a proven success story with companies like Spotify and iZettle and Helsinki is dominating the gaming scene.
The next Scandinavian city making its way to the top is Copenhagen. Unlike Stockholm that has for years been a magnet for top talent and VC money from around the world, no one has really paid much attention to Copenhagen, although many great companies originate from Denmark.
While the local startup scene existed as a disjointed group of individuals, there was no wider organisation or movement actively working to put Danish startups on the map.
In 2013, a group of 70 people (Editors note: For full disclosure, I was one of those 70) comprising founders, investors, angels and other tech enthusiasts, gathered at a town house in Copenhagen to discuss, debate and deliberate the state of the local startup and tech scene. A new grassroots movement, #CPHFTW (Copenhagen, for the Win), was born.
Now, two years later, the scope of the organisation has expanded from local to regional.
Since inception, the organisation has amassed 132 tech startups from Denmark and the Øresund Region (southern Sweden).
The movement has had several successes through its matchmaking activities.
#CPHFTW itself has raised 200k euros to date in order to facilitate the expansion of local startup communities. Startups pay an annual fee that differs based on the company’s success rate: big and profitable pay more while those in pre-revenue stage pay nothing at all. With the funds, the organisation currently employs a full-time CEO - now Malling - and a part-time consultant.
Malling refers to #CPHFTW as a trade organisation for the Danish tech startups.
While Copenhagen was without an active startup community for years, the city has produced a number of highly successful companies such as Tradeshift, Unity, Sitecore, Trustpilot, Momondo, Siteimprove, Templafy and Simplesite.
#CPHFTW wants to continue the pioneering example set by companies like Tradeshift and Unity, but Malling would like the future Danish unicorns to find a home in Copenhagen or elsewhere in the region.
Malling would like to see further unicorns like Klarna and Spotify emerge in the region. Both companies grew out of Stockholm and still run operations from the city.