Why is this even controversial in the first place? Denmark is one of the three countries in the world spending the most (public) money per capita on start-ups. At the same time, we are far behind when it comes to driving this innovation to growth in Denmark. According to an analysis made by the Danish Ministry of Business and Growth in 2011 Denmark ranks somewhat lower than the OECD average when it comes to producing growth companies, whereas we are right in top when it comes to the number of startups.
In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem I met with Israeli and international entrepreneurs, incubators and accelerators, as well as NGOs, VCs, visionaries and even the municipality-backed Library. The latter had taken the consequence of a decreasing number of loaners to extend part of the library into a great and very affordable incubator space for young entrepreneurs. In summary, I was introduced to a solid and healthy high tech ecosystem.
An afternoon visit to the successful venture capital fund Jerusalem Ventures Partners was particularly rewarding for me, as I was looking to find a role model of government’s role in stimulating entrepreneurship being brought to fruition. JVP runs a program for early-stage start-up companies that is partly government-funded; as the companies progress into acceleration, private funds take over entirely further investments into the companies.
So back to the question, can Denmark mirror this? What I saw in Israel and what we see here in Silicon Valley everyday is that diversity amongst entrepreneurs is a strong driver of a thriving ecosystem. In Denmark, there is still too large a gap between international companies and our incubators. One of the deals I set up with the help of the Danish Embassy in Tel Aviv is that we exchange entrepreneurs between Denmark and The Library in Israel. This will hopefully kick -start the Israeli influence on the Danish start-up scene as well as taking the Danish user-oriented and design-driven way of doing high-tech innovation into Israel.
Another deal was to have JVP be partners either in one of the Danish acceleration programs, or in the one that we conduct on behalf of Denmark here in Silicon Valley, SCALEit.
It obviously takes a lot to become a Start-Up Nation, but looking to great role models like Israel should be our first step.
By Camilla Rygaard-Hjalsted, Executive Director