With all due respect to William Shakespeare, there’s actually something pretty awesome in the State of Denmark: Namely, a breakout startup scene that’s beginning to get noticed around the world.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, a Danish computer scientist, Bjarne Stroustrup, was responsible for the creation and development of the widely used C++ programming language. Denmark is also the home of open-source web framework language Ruby on Rails, which was developed in 2003 by David Heinemeier Hansen.
We Danes have a lot of advantages in the global startup world. For starters, we learn English early at school, and tech startups in the country tend to use English in the workplace. That makes it easier for us to cooperate with the U.K. and North American companies and clients.
And, there is also the Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship, with its incubator lab, providing resources and assistance to students considering launching a startup.
These days new companies are also able to get support from established Danish entrepreneurs like Jesper Buch,Thomas Madsen Mygdal, and myself. We’ve all seen our share of ups and downs in the volatile startup world, but we’re happy to pass along what we know to help new companies avoid some of the pitfalls we encountered. There’s really no replacement for experience.
You’ve already heard of Danish companies like Zendesk, Tradeshift, and Podio, and there are plenty more companies just waiting to be discovered. That’s why I put together this list of six of the hottest Copenhagen startups right now:
CodersTrust is a tech startup that is fighting poverty through education. CodersTrust wants “to democratize access to education via the internet on a global scale” by connecting aspiring programmers in the developing world with backers who will fund their education. Through a manageable loan and education plan, CodersTrust is able to upgrade the programmers’ skills and provide them with a brighter future. CodersTrust recently launched a pilot project in Bangladesh in partnership with Grameen Solutions, a social business initiative established by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. (Disclosure: I was very proud to be a seed investor in CodersTrust.)
Atosho, established in Copenhagen in 2011, has created a new way for digital publishers to tap into e-commerce revenue. Once integrated into a website, its platform lets readers buy a product directly from the editorial content – an article, a product review, an image, or any other digital content that creates demand – without having to leave the site. This means publishers don’t lose their readers to another site as they do with other e-commerce solutions. Atosho also offers real benefits for retailers. They can now reach more potential customers within highly-sought after premium editorial content, and only pay a commission on products sold. The real winners are the readers, who can purchase almost anything they read about in a few seconds, without having to be redirected to another, possibly unknown e-commerce site.
Labster‘s virtual science lab platform may represent the future of science education. The software platform allows students to simulate experiments, such as studying recombinant DNA in a molecular cloning lab, with state of the art equipment using only a computer or tablet. Gamified experiments include a CSI-style murder investigation, animal genetics testing, molecular cloning, and more. All of this is done while completing coursework that lays the foundation for learning the elements of chemistry and biotechnology. A recent study, published in Nature Biotechnology, has shown that the modern software concept of gamification actually increases student motivation, allows them to retain more information, and promotes a future in associated fields of science more than traditional teaching methods.
AirHelp is an online and mobile service that helps passengers secure flight compensation. The company was launched May 2013 by Danish entrepreneurs Henrik Zillmer, Nicolas Michaelsen, and Greg Roodt. After personally experiencing the challenges of submitting a claim, the team recognized the need for passenger assistance when seeking flight compensation. Answering just five questions on the AirHelp website, or its iOS or Android mobile app, will instantly tell passengers if their flight is eligible for compensation. If entitled to reimbursement, users can then choose to pursue the claim on their own or give AirHelp the power to seek compensation on their behalf via email. AirHelp handles every step of retrieving a claim, including going to court if necessary, only charging 25 percent (including taxes) of the value of successfully received claims. If the claim isn’t successful, users don’t pay anything so there is no risk. The company now has offices in eight countries around the world. (Disclosure: I was a seed investor in AirHelp.)
Sharewall is a new service that allows readers to access content that otherwise would be locked behind a paywall by letting them use social sharing as a currency. When clicking on an article, Sharewall will load first and ask the reader to share an article to one of their social media profiles. The reader is then able to chose the exact article that they would like to share with their friends, without it having to be the article they opted to read in the first place. Sharewall also created an intuitive one-step sharing option for mobile, since as much as 60 percent of online news readership comes from mobile. Sharewall’s goal is to help publishers monetize their online efforts while keeping content free. Instead of earning money from readers, online publications earn that money from email monetization. Sharewall was founded in March, 2014 by serial entrepreneur Anders Ibsen.
Airtame is a small HDMI dongle that gives PC users the ability to display their computer screen on any TV, projector, or monitor wirelessly. You can duplicate your screen, extend your desktop, or share video with others. Need a second opinion, or want to present an idea to a colleague? Airtame will definitely be very useful in the office. Users can send their screen through a private stream for real-time feedback. Airtame started as an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign earlier this year with a $160,000 goal. The campaign went on to raise $1,268,332 and was named the Best Startup of CES 2014. In fact, the campaign was so successful that the company expanded its services and added support for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
All of these companies are making waves in the startup world, and you’ll be hearing about more in the future. Perhaps someday Copenhagen will even be referred to as Silicon Valley Scandinavia. In the meantime, one thing is certain: Denmark’s talented and innovative tech visionaries aren’t going to let a little cold weather cool down our entrepreneurial spirit.
Morten Lund is an entrepreneur based in Copenhagen, Denmark who has founded or co-invested in more than 110 high-tech startups in the last 15 years, including Skype, ZYB, Zecco.com, Polar Rose (facial recognition), Maxthon, Bullguard, Tradeshift, AirHelp, Itembase, LundXY, and OnlyXO. He was also a cofounder and managing partner of LundKenner, a venture capital firm focusing on technology ventures.