Global Entrepreneurship Week is less than two months away. For Denmark, GEW 2018 will mark the eleventh year that GEW is celebrated in the country.
A lot has changed since the first GEW in Denmark. Most notably, entrepreneurship is now a core value of the government – with significant policy and education milestones reached within the last 10 years to help young people launch their own startups. In fact, because of its work, Denmark was recognized by the European Union for taking specific steps to support entrepreneurs.
Now, Denmark is working to get its founder’s ready to scale into a global ecosystem. With a stated goal by the government to become a leader in innovative business by 2020, it is important that Danish entrepreneurs establish themselves as ecosystem leaders both in Europe and globally.
“We need to rely on entrepreneurs to tackle the challenges we have on this planet, whether it’s providing resources, combating climate change [or] educating new groups of people,” said Peter Joakim Kofler, chairman of the board for Dansk Ivaerksaetter Forening (in English, the Danish Entrepreneurship Association) – the official GEW host in Denmark.
Over the last 10 years, Kofler noted significant changes in the Danish government’s approach to entrepreneurs. These efforts are important, Kofler said, because people in Denmark generally feel the risks are too high to start a business.
“What we struggle with in Denmark is we have a very safe society,” said Kofler. “To push people to take risks, to think out of the box, to leave the mainstream and follow other routes, that is our main challenge.”
Efforts by Kofler and others to get young people to embrace the risks of starting their own businesses have been successful.
According to a recent survey by the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship, 95 percent of its students have positive views of entrepreneurship. In the same survey, 53 percent of students said they also view entrepreneurship as a potential career path.
The number of people celebrating entrepreneurs in Denmark is also increasing. During GEW alone, Kofler said there are 250 events planned with more than 25,000 participants – which for a country the size of Denmark – is a big deal.
But as the world becomes ever more connected, and the lines dividing startup ecosystems become thinner, Denmark finds itself looking at ways to establish itself as an innovation leader on the global stage.
So unlike previous GEWs, in 2018 Denmark will work to shift the mindset of entrepreneurs to think about their startups from a global perspective. To do this, GEW Denmark has adopted the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as its 2018 themes.
“We are a nation of six million people, we are very dependent on the outside world,” said Kofler. “So for us, it’s a natural thing to look outwards.”
Kofler said the SDGs give Danish entrepreneurs a good benchmark to use when measuring the development and success of their own startups. He said the SDGs help drive a sense of purpose, provide more opportunity for Danish innovations and encourage Danish entrepreneurs to think of startups that make the world a better place.
“I think with the SDGs, they finally have a metric of scale to look at their business from a multitude of perspectives and that really enables them to navigate in terms of a multidimensional bottom line in their companies,” said Kofler. “In that respect, it’s a good compass to have the SDGs.”
Fortunately, Danish entrepreneurs are up for the challenge. Kofler pointed to startups such as Too Good To Go, which is based in Copenhagen but active in eight European countries with plans to expand into even more in the coming years. Too Good To Go helps stores sell their surplus food, eliminating food waste and reducing carbon emissions.
Too Good To Go’s global perspective and innovative solution to a sustainable development challenge is exactly the type of startups Kofler and others want to see coming out of Denmark.
Kofler also believes these startups serve as inspiration to young Danish people looking for a sense of purpose in their lives.
“We do see that people, they want to build their own dreams instead of someone else’s dream,” said Kofler. “The pursuit of purpose is something we see and that is something that is really also reflected in people starting their own businesses.”
The challenge for Denmark now is helping its entrepreneurs understand that their purpose can be global in scope – that they have the support and resources to take risks in a global ecosystem.
To learn more about GEW Denmark, or to find a GEW celebration in Denmark that you would like to attend, follow this link.