I’m travelling through Europe. I’ve ended up in Denmark. I’ve done all the tourist attractions. So what’s next? This is the complex series of events that led me to investigate the startup scene in Aarhus, which is located on the east coast of the Jutland peninsula, in the geographical centre of Denmark. Aarhus is known as Denmark’s second largst city. Here’s a girl (possibly local but unconfirmed) I found dead lifting in the main shopping district.
Aarhus boasts the most confused weather conditions I’ve seen in a long time. Sun continuously rotates to rain every 5-7 minutes, punishing the gorgeous locals who spent time on their hair, only to cycle down the road into a monsoon.
My original plan to meet the fair locals involved walking into bars, identifying interesting looking people and casually invading their space. This tactic can be effective but it’s by no means bullet proof. As a people, Danes aren’t extraordinarily welcoming and they don’t enjoy random or unplanned activities*, such as being ambushed by a loner from England.
* Disclaimer – this was according to my local taxi driver, not me…
So thank heavens for the book I found in the house of my Air BnB host, The Startup Guide for Aarhus. The Startup Guide is series of books (including publications for Copenhagen and Berlin) that are the brainchild of Sissel Hansen. They offer a unique view point into the startup scene of different European cities and act as a traditional guidebook for entrepreneurs or soon to be entrepreneurs. By leafing through the pages of The Startup Guide, I was able to pursue a few real life founders from Aarhus to find out exactly what life is like as an entrepreneur in Denmark.
Being the founder of Breaking Biz meant I had a legitimate excuse to approach these people, having majestically transformed from tipsy tourist to the CEO of a legitimate media empire.
My first victim was Fredrik Svinth the founder of SNAK. SNAK is a card game designed to establish a closer connection between people by inviting them to discuss a variety of topics, two examples being ‘personal values’ and ‘love.’ The game makes it fun and easy to discuss topics that we might otherwise tend to shy away from. Fredrik even gave me my free deck of cards with his own hand written translation (below). I’ve got no one to play with right now, but they’re coming back to London.
You can listen to Frederik’s Entrepreneur Q&A here.
Victim number two was Nicolaj Wittendorf, a former Danish professional footballer who started his own sustainable clothing label only to find himself become the Director of Football for Aarhus Fremad. Whilst this role seems disconnected from starting a clothing label, it was that very project which allowed Nicolaj to meet the owner of Aarhus Fremad, to see him return full circle back into the world of football. He’s what the Danes call an ‘ivaerksaetter’ – which literally means someone starting things up.
Both of these guys are graduates of the famous business school Kaospilot, which Fast Company named it in its Startup Leagues Big 10. Out of more than 600 Kaospilot graduates, one third have gone on to start companies, NGOs and other similar initiatives.
We will have interviews with Fredrik and Nicolaj over the coming weeks. Until then, it’s back to spending all my saved money on Danish clothes and beer. Money doesn’t exist when you’re on holiday.