Henrik Ørum Nissen has started over 25 companies, including PLUS Pension, Danish Network Academy (DNA), Goal Mind, Dream Dog Inc, Sweet Art Academy, Iværksætterriget (the centre of entrepreneurship in Denmark), and has sold 11 of them. He has been an advisor to nearly 100 other companies in both in Denmark and abroad. He was also the force behind Denmark's largest business enterprise awards at an entrepreneurs' fair earlier this year. A sales trainer across Europe, Nissen organizes workshops on topics like sales, networking and entrepreneurship. The Local caught up with Nissen to talk about his new project Meet Over Coffee (MOC), a subscription-based start-up that brings like-minded people together to 'social network in real life'.
How did you come up with the latest business idea?
There is a big need among decision makers in the corporate world, lawyers and other senior professionals to have a confidential exchange of ideas and business challenges. That's what we try to help them with – a verified network where there are no salespersons and a chance to network with someone near their area. For example, if you are travelling and there is another person in the same area or nearby, we suggest them to our subscribers so that they can meet over coffee. We also send them invites to sports events as people love getting such invitations. And it's not one-sided, both persons are equally interesting in serious networking and knowing more about each other. Additionally, we match them with the other person's position, experience, geography, company, interests, etc. Each week, members get a new meet-up suggestion. The agenda: What can I do for you?
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
A lot of people thought this was dating [laughs]. So, we had to explain to them it wasn't. The biggest initial challenge for me was to let go of the micro-management and let people take it forward on their own. We had to educate the members that they didn't have to sell to each other but rather to each other's networks. Although I started up in August 2014, investors are ready to buy MOC. Even though I never would have needed to work if I had accepted the first offer and sold MOC, I turned down the buyer. I didn't want them to mistreat my baby. A friend then suggested: "Don't fall in love with the product, fall in love with the customers" and that has helped me.
How has the journey been so far?
I started with 111 free testers and then MOC had its first 60 members. There are now 1,200 members on the LinkedIn group and I have organised more than 800 coffee meetings so far. People want us to expand this initiative to other countries. I don't spend any money on marketing – it's almost entirely through word-of-mouth and through the members' LinkedIn network. Initially, the website was not prepared for this heavy traffic. We soon upgraded it and now also have a new feature for instant meet-ups via our smartphone app. In this feature, the members can be anywhere in Denmark, Sweden or the UK and the app can find another person in their vicinity and suggest a meet-up.
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
I am happier and calmer than I ever was. I am smiling more, have more freedom and it no longer feels like work. I was in politics earlier and people think you are cheating them as a politician. If you drive an expensive car, you are questioned for your extravagant choices. In business, you have a lot more freedom and can see your idea grow. People want to join you and really don't care about your bank balance. You can help people and inspire them.
Any other personal reflections and/or message to budding entrepreneurs?
When you start a business, you need to have an arrangement with your spouse or family. An entrepreneur really needs to involve his family and take their support. Your better half needs to understand. Also, as there are no holidays, you need passion to work hard. It's not work when you are passionate about your idea.
If you can, you should do both – your day job and your business. Leave your job only when the business is fully ready to support you. Although difficult at times, one must also be prepared for a reality check. Be open enough to rip apart your idea and yet stubborn enough to stick to the desired outcome. My new girlfriend ripped apart my idea but it helped me see things more clearly. You need to start small and find free tools, taking the time to do things yourself. Find the target audience and ask the question: 'Why should the customers buy your service/ product?' If you cannot answer this question yourself, your customers won't be able to either. But if you can answer it, selling will be easy and fun.
So go for it, but be realistic: Nobody is going to leave money on the street. Also, you cannot work only 20 hours a week and expect to be successful.
Nissen plans to hold Denmark's biggest coffee meeting in Hillerød on November 27 where he will be joined by Hillerød Mayor Dorte Meldgaard, Liberal Alliance party leader Anders Samuelsen, Gert Rune from the bone cancer foundation Ironman and other guest speakers. If you are interested in networkig with entrepreneurs in Denmark at this event, you can register for free here.
Sparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s