How to get hired at a Copenhagen startup

Sparsh Sharma
Sparsh Sharma - [email protected]
How to get hired at a Copenhagen startup

The Local speaks to experts from the Copenhagen startup scene and beyond to find out how to get a job at a freshly-minted technology company.


It's not just Berlin. The startup scene is really starting to thrive in Copenhagen as well. With a wide talent pool and startups collaborating to support an ecosystem in the city, Copenhagen has plenty to offer for those looking to get in the ground floor with the next big thing.
But to get that dream job, there are first some things to consider. The Local spoke to leading actors in the Danish startup scene to get answers to a few key questions.
How do I get noticed?
"If you want to get hired, you have to start networking and attending relevant events. Convey to prospective employers that you are willing to work for free for a month and be sure about where your talent lies. You could print flyers and hand them to people you meet at such events. Don't just email your CV to the founder/ owner. That's not innovative enough to impress a potential employer," Christian Walther Øyrabø, an investor in startups and the chairman of the Danish Entrepreneurs Association, tells The Local.
Jonathan Løw, the CEO of Listen Louder in Aarhus, advises applicants to do their homework before sending in the application. "When job seekers send in applications to my company, I like to see originality, as it makes them stand out. However, by that I don't mean writing weird or crazy things. Research the startup and figure out how you can contribute with your individual skills,” says Løw. 
A little bold action doesn’t hurt, either.
“I once hired a guy who texted me at 10pm: 'I am the one you are looking for'. He was pushy but it worked," says Løw.
The best place to get noticed is using the special startup job boards in Copenhagen, like Copenhagen Startups and CPHFTW, according to Karsten Deppert, the initiator of Øresund Startups
He also seconds Øyrabø regarding the need to network.
“A lot of startup jobs are never really announced, especially in early stages, as small teams like to move quickly and efficiently. So, from the many meet-ups and events happening, find the ones most relevant to subjects of your interest and participate in them. The startup scene is very open and it is easy to get in,” he says.
Deppert also suggests using keywords like 'Copenhagen - entrepreneur/ entrepreneurship' to search and add contacts on LinkedIn, contacting managers of various startup studios like Founders A/S, Rocket Labs, Founders House, and Gfish, and directly reaching out to companies with vacancies with a short description of your skills and any previous startup experience. 
"Attaching the link to your updated LinkedIn profile is a lot better than attaching your CV,” Øyrabø says.
Should I apply from abroad?
"Yes, if you can do the paperwork, as there is a lot of it before you get your work or migration permit. You then have to deliver all these papers to the employer. When applying from abroad, tell your employer that you can be the gatekeeper to your native country's market. They see this as a big advantage," Øyrabø advises.
According to Løw, what Danish startups need the most is international knowledge and perspective. 
"Looking at challenges as well as opportunities from a fresh new perspective can help startups. New ways of thinking are always welcome. Internationals are great to have in companies that sell products outside Denmark."
Deppert says that physical distance should be no barrier to landing a job to Copenhagen: “Many startups use online video interviews, which can help applicants from abroad in getting interviewed. A team consisting of several nationalities is a big asset.”
Jon Schäffer, co-founder of Conferize in Copenhagen, adds: "Many startups are expanding internationally with sales teams based here in Denmark. Having sales people in Denmark who can speak the local languages is a huge plus. So there are lots of opportunities not just for the techies, but also sales professionals."
What if I'm not a techie?
According to Øyrabø, it's a myth that you have to be a techie in order to get hired by startups. 
“There are several companies that don't sell tech products and many jobs are available in the non-tech space. Danish startups require sales and marketing teams, though many seem to underestimate the requirements for such teams. I like the approach in the US, where a startup generally devotes 80 percent of its resources to sales and marketing, whereas their Danish counterparts devote only around 20 percent. So if you are a sales and marketing professional, you have a good opportunity to sell ideas to startups and develop their business,” Øyrabø says.
Løw couldn't agree more.
"Startups not only need skilled programmers but also talented salesmen who are able to wrap the product offerings with great messages. Danish companies are generally good at developing products but not in selling them,” he says.
According to Deppert, many marketing, sales and business development professionals as well as designers are needed by startups: “Non-Danes can have a huge advantage in marketing, as the startups have to customize campaigns and strategies in each new market they enter. Who better than a native speaker who has lived in that market?” 
Do I need Danish?
"Only if you need to address the Danish market. Not when you have to deal with other markets or if you want a role where you only negotiate with suppliers abroad. Also, in big companies, you don't need to speak Danish as English is the official language. Danish skills can help in social situations with colleagues though, especially in smaller firms," says Øyrabø.
English is often the default language at bigger startups, according to Deppert. He encourages people to learn some basic Danish skills for going about their daily life, but says one can also do fine without it. 
"Almost every Dane knows good enough English. It is, however, a good idea to learn about the Danish culture, work ethics, economy and trends as the Danish work culture is very different from Asian and Latin American work cultures," says Deppert.
Do startups only exist in Copenhagen?
"Copenhagen is now the startup capital, no doubt, but cities like Aarhus and Aalborg are happening too. Some smaller towns like Vejle have a good startup culture as well," says Øyrabø.
Løw says the same: "I am from the startup community in Aarhus and bigger Danish cities have the strongest startup cultures - after Copenhagen."
According to Deppert, most startups are located in Copenhagen and it is, by far, the biggest hub in Denmark. "There is a smaller startup scene in Aarhus too but Copenhagen has a unique advantage. It is located close to Swedish cities of Malmö, Lund and Helsingborg that have a big startup ecosystem and are well-connected with Copenhagen via the bridge and ferry services over the Øresund strait."
Sparsh SharmaSparsh 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


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