Meetup for startups

In the latest instalment of our weekly feature series, we speak to Anders Hasselstrøm of Copenhagen-based Startuptravels.

Startuptravels is a new platform that allows you to connect with local entrepreneurs and professionals while traveling. You can find a place to stay, a desk to work at or even meet over coffee.

How did you come up with this business idea?

I travel around the world quite a lot, especially to the UK to meet my girlfriend, and I realised it was quite a challenge to find local entrepreneurs and build a network across different cities. I was often forced to search the internet or scour local directories to meet with locals when visiting a new city.
Once, after returning to Denmark, I decided to discuss with some Danish entrepreneurs if a business could be built around entrepreneurs looking to connect and network with their global counterparts. We found out that there were many more people facing similar challenges. That's how Startuptravels was born. We had our landing page ready last July. Soon, a lot of people signed up. Co-founder Rasmus Frandsen and I then approached Henrik Haugbølle to come on board as the CTO.
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
The initial idea was to have this as a 'couchsurfing' platform for entrepreneurs. After finishing our customer discovery with more than 250 entrepreneurs globally, we changed the concept to a 'Meetup' sort of platform instead. Entrepreneurs are very busy and would rather spend little, but quality, time to mentor or learn and help other founders facing similar business challenges. This was a big challenge as it changed our basic business idea. Then, getting enough traction to get our CTO on board was another challenge.
How has the journey been so far?
Overall, it has been a great journey and the idea has been appreciated by a lot of people. I have met some incredible people. So far, more than 10,000 founders as well as startup enthusiasts have signed up since the landing page was up. We now have members in over 120 countries and more than 400 meetups have happened so far, globally. Ups and downs are all part of business but it's all about having a good time and we have had several great experiences.
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
I have had my share of challenges. Entrepreneurs learn to deal with a lot of uncertainty. Being an early entrepreneur, one of the main things I have learnt is to be able to navigate uncertainty. At the same time, freedom to choose what I do is the most important aspect of becoming a founder and I enjoy that.
Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?
One of the most important advice I would give others like me is to love what you do and start your company with enthusiasm. And for that, it's important to find a project or challenge you are passionate about completing or solving. Also, choose your team wisely as you are going to spend at least 50 hours a week with them.

Sparsh SharmaSparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in top Indian media companies, he came 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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‘We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark’s seasons’

Stuart Eve moved to Denmark with his family after his wife, an archaeologist, was offered a job at Aarhus University. Nearly four years later, he is the co-founder of a fair trade chocolate business in the Scandinavian city.

'We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark's seasons'
A chance meeting at their children's daycare resulted in the Ørbæk and Eve families starting their Danish business. Photo: Stuart Eve

Eve still works full time at his day job, also in archaeology. But the sweet-toothed entrepreneur told The Local that Denmark provided him with inspiration to try something out of his comfort zone – starting his own business in a foreign country.

After meeting business partner Anders Ørbæk at the daycare centre attended by their children, the two began the project, initially producing the chocolate out of their own kitchens.

“That has now moved to the renting of a professional space, so that we can scale up production and also get all the relevant food hygiene certificates and so on,” Eve said.

The archaeologist said having Danish partners had been beneficial in the course of setting up a business in the Scandinavian country, even though the process itself was straightforward.

“Actually starting the business was a matter of filling in a few forms online and showing we had 100 kroner [13 euros] in the bank. However, I think without our Danish partners, it would have been quite hard – mainly because of the technical Danish required. My Danish is pretty awful – and there are a lot of financial terms that are difficult to translate,” Eve said.

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?

“So I think for us it was essential to have Danish partners. Also, the food hygiene rules and health and safety, while similar to the UK, are quite onerous – and again very technical.

“I run my own archaeology business in the UK, so that has set me in great stead for the financial and business side,” he added.

The startup currently sources some of its supplies from Eve’s native UK – one aspect that may be complicated by Brexit, he said.

“My secret dream is that the chocolate business will enable us to beat Brexit and stay in Denmark for a lot longer — but we'll have to see how it pans out,” he said.


Packaged up and ready to go #somerferie #chokolade #beantobar #chocolate

A post shared by Ørbæk & Eve (@oerbaekandeve) on Jul 3, 2017 at 2:40pm PDT

It was not just the administrative side that Eve had to learn on the hoof for his Danish-based business, though – the process of producing the chocolate itself is also new.

“I was eating some Ritter Sport one evening and wondered to myself how chocolate was made, thinking it must be some incredibly complicated industrial process. So I checked out a few YouTube videos and it turns out you can make chocolate in a coffee grinder – it tastes awful because it is so crunchy, but it shows the process. From there it was a matter of buying a bigger grinder and starting to experiment. We have so much to learn still, but people seem to like what we are producing so far,” he said.

The chocolate produced by the startup – which is both fairtrade and organic – is heavily influenced by Denmark’s nature and seasonal variations, including a quarterly subscription service which can be signed up for via a crowdfunding campaign.

“We have been trying to find a way to really represent the beauty and abundance of the Danish countryside and combine it with something that Danes really love – chocolate,” he said.

“Strawberries from Samsø for summer, hazelnuts foraged from the woods for autumn, etc. Between us we have six kids so the family always come in and help during the production days,” he added.

A longer term aim is to consolidate the new company – named Ørbæk & Eve after its co-founders – as a well-known ‘bean to bar’ company in Aarhus.

“Our main reasons for doing this are two-fold. First, we eat a lot of chocolate and have become increasingly concerned by the human and environmental costs of industrialised chocolate production – there are new reports about destruction of rainforest for cocoa plantations and slave labour in West Africa, for example. In order to not be complicit with this, I wanted to figure out how it was made – and to do it myself.

“Second, we have really noticed the differences in the seasons since we moved to Denmark, so we wanted to make chocolate that reflected and celebrated the different qualities of the changing seasons,” he said.

Eve, Ørbæk and their partners are currently spending evenings and weekends on the chocolate production runs.

“As things pick up, I suspect I will move to one dedicated day a week, but we have four of us working on it, so we can usually juggle the time,” he said.

READ MORE: The Local's 'My Danish Career' series