‘The best education I’ve ever received’

In our ongoing feature series, The Local looks into a successful entrepreneur's life - the story behind his successes, major challenges and how being an entrepreneur changed him forever. This week, we chat with Martin Bengaard, director and owner of a Copenhagen-based online marketing company Onlineafdelingen.

'The best education I’ve ever received'
Martin Bengaard. Photo: Submitted
Martin Bengaard’s Onlineafdelingen offers companies a wide range of skills in online marketing including adwords, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media and email marketing. We spoke to Bengaard about how his team goes about providing a ready-made marketing department to other companies. 
How did you come up with this business idea?
Today’s market is confused as far as online marketing is concerned. I think about 80-90 percent of companies today are afraid of getting into online marketing as they don't know where to start or how to do it. Even if they know it, they fail to implement it properly. We help companies facing challenges in their digital marketing efforts by becoming their online marketing department. My capability to explain technical details besides every aspect of digital marketing helps.
I wanted to help such people and bought a 50 percent stake in this company from its previous owner. It was an adwords agency before we restructured and rechristened it. 
What were the initial challenges? How did you overcome them?
The first big challenge was to hire a great team to make it all work. We started hiring interns and got subsidized by the government. That way, we could hire for less which gave us much-needed savings. Eventually, we had money to hire around four more full-time employees. I also hired freelancers instead of specialists due to scarce funds. We now are a team of six full-time employees and ten freelancers. It was a big challenge to find the right people while growing, which is a challenge faced by most startups.
I came with my previous website development experience and used it here. Having an advisory board consisting of three people with knowledge of creating companies was the best thing I ever did. If I hadn't done that, I don't know where I would be today. Also, the business model we have can be replicated in other countries and we are open to such options.
How has the journey been so far?
The journey has been great but difficult. It's very hard being an entrepreneur; you have to multiply hard by hard to understand what I mean, but am really glad I undertook this journey. It's the best education I’ve ever received. You have to try it yourself to really understand what the journey is all about. It's not something you get taught in school.
At the end of the day, creating new things is what drives me. Having an advisory board is also good as you become responsible to someone. When running your own business, it's a good idea to also be accountable to someone for your actions.
How has becoming an entrepreneur changed you, personally?
You should ask my wife (laughs). I have started doing many things that I wouldn't have done earlier, like finding value in structures and processes, which wasn't the case earlier. It's important to have these for make the company function properly – e.g., having set guidelines regarding signing up new customers, handling finances, etc. That helps new employees while you focus on the larger picture. Startups focus on selling products or services but I think they also need to focus on delivery. And it helps to let customers have the complete picture of what they would get when they sign up. So having structures and processes helps and has big benefits. 
Any other personal reflections and/ or message to budding entrepreneurs?
Think about the structure of your business and get someone's opinion on it. Believe me, the best thing somebody can tell you when you are new in business is: “This is the worst idea.” You may get unmotivated or tired but you need somebody to tell you the truth. The same happened with me. That's why I like my advisory board and looking back on it, appreciate their decisions. Taking advice from other people is really in your own best interest.
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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Danes show entrepreneurs how to ‘startup everywhere’

Looking to launch a startup in Copenhagen or Aarhus? It can seem tricky to navigate the startup scene, especially if you are new to the city or country.

Danes show entrepreneurs how to 'startup everywhere'
(L-R) Thomas Nymark Horsted, Sissel Hansen and Sofi Sitha Natarajah of Startup Everywhere.
This was the issue that Sissel Hansen, a 24-year-old Dane, faced when she moved to Berlin in 2014. So she decided to create a guide to the city’s startup scene. 
“When I moved to Berlin I relied on my Lonely Planet guide for where to sleep, eat, drink coffee and which activities not to miss, and I could see that a similar style of guide for startups would be invaluable to people moving to a new city and wanting to start a business,” she told The Local. 
She said it shouldn’t be “so damn hard to find relevant and in-depth information about your local city and the process of starting a business in it”.
Although she said many people questioned the wisdom in putting out a physical book in today’s digital world, Hansen’s guide to Berlin proved successful enough that she moved on to a second guide focusing on Aarhus’s start-up scene. 
Copenhagen was next and now Hansen and her team at Startup Everywhere have put out guides for nine European cities and sold around 14,000 copies. 
They have also just released an online and mobile app, Startup Guide Maps, as a navigational companion to the print guide featuring spaces, incubators, accelerators and cafes with wifi in cities including Copenhagen and Aarhus.
Thomas Nymark Horsted, who joined the company as COO six months after the release of the first book, said the global startup scene is changing rapidly. 
“Twenty years ago there were only a handful of cities where most of the world’s innovation happened in, such as Silicon Valley, Boston, New York and Tel Aviv. Now it’s a global phenomenon but in spite of this, the challenges that entrepreneurs face are local rather then global. That’s why the platforms that Startup Everywhere create makes perfect sense and it is great that people find value in this,” says Thomas Nymark Horsted, COO of the company. 
Startup Everywhere plans to release guides for 25 new cities in 2017 and over 50 more in 2018.