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ENTREPRENEURS IN DENMARK

STARTUP

Ideas to set sail between Denmark and Sweden

A ferry sailing between Helsingør and Helsingborg will host the second annual Startup Weekend Oresund, a 54-hour cruise designed to turn ideas into reality.

Ideas to set sail between Denmark and Sweden
Startup Weekend will take pace in the ferry between Denmark and Sweden. Photo: Startup Weekend.
Board a cruise ship in Helsingør and step off 54 hours later with your own business plan to take over the world. That's the basic concept behind Startup Weekend Oresund, which will set off on Friday, October 23rd and sail between Helsingør and the Swedish city of Helsingborg.
 
The main goal of the meeting is to empower new entrepreneurs, so the weekend boat trip is tailored to kick-start ideas and develop businesses.
 
“This is the second edition; the first one took place in 2014. We expect around 80 to 100 attendees this year,” Jakub Kowalczyk, one of the organizers of Startup Weekend, told The Local.
 
Startup Weekend Oresund is designed to be the perfect atmosphere to grow business ideas. On the ship, participants will pitch their concepts and then assemble teams to bring them to life. A panel of experts will then judge the competing ideas and crown a winner. 
 
“A boat provides a different atmosphere than the office space we are all too used to. You can't just leave whenever you want you, but you can take walks out on the deck and use the sea air to freshen up your tired mind,” Kowalczyk explained.
 
“It is an extremely unique working environment, which facilitates what we want to achieve: providing lifetime experiences,” he added.
 

Picture: Startup Weekend.
 
The event is part of growing efforts to boost the startup scene in what is known as the Öresund region in Sweden and Øresund in Denmark, which encompasses parts of both countries divided by the Öresund strait.
 
On the Swedish side, the area already boats a strong gaming industry. It is the birthplace of games including The Division and World in Conflict and companies such as Ubisoft Massive are inspiring the development of smaller creative startups. The first milk carton, the first artificial kidney, and even the first portable phone also trace their roots back to the region.
 
However the startup scene in Öresund remains much less developed than that in the Swedish capital, which is now second only to Silicon Valley in terms of billion dollar companies per capita, according to a recent report from investment firm Atomico.
 
Startup Weekend Oresund will gather both technical and non-technical entrepreneurs, and in addition to the idea contest, participants can benefit from brainstorming sessions, business plan development advice, and feedback and talks from industry leaders.
 
“The most important thing is the motivation needed to take action and to have a team and the means to make your actions worth taking. Participants provide the ideas and we provide excellent teams and the possibility to make their ideas become reality,” Kowalczyk said.
 
The winning team of Startup Weekend Oresund will be rewarded with a 12-week global startup programme at THINK Accelerate in Helsingborg, Sweden. Winners will have access to an international network of mentors, business coaches, and top investors – not to mention free services worth an estimated $270,000 (1.75m kroner) from Microsoft, IBM and Amazon. 
 
But most importantly of all, the wining team will be able to turn their idea into a viable and real business.
 
The organizer of the event, UP Oresund, is the local branch of a non-profit powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, and most of the organizing team are students at Danish universities. Tickets for Startup Weekend Oresund are available here

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JOB

‘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