“Ever since I can remember, I have known that I wanted to become an entrepreneur,” shares Jakob Breddam of WeLoveStartups.
WeLoveStartups is an organization located in Copenhagen, Denmark that focuses on assisting startups with funding to help entrepreneurs and their companies reach their full potential.
Jakob Breddom, together with Daniel Laursen, founded and came up with the concept of WeLoveStartups as a way to aid early-stage companies.
Read along as Jakob shares his insight and knowledge regarding his own startup. He also provides answers to questions regarding Denmark’s innovative and forward thinking society that has helped the country earn a reputation as a top spot for entrepreneurs, not just in the Nordics but worldwide. In fact, Denmark was recently ranked the #1 best country for business by Forbes. Jakob also shares advice on following your true passions in life.
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background. What was it that attracted you to want to be a part of the startup scene?
Ever since I can remember, I have known that I wanted to become an entrepreneur. To know that each decision I make can make or break the future of my creation is very motivating. My personal goal is to fill my life with things I am passionate about. My personal dream is to enable all people in Denmark (at first) to make their passions into their work life.
This was, however, not my initial way of thinking. I have a Masters Degree in Economics focused on innovation and entrepreneurship, mostly because I wanted to educate myself as a way of aiding my entrepreneurial dreams. I did not have the perfect idea for a company, so I read about economics, and thought I could at least cut that cost from my future entrepreneurial endeavors.
- How did WeLoveStartups begin?
When I finished my education, I followed the footsteps of everyone else from the study, and I applied for different jobs, where I would for example control the budgets of a large company’s use of office supplies.
It took me some time to figure out that this was not something I was passionate about. When I finally realized this, I twisted my education, and tried to find the right way of helping other entrepreneurs. It started with a concept that would help them overcome administrative burdens, enabling the entrepreneurs to focus on their core competencies – their brilliant ideas.
After working on that idea for some time, doing different attempts of “proof of concept” I realized that startup funds were a bigger problem for entrepreneurs. I then met Daniel (the founder of Trendsonline) and he had some similar ideas of helping entrepreneurs fulfill their potential.
Together we came up with the concept of WeLoveStartups.
WeLoveStartups is a non-profit, that provides sponsorships, delegate grants, mentors, and PR to struggling startups with great potential.
For the past about 1½ year we have been developing the concept. We handed out the first grants in April, and the three first receivers are already in great progress. Lix Technology just got 3 million DKK in funding, and they have made partnerships with big international companies. GoPlayDot are in collaboration with the Danish Ministry of Education, and FarmBackup just launched their concept.
Now we are close to the next grant-round, and we are working on a new fundraising concept, that will enable everybody in Denmark to “Pay-it-forward” and help create “Denmark of the future”. Everybody should take part in the movement. We have to help the new rising stars, so that they can become the futures Novo Nordisk, Maersk and LEGO.
- What about Lix Technology made WeLoveStartups want to be a part of the funding process and do you follow the same process for all startups you review or is it really a case-by-case basis?
The idea behind Lix is to help students, and in general to make knowledge even more accessible. Camilla (founder of Lix) showed great passion and guts. Within seconds, you knew that she was not going to let herself be stopped.
The combination of great potential, innovation, passion and drive, plus the fact that they had the classic startup difficulties of finding early funds and help, in spite of the all the potential, was the main reason they were chosen.
Every application we receive is screened by industry experts. I have to admit that I am not an expert in everything, and for our first round, we got applications from everything from drone development, dance festivals, innovative apps, and new food concepts. Therefore, we have ambassadors helping us with the important evaluation – from an industry perspective- and in the end, a jury of experts analyze who has the most justified need, best idea, potential and drive etc. Last time the jury of experts consisted of EY (Ernst & Young), Microsoft, Daniel Laursen (Trendsonline) and our Board of directors as supervisors.
- What kind of qualities is it that Denmark possesses that makes it such a sought-after spot for new startup growth? When did you see that start to evolve or do you feel that, there is still a lot more to be done in that area?
Denmark is blessed with much creative freedom, innovative thinking, and hundreds if not thousands of inspiring new talents showing up each year. In Denmark, we thrive to improve and the education system produces lots of high quality knowledge. We are becoming more and more open-minded which makes it a great place to launch for example MVPs (minimal viable products) and achieve Proof of Concept.
However, we have to become more open and willing to share our ideas, resources, and experiences even more. This especially applies to big corporations. They should get more involved, open themselves up to entrepreneurs, and start paying-it-forward. This is one of the main points in WeLoveStartups. To create a movement where all of Denmark (and in time the Nordics) and especially all established companies, start to help the future of Denmark evolve. They should join WeLoveStartups and pay-it-forward!
The main problem in Denmark now is actually related to the great quality and quantity of potential we possess. There are not enough early stage start-up funds available in Denmark. Not even close to enough! Banks and investors should start adjusting now, and not in five years, when they have analyzed everything. The start-up train is rolling and we need to improve instantly. It is not because banks and investors are the only ones to blame. The government should make much better terms for investments without taxing so heavily. In the long term, this will be a great investment. We need to make it possible to create the new Maersk, Novo Nordisk and LEGO in Denmark.
From the entrepreneurial perspective, entrepreneurs have to show more ambition. They should start believing that we can develop the next global star in Denmark. They should improve their mind-set and aim much higher.
- What kind of trajectory are you seeing in regards to new startups in Copenhagen and all around Denmark? And, how does the startup trajectory for Denmark translate in comparison to the entire Nordic region?
I see lots of new companies and a great buzz regarding startups and entrepreneurship in Denmark. There is so much talent and interest in creating new and innovative solutions. Lots of creativity and ingenuity, and absolutely not only in tech environments. Of course Copenhagen has the majority. But Odense has for some time been the go-to city regarding robotics. Horsens has been buzzing. Aalborg has had a great focus on students, and the Aarhus community growing a bit at the moment. Now we all need to follow up and thrive to make it better, because there is much room for improvement.
Sweden is ahead in the Nordics, and their terms for raising funds and having companies go public should be a role model for the rest of the Nordics. Finland has been quite interesting lately. Especially regarding events. When compared to Denmark we simply need more and better political action. Taxation is not sufficiently beneficial for investors and the governmental attempts to improve the terms for entrepreneurs in Denmark are not good enough. Getting there, but there is too much talk, and too little actual action. For example, when they launched the relatively new company structure, the IvS, where you can establish a company for 1 DKK. Shortly after it was deemed a success due to the amount of new companies established. However, there were some cases where the same individual had registered up to 80 companies (for 80 DKK)… Not exactly a quality stamp.
- Lastly, if you had to give one piece of advice to different startups out there, what would that one piece of advice be?
Think big! Be ambitious. Believe that you can conquer the global market – and keep on rocking, pay it forward and always follow your passion! (I can’t keep it down to only one piece of advice ☺).
Photo courtesy of Folkets.dk.