ARYZE spoke with Canute’s Rasmus Bjørn Dahl to discuss scaling to new markets. Dahl shares his experience from helping Danish start-ups scale successfully and tells us some key challenges to overcome.
If there is one thing that Rasmus Bjørn Dahl is extremely passionate about; it is to see start-ups grow and succeed. From the early days of launching the Copenhagen Fintech Lab to now helping companies scale globally with Canute, he has witnessed the many challenges and successes start-ups face along the way. It all began from experiencing the frustrations of entering new markets personally that got him thinking there must be another way to go about things.
This led Dahl to become partner at Canute where he is determined to help start-ups build success stories as they scale their operations. Canute provides a platform for start-ups looking to expand their business into new markets. The company brings in experts that have gone through this process before and therefore can provide crucial support, making scaling more efficient and enjoyable.
On our platform, we connect the different actors. We bring the people with access, knowledge and capital in the markets to the start-ups seeking this. Canute’s biggest asset is our network within London, New York, Stockholm, and Berlin.
Think global from the start
Canute soon realized that it is difficult for start-ups to scale due to lack of early-stage global ambition. Many companies only focus on international goals once expansion is around the corner – and this is too late. Especially when it comes to pitching in front of investors as these are quick to pick out companies without a global vision and the right structure for international scaling.
Dahl shares that it is crucial for start-ups to have an international mind-set from the start. If they neglect this, they will soon find out that their business models are not designed for international scaling once they try to. Canute helps early-stage start-ups to become aware and develop the right ambition that will take them beyond the Danish borders once they are ready.
Some start-ups are so in love with their product that they forget how it would work in other markets. I mean legally, technically, but also culturally. Entrepreneurs need to have a mindset where they see their company being global.
The investment culture in Denmark might play a role in this, Dahl argues, as Danish companies are more often used to soft funding. With private investors, start-ups need to think more commercially and ensure their business models are tailored to global markets.
Scale when you are ready
However, there are also different strengths that characterize the Danish start-up scene. One of the things international investors greatly appreciate about Danish companies is their analyses of new markets. With a structural approach and problem-solution fit, the Danish start-ups are able to spark interest. Together with the support of Canute, Dahl sees start-ups becoming increasingly professional and thorough.
The companies that are in the sweet spot – ready for scaling – are increasing in quality. Investors take notice in that and the overall interest from international investors in Danish start-ups is growing.
Canute’s network follows the natural expansion-sequence many Danish start-ups follow; beginning with neighbor countries like Sweden and Germany, onwards to the UK and after potentially to the United States. Start-ups are supported in growing an understanding of the cultural differences and ways to approach customers successfully.
Within the programs that Canute offers, different areas of doing business internationally are addressed. Companies get to sit down with experts to dig deep into legal and business culture, as well as PR and communication to see how their brand story applies to the local culture. They are coached to develop pitches that fit culturally and learn how financials are organized abroad. In informal settings like walks where people can have casual conversations, experts and start-ups are able to really connect with each other and share ideas. All different elements of the program come together to make start-ups ready to pitch successfully to investors and a jury.
Overcoming Jante Law
It then all comes down to closing deals effectively – and this is something Canute experiences to be a bit of a challenge for the Danes. When asking ‘why’, Dahl considers the Jante Law as potentially one of the underlying reasons. It is not in the nature of the Nordics to brag about what they do and sometimes success could be celebrated a little more.
He illustrates how often Danish start-ups will come to the end of their well-prepared pitches and showcase the ‘ask-slide’:
When start-ups present the last slide of their pitch where they ask for funding, we often hear from investors that Danish start-ups ask for too little money and want to do too little with the money.
For start-ups, to persuade investors of ambitious plans and big targets can feel outside their comfort zone. Within Canute’s program, the young companies are trained in their pitching to ultimately learn to brag a little – to be ambitious, showcase the right numbers and not be afraid to convince customers and investors.
Once they succeed in bringing international investors on board, Canute sees that the start-ups in their network experience a fruitful market-entry. 60 percent of the 64 start-ups that have already scaled abroad through Canute’s program are achieving good results in the new markets today. In return, these internationally successful Danish founders can help other Danish start-ups scale. Canute provides the platform where this can all take place; providing the right experts and the needed support to make scaling an exciting and successful adventure for the Danish start-up scene.
If you’d like to learn more about Canute please connect with Rasmus on LinkedIn or visit the website. To read more blogs about scaling and Danish entrepreneurs, please read other articles on our blog or learn more about ARYZE on our website.