Highway To The Danish Zone - 9 Startups From Denmark To Watch

After a handful of notable exits including Just-Eat and Zendesk, Danish tech companies are starting to gain serious traction with investors.

“It’s not Silicon Valley yet and I don’t think it should be,” say Martin Ferro-Thomsen, founder and CEO of Danish online conference hub Conferize. “The Nordic scene is starting to emerge as a major hub. We have all this talent, startup knowledge and technologies within a very small geographic area. It’s a little-known fact that five of the 10 most-used programming languages were created by Danes. Most people don’t know that, but I think we should be much better at celebrating the achievements we’ve made so far.”

At A Glance
> Danish companies raised USD32m in the first half of 2016.
> This was spread across four deals, the largest of which was the USD25m raised by Vivino.
> The total represents a drop of 70% from the USD86m taken on by Danish firms in the first half of 2015.


1. Vivino

An app by wine lovers, for wine lovers, Vivino combines recommendations, product discovery, content and search. The firm’s app lets users take pictures of labels to cross-reference bottles with information, reviews and ratings posted by a community of more than 4.5m users. The firm faces competition in the shape of wine discovery apps Delectable and Drync in the US, but clearly distinguishes itself through content. It’s entertaining. There are tips on wine-tasting etiquette. There are travel features. There’s tongue-in-cheek analysis of the wines of Game Of Thrones, including the White Walker 2012 Chardonnay.

With competition in this segment increasing, the battle is on to keep users on board and build loyalty. How is the firm tackling this? Vivino has recruited a select group of its most highly-engaged members, Featured Users, to act as brand ambassadors and stir up engagement among the ‘Vivinos’. The company does not seem to offer an e-commerce element just yet, but it is surely in the pipeline. With a highly-engaged community the firm is perfectly-positioned to connect the dots between discovery and sales and start knocking back a tidy commission. And it continues to soak up significant rounds of funding. Most recently, this meant a USD25m Series B round in January this year, taking its total funding to USD 36.3m. Skål!


2. Trustpilot

While we’re on the topic of e-commerce, let’s take a look at Trustpilot. We often look at the value of online reviews from the consumer’s point of view. This firm is coming at the opportunity from another direction, helping companies leverage reviews to connect with their customers and gain insight into how to improve their businesses and how best to promote and manage their online brand. Companies list themselves for free on the platform, and then users upload reviews.The firm last year also entered into a licensing agreement with Google, that sees Trustpilot reviews (a cachet of some 13m) listed as Google Seller Ratings.

In May of last year the company picked up USD73.6m in Series D funding, taking its overall war chest to USD116.9m, making Trustpilot one of the best-funded firms listed here. Being founded in 2007 means it's also one of the oldest and has spread its offices to both New York and London.



3. Falcon Social

We know brands are spending more on social marketing, but many are still grappling with the technology. Enter Falcon Social, a platform where brands can create, launch and track campaigns across social media in real time.

It might be based in Denmark, but Falcon Social has the US social advertising market in its crosshairs and has offices in New York. It faces competition from not just direct competitors such as HooteSuite, but legacy software firms such as Salesforce and Oracle that are trying to buy their way into the space. Nonetheless, it’s built up a strong portfolio of brands ranging from Jaguar and Carlsberg to Coca Cola, Conde Nast and Chupa Chups. It’s most recent round of funding came in March 2015, when it raised USD16m, taking its total funds raised to more than USD23m since launching in 2010.

The firm’s head of marketing, Ronja Gustavsson, talks competition and differentiation: “Competitors like Adobe are buying one-trick solutions and mashing them up into one offering for clients. They’re not integrated inside. Danish design is very famous. Our product is designed for a purpose and that resonates with how we’ve built the platform. It’s easy to use for all the disciplines that you need in social. Marketing, HR, customer service and sales all want a slice, so it’s important to have a combined solution where everyone can work and you know who said what on behalf of your brand. The Danish tech scene is fantastic. There are lots of startup events happening around us. The Nordics are a really good scene for young early startups at the moment."




4. Conferize

Part events discovery, part networking tool, part content platform, Conferize wants to make conferences sexy online – and that’s a direct quote from founder and CEO Martin Ferro-Thomsen. The firm is setting out to reshape the way people experience conferences and interact around them. For organisers, the firm aims to help them build up online communities of attendees and speakers in order to boost interaction and broaden their audiences. It focuses purely on the professional events space – from meet-ups and seminars to tradeshows – but no tupperware parties or whiskey tastings.

“Compared to any other companies in this space, Conferize is much more visual, appealing and sexier,” he tells us. “That is the word we use. We’re making conferences sexy online.”

Looking to boost the longevity of these events, the firm offers access to content – be that presentation slides or publicly-shared content such as tweets. It also lets users attend virtually with live streams and archived content. That helps event organisers make more from their assets, opening up content to non-attendees and after the event. It operates a freemium model, with premium tiers offering additional services such as additional promotion and personalised marketing strategies. There are many companies operating in this space, but they tend to focus on one element – be that live streaming or event networking. Conferize aims to unite them all.



5. The Eye Tribe

Smartphone-related thumb-RSI could soon be a thing of the past, as developers increasingly look to motion-tracking software. Nobody's quite sure what the potential of eye-tracking technology is, but it’s expected to be big, already disrupting everything from authentication to the way we browse sites. That’s where the Eye Tribe comes into focus. It’s a firm that develops software to let users control smartphones, tablets and computers using their eyes. This opens up features such as eye-activated log-in, hands-free control and next-level gaming experiences, but the particular focus is in improving ease of access for those with disabilities.

While the company has not picked up any notable funding since the USD2.2 seed round it raised in January 2014, it's concentrated on developing its products and January 2016 saw it release the consumer version of its eye tracking hardware, the Tracker Pro, which retails for USD199 and which the company claims is the first such consumer-facing version of these products in the world.



6. Vaavud

There’s a reason some of the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers come from Denmark. A country that is practically all coast, jutting out into the North Sea, the waters surrounding it are festooned with offshore wind farms. Wherever you are in Denmark, you are, apparently, no more than 50km from the sea. So perhaps a wind speed measuring app isn’t as niche as it first sounds. In fact, founder and CEO Thomas Helms says the technology has a broader appeal than you’d think. Available on both iOS and Android, the device shows users real-time wind graphs and other metrics on an accompanying app. Its value is more than just personal. The app pools data from Vaavud users around the world, giving users access to global wind patterns. It’s now preparing for its second Kickstarter campaign to fund its second version.  

“Wind meters are something that more people than you think use,” says Helms. “The idea originated from kitesurfing because we needed a meter to take measurements and share them online because the spots are pretty remote.”

But Helms and the team quickly found the technology has broader appeal - to everyone from paragliders and pilots to wind turbine maintenance teams, crane safety crews and sailors. For now the firm makes money from selling hardware, but will move into subscription services – starting with an app for agriculture customers. More will follow.

“Things are really starting to happen in Denmark – there’s a startup village in an old distribution centre and lots of tech companies are moving in there,” says Helm. “The next couple of years are going to be exciting for our tech scene.”




7. Siteimprove

It hardly needs saying that having a website is about as essential to business in the 21st century as owning a bank account, but the actual running of the things remains a time-consuming task. Web governance is the industry set to up to help compartmentalise and manage the diverse challenges this represents, and Siteimprove is one of the biggest names in the space. It provides an all-in-one SaaS tool that offers clients a wide oversight of their online operations, pooling together areas a diverse as web analytics, site maintenance and accountability.

Siteimprove splits its headquarters between Copenhagen in Denmark and Bloomington in Minnesota, and counts more than 3000 firms among its clients, predominantly in the financial services sector. Siteimprove is particularly notable for picking up one of the largest rounds of funding of any Danish company in the last year - a massive USD55m round from Summit Partners in December, which was also the first time it had raised outside finance since launching back in 2003.



8. Templafy

A strong, unified brand can make the difference between a publicly recognizable company and an ex-company. But maintaining a unified design and image can be more difficult than it seems, particularly in larger companies that may go through a number of rebrands or redesigns during their lifetimes. Keeping track of various logos, templates and banners and correctly use them can be a real headache for everyone involved.

Templafy’s solution to this is what it describes as adynamic template system, which automatically keeps all company documents updated according to current designs and brand strategies, instead of numerous employees having a scattered, decentralized library of images, templates and colour codes. Templafy raised USD2.5m in venture funding in November of last year.



9. Linkfire

Few industries have seen as much disruption from technology in the last 15 years as the music industry. With radical new models of distribution, revenue generation and marketing, it’s often cited as an industry struggling to come to terms with the new rules of the game as laid down by tech. One particularly pressing issue is that of discovery - average listeners now have more channels to access more artists than ever before, but this is double edged sword for marketers - how to get your acts to stand out from the crowd?

Linkfire, which picked up USD2.6m in seed funding in September of last year, provides music marketers with deep linking technology, which allows fans and customers who click on a music link to go directly to listening to the song on whatever their preferred streaming platform, rather than to a one-size-fits all site, in turn reducing the friction of the user experience. Linkfire has made good headway so far, counting among its clients the world’s three largest music groups - Universal Music Group, Warner Group and Sony Music.