The Olympic Games in Rio ended this Sunday. Two weeks of amazing competitions, incredible athletes, world records and Olympic medals ended in a big show celebrating the motto of the Olympics – faster, stronger, higher.
I love watching the Olympics.
When the Danish swimmer Pernille Blume won the 50-meter freestyle and burst into tears when she realized she had won I found myself on the couch at 3 am in the morning with goose bumps all over and tears in my eyes. I love to see the emotions of the winners and I feel deeply with the ones that did not perform the way they hoped and I understand the sacrifices that all athletes have made for more than four years.
There is only one thing I love more: that is seeing startup founders succeed. See the dedication, attention to details and hard work turn into successful businesses. And especially I love seeing the founders of startups that against all odds makes it just like Pernille Blume did. It is a total similar emotional experience for me as watching the Olympic Games.
Denmark ended up winning 15 medals. That was more than we had hoped for. We set out to win 10 medals. On the overall ranking of nations, we ended up being number 28, but if we compare the number of medals per capita, we ended as number 5 in the world. That is totally amazing!
At the day the Olympics ended the regions of Denmark launched a new initiative under the headline Scale-Up Denmark. Scale-Up Denmark is about developing the next generation of startups with scalable business models. It is about finding startups and founder teams with potential that against all odds can turn their talent and dedication into great businesses. It is brought to live with the vision that we in Denmark are able to develop billion dollar companies – just like in US, Sweden, Israel etc. The vision that we can develop startups that will provide new solutions for the problems of tomorrow. And the vision that we can create the most interesting startup ecosystem in Europe – giving optimal conditions for Danish startups and attract foreign startups. It is our ambition that we can perform like we did in the Olympics on the global startup scene.
Our success in the Olympic Games has a name – Team Denmark. Without the ambitious law of Team Denmark passed by the parliament in 1985 we would probably not be able to be number 5 in the world.
The motto of Accelerace has always been to be for startups what Team Denmark is for top athletes. A company specialized in attracting, selecting, developing and financing promising startups and turn them into scalable businesses. A company specialized in seeing the talent where others do not and turning that talent into stars – against all odds. Accelerace is going to be the main driver in turning the regions ambition of Scale-Up Denmark into a reality and turning promising startups into scalable businesses.
The Law on Team Denmark was not destined to be success. There were many skeptics.
Can we pick the winners, can we select the sports with the biggest chances of success, what about the local clubs and what about the mass of athletes? These were some of the questions when the law was passed. With Scale-Up Denmark we will have a similar discussion and there is no guarantee of success.
Top athletes are highly specialized. Their body is fitted to the specific sports they are in – Michael Phelps, the 23 times gold medalist in swimming, has an arm span that is almost 10 cm longer than the average person with the same height. Simone Biles, 4 times gold medalist in gymnastics is only 145 cm tall. They practice differently depending on the sport, their equipment is different, they eat differently and so on.
Until now there has been a tendency to look at startups as a homogenous mass of founders with approximately the same skills and the same type of capital and training needs – even though we know there is a big difference between building a scalable tech startup and a scalable life science company. The big problem is however, that we have very little knowledge on how many different “sports” the startups represent.
With Scale-Up Denmark, Accelerace is taking a new approach trying to be specific and narrow. Trying to fit attract, select, practice and finance specific startups in different sectors. And trying to fit the development of the startups to their specific individual needs.
Usually accelerators run in batches with joined selection, one financial model and taking the batch of startups through approximately the same program. Accelerace will as one of the first accelerators apply a more individual model with continuous uptake that fits the timing of the startups and provide a customized program with focus on the specific needs of the startup both in length and content, an individual financial model and a specific group of mentors.
Our 15 medals at the Olympics in Rio would never have happened if it was not for the great effort of the individual athletes, the hard work at the local clubs and the support of sponsors etc. Scale-Up Denmark will never succeed without a similar ability to engage the entire startup ecosystem.
So my hope is that I will find myself on the couch at 3 am in the morning with tears in my eyes celebrating successful startups.