Copenhagen Fintech Christmas Calendar #23: Building a global ecosystem

In this final episode of 2019, Simon Schou and Oliver Sjöstedt from Copenhagen Fintech discuss why and how to build a global ecosystem that fosters innovation. While we acknowledge the Nordics will never be the biggest fintech hub, we can be the most connected.

Simon Schou, Head of Innovation at Copenhagen, has a background as an innovation consultant in a variety of industries and the financial service union. Being responsible for establishing and strengthening an ecosystem for financial innovations in Denmark, he has established the fundament of what we now understand as Copenhagen Fintech.

As Head of Startup Growth, Oliver is combining his background in startups and corporate innovation to help startups grow in Denmark. This is done by offering startups a great number of opportunities to scale their businesses nationally and internationally, while also looking at each startup team individually and supporting them on a daily basis.

We tend to say that Copenhagen fintech wants to be the most connected ecosystem in the world. What does this mean?

We know we can never be the biggest fintech hub in the world, but we can definitely be the most connected one.

Why not?

Well, just the fact that Copenhagen is not as big as some of the other cities. However, that doesn’t mean that it cannot be a big hub. We always need to focus on being as connected as possible and I think that is kind of what makes innovation happen here.

Let’s talk a little bit about where Copenhagen Fintech came from.

Sure. We had some big visions and ideas on where we wanted this to go when we started: We wanted it to become a truly global fintech hub — but Denmark has a very Nordic financial system. On the one hand that makes it easy to connect to and partner up within the Nordic ecosystem. On the other hand, it was challenging to think about how we would actually manage to scale out of the Nordics

So, from the beginning, I think we’ve been testing a lot of things. Especially important to us was to look into how we could help Nordic startups go abroad. In addition, we were trying to attract investors and partners from all over the world from the start.

And that has been a challenge. I organized our first outgoing mission almost three years ago. Back then, we went to India with 10 fintech startups.

We’ll get back to your trip to India! But before we do that — who do we want to be connected with?

To be honest, it’s basically the same as when we think about how we want to create an ecosystem for innovation in the Nordics.

First, we look at the hard number of stakeholders that we need to connect with. These include the regulatory bodies, startups, the established industry, the investors and so on. On a global scale, it’s very much the same. But we need to create the right partnerships that make sense for the Nordics. Of course, it was difficult to follow a global approach in the beginning. Before establishing these global connections, we had to gather partners for the Nordic ecosystem.

Almost one and a half years ago, we were very lucky to get a grant from Industriens-Fond which is called the Global Alliance project. This allowed us to work much more structured on our ideas of internationalizing Copenhagen Fintech and the innovation network we are building. We are halfway through this three-year program now.

At this point, it makes sense to look back on how well we are answering the questions we posed our self in the beginning:

1. How can we connect to the international startup community?

2. How can we connect to the international research community?

3. How can we connect to the international community of corporate partners, banks, insurance companies or the incumbent players?

4. How can you connect to global investors?

5. And how can we make this both beneficial for us but also for the global community?

So, it’s a rather ambitious program and each of the aspects encompasses different elements that we work on through the program.

Let’s get back to our first delegation to India. Maybe a lot of our listeners have noticed that in 2019, we all have traveled around the world. How have our delegations changed since that first trip?

They have changed a lot. And it’s really not about traveling — it’s about creating alliances. So, traveling is only one element of building alliances. To India, we went with 10 startups. When we go with 10 startups, it’s easier for us to meet and get engaged with banks, partners, investors regulators, etc.

The next step often is to invite these stakeholders to come to visit us in Copenhagen and encourage them to form one or more serious relationships with our startups.

Our trip to India was an attempt to test if our startups could enter the Indian market at that time. We took away a lot of learning from this trip and established a lot of nice contacts.

Learn more about our development in the past years, how building connections matters to us and in which way our partnerships with now around 30 institutional investors have evolved, through listening to our podcast. Find it here: iTunes, Podbean or Spotify.