Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Denmark arrived at Stanford
University on Monday to share his opening remarks at the conference. In
his speech, Crown Prince Frederik referenced the success of the
California wine industry as well as the "fascinating, impressive, and
inspirational" story of Silicon Valley. He expressed his admiration of
Danish entrepreneurs, praising them as "modern pioneers that have taken
a chance by going all in, moving their projects to a different
continent, a different business culture, and a different level of
Following the speech he accepted a gift of three standout California
wines from Heini
Zachariassen, CEO of the Danish wine app Vivino.
The wines were crowd-sourced based on user rankings from what is now the
largest wine app in the world counting more than 5.7 million users.
Zachariassen was among the pioneers gathered to discuss entrepreneurship
and strengthening of ties between Denmark and California. Other Danish
panelists and CEOs with successful companies in Silicon Valley included Mikkel
Svane from Zendesk,
Helgason of Unity
Technologies and serial entrepreneur Juha
Christensen with Cloudmade.
The necessity of taking chances and the Danish aversion to risk came up
early in the debate. Zendesk's Svane contrasted what he called the
"Danish stigma against failure" with the prevailing attitude of Silicon
Valley. "There are people here who have failed 5-10 times - spectacular
failures - and they still gave it another shot," he said. Zendesk, a
customer service platform that espouses simplicity, began in a
Copenhagen loft by three friends who used an old kitchen door as a desk.
They now have 40,000 customer accounts in 140 countries.
The panelists encouraged their countrymen to, "think bigger, go way
beyond." In terms of Vivino, Zachariassen said he had to, "trust my
instincts while going wildly against them- the mental leap is the
toughest of it all."
The panel all agreed on the need to be "in it"- putting a stake in the
ground in the Valley, being in the same time zone, and even having a 415
or 650 area code. They also discussed Danish modesty in terms of
pitching ideas. "Never pitch with an exit strategy," Svane said. "The
pitch should be, 'we're going to change the world with this product.'"
For those Danes looking to change the world and grab their piece of the
Silicon Valley pie, the Innovation Center Denmark is their virtual Ellis
Island. Executive Director of Innovation Center Denmark, Søren Juul
Joergensen, explains how the center introduces Danish companies to the
"We bridge the gap between startup and growth by helping companies into
the ecosystem here. It is tremendously important for Denmark that Danish
start-ups can gain success here and the interest of HRH the Crown Prince
is very useful in raising awareness of the possibilities for the
startups but also for the larger Danish companies who can benefit from
collaboration with Silicon Valley."
About Innovation Center Denmark
Innovation Center Denmark facilitates the entry of technology-based
Danish companies into Silicon Valley, connects research, capital, and
companies, innovates business models and market strategies, and delivers
the inspiration that drives innovation. The center has introduced more
than 60+ startups to the Valley in SCALEit,
a program dedicated to the growth of Danish companies. The goal of the
program is to help talented entrepreneurs bridge the gap between startup
and growth. Innovation Center Denmark is a joint effort between The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and Technology
and is a new type of commercial mission located in technological hot
spots around the world.
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