Copenhagen’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, paired with Denmark’s markedly pro-SME policies, creates an ideal setting for GovTech entrepreneurs to thrive. The city has already had several successful startup initiatives in the ‘Smart City’ technology space, with new companies emerging in a range of industries, from shipping, to education, to healthcare, to AI.
The GovTech Landscape
Copenhagen has been leading the charge on ‘Smart Cities’ initiatives since the concept emerged in the early 2010s. Known as the ‘Bike City’, Copenhagen earned the top spot on the Siemens Green City Index for Europe in 2014, and was also selected as the European Green Capital that year. Beyond these accolades, Copenhagen has implemented an ambitious plan to become the first city in the world to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. To date, it is already has one of the lowest carbon footprints per capita cities in the world (less than two tons/capita), and has managed to reduce its carbon emissions by at least 40% since the 1990s, even while serving a growing population.
One of the keys to Copenhagen’s smart city success is its philosophy to ‘start small and test’. The city has set up the infrastructure to enable this approach, including building several ‘urban laboratories’ to trial new development ideas on a small scale. As the website of the Copenhagen Lab, one of these city laboratories, explains:
‘[the labs] provide important knowledge about which solutions can be scaled to larger areas of the city and benefit all of Copenhagen…and deliver an important foundation of knowledge about investments in new technology’.
The city of Copenhagen has also turned to its startup ecosystem to source new ideas for smart city activities: small companies make up two thirds of the smart city industry. In fact, Denmark leads as one of the countries with the greatest collaboration between the public sector and small businesses.
Over 36% of the total value of public contracts is awarded to SMEs, compared to the EU average of 29% and the UK’s goal of 33% by 2022.
Beyond just smart city technology, Copenhagen is rising as one of the strongest startup markets overall in Europe, inching closer to Sweden as the leader in the Nordics. New co-working spaces and tech hubs have emerged to curate Copenhagen’s entrepreneurial community, including Rocket Labs, Founders House, and Startup Village. Initiatives like #CPHFTW (a grassroot effort to increase connections within the city’s startup ecosystem) and Scale-Up Denmark (a training-based programme for entrepreneurs and small enterprises) are also fueling the city’s startup growth. As Ricardo Sequerra Amram, of Berlin-based Cherry Ventures, puts it:
‘All the pieces of the puzzle are in place here: talent, capital and entrepreneurial mindset.’
In the realm of GovTech, specifically, we have identified Danish companies that span a range of industries, from shipping, to education, to healthcare, to document management. Given the fact that government has very pro-SME policies, paired with the fact that there is currently limited access to early stage funding coming from the private sector, we expect to see continued entrepreneurial focus on GovTech-related ideas going forward.
Top 10 GovTech Startups in Copenhagen
Archii is an AI-powered document assistant that is able to automatically identify, sort and extract information from an organisations’ most important documents.
Blockshipping’s Global Shared Containers Platform is the first blockchain-based platform for the management of containers, enabling significant annual savings for global container carriers.
Planday is a smart workforce collaboration platform that enables managers and hourly workers to communicate, collaborate, and plan schedules.
Corti uses artificial intelligence to help detect cardiac arrest cases over the phone, helping emergency services more accurately respond to calls for help.
Labster is a 3D virtual learning platform for teaching laboratory science to high school and university students.
NordSense uses low cost and high quality optical sensors with 3D measuring capabilities to optimise urban waste collection and management.
Liva Healthcare is a digital platform empowering patients with lifestyle diseases to make meaningful health changes.
Monsenso is an innovative technology company offering an mHealth solution to optimise the treatment of mental disorders.
Peergrade is a free online platform that facilitates peer feedback sessions with students to save time on grading while increasing the quality of feedback.
Portchain is a coordination solution that streamlines the port call process to reduce time and costs for all stakeholders.