Last week was Folkemødet, the “Davos of Denmark”, at Bornholm. A gathering of politicians and people who are wanting to improve society. This includes key people from the startup scene.
We had an interview with Martin Ferro-Thomsen, who as a veteran entrepreneur from the startup scene has seen it grow during the last decade. Martins current venture, Conferize, is just preparing for their IPO and he has been one of the driving forces in getting the Danish stock markets to improve.
Hi Martin. How was Folkemødet? Do you feel that there is a good representation of the startup scene there?
“Yes, actually I do. I saw both tech founders such as Tommy Aahlers and Thomas Madsen-Mygdal and more “analogue” founders such as Gorm from Gorms Pizza, which is on a roll these days. It’s important to remember that politically the difference between tech and non-tech is often overlooked. Obviously, we need both categories represented well.”
What were your intentions with going to Folkemødet?
“We’re trying to democratize venture capital by using the stock market to raise a Series A venture round. It’s already happening in a big way in Sweden with 80 IPOs so far this year alone. Basically anyone can now invest in Conferize, until Wednesday at mid-night, where subscription ends. This form of capital allows startups much more control over when or if to exit, leaving much more time to grow big than the typical VC-scenario.”
Do you feel you made progress in those questions?
“Yes, very much so. I met both with the Prime Minister and the Danish Secretary of Industry, who very both sympathetic to the idea of an attractive stock market for growth startups. I don’t see anyone being directly against the idea, but how could they argue against of creating growth and jobs and enabling regular people to invest early in high growth startups?”
What did the Danish Prime Minister say about the startup scene?
“It’s definitely on his agenda and I see great initiatives such as Iværksætterkommissionen that I expect actual results from. He said they’ve tried a few things for improving the stock market culture and after the summer holiday they hoped to see more tangible result. The Secretary of Industry said something along the same lines. From people in the know, I hear they’re expecting a stock savings account similar to what we see in Sweden.”
If you try to give an overall opinion, what is the political view of startups?
“Positive overall. But there’s still a lack of appreciation on how to improve the conditions for capital at all stages of a startup’s life. Especially the early stages where today it’s basically up to a few angels and one or two VCs to get companies all the way to series A. It’s as if politicians are stuck in an industrial mindset, where they believe companies should be able to make their own money and grow organically from that. But for a high growth startup, capital is the fuel that powers the engine. We’re still behind the curve on this issue.”
What do you think needs to be improved?
“Tax needs to be considered. Syndication for angels needs to be considered. A more attractive stock market for small cap companies needs to be considered. We can’t afford not to.”
What surprised you the most about Folkemødet?
“That democracy actually works. You can just walk over to anyone and state your case and tell your story. I’m however not very optimistic about the political process that potentially follows. It’s as if we’ve lost sight of any form of united vision for our country and it’s just a dog-eat-dog scenario, where everyone fights against each other instead of uniting around a common cause. Keeping our entrepreneurs in Denmark, enabling them to grow and create wealth and jobs should be at the top of every party’s agenda.”
What do information do you take home that you had not expected?
“I learned there are DKK 800 billion in liquid money sitting around in Denmark. We only need a fraction of this to hypercharge the funding situation in Denmark. But it seems we’re a skeptical nation looking for safety instead of embracing risk and change. In Sweden they have several million private investors and discussing investments is almost a national sport. In Denmark, we like to talk about our mortgages instead. This needs to change and all the big funds, such as pension funds, needs to allocate more means to early stage startups, or they won’t have enough big companies to invest in 5-10 years.”
Interested in being part of improving Danish IPO market? Conferize is closing their subscription period June 21th 23.59, read more here.
Image: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Martin Ferro-Thomsen, Conferize at Folkemødet 2017.