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Europe's leading scale-up nations came together in Stockholm

From the left: Marcus Stuttard (London Stock Exchange Group), Irene Graham (the UK Scale-up Institute), Svein Berg (Nordic Innovation), Maxine Adams (Innovate UK), David Golding (Innovate UK) and Kees de Jong (nlgroeit). Foto by: Nordic Innovation.
  • Published 22/03/2018
They all face the same challenge: despite thriving startup communities most of the startups fail to grow.

On the day before the first ever Nordic Scale-up Summit, members of the Nordic Scaling Advisory Board met with leading European scale-up nations, the UK and Netherlands, to share knowledge and learnings on how to better facilitate high-growth companies to succeed. They all face the same challenge: the countries have thriving startup communities but most of the startups do not grow.


High growth companies, or scale-ups as they are commonly referred to, are important. They are significant contributors to job creation in an economy, and just a small group of scale-up companies account for a significant proportion of growth in national outputs. Moreover, scale-up companies provide high-quality jobs with descent salaries that ensures value creation in an economy.  Scale-up companies are therefore vital for the Nordic economies.


“I think it is a paradox that despite of this, the overall focus is still on startups. The real superheroes are the scale-ups,” said CEO of Nordic Innovation, Svein Berg, who chaired the meeting.



Learning from leading scale-up community builders

The UK is spearheading the scale-up community building in Europe. Representatives from Innovate UK, the UK Scaleup Institute and the London Stock Exchange participated in the meeting, sharing the UK scale-up agenda.


The UK Scale-Up Institute was borne out of the desire by the private sector to create an entity to champion the importance of scaleups. The goal is to advance understanding of how to scale up a business and how to build the most effective environment in which scaleups can flourish. The Institute also works closely with policy makers.


 “We are pleased that ourselves and the private sector have been part of the Scaleup Taskforce Co-Chaired by Margot James - the newly appointed Ministerial Scaleup Champion for Government. And we are broadly pleased that the value of encouraging and helping businesses to grow is recognised across the recently published UK industrial strategy”, Irene Graham, CEO of the UK Scale-up Institute, told those attending the meeting.


The UK is a leading country in Europe when it comes to scale-up programmes. One recent example is a Scale-Up Pilot run by Innovate UK to support a highly selected range of business with potential for rapid exponential growth from £500k to £100m via the support of an experienced Scale-Up Manager.  



We must encourage ambition

The Netherlands has a thriving startup community and a small group of fast growers. Kees de Jong, co-founder of nlgroeit, a public-private program run by serial entrepreneurs, Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry Economic Affairs, emphasised the importance of ambition and peer-to-peer learning. 


“A key aspect of creating a successful scale-up community is to make the entrepreneurs believe they can and should scale their businesses. We must encourage ambition! As an entrepreneur myself, I know how valuable it is to discuss ideas and challenges with like-minded people to gain confidence in scaling a business,” he said.


Nordic Innovation has initiated the Nordic Scalers program, a public-private cooperation co-lead by Epicenter Stockholm and Rainmaking Copenhagen. The mission is to create a well-functioning Nordic ecosystem for scale-ups.


"Even though the awareness about the importance of scale-ups has increased enormously in the Nordic region, we are still learning about what is necessary to build a thriving scale-up community. The inputs from this meeting will be very valuable for the future development of this program", said Anna-Maija Sunnanmark, Senior Innovation Adviser at Nordic Innovation.



About the Nordic Scaling Advisory Board

The Advisory Board consist of high-level representatives of public sector actors responsible for the Nordic internationalization or scale-up programmes and policies in their own countries, complemented with prominent private sector figures (serial entrepreneurs, Nordic VCs, influencers).  The Advisory Board will help to develop Nordic innovation policies and framework conditions to support scale-up companies, and to increase the number of such companies.



Members of the Board:


  • Davið Helgason, Founder and Board Member, Unity Technologies, Nordic Makers
  • Nicolai Hellmann, Chief Advisor, Danish Business Authority
  • Marjo Ilmari, Director, Startup companies, Tekes
  • Indra Sharma, , Venture Lead, EQT Ventures
  • Adam Kostyál, Senior Vice President, Global Listing Services, Nasdaq
  • Erling Maartmann-Moe, Partner, Alliance Ventures
  • Huld Magnúsdóttir, CEO, NSA Ventures
  • Lars-Michaël Paqvalén, Serial entrepreneur
  • Pål Thorvik Næss, Director of Entrepreneurs and Startups, Innovation Norway
  • Marie Wall, Deputy Director, Startup Director, Ministry of Enterprise
Group photo of the advisory board for the Nordic Scalers program