Fostering a cyber community in Denmark 

Nurturing Cyber Startup Culture in Denmark Amid Growing Global Tensions

There has arguably never been a greater need for innovative solutions in security and defence, nor has there been a more promising generation of startups emerging in this space. Yet, despites leaps forward that have lowered barriers to entry for company building in other verticals of tech, building a security business remains tough.

Today, pressure is mounting on countries to become more self-sufficient amid growing global tensions. So, how do we best nurture cyber startup culture, innovation and resilience in Denmark and what can we learn from other countries’ approach?

This was the starting question in our opening fireside at Next Door Security.

Our speakers: Fostering a cyber community

It gave us great pleasure to welcome to the stage three absolute experts in their domains: Malene Stidsen and Esben Gadsbøll, hosted in conversation with Pia Ella Elmegård.

Together they explored two key topics

Key take-aways on fostering a cyber community

  • Denmark has potential but lags pace of wider growth of cyber startups globally
  • Security tech is climbing the political agenda but we still lacking conviction
  • Collaboration growing but we need more
  • Denmark’s digital, trust-based society (perhaps counter-intuitively) is a great foundation for security tech and fostering a cyber community
  • We are not as advanced as other countries where war or threat thereof has created the most urgent incentive possible for innovation
  • In Europe we look to learn from countries like Ukraine Estonia, who are leading the field in security, for obviously devastating reasons
  • The value of collaboration and partnership has never been clearer

Status quo

Next Door Security

So where are we today when it comes to Denmark’s cyber security industry? Marlene sets the scene, saying that although there is a wave of new companies, it is still a small wave.

“Denmark’s cyber community is bubbling and very good things are taking place. There’s great potential but looking at the growth rates globally, we have to be much better at exploiting it.”

That’s where Danish Tech Startups comes in. The association is working with startups and politicians to figure out the key question: what do we need to build an ecosystem where security startups can really thrive? Esben says the absolute basic first step is making sure there is funding.

“That’s still something that we are waiting to see for real.”

“…innovative new companies are part of the solution…”

While security is a high priority politically, in reality politicians in Denmark need help to truly understand that innovative new companies are part of the solution, he says.

“Again and again in history, we see that with the big innovations, with new technologies, it’s never a Facebook coming out of traditional media,” he says.

As security and defense threats grow, politicians will turn to big companies for solutions. Esben says the startups in this room are the ones with truly innovative ideas that can probably solve the issues much better than the incumbents. The same thing is happening with climate right now and one of the issues is visibility.

“We like to say we are talking on behalf of the big Danish companies that were just founded yesterday.”

“You need funding, you need awareness and you need access.”

Danish strengths in security

One of the reasons we lag a little behind when fostering a cyber community compared to other countries globally is that, fortunately, security and defence has until very recently not been a huge threat to Denmark, says Esben.

“We don’t have a particular strength (right now) because we are not living next to Russia. They are not attacking us in the same way.”

“I was visiting Estonia 10 days ago and they have so many initiatives because they are attacked all the time. And the same when we go to Ukraine.”

He says there is a lot we can learn from countries like this because while it’s a high priority in Denmark today, it’s a very new field. But we need to learn when fostering a cyber community.

“We have to learn how to be smart and innovative in these areas.”

Luckily, Denmark has long been a fertile breeding ground for innovation and that’s good news for our burgeoning security tech industry.

Malene identifies one potential strength Denmark has is that it is one of most digital societies on the planet. That makes us vulnerable to cyber threats on one hand but means we have a strong digital foundation to build on.

“We are the most digitalized country in the world, almost,” she says. “We are more tech-savvy compared to other countries. That should be something that we can use in order to build intelligent and innovative cybersecurity solutions.

“But we still haven’t seen that, because we are still very far behind the other countries when you look at the international rankings of cybersecurity.”

So, the potential is there but we need to work on a lot of elements to truly create the conditions in which the cyber solutions we need to build can thrive.

Collaboration

Fostering a cyber community

One key hurdle is that in the case of security and defense tech that is built for governments, there is naturally, and necessarily, a long bureaucratic process from idea to implementation. That’s something that is anathema to the ‘build something fast, ship it, test it” nature of tech startups and of course incomparable to countries like Ukraine that are literally innovating to survive under siege.

So, how to help speed up the path to market for Danish startups in this field. Collaboration and information sharing between public and private will be at the heart of it, when fostering a cyber community.

And here there is another advantage building out of Denmark, says Malene. Not only are organizations like the NFC and Censec doing great work but also because Denmark is a very trust-based society and trust is the oil of collaboration.

Meanwhile, we don’t need to look too far for inspiration, says Malene.

“You don’t always need a crisis to have a country where you can learn from,” she says, pointing to Sweden.

Apart from a lot of investment capital, she says the Swedes are good at creating learning loops between successful entrepreneurs and early-stage founders to “pay forward” their learnings.

They also have some interesting programs for match making between corporates and startups that help pave the way for growth. “This is a very interesting area, especially in the field of cybersecurity,” she says.

It’s so difficult for a cybersecurity startup to get your first customer because it’s so trust-based and it’s sensitive.

Trends in security tech

Looking ahead, here are some of the trends Esben and Malene identified that will shape the space.

  • Growing need to combat misinformation (e.g. Russian social media campaigns against the West)
  • AI threat and opportunity
  • 2024 is one of the biggest election years in world history. Security startups have a huge role to play in safeguarding democracy for the future when it comes to safe elections and information, trust and social media

Malene’s final advice to the room and anyone building or thinking of building a company in this space?

“Keep fighting and keep up the spirit”

“This is an extremely difficult area to be a startup in, but the potential and the growth possibilities are enormous so keep fighting and keep up the spirit.”

“If there’s something that needs to be changed or some good ideas out there, please reach out.”

Building and fostering a cyber community 

As a cybersecurity startup and a strong supporter of building ecosystems, at Seculyze we love to facilitate conversations around how to best nurture a cyber startup culture in Denmark.

A heartfelt thank you to all of you for making time to join us and sharing your expertise with us.

Thank you once, more to our partners. None of this would have been possible without generous sponsorship from Industriens Fond and our community partners TechBBQ and Danske Tech Startups // Danish Tech Startups 🇩🇰 🚀.

Thank you for the trust and for helping us launch the first of what we hope will be many events like this.

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