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Considerable unexploited potential among entrepreneurs with a foreign background

Despite being highly educated and highly proficient in Danish, entrepreneurs with a foreign background are still having difficulties making head and tail of the Danish system. As a result, Denmark is failing to make good use of the expertise of entrepreneurs with a foreign background.

New research shows that the Danish advisory bodies are not sufficiently geared to handling the needs and requirements of entrepreneurs with a foreign background. In spite of the guidance offered by the advisers, even highly educated entrepreneurs with a foreign background are unable to understand the workings of the Danish system, which means that they do not succeed in making the most of their potential when starting up their own businesses.

Hard-to-understand system
Carsten Bergenholtz from Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Jacob Høj Jørgensen from Delendorff Advisory and René Chester Goduscheit from the University of Southern Denmark have done a research project on the challenges facing entrepreneurs with a foreign background when wanting to set up a business in Denmark. The researchers have identified a number of problems:

? Even resourceful entrepreneurs with a foreign background who are not members of a Danish network are having problems understanding the Danish system and what it has to offer. And if the advisers do not fully appreciate the importance of having a good network in the home country, then this leaves the potential entrepreneur in a very difficult situation, says Carsten Bergenholtz.

It has been shown that many entrepreneurs with a foreign background have valuable contacts in their home country which are not used and which the advisers are not sufficiently aware of.

? Insourcing competencies or outsourcing tasks to their home country would be an advantage for many entrepreneurs with a foreign background because they are one step ahead of other global enterprises, explains Jacob Høj Jørgensen, Senior Consultant, PhD, Delendorff Advisory.

Use experience from home country
The organisation Entrepreneurship in Denmark (Etnisk Erhvervsfremme), which works to draw attention to the unexploited growth potential of people of non-Danish origin, describes an example of how you can use experience from your home country: An Indian woman who is starting her own business wants to outsource communication tasks to a team of communication employees she used to work with in India. For example, the Danish entrepreneur can send jobs to India at the end of the working day in Denmark and have the finished jobs back the next morning.

Another example is a Russian woman who has decided to use her knowledge of Russian culture and the Russian language to establish contacts and find buyers in Russia of products from other European countries.

Advisers must be upgraded

In other words, there is a need for competency development to ensure that the advisers know of these possibilities. However, it is also important that the advisers share knowledge both locally and nationally so as to ensure broadest possible use of their experience.

Carsten Bergenholtz also suggests that the entrepreneurs of non-Danish origin be involved in developing the Danish advisory system and improving the collaboration between, for example, the job centres and the advisers within the field of entrepreneurship.

As a result of the recommendations from the three researchers, collaboration has already been established between the language schools in Aarhus and Copenhagen and the business development institutions.


The study was conducted as a qualitative research study of 18 entrepreneurs with a foreign background selected by Entrepreneurship in Denmark. The 18 entrepreneurs were selected as being broadly representative of the entrepreneurs of non-Danish origin which Entrepreneurship in Denmark works with.


Carsten Bergenholtz

Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences
Department of Business Administration
Tel.: +45 89 48 67 02


Jacob Høj Jørgensen

Senior Consultant, PhD,
Delendorff Advisory
Tel.: +45 51 24 45 44

Entrepreneurship in Denmark: