Startups with international ambitions thriving despite COVID-19

Some feared the pandemic would put a stopper to promoting Danish businesses internationally. But what has actually happened? We surveyed some of the companies participating in the internationalisation programme Canute, which is run by Danske Bank and its partners.

Shortly after the pandemic struck – in spring 2020 – Danske Bank asked startup companies on our recruitment platform, The Hubb, about their future prospects. Many startups feared for their very existence because of COVID-19 – falling sales, capital becoming more difficult to access and worries they would have to lay off staff were mentioned.

Fortunately, the reality has proved to be rather different. Current figures from The Hubb show that startups have been good at holding onto staff (index 112), especially companies focused on sustainability – where both investment and competence levels have increased significantly, while they have also been very good at attracting new employees.

When Mette Frederiksen announced the lockdown, it very quickly had positive consequences for our sales. Turnover doubled in the space of two months and was up more than 300% for 2020 as a whole.

Petra Kaukua

Cofounder, Eat Grim


How did you fare during the pandemic?
Some participants on the current ‘Canute’, Danske Bank and partners’ internationalisation programme, shared how their businesses fared during the crisis and how they view the future:

“When Mette Frederiksen announced the lockdown, it very quickly had positive consequences for our sales. Turnover doubled in the space of two months and was up more than 300% for 2020 as a whole,” says Petra Kaukua, Cofounder of Eat Grim, suppliers of boxed fruit and vegetables whose contents do not measure up to traditional ideals of attractiveness.

At Aguardio too, which is now established in the UK and supplies water-saving solutions, for example in the bathroom, Q4 2020 was a record quarter with large deals closed online:

“When the customer’s pain is greater than the pandemic – which it is with water shortages – then sales are largely unaffected. However, our orders are built on personal relations and trust that were established before COVID-19,” says Thomas Munch-Laursen, CEO of Aguardio. 

Biites, which supplies a marketing platform for brands that want to fully explore storytelling, says: “Fortunately, we have good and patient investors and we can get by on next to nothing. The pandemic has probably cost us half our turnover, but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” says CEO Nina Nørgaard Jacobsen, who reaps the rewards of having a global, digital product.

The pandemic has not put a damper on companies who approach us and want to get established.

Carsten Amdi

Deputy Head of Corporate Banking, Danske Bank in London, and one of the driving forces behind Canute


Forced review of business model 
“I find that many have been positively surprised by how well companies that had the technological structures in place have performed – and just how much employees have been capable of,” says Carsten Amdi, Deputy Head of Corporate Banking, Danske Bank in London, and one of the driving forces behind Canute.

The pandemic has also spurred innovation at many companies, as innovation has become a necessity, explains Carsten Amdi:

“The pandemic has not put a damper on companies who approach us and want to get established. Being forced to review your business model and increase the efficiency of your company have clearly made a difference that will benefit companies going forward.”

Keenness intact, but euphoria fading 
But will the good times continue? Carsten Amdi shares his thoughts: 

“However, what we are hearing from our customers now is that the steep innovation curve appears to be flattening, mainly due to less energy in project and development teams. Fatigue is catching up, it is as if we lack some euphoria – the effort worked and now we want to go to the bar and celebrate. But, we are not quite there yet, and there is guaranteed to be some frustration over illogical rules and confusion about reopening.”

An integral part of our sustainability goals

Entrepreneurship and growth are in focus in the Bank’s work with sustainability. We aim to help 10,000 companies with their growth journey by 2023 by putting knowledge and tools at their disposal:
  • Canute programme
    An intensive three-day introduction to the US, UK, German or Nordic, etc. markets for startups.

    Go to canute.io
  • A dedicated team providing financial and non-financial services

    The Growth & Impact team supports Nordic startups in growing their companies from launch through growth and internationalisation to exit. They provide:

    • sparring and advice based on deep understanding and experience with the startup segment
    • financial solutions that support company growth and after exit also asset management, etc.
  • The Hub
    The largest recruiting platform in the Nordics for the startup segment.

    Go to The Hub
  • Startup Capital
    A programme that teams up Nordic startups with international investors.
  • Angel Investor Academy
    A training programme for Private Banking customers to become a more qualified business angel/investor in startups.
  • +impact and +impact accelerator

    +impact is a platform that teams up sustainable startups with investors, while +impact Accelerator is a programme that helps impact startups execute on their business model and find suitable partnerships, for example with larger companies.

    Read more about +impact Accelerator

    Go to +impact

  • Events and reports
    Very substantial event and report activity that provides data and transparency on the segment. Read for example: 

    Nordic State Impact report 2021

    Nordic State Impact report 2020