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When Founders Engage in Politics

SiliconHagen’s Founder and CEO Jan Ståhlberg had the honour to take part in the debate about how and why founders engage in politics at TechBBQ. Jan was joined by fellow founders Rasmus Schmiegelow from Goodiebox and Suzanne Lauritzen from in an energetic and frank account of the highs and lows of getting involved in politics. The session was moderated by the Head of Entrepreneurship at Danish Chamber of Commerce Jasmina Pless. All panelists are a part of the Danish Chamber of Commerce panel on making Denmark the best country in the world for entrepreneurship and starting up a business.

Why should founders engage in politics?

Engaging in politics as a founder of a business is not for everyone. It requires time outside the core tasks of running a business and should be seen as part of the company strategy and culture of the business. But it can bring attention, influence, and impact for both the business, society, and economy if founders are prepared to put a bit of time into engaging with the political agenda.

One good example is the Danish Chamber of Commerce Panel of entrepreneurs and their 28 recommendations for making Denmark the best country in the world for entrepreneurship and starting a business. All three of today’s debate participants sit on this panel that is now advising the Danish Government and other national politicians.

Which priority areas should we in Denmark do something about?

Together, the three founders talked about some areas where Denmark can do better - and thereby engage in an innovative and growing business model.

  • Danish politicians! Let's work together to get over the talent-acquisition-from-abroad-phobia.

  • Better access to capital.

  • Improved integration of entrepreneurship in education. We should start as early as possible so that starting a business becomes as natural and accepted across society - just like it would to aim for a job as a doctor, carpenter, lawyer, electrician, nurse, etc.

  • Engagement in politics is a long term commitment. It is not something that offers a quick fix and will involve ups and downs throughout the journey. It should also be a commitment shared with other founders to ensure greater visibility and impact.

  • Businesses can make a real difference and impact. This is where jobs are created, taxes are paid with daily challenges and successes to fall back on.

  • Politicians need the input and real life experience of founders and startups. Politics is becoming increasingly more complex with the need for more and more data and input. Founders can be helpful to ensure that information is factual, based on real life evidence - resulting in policies that are able to help straight away as they reflect the need and can be implemented easily straight away.

  • Public sector funding needs to find its way through to start ups and SMEs. Many billions of dkk is spent every year. This money often finds its way to the usual suspects, ending up in the pockets of a small number of large companies. We need more contracts to be awarded to small businesses so that job creation and economic growth can be felt across the whole of Denmark and in many more local communities.

  • Join together in groups in areas of joint interest - could be through organisations such as Danish Chamber of Commerce. It is too hard and unforgiving to go about it alone. Better results can be achieved as a group (e.g. the panel of founders were able to set out the 28 recommendations in record time for the Danish Chamber of Commerce. We were able to make the sprint together).

What advice would you give other founders?

(See some of the points above)

Founders need to be in the engagement for the long haul and know that there are no overnight successes.

It is best that founders join in groups for collective influence, pitching, and result-sharing.

It takes time but the results can be amazing, if you are prepared to invest a bit of time in sharing your passions, views, results, needs and wants.

Founders need to be persistent and be prepared to join many conferences and fora that they do not usually take an interest or part in.

You need to know where and who to contact in the public sector and in politics. It is not always the most obvious person at the top. Sometimes the right person can be found elsewhere in organisations and at key points of decision making.

Do it!

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