Case study: Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship
Written by: Hanna Matera and Sameer Agarwal
Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) is the largest student incubator organisation in Denmark, affiliated with Copenhagen Business School (CBS). Each year, it welcomes the newly graduated students coming from different educational backgrounds and helps them to start their entrepreneurial journey by providing support in the forms of incubator programmes, accelerator & growth programmes, entrepreneurial events and workshops. One of its central roles in facilitating sustainability is equipping the generation of young entrepreneurs with a set of skills that will help them to become market-ready and help to attune their business to the rapidly changing dynamic society we live in nowadays. CSE was founded in 2007 and since then it has helped more than 500 cross-disciplinary companies to start off.
People, places & practices
The largest university entrepreneur community is shaped by students coming from different educational institutions and from more than 90 different nationalities. All of them are offered professional support by specialists who provide guidance at the beginning of the challenging journey of starting one’s own business.
The organisation strives to create a friendly and safe space where everyone is welcomed to share their ideas. Low-key and student-friendly events such as ‘Open Wednesday’ (open house event where you can drop by and talk to the CSE Staff about your idea and get their feedback) or ‘Startup Friday’ (which is a CSE Friday bar providing a great opportunity for a business chit-chat in an informal setting) are offered on regular basis.
CSE’s support practices involve :
24/7 office space
supervision of mentors
workshops and match-ups
international growth program
year-long free insurance sponsored by TRYG (https://tryg.dk/)
accounting and counselling from KPMG (https://home.kpmg/dk/en/home.html)
weekly sessions with an experienced lawyer
and many more
Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE) was founded as the entrepreneurial branch of the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) to promote entrepreneurship and help CBS’ students as well as other students in Denmark to take steps towards their own businesses. Hence, it is funded exclusively by CBS with an annual budget of US$435,000 which is used to provide entrepreneurs with training, mentorship, and investors, and to enhance their visibility in the market. Since funding and monetary help is involved, it requires all admitted start-ups to participate in a screening/selection tool and a set of incubation activities over three specific stages.
However, with the growing influence and success, in 2015 already CSE was admitting 100–125 new start-ups each year and attracting external funding of US$33 million from both public and private sources. The school measured success in terms of the number of incubator participants who had both a business customer and a sustainable business model at the end of a nine-month incubation period. Within a short span of 8 years, CSE's success rate is already at 53 per cent.
As CBS is spending a substantial chunk of money every year with CSE, there has been a call to improve this number in terms of returns. Going forward, CSE is exploring partnerships with businesses as well as other sources of investment to further their progress and become more and more independent w.r.t to CBS.
Apart from working with the new graduates, CSE’s also strives to qualify and inspire students to wield the power of transformational entrepreneurship and bring it into action. Keeping this in mind, CSE has a wide array of programmes that span across the different dimensions of entrepreneurship.
“The Proof Program” - The incubator Proof Programme to support startups based on where they are on your path towards a marketable product turning their idea into a business.
“Accelerator” - The Go Grow Startup Accelerator provides a platform to take a startup to the next level viz. more funding, network etc.
“CSE Research” - A research project to learn more about the activities and decision-making that take place in the CSE lab.
“Internship with ECTS” and “Startup Hacks” are other small programs for students.
All in all, they have gradually set themselves as key players in the startup scene in Copenhagen and Denmark catering to almost everyone who wants to work with startups.
Analysis and Inspiration in the context of Service Design
One Save/Day - CSE in action
One Save/Day mobile app built upon a grand idea of fighting climate change and creating a community of people whose actions generate a positive impact in the world. The main concept behind the app is that its users receive a daily reminder to undertake small and easy tasks that help their local environment. Because of the scope of the project (more than 10k users globally), One Save/Day has proved that small actions can have a big and meaningful impact in the world.
“One Save/Day” was part of the CSE accelerator program. CSE played a key role in helping the team take the idea to what became a global initiative. The below visual gives a quick highlight of what all CSE can do for a startup.
Not only are they helping young entrepreneurs, but they are acting as change-makers in society. One of the key beliefs motivating CSE’s is striving to create a long-lasting impact on the entrepreneurial community by educating a new generation of forward-thinking developers and creating a safe, protective and enhanced environment where all of their needs are met. They have been instrumental in creating a vibrant startup culture in Copenhagen and have been successful in creating a community around it. A lot of the aforementioned initiatives are there just to create a sense of community. Some examples of how the community has thrived over the past few years are with successful entrepreneurs graduates from CSE becoming mentors for different CSE programs, ‘Open Wednesdays’ have become a platform for entrepreneurs to connect with each other and ‘Startup Fridays’ have become a constant source of motivation for budding entrepreneurs.
CSE uses methods that provide young people with a good and stable start to their future career. While starting your own business might, without a doubt, be a stressful process, the way CSE works ensures getting help at each stage of setting up a company. Moreover, an informal setting of the meetings provides a smooth first step into the complex world of entrepreneurship.
The condensed programme ensures that the learning phase happens at all of its stages and its focus is placed at the creative process as a whole rather than just on its end outcome.
One of the challenges faced by the CSE is balancing between the scope and quality of their offer. Providing help to more people might come at the cost of cutting down on the quality of their programme. In order to avoid that happening, CSE is dependent on the constant financial support of the incubator by its sponsors and investors. Another thing that leaves room for improvement is the relatively short time dedicated to personal support and consultation. Setting up a company is a dynamic process without clear boundaries of all of its phases, therefore some entrepreneurs would require a longer period of time when they could receive guidance and consultation than others.
Hey. My name is Hania Matera and I am a 21- year old student of the BA programme of Cognitive Science at Aarhus University. I come from Poland but have lived in Denmark for over two years now. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of my studies, I got to explore different domains of human-centred industries, but it was design, especially design in a social context that was something that interested me in particular. I would love to direct my future career towards more creative and sustainable industries and work in close collaboration with people coming from differing backgrounds because I believe that the variety of inputs provided by every individual is the biggest change facilitator! ;)
Sameer is a 25 years old master's student in Business Analytics with a focus on Deep Learning at the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen. He describes Design as a structured way of bringing the user and the provider together in solving a problem and believes that it will become increasingly important going forward.