What does it take to become No.1?

Tasked with making Denmark the world’s leading digital nation, Digital Hub Denmark, a five-year public-private initiative, looks to Techfestival to find the next generation of digital frontrunners.

“Towards digital imagination” is the slogan headlining Digital Hub Denmark’s (DHD) website. Established in 2018 in a joint partnership between the public and the private sector, Digital Hub Denmark aims to push the happiest country in the world to also become the most digital one.

“We want that Denmark becomes the leading digital startup community in Europe,” says Camilla Rygaard-Hjalsted, CEO of DHD. According to Camilla, Digital Hub is “looking at digital frontrunners, defined as companies that already have the mindset to grow, and are using digital disruptive tech like AI.” Digital Hub’s aim is to aid these companies and to give them a “quantum leap” to accelerate their growth.

Digital Hub Denmark’s perhaps biggest accomplishment in the 10 months since it started, is its Deep Learning as a service. The hub has identified fewer than 20 deep-learning experts currently residing in Denmark, as discussed the possibility to have them travel to and help companies combine their internal and external data, comb through algorithms and return valuable insight for formulating new business models. “Deep learning isn’t something you just achieve by adding another employee, it takes a whole AI organisation,” says Camilla. “With a global shortage on deep learning experts, why not share them?”

Camilla holds 20 years of experience leading company innovation and collaborations across public and private sectors and fostering entrepreneurial growth in times of transition. Combined with her former position as CEO of Innovation Centre Denmark in Silicon Valley, Camilla is well-equipped to bring Digital Hub’s mission to full scale. As she recalls, in Silicon Valley, “everything is about innovation and what is possible rather than what isn’t. It’s very meritocratic, in the sense that whatever you lay on the table is what’s being taken on. And it means that you feel welcome when you have ambition and you want to accomplish something. I felt that we were lifted up as people who were doers and who wanted to execute.” She admits that the past years’ big tech controversies have left the Valley somewhat less rosy pink. But, “when you are there,” says Camilla, “you see all the positive things that come out of such a huge community.” Her challenge ahead lies in figuring out how to combine the innovative drive of the US with Danish values and interests.

In a combination of local and global bridging initiatives to digital hotspots around the world, DHD hopes to make a quantum leap with digital progression in Denmark.

“The rest of the world has also caught up with some of that quality that Silicon Valley has,” Camilla continues. “Tel Aviv is a good example, as well as Singapore, and London as a financial centre… We’re hoping that Denmark could be a digital centre.”

Digital Hub Denmark hopes to achieve its vision by gathering the people of the right mindset and the courage to take future initiatives, with the right mentors and partners. “Techfestival has a very good potential to reach out to talent because it’s such a fantastic setup, and that’s of value to investors as well,” Camille explains. “Instead of trying to compete with what is already going on, we decided to support what is happening already.”

The associate partnership with Techfestival is part of a bigger effort to put Denmark back on the digital map. By joining the big conversations on ethics, AI, sustainability etc. together with the new generation of technologists, Digital Hub hopes to create value for the startup community. “We’ve looked at the philosophy behind the Copenhagen Catalog, and we really liked that. We want to make sure that we actually understand what the digital frontrunners need,” says Camilla. “The real work is going to be done by them,” she adds. “They are the ones who are actually lifting the growth. And we have this in common with Techfestival; that we’ve understood that it’s not about us; it’s about getting the digital community together.”

Camilla Rygaard-Hjalsted is CEO of Digital Hub Denmark since 2018. She was formerly the CEO of Innovation Center Denmark in Silicon Valley.

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