The Nordic ScaleUp Academy is a scaleup accelerator providing scaleups with the tools and support to overcome the challenges of scaling up.

The program methodology which has been tested and developed by hundreds of entrepreneurs provides scaleups with concrete tools to confront challenges. Supporting the companies are DI ScaleUp coaches Pelle Tornell and Jannes Dahlgren, the program partners and a group of 10 highly experienced mentors. scaleup accelerator successfully kicked on the 25th and 26th of August 2021.

Only 0.4% of startups develop into scaleups, so having people around your organization that have done it is crucial for a company entering this phase of growth. This is why the Nordic ScaleUp Academy has recruited 11 highly experienced entrepreneurs from the Nordics, who have all founded or invested in scaleup companies, to offer qualified mentorship to the participants. Introducing the first 5 mentors:

  • Anders Wahlqvist is CEO and Co-founder at B- Reel
    • B-Reel was founded 1999 and have since helped global brands communicate successfully through innovative use of storytelling and technology. Anders has made the cover of Advertising Age as one of the worlds’ 50 most creative people.
  • Aurore Belfrage, Angel investor and board professional
    • In 2011 she founded the hyped global gift card Wrapp with Skype founder Zennström and Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman as early investors. She is the founder of the sustainability platform SusTechable and a former investor at EQT Ventures.
  • Maija Itkonen, Chief Innovation Officer and Co-founder at Gold&Green Foods
    • Industrial designer-turned food industry disruptor Maija Itkonen is on a mission to change the way we eat. Maija will advise on design, product & consumer goods.
  • Mari Luukkainen, Head of Growth at
    • Mari has scaled multiple companies from under a 1M€ ARR to over 10M€ ARR in 2-3 years, raised funds and built scalable go-to-market models for almost every continent. Mari will advise on scaling business, fundraising, growth hacking and marketing
  • Mikko Koskinen, Co-Founder, Kyrö Distillery
    • Currently, he is on go-to-market duty in Germany and lives in Berlin. Kyrö is Mikko’s third company. Mikko will advise on Marketing & Branding, Go-to-market and consumer goods.

Reflections on this month’s session

Throughout the next 12 months, the selected companies’ leadership teams will undergo intensive self-examination

During this month’s session the scaleups and mentors became acquainted with each other through a creative exercise. The idea was for companies to present themselves and some of their biggest challenges. The mentors could relate and have a short dialogue about the situation and share their own experiences. In this way, the scaleups and mentors could get a better feel for each other.

Common themes amongst the companies related to company culture, purpose and recruiting during the scaleup phase.

Mikko Koskinen observes, “I think all of the companies are in a super interesting phase where they’ve gotten across the initial hurdles but it’s the messy middle that they need to get through. It’s really rewarding to work with them because they already have some mileage behind them. The starting level is high”.

The mentors come from a diverse range of backgrounds, industries and areas of expertise, and thus will add different types of value to the scaleups and the program as a whole. Naturally, they also have different motives for joining the program as mentors.

When asking Aurore Belfrage about her motive she replies simply “because scaling up is a really difficult phase,” before adding, “there are several difficult phases but when you scale up by definition you declare that you have found something that works and now you’re going to step up in a big way. In the previous phases you’re still iterating. Because this iterative phase becomes so dominant in how you build your culture, communicate and think about your company, making that shift is massively difficult. You have to make a massive mental shift without releasing yourself completely from the mindset of trying different things. I find that hugely challenging and fascinating as a task.”

Over the past decades, there has been a healthy growth and development of the startup ecosystem. Startups at the seed stage have plenty of programs and support, however, scaling up is still a great obstacle and companies in this stage find themselves with less support.

Why is the Nordic Scaleup Academy needed?

Belfrage answers, “because so many companies fail right after they get their first big institutional funding. You run out of emotional fuel and you have to step up your ambitions, organisation and sales after running a million marathons – then you have to run a million more. There’s no time to pause. We need companies to go from the iterative phase to the scaleup phase and Nordic ScaleUp Academy fills a hole in the market. Creating networks where we support each other is hugely beneficial.”

There are several factors that make the Nordics a great place to scale companies, especially with increased networking and sharing of resources, talent and learning. In general, the Nordic value base is a great basis for building a company.

“There are both strengths and weaknesses [in the Nordics]. Nordic startups have small markets which might mean internationalization earlier than companies with larger home markets. That means that they need to become much better with smaller resources than companies in larger markets. When they [Nordic startups] hit the growth stage they are actually in a much better position,” remarks Mikko Koskinen.

Next month the companies will turn their focus on People. How to recruit, how to keep and retain the right people. In the scaleup phase, it’s incredibly important to learn how to attract talent and evaluate employees.

Program partners

Over the past decades there has been a healthy growth and development of the startup ecosystem in the Nordics. Startups are getting off the ground with more frequency, however scaling up is still a great obstacle and companies in this stage find themselves with less support. The purpose of the Nordic ScaleUp Academy is to provide the tools and support to increase the amount of successful scaleups in the Nordics.

Nordic ScaleUp Academy is a joint effort by the Swedish DI Scaleup, Finnish Verona Growth, Maria 01, & Startup Foundation and the Norwegian ScaleUp XQ. The program is part of the Nordic Innovation’s Nordic Scalers initiative. The Nordic ScaleUp Academy coaches are Pelle Tornell and Jannes Dahlgren. The 2021 version of the program will take place entirely virtually.

Di ScaleUp: We are an initiative from Sweden’s largest financial newspaper to contribute to the flourishing of midsize growth companies.

Verona Growth: We discover new businesses and renew existing ones by helping you to work with and like startups.

Maria 01: We are the Nordics’ leading startup campus, bringing together tech startups, venture capitalists, corporates and ecosystem supporters under one roof.

Startup Foundation: We support entrepreneurship and the creation, growth, and internationalization of startups in the Nordics.

ScaleUp XQ: We strengthen international tech companies ripe for commercial scalingand growth.

Nordic Innovation House: We are a community platform accelerating high-quality Nordic tech startups, scaleups and growth companies. Via our strong community and network, we connect Nordic companies into the right ecosystem stakeholders.

Nordic Innovation: We promote entrepreneurship, innovation and competitiveness in Nordic business and aim to make the Nordics a pioneering region for sustainable growth. We are the initiator of Nordic Scalers program.

Written by Verneri Välimaa, StartUp Foundation

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Anu Pousi