Nordic scalers

Summary

IRIS Group has conducted a study that aims to build a stronger knowledge base on key drivers of growth and barriers to scaling among Nordic companies. The analysis is based on in depth interview with 50 Nordic scale-up companies, investors and policy experts as well as a review of academic papers and recent analysis of scale-up companies, growth barriers and scale-up policy.

Among other, the analysis shows that:

  • The Nordic region has potential to become one of the leading scale-up hubs in the world. Drawing on internationally comparable data, the report shows that in all the Nordics, the number of scale-ups per capita is well above the EU average. But there is also a significant gap between the Nordics and two scale-up champions: the USA and Israel.
  • The process of scaling up from a start-up with a handful of employees to an international company with hundreds of employees can be divided into three growth stages – growing to scale, expansion and global strategy. Each growth stage is characterised by a broad range of growth challenges that all companies – to some extent – face and must overcome to continue to the next level of growth.
  • Challenges on the growth journey are diverse and include: Finding the right product market fit and tapping into a large or growing market, developing market credibility and effective sales channels, assembling a management team with complementary skills, recruiting qualified and decated employees, building a company culture unifying employees across professions and borders – just to name a few.
  • Certain internal and external factors have great impact on the extent to which companies succeed in achieving high growth. Among other, these include:
    • Having ambitious founders that are 1) aspiring to build a global company from day one and 2) capable of recognising their own shortcomings and motivated to access the skills they need.
    • Developing a product that satisfies a great and unmet market demand – and continuously focusing on how to refine and develop products and services to make sure that they meet the customers’ changing demands.
    • Establishing a growth ready organisation that is tied together by a strong layer of senior and middle managers who have bought into the values and mission of the company and are capable of unifying departments.
    • Raising capital from a broad range of investors with whom the company management has a good chemistry and shared business visions.
    • Accessing and retaining world-class talent – including specialists, managers and generalists – by means of personal networks, internal training programs, cooperation with research institutions.

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