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Copenhagen Incubator Accelerates MBA Grads' Start-Up Ventures

Two start-up founders taste success after Copenhagen Business School MBA

The allure of Silicon Valley and the technology sector has been charming workers away from corporations for years. MBA students too are flocking to entrepreneurship and start-ups in greater numbers. Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has accelerated 28 new business ventures founded by MBAs this year alone.

“An MBA is of significant value to an entrepreneur... The MBA positions entrepreneurs to develop a business, not just an idea,” says Sergio Llorian, founder and chief executive of VoiceBoxer, a start-up that provides voice interpretation for multilingual webinars and presentations.

He founded the business in 2013, the same year he began a full-time MBA at CBS. Sergio hit on the idea while working in the language services industry, where he noticed there were small events that needed interpretation services, but were priced out of the market.

One of the 28 ventures incubated at CBS’ MBA Accelerator, VoiceBoxer has benefited from the atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration, allowing its team to test new ideas.

“[The] accelerator gave us early exposure to prominent members of the start-up community,” says Sergio, who graduated from the MBA program last year, and who opted for the Entrepreneurship Track. It has been a “substantial part of our development”, he says.

The Copenhagen location combines the benefits of a thriving tech industry with the cooperative advantages of a small but growing entrepreneurial scene. “Copenhagen is an up-and-coming start-up community,” Sergio adds.

VoiceBoxer targets international corporations, non-profits, governments and educational institutions. It recently raised funding from angel investors, although Sergio declines to provide details.

The start-up’s success is not unique. Since launching last year, the CBS MBA Accelerator has doubled the number of ventures housed on its Denmark campus.

Eythor Jonsson, its director, says the business school has been building up its entrepreneurship training for a decade.

“Many students were eager to start their own companies and many others were enthusiastic about learning the process of new venture creation to become better leaders,” he says.

He puts the growth in number of students becoming entrepreneurs down to lower barriers to entry. For example, technology has made it easier to launch a company, and the entrepreneurial ecosystems in most economies support start-ups.

“Entrepreneurship,” he says, is also the “foundations of the modern organization”, citing Google, Facebook and local Danish ventures Falcon Social and Vivino as champions of this model.

Key to its success are partnerships with organizations such as PayPal, which offers perks and assistance to develop the ventures, and Business Angels Copenhagen. The accelerator models itself on Techstars, the incubator which had in January accelerated 531 start-ups with combined enterprise value of $42 billion. 50 mentors — who are serial entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and technology experts — help budding entrepreneurs develop their companies.

Copenhagen venture

“The intense feedback provided great food for thought…It makes the business model stronger,” says Heather Thomas, founder and CEO of MadMad Food, which operates a gastro pub, the MadMad Cafe, pictured above, on Copenhagen’s Vesterbrogade.

She says the contacts made through the accelerator have added to MadMad’s network of support.

Most of the largest venture capital funds in Denmark, for instance, have representatives as mentors in the accelerator program.

Heather founded the business last year while still completing her MBA at CBS. By teaching people how to eat differently and supporting farmers who are working in sustainable ways, she believes MadMad will differentiate itself from the competition.

The restaurant sources food produced in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support clean air, soil and water. The biggest challenge the start-up faces is the limitations of what is seasonably available in Copenhagen.

Heather, who has worked across the creative sectors and in international development, says her background taught her how to take an idea from concept form to an operational plan.

She greatly values her “MBA toolkit”: “I’ve learned that the resilience and the beauty of a year spent reflecting on how I use the tools, control my energy, prioritise my actions and inspire others to do the same is important,” says Heather, who previously worked at the Royal Academy of Arts and YouthNet.

This is a sentiment echoed by VoiceBoxer’s Sergio, who, as a former attorney at law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in New York, has perhaps had a difficult career transition.

“As a start-up founder, one takes on the role of the accelerator of the machine, not the brakes,” he says. “It’s a shift in perspective to quiet the more conservative voice while amping-up the volume of the more aggressive one.”


Student Reviews

Copenhagen Business School (CBS)




CBS: efficient international network

CBS has always been ranked among the best universities in Europe and this means that it has become a sign of professionalism and success. The academic level is great thanks to the good teachers and the atmosphere is proactive and challenging. Lots of events are planned every week and this helps you to find your own way. CBS is not only a business school, it is a great and efficient international network.




Good academic career

I did my Bachelors at CBS and their academic excellence and career opportunities led me to pursue my Masters in Accounting, Strategy and Control. I was very lucky to go on an exchange in Singapore for one semester it boosted me to get a career in a global firm. I like that it is super modern and has all the facilities for the business student in 2019. Especially, I liked the library and Bitlab where I spent most of my time studying. However, note that it is very demanding and studying here is no joke. Everything is very competitive and you are among the most excellent business students in the country. The interaction with international students helped me to see different perspectives in business and culturally and I was lucky to make friends from any part of the world. CBS is like a brand in Denmark. Every serious business company prioritizes us over any other Danish university and also it is free for European citizens. Overall, I have a very satisfying experience at CBS and I'm looking to continue my academical career even further.




CBS is one of the best!

All I have to say regarding my experience at CBS is that it is AMAZING. Having been tutored by world-class academic staff, I can definitely support that I am receiving the best of quality regarding my studies in Digital Marketing. Staff is very friendly and easy to approach. In addition, the facilities we enjoy are top class and meet any demands. Keep in mind that, EU citizens do not pay any fees. Student life might be non-existent here, but the location of the University in The very center of Copenhagen has a huge variety of choices to offer to students regarding their entertainment. Accommodation might be a problem, but early research of the market can be very useful. In addition, the University promotes diversity. In CBS University you can meet people from the whole world which is quite interesting. I definitely suggest CBS for any student who he's interested in pursuing a career in marketing or business.




The ideal business school

I have been enrolled in this university for 2 semesters. What I took from this experience is that there is nothing better out there for those looking for professional growth while being guided by some of the top-notch professors in Scandinavia. They have a really strong focus in technology and digital transformation and they are up to date to guarantee you land a job in the modern fast-evolving world. They also embrace diversity which means many students come from any part of the world and it takes the entire learning experience to another level. You simply learn from every other student cause everyone has different experiences and background which makes you open your mind and see the world from a different angle. In Denmark, even businesses prioritize people who graduate from CBS as it's commonly perceived as the most prestigious university for business graduates.

José Pedro



A Place of Personal Growth

In CBS you can expect an environment of proactive thinking and growth. The university staff is always open to help and to debate. The teaching methods balance theoretical knowledge and practical skills enabling the student with capacity and confidence to enter the job market successfully. The existence of students from all over the world stimulates discussion and promotion of different cultures, ideas and perspectives. I highly recommend this university for students in business-related areas.





The environment here is really great. Despite the well organized buildings and libraries, there are also places for students to just stay and relax also even study in the corners of each campus. The professors are mostly really nice and try to interact with students a lot. So, to sum up, the environment is really nice for studying here.




Quality education

Quality education where it emphazises the importance of academic. No finger to put on this aspect of the school. However, sometimes the administration and IT can be lacking a bit, but in general a really good choice for education!




Best Time!

Classes are challenging and conducted in a professional manner. CBS offers a wide range of possibilities to develop outside of the classes! Libraries and other facilities on the campus are very well adjusted to the student needs.




A heavily theory-based curriculum combined with an ever-stimulating environment

I am currently a Master student at CBS, but I have also completed a Bachelor's Degree in this university. I am quite satisfied with my studies and the teaching level. However, when compared to other business schools, it becomes apparent that most courses at CBS strive to find a good balance between theoretical insight and real-life examples. Compared to my exchange university, the projects that I have found myself writing at CBS have a far less practical application and also leave little room for creativity. If the teaching is heavily theoretical, on the bright side, the university arranges a number of events throughout the year to encourage students to apply their knowledge, in the form of career fairs, case competitions, and other events organized by student associations. In my experience, teachers are very easily approachable and happy to answer your questions. A foreign student like me will find a more international environment at Master level, since the number of international (or at least non-Scandinavian) students enrolled in the Bachelor programs is quite low. However, all communication (both oral and written) from teachers and the university offices is always in English. Administrative offices, student guidance services, the career center, and the international office are definitely worth a mention. All of the requests that I have had throughout the years have always been met with kindness, promptness and efficiency.