Codenhagen Challenge: How Denmark cracked the talent code

So far, these applications have led to a job match that will contribute to Denmark’s GDP with between 5.5 million euros and 16.8 million.

 The iconic neon lights over the lakes in Copenhagen. (photo credit: KRISTOFFER TROLLE/WIKIPEDIA)
The iconic neon lights over the lakes in Copenhagen.
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

The book Start-up Nation came out in 2009, telling the story of Israel’s economic miracle. Written by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, backed by major philanthropy and eventually translated into more than 20 languages, the book unraveled a story never told before, of this small country, surrounded by enemies, a Western democracy in the heart of the Middle East, that somehow emerged from the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis that began in the US and spread across the world, almost unscathed.

There was only one other country that did as well: Canada. Compare Canada to Israel, and you’re comparing a giant to a midget. Yet this midget appeared to be punching way above its weight, and this was the story of how it happened.

At the time, when searching for innovation, there was only one place you could find it in the world: California. All eyes were on Silicon Valley for the next big thing to come out of the technological revolution that had already begun a decade earlier. The state of California capitalized on this equivalent to a Unique Selling Proposition, as it does to this day.

But quietly, and rather impressively, there was also a Silicon Wadi emerging: Israel. And for a few good years, Silicon Valley and Silicon Wadi were where you would go to be inspired by an innovation-based economy. And go every country and city did, descending upon Israel to discover how we did it.

Lo and behold, within the next decade, having an innovation-based economy became the aspiration of every country, and indeed city, all over the world. Today, on the “Innovation” shelf of the Supermarket of Nations, you’ll find not only California and Israel, but also the UK, Finland, South Korea, Singapore and many other countries. You can even find a “Start-Up Nation” EU standard, for European countries that wish to develop an innovation-based economy.

TIVOLI GARDENS.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)TIVOLI GARDENS. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Why do I mention all of this?

Because in 2022, and even before, a global battle for tech talent was conducted, for young men and women who were great at technology, knew how to code, and wanted to enjoy the benefits of the hi-tech ecosystem. And now, countries with innovation-based economies that rely on great talent to fuel their ecosystems are finding themselves – amid the Great Resignation – desperately trying to attract great tech talent to join their local companies and tech communities.

This brings me to this great campaign by the city of Copenhagen, which I thought would give you a little bit of inspiration on the kind of creativity needed to successfully promote a city, this time for talent-attraction purposes: The Codenhagen Challenge.

Copenhagen Capacity teamed with RFRSH Entertainment, a privately owned e-sports company, to develop a campaign that will achieve two things: 1) make Greater Copenhagen top-of-mind for relevant talent, and 2) get that talent, very specifically targeted based on their skill sets that were needed by the companies with which they partnered, to apply for jobs in Greater Copenhagen.

The Codenhagen Challenge engaged international developers with the skill sets their partner companies were seeking, “asking them questions that highlighted the positive aspects of working in Greater Copenhagen: the short working hours, the long holidays, the famous bicycle culture, the vibrant developer community, but also addressed their mutual interest and pride in being coders and game developers.”

All clues were written in code, so by definition, they were weeding out anyone who wasn’t relevant for the ultimate objective of applying for tech jobs in Copenhagen, and in addition, also referring talent intelligently to the job offers. For example, “if a player chose JavaScript as the language to compete in, he or she would be encouraged to check out open jobs in Greater Copenhagen that required skills within JavaScript.” Brilliant, right? And there were a variety of other components to this campaign.

In terms of the top-of-the-mind promotion:

  • The campaign gained five-plus million impressions through social media influencers engaged for this express purpose.
  • Across social media platforms and online communities, the campaign reached a total of 41,070,667 impressions. There was an accompanying video commercial for the challenge, which was highly engaging, with 85,000 people visiting the Codenhagen Challenge page, and 21,920 people even completed the challenge, which meant they had the right skill sets.
  • In terms of job applications by this skilled subset of the workforce that was so needed by the companies who partnered with Copenhagen Capacity, the campaign resulted in 4,553 applications for open developer jobs. That’s a pretty staggering number, considering we’re talking about physical relocation!

So far, these applications have led to a job match that will contribute to Denmark’s GDP with between 5.5 million euros and 16.8 million, according to the Danish think tank DEA and the Confederation of Danish Industry. Now that’s what I call success!  ■

The writer is founder and CEO of Vibe Israel and author of the blog, ‘The Supermarket of Nations.’