7 Global Brands from the Happiest Country in the World

Queen Magrethe 2nd

For consecutive years Denmark has topped the World Happiness Index. When I share with people abroad that I am from Denmark, 9 out of 10 will ask me. Why are the Danes so happy? As a Dane abroad i can testify that people around the world have heard about the UN Happiness Report, but do not know an awful lot about Denmark.

Why are the Danes so happy?

Denmark is a small little country in northern Europe, with a population of 5.7million people. Denmark has one of the best work-life balances in the world with a work week of 37 hours. Everyone in Denmark enjoys free access to hospitals and surgery, and every citizen has free access to education all the way through university. Corruption is non-existent and the crime rate is practically zero. Senior citizens are covered by the public pension scheme, so they can enjoy a stress free retirement.

There is only one down side. The Danes pay effectively 50% of their income in taxes. A true capitalist would cite a theory that such a high tax burden is reducing incentives for people to work, thus decreasing overall innovation and negatively affecting business. What the world does not know is that Denmark is home to some of the world’s most successful companies.


LEGO is the world’s largest toy company and ranks top 10 of the world’s most powerful brands. LEGO was founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932 in the little town of Billund and is today in the hands of 3rd generation of the Kirk family. LEGO is a global company with offices all over the planet and revenues of DKK 37.9 billion (USD 6.3 billion).


One of the world’s largest beer brands that you can find on the shelves in almost any country in the world. Carlsberg was founded in 1847 by J.C.Jacobsen in Copenhagen. Today Carlsberg has 45.000 Employees, revenues of DKK 62.6 billion (USD 10.6 billion) and publicly traded at the Danish Stock Exchange.


The world’s largest shipping company and Denmark’s absolute largest company. Maersk was founded by A.P. Møller Mærsk in 1904 in the small town of Svendborg.  The Danes have been telling stories about Mærsk for a hundred years. It is said that Mr. Møller once disqualified a candidate, as he found him resting against the wall near a staircase. “At Maersk we need people that can stand on their own feet”. The candidate was then send home. These stories has created a sense of mystery around Maersk that today employees 88,000 people and has revenues of DKK 219.8 billion (USD 35.5 billion). Maersk is listed on the Danish Stock Exchange.


Arla’s dairy products can be found all around the world. I have been eating Danish butter in Australia and Danish cheese in Singapore. The world’s best airlines serve Danish Lurpak butter in the air and the Middle East is one of the best export markets for Arla. Arla was founded as a cooperative of 12,500 farmers and has revenues of DKK 63.1 billion (USD 10.2 billion).


Bestseller is the company behind popular fashion brands such as Vero Moda, Only and Jack & Jones. Bestseller was founded in 1975 in the small town of Brande by Troels Holch Povlsen. Bestseller is today owned by Anders Holch Povlsen, who is also one of the richest men in Denmark.

Novo Nordisk

The world’s largest diabetes drug manufacturer was founded in 1923 in the little town of Bagsværd north of Copenhagen. The founders of Novo Nordisk brought back the idea from America after hearing reports that diabetes patients were being treated with this new drug known as insulin. Novo Nordisk has revenues of DKK 111.7 billion (USD 17.9 billion) and 41,700 employees all over the world.


The world’s 4th largest employer, employs more than 500.000 people. ISS is a facility service company and employs people in everything from healthcare to retail, to cleaning. ISS is literally everywhere. If you look out for it, you will start seeing the ISS logo on uniforms everywhere. ISS was founded in Copenhagen in 1903 and is today generating revenues of DKK 79.1 billion (USD 12.7 billion). ISS is traded on the Danish stock exchange.


Fact is that that the happiest people are also excellent entrepreneurs. For a hard core capitalist that can seem hard to believe, but reality is that a high level of social security allow people to think outside the box and take risks. Research shows that if you pay people enough, make them feel secure and give them a sense of purpose, they will create great things. This topic was very well explained by Dan Pink in his 2009 TED talk: the puzzle of motivation.

What is true for Google, Amazon, Facebook or some of the world’s most innovative companies is also true for societies. The Danish success model that makes the Danes so happy is also good for business.

Playing Bowling with Bumpers

When a student you live in this bobble of cool people, lectures, impressions, and if you are lucky you find some time to reflect on it all. According to the theory that is where the true learning is to be found; reflection.

My friend Oskar Kader shared this analogy of playing bowling with bumpers. At the time I didn’t think about it; however, when giving it some thought I realized that it’s a great analogy for growing up in Denmark. When living abroad you meet a lot of people from different cultural background. As you get to know these people and you hear their stories, it becomes obvious that the simple nature of where you were born has a great impact on the opportunities that is given to you.

When born in Denmark, you have to do pretty bad not to live a decent life, catering for the majority of the needs you might have. Every citizen is offered free education, access to free hospitals, and the government will even provide for you if you can’t do so yourself. These are privileges that people of the 3rd world can only dream of. The good thing is that they are actually dreaming and they are working extremely hard to change the nature of their social and financial status in society.

In other words; growing up in Denmark is like playing bowling with bumpers, whereas the majority of the world’s population is playing bowling without and is aiming for the strike.

Ivaerk & Vaekst 2010

Ivaerk & Vaekst 2010

Every year for the past 6 years there has been held the fair Ivaerk & Vaekst in Copenhagen Denmark, and I was visiting for the second time. Ivaerk & Vaekst is a forum for Danish entrepreneurs offering the opportunity to network with relevant expert, successful and experienced people, as well as likeminded entrepreneurs. A wide variety of interesting companies were represented at the fair and as well as less interesting organisations such as the Danish tax office. But common for them all was that they in one way or another could or would be relevant for business owners.

My own personal mission was to witness some of the great lectures taking place at stage. A large handful of known people were speaking about their success with entrepreneurship, and to recognise a few of them can be mentioned Andrea Elisabeth Rudolph, Leif Beck Fallesen, Jesper Kasi Nielsen, Christian Bitz, Peter Aalbaek, Angela Jia Kim, and many others. Especially one caught my attention. Angela Jia Kim is an American entrepreneur living in New York City and was never meant to become an entrepreneur, as she was educated a pianist.  However on a tour around the states with the orchestra, her skin suddenly breaks out in a rash, and she realize how many chemicals there is in here skin cream. From there she started to experiment with creating her own skin cream. According to Angela herself it was never thought to be commercialized, but as the interest grows from friends and acquaintance of her, she begins to receive orders from wellness centers around the states and business is rolling.

Through the process with selling skin creams, the talented pianist spot another opportunity in creating an entrepreneurial network specially minded for women. From her experiences with creating a business she knows how many questions there is in the process, and she decides to found the network concept Savor the Success. Special for Savor the Success is that men are not allowed and the goal is to advance women entrepreneurs in to success with their business.

Angela Jia Kim speaking at Ivaerk og Vaekst 2010
Angela Jia Kim speaking at Ivaerk og Vaekst 2010

Angela Jia Kim is great speaker and has a great story to share, and what she have done is quite impressive. However it strikes me that a strange tendency is appearing in the business life. For almost hundred years women have been fighting for equal rights with men, which is FAIR. However, today when men and women in many cases are equal the women starts to denying men access to their networks and businesses, just as men did to them hundred years ago. And I start to wonder if it soon will be men fighting for equal rights… It might be a subject for later debate.

Overall Ivaerk & Vaekst 2010 was a good experience with a great focus on networking. I personally took with me home, excessive ideas and knowledge for later use. I can strongly recommend others entrepreneurial minds to attend next year’s event, which probably will be held in Forum, Copenhagen like this year’s event.

Read further documentation for Ivaerk & Vaekst 2010 here. (in danish)