There was friction when he arrived, and now his future is in electricity

Meet the Australian expat entrepreneur who is taking advantage of a gap in the market to find success in Copenhagen

Shoppers are scooping up nearly expired food (Photo: Bando26)
October 6th, 2012 5:13 pm| by admin
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Like most first-time visitors to Copenhagen, Morgan Thomas had no idea what to expect from the city. In 2008, he moved here from Australia as an exchange student to attend Copenhagen Business School (CBS), following a glowing recommendation from a few Swedish friends.

It turns out his friends knew him well: Thomas felt an immediate and intimate connection with the Danish capital. “When it became time to return to Australia to complete my bachelor,” Thomas said. “I was very sad to leave, but had already decided I would return and do my master’s here.”

In 2010, after again being accepted into CBS, that’s exactly what Thomas did. Halfway through his first year, however, Thomas met Johannes Holger Grever, and the course of his life in Denmark took an unexpected turn.

Grever, a Danish entrepreneur, spoke to Thomas about an idea he had: creating a web-based platform that would bring transparency to the Danish electricity market, a market that was monopolised up until 2003.

Thomas, who as a business student had a keen interest in new product categories, saw great potential in the idea.

“I started throwing ideas around to see how between Johannes’s concept could become a feasible business model in addressing the core need of the market: transparency,” Thomas said.

“After some brainstorming, Johannes suggested that, with his in-depth knowledge of the electricity market and IT skills and my business skills, we should try and make this [business] happen.”

After finishing his first year at graduate school, Thomas put his education on hold to pursue Skift El – the future name of his emerging business – full-time.

Though temporarily postponing his education was a hard decision at the time, it turned out to be a necessary sacrifice, as it took Thomas and Grever a full 18 months to finally get Skift El up and running.

The website, www.skiftel.dk, has been up and running for four months. According to Thomas, 90 percent of Danish electricity users are still eligible to switch to a cheaper electricity provider by using his website, which is a 100 percent free service.

Now that Thomas has established Skift El, he plans on returning to CBS and finishing his master’s. And despite having such a limited idea of the city when he first arrived, Thomas is ready to set up camp in Copenhagen.

“I plan on staying here indefinitely,” Thomas said. “I truly believe Copenhagen offers a complete lifestyle package that suits me personally.”
That being said, Thomas was surprised by how easily he managed to negotiate the Copenhagen business market – and create a life in Denmark – as an expat.

“I’m very fortunate that on both a social and business level I’ve been able to efficiently operate here,” Thomas said. “I was lucky to fall into the right circle [at CBS], and I have made some great, lifelong Danish friends.”

But Thomas knows success is about more than just luck, and he is optimistic about opportunities for other expats living in Copenhagen.

“If you have an idea you’ve been thinking about doing something with, just do it!” says Thomas. “Go with your gut instinct. Look around at what you miss or notice missing from your home country and see if there are any gaps in the Danish market. Use the resources available to you through your kommune, university, online and/or entrepreneurial community. One of the best ways of implementing a business here is by implementing a proven business model.”

Thomas currently lives in central Copenhagen and is enrolled in a Danish language course in order to communicate – and integrate – more effectively as an expat entrepreneur.

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