Does the Danish creative start-up industry have a zero-growth work culture?
By Rasmus F. Jensen
In Denmark many start-ups have access to several government funded subsidies to help them accelerate and succeed. But, most of these funds are based on a traditional growth philosophy, meaning that the end goal should be to expand, hire more workers and get more money in the bank.
The reason the funds are structured this way is because they are administrated by people who live by this philosophy. Among these administrators, everything is often rooted in the traditional work mentality that says:
- You need to thrive to get promoted.
- You need to make more money.
- Having many people employed means that you are successful.
- You have to work hard so you one day can drink champagne on a yacht.
But, does this philosophy really apply to a creative start-up?
I have now worked at the creative work environment Arsenalet for quite some time. Based on my observations I can tell you with some certainty that this is not always the case. Actually, I will grossly simplify everything and say that 3 different kinds of philosophies exist at Arsenalet.
For some of these people, the biggest luxury in life is the chance to establish their own work-space, to supplement their own living expenses and then use all this freedom so they can keep doing what they love. Does this mean that these people lack ambitions? No, far from it, if anything they work harder than anyone else I know. But they are not motivated by ambitions of expanding, but more a love for the craft. Of course, the result of this work philosophy can be a company which might never flourish financially.
The second of kind of companies at Arsenalet also yearn for freedom to create. But, they do this because they wish to develop new IP´s (Intellectual properties), to establish new partnerships and to launch new products. One day all their hard work might pay off and revenue will start to flow, ensuring more productions in the future. But it is important to note that companies cannot achieve all this if they have to sustain a large number of employees all the time (like the government wants them to). The companies would be far too busy hunting down the next paying job; because they have a responsibility to the people they have on their payroll. This is why they stay small and do not grow in the traditional sense. They need to be small before they can be big, and even then, it might not be necessary for them hire more people.
Lastly, we have the work-for-hire. A fair number of specialized freelancers at Arsenalet have no interest in launching their own products. Instead, they maintain steady income by lending their skills to other people´s projects. The main success criteria for these kinds of companies are to optimize their individual craft. This way they can please customers, get work done faster and earn more money for their services. A number of companies at Arsenalet make a fair living this way.
Arsenalet creates the freedom to create!
Arsenalet is a place where all these different work philosophies above are accepted. The result of this is a truly unique environment, a place where people assist each other whenever they can. They don´t compete, instead they try to lift each other up. Companies hire each other´s services on freelance basis when possible. They make sure to share experiences and knowledge among each other. And lastly, a healthy social presence ensures that everyone feels welcome.
To put it simply, people at Arsenalet work towards giving everyone the best possible chance to do what they love to do. And the most fascinating part of this, is the fact that this was never consciously implemented or discussed, it just happened naturally as the environment grew. I guess creative people are also very nice people?
Thanks for reading this far, you are a champion!
As we start to wrap up this article, I would like to point out one last thing. I am fully aware that many animation and game companies exists, both inside and outside Denmark, who maintains a high number of employees. But note that all these companies often have in common that they are the owner of a successful IP or they are getting paid by someone else to maintain or development an existing project. This means that they have a stable and somewhat predictable revenue income and can keep people hired full-time.
But what is important to remember about these companies, is that they did not start out this way. These companies started out small and they often started out places like Arsenalet. They would do the occasional odd job to make a living and use any available spare time to work on their own projects, becoming smarter and better, hoping one they to succeed so they could keep doing what they love the most..