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Nordic Startups Flocking to Williamsburg With Help of Business Incubator

By Serena Dai | October 2, 2015 4:36pm | Updated on October 5, 2015 8:56am
 Lemonsqueeze helps foreign countries — mostly from Scandinavia — scale in the U.S.
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WILLIAMSBURG — Call it Little Copenhagen.

Nearly two-dozen companies from mostly Scandinavian countries — primarily Denmark — have been basing their U.S. operations in a former brass factory on North Fourth Street, thanks to a business that's helping them make inroads in the Big Apple.

They're here because of Lemonsqueeze, which was founded by Denmark native Mik Stroyberg and aims to help Nordic startups enter the American market by streamlining things like setting up business addresses for them or getting them proper insurance.

When Stroyberg came to the U.S. for work four years ago, he realized how long it took for foreign firms to set up shop and wanted to help.

Lemonsqueeze has helped burgeoning companies get off the ground in anywhere from eight to 12 weeks, instead of the 18 months it can take some entreprenuers, Stroyberg said.

Currently, 24 companies are using Lemonsqueeze to expand their operations, creating a hub of Nordic businesses in Williamsburg working out of an open-air office at 77 North Fourth St.

"Rolling out a product in a new market is like starting all over again. You have to put in all your blood and feelings again," Stroyberg said. "We take over the entire thing. We import it, and we export it over here to make sure they can keep up the speed."

Many of the companies have already found success overseas.

For example, Go Dream, a Danish company that sells gift packages like jet-skiing lessons or macaron-making classes, made $27 million in Denmark last year and joined Lemonsqueeze in Williamsburg in May.

Other companies like Planday, a management tool to help with shift scheduling for employees, and Vita Lighting, a lamp company that packs its designs in flat boxes, also gained traction in their home countries.

"Conquering New York" is often the next big test for successful foreign companies like these, and it's logistically easier than expanding the rest of Europe, Stroyberg explained.

Marketing strategies can be simplified, with just one language and approach, and cities like New York have populations that dwarf cities in Europe.

In exchange for helping them scale in the U.S., Lemonsqueeze receives a combination of equity, commission or a retainer, meaning Stroyberg's selective about which companies he takes.

"It's cool companies," he said. "We don't take stupid companies in. They're just amazing. They want it."

Not all its clients go to the North Fourth Street office every day, as Lemonsqueeze mostly hires Americans to run operations there.

But some companies do end up sending their own people to help manage the U.S. team, attracted by the creative vibe of Williamsburg that drew Stroyberg in.

Stroyberg has a long-term lease on a floor of the building and is looking to take over more of the space for offices in the next year, he said.

"Brooklyn is just amazing," Stroyberg said, adding that more businesses are expected to join the Lemonsqueeze space soon. "People here do what excites them more than they do it for the money. That is the energy here."