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The Danish taxi drivers’ association, TiD, and the United Federation of Danish Workers, 3F, demonstrated at the Nordic Startup Conference in Copenhagen due to Uber’s participation.
Uber has caused heated reactions among taxi drivers worldwide, and Denmark is no exception.
In an official statement published on its Facebook page, TiD called on conference organisers to cancel the appearance of Mathias Thomsen, general manager of Uber Denmark, in a panel discussion about the impact of disruptive startups on established players and industries.
TiD said Uber’s operations break Danish legislation and that its attendance at the Nordic Startup Conference was therefore promoting illegal services. TiD also called for the removal of Peter Oxholm Zigler, co-founder of Autobutler, the Danish online platform for car repairs.
The demonstrations outside the Nordic Startup Conference’s venue in Copenhagen were not expected to cause changes to the one-day event, which features more than 350 participants and 35 speakers.
The conference is co-hosted for the first time by the Nordic and Baltic technology and startup support group Tech Nordic Advocates (TNA). TNA claimed the protest mirrors the reaction to Uber in other major cities, such as London – where black cab drivers demonstrated against the service most recently in February – and Paris.
“Uber is a prime example of how new technology is changing consumer preferences, to challenge and disrupt traditional industries – the way Airbnb is challenging hotels, Amazon traditional retail, etc,” said Jeanette Carlsson, founder of TNA, who defended the decision to involve Uber in the conference. “As such, Uber has a key role to play on the disruptor panel of the Nordic Startup Conference.”
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TNA is a sister organisation to private technology group Tech London Advocates (TLA), whose UK founder Russ Shaw echoes this sentiment.
“Companies like Uber are reinventing markets and providing a fantastic product, so I am delighted that they are building links with Tech Nordic Advocates,” he said. “While I feel it is important to listen to the concerns of those whose jobs are affected, regulation should ease this technological progress without standing in its way.”
Uber declined to comment, stating the protest was targeted at the conference organisers, but this is not the first time the company has caused controversy in Denmark. The California-based startup was greeted by demonstrations and a police complaint from the Danish Transit Authority when it entered the Danish market in late 2014. This has led to preliminary charges against Uber, but the case has yet to appear in court. Copenhagen Police have also arrested Uber drivers for driving unlicensed taxis.
Despite regulatory challenges and opposition from the taxi industry in practically all markets it has entered, Uber has expanded its service to more than 390 cities since its US launch in 2009.
The Nordic Startup Conference, which is in its second year, brings together startups, entrepreneurs and investors to network and discuss future trends. The event features panel discussions and key notes on topics, including opportunities in the Nordic financial technology (fintech) market, collaboration between established players and startups, internationalisation and growth.
This year’s conference was opened by Copenhagen’s mayor of employment and integration, Anna Mee Allerslev, and featured speakers from companies including Transferwise, Danske Bank, Klarna, Creandum and Uber.