Helsinki, 4-5 Dec
For the last 11 years the organisers of Slush have been making quite the statement by inviting more than 20,000 tech-heads to gather in Helsinki. Held during the darkest time of the year in Finland, Slush is a combination of an underground festival and a high tech conference where you see a perfect mix of startups, geeks, investors, hustlers and innovators - all bringing their ideas to the Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre.
As we landed in Helsinki, my first impression was rather bleak. Born and raised in the sunny part of Croatia, I flinched at the realisation of it being -2°C, not to mention the gloomy atmosphere that surrounded me. Helsinki definitely didn't "have me at hello". Despite my initial thoughts, I was melancholic and sad when we eventually left. It's a city that slowly but surely gets under your skin: the cozy 'hygge' mood, brisk wind and the friendly people we came across. Helsinki captured my heart, and I'll surely come back one day, but maybe during a warmer period. 😜
What is Slush💡?
Slush is a non-profit startup and tech event that has grown from a 300 person gathering into a global community organising more than 75 events with more than 40,000 attendees from all around the world. The philosophy behind Slush is to help the next generation of great, world-conquering companies. The very core of the event is to facilitate founder and investor meetings and to build a world-wide startup community.
In 2018, Slush was organised in Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Helsinki.
Slush is run by young people who want to make a difference in their societies. Several successful entrepreneurs such as Niklas Zennström (Skype, Atomico), Taizo Son (GungHo), Ilkka Paananen (Supercell), and Risto Siilasmaa (Nokia), among others, have already become a part of this initiative that is radically changing how entrepreneurship is perceived in Northern Europe, Japan and China.
Stats Slush 2018 📜:
3,100 startups 🚀
1,800 investors 💸
450 C-level executives from large stock-listed enterprises🕴
20,000 attendees 🚶♀️🚶🏻♂️
130 nationalities 🗺
2,400 volunteers 😇
Ready for Slush Academy🎓?
The big news of this year's event was the launch of the Slush Academy. A global education program for entrepreneurship that will give students from around the world a unique access to internships in top VCs and growth companies, additionally receiving mentoring from some of the most established founders of our time.
The applications to Slush Academy will open in the spring of 2019, inviting the most entrepreneurial students from around the world. Anyone can apply, a group of 20 to 30 students will be chosen for the first program.
The talks 🗣
So many talks, so litte time...Here is a list of my Top 5 Speakers and their tips from Slush2018:
1. How Scaling a Hypergrowth Business & Creating a World-Class Team is All About Collaboration (Justin Rosenstein, Co-founder Asana)
“Judge yourself by lifetime value, not by yesterday.”
Jason made it clear how having a harmonic and happy organisation is crucial for growth. He also mentioned the importance of dedicating your time in creating an impact on the society and how the educational institutions should spend more time teaching young people about mindfulness. 👏
2. A Conversation Between Designer and Product Manager (Bradley Horowitz, Google)
Bradley Horowitz sat down for a chat with Irene Au about the relationship between the functions of product management and design. I LOVED his explanation of the job of the product manager.
"A product manager's job is helping creating great music, sometimes means acting as a conductor, sometimes it means jumping in and grabbing an instrument, sometimes it means tuning in the instruments for others.
3. Performance Marketing: What Founders Need to Know (Gessica Bicego, Blinkist)
Director of Performance Marketing at Blinkist shared some of her tips on how to do great performance marketing...
"Understand who you're talking to, make your brand marketing team accountable for creatives that will resonate with your audience and support the perfomance marketing team efforts, and lastly, hire talents, hire people that have experience with channels you're using."
4. How to Deliver the Perfect Pitch (Jillian Manus, Structure Capital)
What an awesome and energetic speech Jillian gave! She was direct, funny, clear and motivational. People, understand that having a great pitch is only the half job done. Even if you have a great project, a boring and weak pitch will ruin your chances to get that funding or new partnership. Be confident, rock the room and tell your WHY!
"Why is more important than what, when you are doing your pitch."
5. Start Today: Building an Inclusive Tech Industry (Niklas Zennström, Francesca Warner)
Diversity and inclusion seem so well known topics but still there is so much to learn. Francesca Warner from Diversity VC gave a push for entrepreneurs to start making simple, but meaningful changes right now.
"Hire for diversity and not a tick box."(amen!) 🙏
THUMBS UP 👍
1. The whole event was super sustainable and at every step you could see the efforts taken by the organisation to make the event as least damaging to the environment as possible. No plastic cups (people could refill their bottles at various water stations), every material from the badges to merchandise is recycled, the food stands had a multitude of vegan options, even all the cutlery was compostable. Amazing!🤩
2. Sooo many helpful volunteers! 😇
3. Matchmaking at Slush is networking at its best! You could schedule your meetings days in advance and get into professionally organized meeting room areas at the venue!🙌
4. Nice touch with the Sauna village (yes, there was a real Sauna Village with naked people) and Oasis (and no, no Wonderwall, just a sitar). Let's be real, these events are tiring and it is amazing to go out of the darkness, sweat it out, meditate or just have a nap!😴
5. The visuals and the entire venue gave more of a feeling of a music underground festival than a tech conference. Kudos to the people who worked on the presentations, lights, and graphics!👌
6. The closing after party was brilliant! A mix of everything, from a known DJ Jillionaire to more alternative bands and for the true party animals, there was also karaoke hosted by two drag queens! 👯♀️
THUMBS DOWN 👎
1. The quality of talks was a little bit disappointing. A lot of things were very predictable and empty talks, but then again, it depends at what stage your company is or your background.
2. No matter how amazing the venue was, the quality of air was pretty bad. There should have been more exits and paths to go and grab some fresh air to then come back recharged! Also, even though I dig the 'dark and gloomy' ambient, some booths really didn't stand out.
3. Lack of merchandise goodies - even after the first day a lot of goodies were sold out - the black hoodie with the Slush logo will have to wait until next year to find a home in my closet...
We left Helsinki and Slush 2018 with a big smile and many new valuable contacts. Slush is definitely worth going to if you prepare well in advance, so find your peers, leads, prospects, new clients and investors, connect with them through the matchmaking app and combine your networking at the side events with face-to-face meetings at the venue.
The talks and visiting of the booths is always fun, but honestly, a lot of booths were in the dark and not very attractive for visitors to stop and look at. Slush is going in the direction of matchmaking and networking, so maybe it's time we also reinvent the predictable booth stands? 🤔
From a personal point of view, I would like to see more companies and people talking about environmental issues and tackling the social engagement of tech companies. I understand that Slush is all about business and entrepreneurial stories, but the tech sector has the power, ideas and brains to help tackle some major issues today. Examples being environment awareness, education and animal protection. Not every company has the ability to make a large donation to social projects or foundations, but small efforts can bring a huge change, both outside and inside the company. Maybe it's time to look around and understand that no matter how great an entrepreneur you are or how successful your company is, if we won't have fresh air to breath and clean water to drink, there will be no point in finding out who is more successful or has the better idea.
A big kiitos to...
Thanks for the great collaboration with EY, Vincent Stoops and Johnny Waterschoot and the perfect dinners and side events organized by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), B-Hive Europe, VRT Sandbox, Scale-Ups.eu, imec, etc.
We also want to thank the Slush organisers, ALL the volunteers, food makers and music shakers - great job, guys!👊
And at the end, last but not least...thank you to Vicenzo, our Italian barista who made the best espresso in town, to all the Uber drivers who had shared personal stories with us and to our friends from Salesflare who made the last evening one to remember!
See you all again next year!