HELSINKI – This week, a total of twenty-five thousand including investors, startups and students flocked to the Finnish capital of Helsinki to attend Slush, a startup conference that has gained enormous traction over the past decade.
This year, Slush is out to tackle topics concerning why companies need to focus on profit rather than growth or attaining scale, and also how to become more sustainable.
Speakers talk about the next direction for startups at Slush 2019 that ran between Nov. 21-22.
“We believe still today, bringing people together matters. Startups that attended Slush last year have since raised $1.5 billion, while investment into European tech grew over 40 percent year-over-year,” said Emma Lehikoinen, president of Slush at the opening ceremony.
She added that during the next two days, startups would have over 200,000 meetings with not just investors, but with partners, clients, journalists and potential recruits.
Andreas Saari, Slush CEO, pointed out that companies are engines that bring ideas into the world that reach people in one of the fastest forms. “We want to be a part of creating a world where creating these kinds of companies that is seen as one of the most compelling options for the next generation,” he said.
Some of the key speakers at this year’s Slush included Sequoia Capital Partner Michael Moritz, Lydia Jett of Softbank Investment Advisers, Obama Foundation CEO David Simas, #Angels founding partner April Underwood and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.
From Korea, Samsung was one of the main event partners. There was also a booth for Korean startups supported by the Korean government.
Set in Messukeskus Expo and Convention Center, Slush drew over 3,000 startups and 2000 investors this year. Getting in is a big deal itself, with such a huge crowd lining up for the entry badges. One tip, according to the organizers, was to get them befor-hand at spots all over Helsinki, including at shopping malls and co-working spaces.
Once they get in, attendees are faced with a huge area of space divided into key stages such as Founder Stage, Saga Stage and Quantum Stage, where the global entrepreneurial community converges to talk about the latest in the industry.
There are also plenty of resting and meeting areas, complete with an indoor garden and separate booths for planning funding strategies or chatting with people they’ve met at the venue.
Another key feature of Slush is the matchmaking app for attendees to find the people they are keen to talk to and send messages to set up a meeting of the minds on the sidelines of the event. There are also lounges scattered about -- many operated by venture capital firms.
Slush is also famous for its wide range of side events, including cocktail hours, breakfast meetings and all-nighters designed to create a casual yet effective setting for entrepreneurs and investors alike.
And of course, without the student volunteers, Slush could never have taken off.
“When Finland faced a crisis with the downturn of Nokia, the students began to look outside and they went to Silicon Valley where they were blown away,” said Marco-Johann Kavantsaari, who had been responsible for investor operations at Slush in 2014 and is now looking for investors for his artificial intelligence-based startup Guardian X. “These students were then mentored by experienced Finnish entrepreneurs.”
Up to 10,000 students have volunteered at Slush since it took off in 2008. Many have gone on to build their own startups.
Slush, named after the slushy snow that covers Finland this time of the year, has become a landmark conference. But organizers stress it is important to remember its roots.
“Slush has never been only an event. It’s a movement,” said Moaffak Ahmed, a senior member of the Slush board of directors.
Slush now has sister companies like The Shortcut, Maria 01, Junction and Wave Ventures to support its cause, which Slush says is to continue stoking entrepreneurship so that startups can continue to change the world.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)