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Big, bigger, SLUSH

Photo: Sami Heiskanen
  • Published 02/12/2014
A two-day cosmos of 12,000 startup people, tech talents, investors, executives and media pitching and partying. We went to find the Nordic perspective – this is our smartphone diary.



The 12,000 participants makes SLUSH the largest tech and startup conference in the Nordics, and it is competing to be the largest in Europe. 


Slush has exploded in popularity. In just a couple of years it has grown out of Aalto University and Startup Sauna, a non-profit startup incubator and a Nordic Innovation project partner (Start Nordic). In 2012, Slush attracted some 3,500 attendees from 550 companies and 250 investors. In 2013, the number had risen to more than 750 registered companies and the organisers projected 2014 to be a new record year. Entering the 58,000 m2 large Helsinki Exhibition Centre, this projection seemed to hold water.






First stop on our Nordic Slush tour was the European Angel Investor summit hosted by Finnish Business Angel Network, another of our project partners (NordicBAN - a Nordic web platform where investors and startups can meet). The discussion centred on creating a common Nordic market, using the ambitious Estonian E-Residency as an inspiration to attract more entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Already working on this topic and launching initiatives in 2015, under the two Nordic lighthouse projects on ICT and Entrepreneurship & Financing, we were of course all ears.   







The Finish Minister of Economic Affairs, Jan Vapaavuori, also took part in the session and underlined the importance of a strong entrepreneurship culture in small counties like the Nordics. In a funny remark, he also admitted to be a bit jealous of the angel investors' first name. He believed a name like that could be useful in politics, because, as he argued with a smile, it would be very difficult to disagree with an angel.  







Entering the main venue hall we quickly learned that what at first glance seemed like total human chaos was in fact the opposite. Over 1300 volunteers work day and night to make Slush what it is – an extremely well-organised event. We quickly found the Green Stage where Rolf Assev from Startup Lap Norway would share the startup story behind Opera Software. Assev has a lifetime of experience and lives by the give-it-back mantra. He is an advocate for a stronger Nordic startup community and through Startup Lab a project manager of the Nordic ICT Ping Pong Alliance funded by Nordic Innovation.    






From the Opera Software success to another major success story. A fireside with Spotify co-founder and chairman, Martin Lorentzon. Growing from a Stockholm-based startup into a global phenomenon, Spotify has fundamentally disrupted the music industry and shown off the Nordic region's startup capabilities and possibilities. There is great value in stories like this, to learn from and to be inspired by. We will therefore look to utilise this potential under our Entrepreneurship & Financing Lighthouse Project. Read a sum-up of the fireside interview here.






Later that afternoon, a panel of national representatives from the Nordic startup communities – #CPHFTW (DK), Startup Norway (NO), Klak Innovit (ICE), SUP46 (S) and Startup Sauna (FIN) – took to the Yellow Stage to discuss Nordic cooperation. To the panel, it was quite simple: A stronger cross-border cooperation will attract more attention, more investors and more tech talents, and therefore benefit the startups under their wings. We liked that!






With a little time to kill, we tried on some of the new hardware. Here wearing Oculus.






We also had time to watch a few startups pitches, all competing to win the main competition price of 250,000 Euro, which on the last day were doubled to 500,000 Euro because…”well this is SLUSH!” as the organisers stated. The guy in the picture did not win but did.






A person who probably could have won a popularity contest was Jolla COO Mark Dillon, whose announcement of a Jolla tablet brought the Blue Stage crowd to a new high. Jolla is a company thathas come out of the Nokia legacy. Here he is on stage with staff. Read more about Jolla here.  






Before heading to the airport, we tried on some other Oculus glasses. These things were like looking into the future – I am definitely seeing us back at SLUSH in 2015!


SLUSH is so much more than laser light, party smoke and tech gadgets. It is a catalyst that helps more startups to success, generate new growth and jobs. It is a symptom and a facilitator of a rising, growing and extremely talented Nordic startup scene.


It does not get much bigger - see you next year!



In 2015, Nordic Innovation will launch a number of initiatives under the lighthouse project Nordic Partnership for Entrepreneurship and Financing with the overall goal of making the Nordics the world’s no. 1 place for scalable entrepreneurship.