Dimmed ambient lighting, throbbing bass and strobe lights. There's definitely something rock festivalish about Slush. But is it all just hype or is there something to learn? Is it only for investors and startup entrepreneurs?
“Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome!”
This is the welcome I get while walking a cold autumn morning towards Messukeskus. It is the second day of Slush but people are surprisingly fresh at 09:30. These people mean business. Everything runs smoothly, my ticket is printed and the cloak room is almost empty. I guess I am arriving a bit early. First talks start at 10. There is an army of volunteers around. When the crowd starts pouring in, it feels like the number of volunteers isn’t overestimated.
Startup stands are pretty much what you expect, people selling their ideas. Except the VR/AR stuff! That was awesome.
Based on what I have read, the private jet from San Francisco to Slush brings potentially over 10 billion of investor money to Finland. That is a lot. It is up to the startups to keep the money in Finland. Too bad that regular Slush guests don’t see any investors around, because they tend to stay in the investor area, where startups pitch their ideas to them. So the regular Joe won’t see these people at all. The first one I saw was around 18:00 when Slush closed for a few hours before the after party, and investors left for the investor dinner.
So! What’s next?
Talks, pitches, stands and a lot of people. The biggest problem seems to be where to go next. No single talk is rising over any other in my ranking, and the selection is huge. On my app, I have starred a few talks, which are interesting. The problem lies with the time. Talks are short and panel attendees have a large amount of knowledge and views on the matter at hand. The main feeling after each talk is, tell me more! But there’s no time to waste, the next talk is in the other end of Messukeskus and it starts in 5.
It is around noon and I’m feeling hungry. The food court is crammed into one end of Messukeskus. Lines are long, dishes are (or so I’ve heard) small, €10-12 per meal. I find a friend and we walk out of Messukeskus. We find lunch around the corner for €8,50. Nothing fancy, but no waiting in line, and coffee and dessert included. Faster and cheaper. And I get a place to sit. My pedometer shows 11 000 steps at this time. So I have been around and there is limited seating at Slush.
We head back to Messukeskus and decide to see one of my friends from school. She is with IBM. We walk to the info desk and ask where their stand is. The answer is simply “Look from the app!”. Oh silly me. I turn on Bluetooth and it starts locating me. I click on the map where the IBM stand is supposed to be. Too bad that my phone can’t find itself. Great success. Well, behind my pass is a map of the venue and we can locate ourselves and move on. To be fair, directions are good when it comes to stages, toilets etc.
I see a lot of familiar faces. Mostly with their company passes. I start to wonder, when did Nokia, Google, Microsoft and every major bank in Finland become startups? Well, maybe they offer incubation or something. I don’t know, and frankly, as I don’t have a startup, I don’t bother to find out.
Luckily there are the talks. Slush brings out great speakers from all around the world and these speakers have views for our future. They are the ones shaping things to come.
E-learning on the black stage. There are three e-learning companies and one speaker from our government. They talk about scaling education, or whether you can scale it. Great views on how to improve learning and also nice to notice that these people don’t want to lose the interaction between parents, teachers and kids. On the contrary, they want kids to learn communication and cognitive skills from school and their parents. Technology is just a tool, not a replacement! Of course things can be done in many ways and this is what e-learning is all about. Figure out new and better solutions on how things are learned with the help of technology.
Smartly.io talks about ways of working. This is one of the most interesting approaches for a company. “Everyone in our company works 4h per month in first-hand customer service.” Everyone! CEO, lawyers, sales, everyone! That is why we have had so much success. The whole company knows where they are with the product and what are the customers’ needs. That is a new angle to look at things. And as it seems, an effective one. We don’t oversell anything, because our sales team knows what the product is capable of. So no air is to be sold. Point taken. And remembered.
I find out that Alibaba pulled off 11.11. (which is a big singles day in Asia) with 99% success in delivery. That is impressive. The slide says that the peak was 1.4 Trillion TB/s. If I remember correctly. As I said, impressive!
So, what does Slush offer to a first timer who is not a startup entrepreneur?
In my opinion, listening to pitches and talks about the industry, you get a picture of where digitalization is taking us. Security of IoT and such. You get a glimpse of far out ideas by “crazy” inventors and literally the future of what is to come in 2017 and beyond.
My pedometer shows 17 000 steps taken and the after party is just starting. I went in with high expectations. Some of them were right, some of them not, but if you are interested in the future of technology, new ideas and products, Slush is a great place to be. Even if you aren’t a millionaire or a rising startup star.