This year we went to Finland at the darkest time of the year for a one-of-a-kind conference experience at Slush. If you ever decide to go, this blog post should be your prep reading. Enjoy!
This December, the Athena team went on a trip to Helsinki, Finland to demo our software product — startup style.
Here’s what you need to know:
What’s a Slush?
At its core, Slush is a startup and tech event but this description hardly does the firework of impressions that await its visitor’s justice. There’s a meticulously designed and well-organized space, there are amazing musical acts at night and for god’s sake, there’s even an actual sauna village!
The very core mission of Slush is to facilitate founder and investor meetings and to build a worldwide startup community. Slush is a student-driven, non-profit movement originally founded to change attitudes toward entrepreneurship.
They’ve come a long way since 2008, growing from 300 to a solid 20.000 attendees in Helsinki alone and now also expanding to Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. With thousands of startups and investors present, it’s an incredible opportunity for networking you just can’t miss.
So now that you’ve applied for a startup demo booth or bought your ticket, some things you should keep in mind to make your stay a success without breaking the bank:
If you, too are lucky enough to qualify for your very own booth, you’ll want to bring the minimal setup that’ll give you the most bang for your buck. First of all, you can leave your flyers (and business cards) at home. Slush is paper free. Instead, get your LinkedIn QR-Code ready. QR is sexy again!
If you really want to give people something tangible to take home, get creative and come up with useful swag such as Bosch.ai socks or customized hand lotion.
Your area will be very strategically located to give you optimum exposure to the most relevant crowd, but it’s strictly 2×2 m so really think about what you need to accomplish and what you absolutely need to get it done.
Our goal was to show off our VR prototyping tool Athena with a mixed reality setup and to find strategic partners from the automotive industry.
Since our original seat is huge compared to our assigned lot we opted instead to buy some nice benches on location, which made for a sleek, flexible and lean setup that we’ll continue to use on the road even after this. Add a roll-up that clearly communicates your mission and why you’re there and you’ve got yourself an effective and good-looking booth that’ll still fit in an Uber or DriveNow car.
Make Economic Decisions
Based on anecdotal evidence collected while we were there, the median price of a shawarma sandwich is somewhere around 10€. If you live in a much cheaper place like us (shawarma from across our Berlin office: 3€) or you’re on a budget, there are a few preparations you can make and things to consider.
The meals served at the food court are great and each stand even has a vegetarian option, but there’s only one meal included for the day you get your booth so consider packing a few snacks. It’s always fun to explore foreign supermarkets!
If you’re from outside the EU or need extra mobile data for another reason (our Airbnb didn’t have WiFi!) you can grab a prepaid SIM card from any kiosk that’ll give you practically unlimited internet for under a Euro a day.
The conference pass comes with a free ticket for public transportation. Use it! It’s part of an extensive and certified sustainability campaign that also includes thorough waste management, biodegradable disposables and banning bottled water.
A global gathering of 20,000 tech-heads doesn’t come together without a few flights, planks of wood and a whole lot of food, drinks and good times. Carbon emissions make up a big portion of our environmental impact, which is why in 2018 Slush is offsetting 10,000 tonnes of CO2 with the help of Fortum. These offsets cover at least the emissions from the Slush event, our attendees’ flights, hotel stays, and meals, as well as Slush’s year-round activities.
XR is Big and Trending
Virtual Reality has been around for a minute and people are becoming better at spotting applications that are actually useful. There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done and we’ve heard time and again that there have never been more VR/AR projects on display. Slush 2018 was full of exciting new tech, from emotion tracking to retina resolution headsets.
Focus on the Interactive Parts
Sure, the keynotes are great, but they don’t generate leads. Slush does a great job at collecting recordings and articles on their website, so while you’re there, just wander the halls and get talkin’. Hang out next to events that are on topic. Try your luck at the online matchmaking feature and set up one-on-ones.
You don’t have to worry about the layout of the venue ahead of time either, everything is colour-coded as part of their beautiful lighting design, including meeting areas in the form of literal light-pillars stretching from floor to ceiling.
While you’re rocking your own demo booth, make sure you give off an inviting vibe, keep hands-on demos at a consistent and practical duration and make sure you filter your encounters by relevance: Ask what they do, then adjust the level of detail of your pitch accordingly. If they seem promising, make sure they’ll remember you and follow up ASAP.
Get your Vitamin D
While the medical community may be torn over the alleged health risks or benefits of vitamin D supplements, you’ll have to come up with some kind of strategy because chances are, you just won’t see any natural light at all. With a pitch black sky before and after conference hours and a very dark interior, those who suffer from SAD to the slightest degree will want to make sure their Airbnb comes equipped with a daylight lamp and get their feel-good playlist ready.
Slush is awesome and you should go. It’s packed with influential people from all over the world, you’ll learn about new trends and it comes with an exciting festival vibe.