“Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November” “Except for you, you badass. Welcome”
This is the welcoming message that greeted Slush goers at the entrance and this is the reason why I love one of Europe’s biggest tech event.
Slush has managed to do what all of us startup community leaders dream of: to build an event that fuels the local community and gathers international investors, startups, media and industry professionals from allover to facilitate new connections and business relations. And they have done so, when and where many people would have thought was impossible. Late November. In Finland.
I have been three times to Helsinki and Slush (2013, 2014 and now 2016) and have witnessed the event grow, not only in size but also content and value. I do miss the old Cable Factory venue, the crazy saunas and intimate discussions from the “early days” when the number of guests counted approx. 5000 people. Still I genuinely feel that Slush has managed to protect the “among friends” atmosphere despite having grown from a local 300 people event to 17.500 attendees in just few years. A struggle that all events, and startups for that matter can relate to when it comes to growth and scaling.
For those who haven’t been to Slush. It’s big and it’s loud. The agenda is packed with dynamic talks, featuring big names and wide range of topics. You can also count on numerous side events, cocktails and parties. The very core of the conference is to create a place for investors and startups to meet, which results in tailor made Matchmaking tool that saw 4000 pre-booked meetings in 2015, close to 800 attending investors and thousands of square meters designed for one-on-one meetings.
This year, we at Icelandic Startups wanted as many Icelandic entrepreneurs, investors and community builders as possible to have the Slush experience. We ended up organising 50+ participants delegation to Slush, including representatives from 22 startups.
Our agenda included hosting a welcome reception and networking breakfast at the Icelandic embassy in Finland together with Promote Iceland the day before the conference. Over 100 investors and industry professionals registered to the event and met with the 13 participating startups. This proved to be a great success and something we hope to make an annual event.
Our time at the conference was spent with meeting and catching up with our friends and colleagues in the Nordics, project partners and network. Together with the #NordicMade community we hosted Nordic AfterWork side event with panel discussions, dinner and drinks.
We also met briefly with fellow members of the Global Accelerator Network for a roundtable discussions. Furthermore, we saw Slush as an opportunity to test the interest of a new project idea Investors on the Rocks, an invite-only investor meetup next August, which will take international investors to the Icelandic wilderness to meet with selected Nordic companies and networking.
And then there was karaoke, organised by our friends Neil S W Murray, Stina Liland and Robin Wauters, which not only proved to be great fun but also the best networking opportunity and the night I handed out most of my cards. I ended up singing Björk’s famous It’s all so quiet (how typical of me) having a blast.
The only missed opportunity? Not wearing the Icelandic national football shirt to the conference celebrating the attention our dear national football team raised this summer.