Slush has had saunas before, but this one is an entirely new concept – a village of saunas. The purpose is for attendees to relax and escape the busy conference halls. The village is a whole different world compared to the tech and lasers indoors. This peaked our interest, so we decided to find the Sauna Village, and hear thoughts and opinions from the people on the ladders.
We did not know what to expect when we exited the venue, stepping out into the cold, slushy outdoors. As soon as we entered the main lounge, we felt at home. The warmth and the smell of burning wood captured us. There was a good vibe, and leisurely atmosphere.
There are six saunas in the Sauna Village, two boat saunas, two saunas by Harvia and one by Narvi and Eräkämppä. Five of them are wood burning saunas, and one is an electric sauna. In addition to the saunas, there are two hot tubs and a Hamam tent. The sauna experience has been made easy for the visitors: one can rent a towel, bathrobe, slippers and swimsuit for €25. During the first day, there were already 150 people in the saunas and tens of pre-booked meetings organized. First visitors came early in the morning just to take a dip in the ice cold tub, avanto.
Our first interviewee is Heini Järveläinen from the city of Helsinki, a partner in the Sauna Village. “Helsinki wanted to join the Sauna Village because Slush is known for wild marketing, and Helsinki wanted to take part in it. Most of the visitors have been foreigners, and for many the saunas have been a surprising element. We have taught them a lot about the sauna culture. It’s a fascinating contrast to the hectic conference halls, and people have come back for the second day.” Helsinki City Marketing would love to be back at the Village next year.
To get a better idea of what people think about the Village, we wanted to chit chat with internationals taking a sauna in the middle of the day. The second person we talked with was Jonathan Burns, an American living in Sweden working with Flexeats AB. It’s a fun coincidence that Jonathan won a ticket to Slush through Startup Sauna for his pitch. This is what Jonathan wanted to share about his experience. “I have been to sauna before, but this was taken to a whole new level here. It’s snowing, the atmosphere is very pleasant, and Finns are very friendly. If you don’t happen to make good connections at Slush, you can at least make it a good experience. It’s easy to connect with people in the sauna, because all your guards are down. All the sweating and being half naked lowers barriers, and creates a common denominator.” Jonathan thinks the sauna completes the package and separates Slush from other conferences, making it a signature thing. He’d be happy to have the sauna here in years to come, and also book meetings in the sauna.
Our last interviewee was a Finnish entrepreneur Topias Soininen, Ceo and co-founder of Playven, we caught up with him just before he rented his sauna gear. Playven is a startup providing a platform for booking tennis courts. What does Topias expect from the upcoming sauna experience? “I usually talk business in sauna, whether it be with my father or business partners. I could easily pitch Playven here. The village proves that Finns are good innovators, and I promise that booking a sauna will be part of our app if this makes a comeback next year. Now, I’m expecting to try all the different saunas available.” Topias could book a meeting here, but if it were with an investor, he would do it on their second date. During his time here, he has been taking plenty of pictures with the snow in the background, and sending them to California. He also wishes to thank the organizers!
We have heard only positive feedback from everyone, many hope this will be part of the Slush experience from now on. When leaving the village, we walked past the hot tub. Elevating pitching was happening at the moment. The chilled and relaxed hot tub goers found it easy to network, and they had received tips for the Finnish sauna. Rumor even has it that Tesla’s biggest stakeholder was there.
Photo by Konsta Linkola
Reported by Aino Piirtola & Erika Uusivuori