Nov 22, 2018 Bilal Ibrahim
Time for a little throwback in the midst of the preparations for the D-Day: Bilal Ibrahim from Valuer.ai, a startup deal-flow platform connecting startups and corporations, attended Slush last year as a startup agent. Bilal recalls his first Slush experience, filled to the brim with scout and hustle.
I had never heard of Slush prior to getting involved as an Agent with Valuer.ai. A close friend and colleague of mine (we’ll call him Nakamoto) had his own startup and was looking for investment and support. He found out that Slush was happening in just two week’s time and needed to go get tickets.
During his quest for a Slush Pass, he stumbled on Valuer.ai. They were really young at the time but were willing to help a certain type of entrepreneur out if they were willing to represent the platform at Slush. Valuer wanted to bring an “army of agents” to scout promising startups onto their digital platform where they further match them with enterprises. Nakamoto got me and another friend on board – it was the perfect opportunity to get involved with a brilliant company and get to experience this crazy conference we’d just found out about.
We met the Valuer team the day before Slush to learn more about the agenda and what to expect in the event. 20,000 attendees, thousands of startups, hundreds of investors and representatives from the world’s largest brands. Our job was to talk to as many promising startups as we possibly could, and to add them onto Valuer’s online platform for a potential match with one of their clients.
Helsinki in December is COLD. It was snowing when we arrived. This was by far the coldest climate I’ve ever experienced along with only five hours of daylight. That didn’t stop us, and the entrance to the venue was beautiful. I’ve been to a few big conferences and exhibitions over the years and the part I dread the most is the registration queue to register and get my wristband. I’m worried my ticket won’t be there or someone will tell me I don’t belong and everything leading up to this was a waste of time.
At Slush, there was an overwhelming number of volunteers who made this aspect so swift and smooth that we were in the main hall within minutes. As soon as you go through the doors and down the stairs, you’re greeted by more wonderful volunteers who take your coat and then you’re ready to mingle with the best of the best. There’s a lot to expect at Slush, from the multiple stages where business icons and tycoons share years’ worth of experience and knowledge to hundreds of founders.
I first interacted with a Japanese startup, and was able to build some instant rapport from the basic Japanese I had acquired as a teen. As I progressed through the stands, I met with Korean, Chinese, Turkish, French, German and Finnish startups just to mention a few.
As I walked around the enormous hall, I’d stop here and there to grab a hot drink from different stands positioned throughout – Samsung’s Lattes were phenomenal. While queueing up, I met some incredible people that struck up a conversation with me – it’s really humbling to strike up a dialogue with employees of major corporations like Microsoft, IBM and Google, startup founders that I’d actually heard a lot of before attending.
It was definitely an experience difficult to put into words, because I’ve never been in an environment were everyone was interested in everybody else. You could walk up to anyone and start a conversation that had the potential to last for hours. I’ve built a larger network thanks to last year’s Slush, and am still in contact with many of them today.
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