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Brutally hands-on, honest like never before – Stage Program at Slush 2021

More founder-focused than ever, here’s what our program holds this year.

Slush serves a simple mission: to help and create founders that change the world. When judging whom to bring on stage, we predominantly ask ourselves one question: which aspect of company-building is this person uniquely capable of giving advice on? As a result, our stages play host to some of the most seasoned founders, operators, and investors sharing their no-nonsense, painfully tactical take on how to build high-growth companies.

You will struggle to find an indistinct interview, macroscopic panel, or inspirational keynote on our agenda.  Brutally hands-on, honest like nowhere else. We believe that we can be of highest value to founders when curating horizontally – highlighting the hard problems that most companies will face – rather than focusing on anecdotal advice from any particular success story.

However, while we believe that a lack of advice and know-how is the most important gap that we can help bridge, we take a rather specific view on the kind of change that we want to support. Our actions over the next decade will determine ​​the course of humanity for generations to come. We desperately need entrepreneurs building scalable products to lead our efforts in creating solutions that will make that future a bright one.

Our recipe for harnessing startups in pursuit of the big problems is two-fold:

  • Firstly, we need companies to be built by diverse individuals that work in collaboration with the smartest individuals from across society, including academia, governments & established companies.
  • Secondly, we need them to take extraordinary risks that, if successful, change the future beyond recognition.

When asked to choose 170 speakers from the thousands of brilliant founders, operators and investors in the world, this ethos is our guide. Our hope is that they will inspire an increasingly heterogeneous group of people to found tech companies, and nudge existing founders in the direction of the wicked problems of our time.

Stages and studios

Our program takes place on two main stages and in two studios. Each has its own unique character and distinct atmosphere, yet all share the same goal: to push forward the next generation of groundbreaking founders.

Founder Stage. More true to its name than ever, the first of our two main stages is dedicated to the builders and doers behind some of the most ambitious ventures in the world. With a hyper-concrete focus on the art of company-building, founders and operators will draw on their experience to share their best-kept secrets with the audience.

This is the stage where the Slush program kicks off on the morning of Day 1 with the Opening Show and ends in the afternoon of Day 2 with the Slush 100 Pitching Competition finals.

Amphitheater. More intimate than Founder Stage, Amphitheater takes on a conversational form. The focal point of this stage is phenomena within and beyond the startup ecosystem that create the framework for breakthrough technology companies. From funding to talent and intelligent policy to technological infrastructure, we examine these topics with a piercing precision that leaves no room for abstract chatter.  

Each topic covered on this stage, even if more thematic, has a direct effect on the practical dimension of company-building. Expect to learn about the concrete effect of ESG criteria on your company, read up on the foundational principles by which VCs operate, and get immersed into expert analysis on emerging technologies from quantum computing to NFTs.

Builders’ Studio. A brand new stage concept at Slush, Builders’ Studio will teach you how to build a company in thirty 27 minutes increments, all delivered by the most experienced operators, repeat founders and seasoned investors in Europe and beyond. Each operational deep dive targets a different stage of a company’s lifecycle, unfolding into a coherent whole – a company-building library accessible to every aspiring entrepreneur. 

Builders’ Studio kicks off with a session on Problem Selection and comes to an end with one on Exit. In between, it takes us through eight categories: Early Days, Recruiting & Culture, Fundraising, Product, Marketing & Comms, Growth, Operations, and Finance & Legal.

Startup Studio. This Studio puts those at the very core of Slush in the spotlight: early-stage startups. From pitching to demos to product launches, this is the space where you’ll get to grips with the earliest stages of the startup ecosystem. Concepts happening in the Startup Studio are Nordic Showcase, Demo Showcase, Product Launch. It also hosts the Slush 100 Pitching Competition semifinals.

Nordic Showcase highlights two of the most promising early-stage startups from each of the five Nordic countries and Estonia. These are companies that – in our view – are squaring up to become the next Nordic success stories. In their early days, companies like Kahoot and Bolt have been part of Nordic Showcase.

Demo Showcase brings together exciting newcomers in industry-based batches. This is where we showcase the early-stage companies that will be shaping the world around us in the coming years. Industries and themes that we cover are Cleantech, Edtech, Hardware, Food & Biotech, Fintech, Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning, Consumer Products and Mobility.

Product Launch is a unique opportunity for six companies to launch their product to the world on the Slush stage, displaying its design, features and functionalities. Covering a range of industries, Product Launch spans solution ranging from the world’s first vegan canned tuna and hormonal tests to a next-generation spreadsheet.

Slush 100 needs no introduction. It is our pitching competition and the crown-jewel of Slush, back for its 10th instalment in 2021. On the morning of Day 1, the 20 companies that have made it through the pre-qualifications will take the stage for the semifinals in Startup Studio.

Mentoring

The tangible advice at Slush isn’t limited to our stages. For a few years’ now, all of our speakers have committed to dedicating one hour of their time to mentoring early-stage startups. This takes the form of intimate roundtable conversations, in which the early-stage founders and operators at Slush get to ask about their pain points from the people behind some of the most exceptional companies of our time. Several founders have left these sessions feeling like they were the single most valuable 45 minutes they have ever spent.

So, whether you choose to soak in the learnings of the most iconic startup founders of our time in the front row of Founder Stage, ponder the building blocks of our ecosystem in Amphitheater, or marvel at the contagious ambition of the Pre-Seed ventures in Startup Studio, we truly hope that you will find tools for crafting a better tomorrow in our agenda.

See you in Helsinki in 33 days!