The Team Leading Slush to the New Decade – Introducing our new CEO and President
Miika Huttunen takes the reins at Slush as the new CEO with Oona Poropudas stepping up as President. Both Miika and Oona are long-time Slushers with years of experience from our events and organization. After volunteering at Slush 2014–2017, Miika has been responsible for partnerships and served as Slush’s Chief Operating Officer last year. Oona, for her part, has previously been responsible for the Stage Program at Slush events, and will now take the lead on the annual Slush Main Event in Helsinki as well as Slush’s international events.
Over ten years ago, Slush was established to change attitudes toward entrepreneurship in Finland. Since then, the student-driven not-for-profit has grown from a single gathering of a few hundred people to a series of events organized all around the world, a digital media outlet, and entrepreneurship education program.
In 2020, young Finns have a more positive attitude towards entrepreneurship than ever. A whopping 47% of upper-secondary school students see entrepreneurship as a viable career option, compared to 1% in the early 2000s. Investments into Finnish startups are also booming; Finnish early-stage companies attracted over half a billion euros in investments last year. It would be easy to say our job is done. Or is it?
Miika and Oona, why is Slush still needed?
“We believe that entrepreneurship is one of the most efficient ways to change the world fast and at scale – thus we see that entrepreneurs accelerate the progress of the human race. That won’t change, shouldn’t change, and the fact that these people need help won’t change either. We trust that if we support the startup founders, everything else will follow. Therefore, the Slush mission remains the same: to create and help the next generation of groundbreaking founders. While doing it in the future, we want to increasingly inspire them to pursue growth with purpose,” Miika says.
“Our focus has definitely not changed – Slush has always wanted to help as many founders as possible by connecting them with whom and what they need. During the last ten years, this goal has led to Slush having a profound impact on accelerating startups and the surrounding ecosystem in Finland and abroad. And it is without a doubt the kind of work that we will continue to do so in the future too. Just on a much bigger scale – and all year round,” continues Oona.
What is Slush doing to help the startup founders today – what’s on your focus now?
“Anything that we can do to help founders to find and discover help and resources is worth pursuing for Slush: it can be an event, a website or recruiting tool – whatever they need at a certain point in time. Founders are the starting-point and foundation for Slush, for societal change and for new initiatives; thus, we are more focused than ever on helping them on their path,” Miika says.
“We’ve been happy to see Slush grow from one startup event in the dark and slushy Helsinki to a global movement with various international events and communities started under our name. Our new initiatives are supporting our goal to be there for founders every single day of the year. Soaked by Slush is a much needed voice in European startup media landscape. Slush Academy is transforming entrepreneurial education. We’ve also established an in-house research team,” he adds.
What’s the deal with Slush Academy – why do we need a school to teach entrepreneurship?
“For a long time, we’ve recognized the lack of sufficient pragmatic education that actually prepares young talent for creating those record-breaking companies such as Varjo and Klarna. We want to do our part here, as well. Hence, we are excited to start accelerating the 21st-century entrepreneurship through Slush Academy this summer” tells Miika.
“Slush Academy introduces a new way of learning entrepreneurship to the global educational landscape. Through the intense program, participants will not only learn the ins-and-outs of fast-scaling companies. They will get once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience of working in an international startup and mentoring from some of the most acclaimed founders of our time,” continues Oona.
What does the future of entrepreneurship look from Slush’s point of view?
“We see that the winning companies of the future consist of diverse teams and take into account not only the shareholders but also the environment and their employees. The time of ‘get big, fast, no matter the cost’ thinking is over. Also, co-operation between entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, and policies is needed to address future challenges and innovations. This is the kind of entrepreneurship Slush wants to promote,” says Miika.
Oona, can you tell what’s going on for Slush globally?
“Currently, Slush communities have been started – in addition to Helsinki – in China, Japan, and Singapore. We have organized events in Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, New York, Hyderabad, and in more than 40 other cities.”
“As for the next steps, we are in talks with like-minded people from India to Korea and different countries in Africa. For us, it’s meaningful to be a supporting partner in building local startup hubs with an eye for impact all around the world,” she continues.
Talking about events – what can we expect from the Slush main event in Helsinki this year?
“The preparations for the next edition of our 25,000-strong crown jewel are in full-effect. This year, we are further expanding the experience from a single event to a week full of meetings – those booked through the Matchmaking Tool, ones in Slush Kickoff Events, and those serendipitous encounters that occur all around Helsinki during the week”, visions Oona.
“Slush has a unique way of creating an alternative universe inside of our venue – it’s the kind of a magical place, where you can have more than a month’s worth of meetings in 48 hours”, concludes Miika.