SLUSH’D – A global network of local events
Slush is building a global network of Slush’D events, giving extraordinary teams free hands to gather the local startup community under one roof to address the bottlenecks present in the ecosystem. On top of the Slush brand, the Slush’D organizing teams will receive tools, mentorship, and guidelines on how to organize an event with the Slush ethos.
The Slush’D concept was piloted in Trondheim, Norway in 2019 and 2021. In 2022, we are starting to scale the concept and looking forward to seeing multiple amazing Slush’D events around the world making local ecosystems flourish.
Insights from the Organizers of Trondheim Slush’D
We saw firsthand how Slush’D lit a spark on the Trondheim startup ecosystem and had an opportunity to hear insights from the first organizers, Daniil Liaimer and Heikki Sjöman. Daniil was a university student, who went from a Slush international volunteer to a Slush’D Team Lead all the way to Investment Analyst at Inventure. Heikki, on the other hand, is a Slush Alumnus, now researcher turned founder. Not to mention that his company, Vitroscope, was just seen in the Slush 100 finals in 2021. It, therefore, is quite clear that Slush’D offers the organizer much more than just a project to work on.
Sparking the Idea
When asked about what sparked the idea to create the first Slush’D, a significant bottleneck the organizers saw in their local ecosystem comes up. The first Slush’D in 2019 was originally built on the fact that the city of Trondheim, on the western coast of Norway, had the best university of engineering in the country, a vibrant scene in entrepreneurship, but no direct, international connections which would help these companies grow. Heikki, who led the first organizing team in Trondheim, built the event and its theme upon the earlier successes in hardware engineering, bringing in local speakers, and hosting workshops for all attending.
Defining the Core Audience
After great feedback from the 2019 event, Trondheim Slush’D was organized for the second time in 2021 and then, the bottleneck was found through the main organizer, Daniil, hopping from call to call with several ecosystem actors. This not only helped him understand the bottleneck and theme the event should be built around, but most importantly, it helped him define their core audience. In Trondheim’s case, it was clear that the event had to be built for the people who did not have the time for events.
The calls organizers took with the different ecosystem actors made it clear that the transition from a small startup team towards becoming a scaleup was a challenge to many. They had now discovered the most pressing bottleneck, and thus the theme for the event, From Startup to Scaleup, was built around this idea of helping the local startups grow.
Locating the Bottleneck
When it comes to locating the bottleneck in the local ecosystem, it is all about the conversations the organizers have within the local community. As Daniil mentioned, he still knew fairly little about the startup ecosystem when first joining the organizing team of Slush’D and when taking on the role of the Project Lead. In Trondheim, the conversations within the local ecosystem were the key to building the theme, pointing out a bottleneck, and sparking the interest in the event that they created for those that simply do not have enough time for events.
Although having earlier experience in organizing smaller events, the organizers had clearly signed up for a ton of learning. Having little to no expectations, both organizers definitely ended up learning more than they would have expected.
As Daniil puts it:
“After attending the first Slush’D in Trondheim and Slush in 2019, I was just really compelled by the sense of mission and purpose that I sensed from both Heikki and everyone I met in the Slush HQ team. As the work progressed, I think my expectations also evolved, as I gradually saw what we were able to achieve.”
Therefore, as time passed, the 2021 team’s expectations evolved. In the end, the team was striving to pull off an event that’s sole purpose was to offer tangible help to the local entrepreneurs.
Bound To Be Recreated Every Time
When creating traction in the local ecosystem, something good tends to come out of it and creating what Slush’D is in Trondheim, was one of the most exciting learnings for both of the Trondheim lead organizers. They learned everything from booking a venue and negotiating partnerships all the way to inviting the most relevant speakers to the event, a.k.a. everything it takes to organize an excellent event.
Both in 2019 and in 2021, Trondheim Slush’D has looked different. And as Daniil summarized it perfectly:
“Of course, creating the Slush’D “product” brings a lot of unique learnings and experiences which honestly I don’t think there are many opportunities to gain. It’s also one of those projects where your own willingness to learn really is rewarded, and proportionally expands the possible outcomes of what you’re able to achieve.”
Organizing an event with the Slush brand was not a walk in the park at Trondheim, as many did not know what Slush was, and those who did knew fairly little about it. However, Heikki emphasized that people were extremely keen to give their time and listen which meant digging deep into why and how Slush’D works. He answered the question on why it is needed right here and right now several times without the other person knowing next to nothing about what goes down in Helsinki during the Slushiest time of the year. And that was enough.
Pitching the Concept
“[Organizing Slush’D] was definitely a process of educating people about the brand, and maybe more importantly about the mission, attitude, and way of working that Slush represents.”
Daniil felt that the hundreds of pitches explaining the difference between Slush and Slush’D were key in sparking interest in the core audience, many of whom felt that now that they wanted to experience the Helsinki extravaganza through visiting Slush’D.
Yet, the key when it comes to spreading awareness and sparking the interest in the core audience is that the organizer needs to find a tangible way to address what the local ecosystem needs.
The Lows – How Hard Can It Be?
Although being an excellent learning experience, one should not forget that Slush’D is what the organizers make of it. Although Heikki had previous experience in organizing events, there were still a few tough questions to answer:
“– –pioneering and exploring ‘what it could be’ while organizing it at the same time under huge time pressure was definitely a huge challenge.”
For Daniil, however, almost everything felt a tad difficult in the beginning, due to not having much prior knowledge on startups, venture capital, or even event management. He found himself in a situation where he was leading people who were, in essence, way more experienced than he was. In both cases, the help and most importantly, learnings, came from interacting with the local startup ecosystem.
The Highs – Rewarded Throughout the Journey
Contacting the local ecosystem in Trondheim helped both Heikki and Daniil to get the answers needed to define what Slush’D should be exactly like in Trondheim. What both organizers agreed on was that the most rewarding part of building the event was the realization that they had made an impact on the local ecosystem. Daniil put it this way:
“We were in this position where our team was solely organizing this to help founders, and I think that really carried through to the community around us. The feeling of seeing that spark in the other party’s eyes, and them getting as excited about what you’re building is quite something. I think it boils down to the old cliche of the journey is the reward itself. “
Both Daniil and Heikki agree that the reward from organizing a Slush’D is gotten through the people the organizers meet along the way and conversations had with all parties involved.
The Slush’D Magic
Whether meeting the most relevant people, having meaningful conversations, or going home with a ton of tangible advice, a feeling of being right in the middle of the change that is leaving a mark on the ecosystem is what makes people come back to Slush year after another. Daniil and Heikki agree that this was the case for Slush’D – having a tremendous impact on the local startup ecosystem.
The Impact of Slush’D
With fairly little resources, the organizing teams of both 2019 and 2021 helped the local startup community think big by helping them see what was possible to achieve when it comes to attracting the interest of interesting, foreign actors. It did resonate with the audience, as almost 30 startup operators from Trondheim chose to experience Slush for themselves in 2021. The event therefore definitely lived up to what Slush’D should be – a place to truly build a basis for a nascent ecosystem to grow and thrive.
For Future Slush’D Organizers
By contributing to your ecosystem, you get back much more than you give.
Although both organizers have emphasized that the learning happens throughout the course of building the event, the effort put in becomes worthwhile when seeing the amazing network of people the organizers are left with. The worst thing a Slush’D organizer can get is a “no” and when Daniil realized that, it was no problem cold contacting people through Twitter, Linkedin, or mail.
The only must for a Slush’D organizer
As long as they did their homework and were genuine towards the people they were asking something from, Daniil understood that more often than not, people within the local ecosystem were eager to help and that is where the magic happens. There however is one must for a Slush’D organizer both Heikki and Daniil agree upon, and that is the high ambition to drive the local community forward.
See? There is no need to have a specific plan on what exactly the event should look like and how to organize an amazing event. No one from the Slush team knew either when first joining.
The application process should be quite straightforward for the organizer. What Slush is looking for in all applications is how well the need for organizing a Slush’D event in that ecosystem is presented. In other words, what is a problem or bottleneck the Slush’D event would help address? Perhaps most importantly, we are looking for people, teams, who are ready to help bring their local community together after the pandemic and make it thrive.