Welcome Back To The North
Why was Slush created? A short story about the past, present and future.
Slush serves a simple mission: to create new entrepreneurs and to help the current ones go further. We are striving to create a more functional world for entrepreneurs, one in which building companies is widely seen as a means to solve the most pressing challenges in the world.
This was definitely not the case in Finland some 10 years ago when Slush started out. How have things evolved, where do we stand now, and where do we head next?
Slush was born into an environment where Nokia, once a behemoth that seemed to support the entire Finnish economy, was starting to rapidly lose its momentum. Finland, at that time, was not a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ambitions. In fact, mentioning such aspirations would probably have resulted in little more than shakes of the head.
“But that is so risky!”
“Wouldn’t you be better off taking that well-paying accounting job, instead of setting yourself up for failure?”
It was a clear case: starting a company wasn’t a popular option. Forward nine years, and 47% of upper-secondary school students in Finland see becoming an entrepreneur as a viable or attractive alternative (source: TAT). In the early 2000s this figure was at a meagre 1%.
During the intervening years, the list of billion-dollar internet companies saw two additions from the Finnish gaming industry: Rovio and Supercell. Venture capital investment into Finnish startups grew more than fivefold between 2008 and 2018. More than 70 new venture capital funds were raised in the Nordic countries, collecting over 3 billion euros in the process. Today, Finnish startups are attracting the most VC money in Europe as a percentage of GDP, and the next generation of industry-shaping companies is currently being built here.
Ten years ago, Slush, along with its formative background organization, Aalto Entrepreneurship Society, and a number of other entities and tireless individuals, set out to remove three distinct obstacles:
- Attitudes towards entrepreneurship in Finland
- The ambition, knowledge and skill set of the youth for company building
- The availability of venture capital
We can, with a tolerable level of confidence, say that out of the original three goals, the first and the third one are on a good track. However, this has emphasized and heightened the second bottleneck: number of people with the skills, knowledge and ambition needed to build global winners. To further break down this “talent problem”, we highlight three particular areas:
- The availability of skilled talent for rapidly growing teams
- Access to advice, particularly for later stage ventures
- A culture of entrepreneurship that attracts a more diverse group of people
Solving the talent shortage is about more than just increasing the cross-border mobility of skilled people. What we need is ways to educate and equip a great number of people with the skills needed to build rapidly growing companies, and to increasingly direct those efforts towards solving the colossal challenges we’re facing. With this, we need an inclusive ecosystem, which embodies ideals that attract an increasing number of different kinds of people.
Slush 2019: Tackling the talent issue, at the biggest gathering of venture capital on the planet
This November, Helsinki will be home to 25,000 growth-minded and entrepreneurially wired individuals of which 2,000 will be carefully vetted investors. Having this much dry powder in the same room is something we could once only dream of.
Transferring knowledge, maximizing serendipity
Our stages will host some of the most seasoned founders, investors and operators in the world sharing their take on how to build high-growth companies.
All of our speakers dedicate at least an hour of their time to mentoring startups. This can take the form of a 1-on-1 deep dive into specific pain points, or a roundtable discussion around the bottlenecks of growth amongst a curated group of peers. This is all part of the Finnish way of doing content: brutally hands-on, honest like nowhere else.
As for increasing the accessibility of talent, a mix of startups from a wide range of industries and a crowd of thousands of people already in tech, or getting into it, makes for a pretty good recipe. In fact, Slush is one of the biggest recruiting events in Europe. Recruitment meetings are facilitated by improved features in our Matchmaking Tool.
But it is not only a need for more people with the right skills, it’s a need for people representing more varying backgrounds. To increase the diversity in the tech world, a lot can be done by shaping the role models of our time. For this, we see our stage program, and choosing who to highlight, as the most effective tool. We want to emphasise the need for diversity, and how it is paramount to the success of both investments and startup teams.
Originally a small gathering of peers, Slush has grown into an entire week of exhilarating program all around Helsinki. We’ll keep experimenting with different focused ways of bringing people together.
To utilize the whole week, this year we’re introducing two official kickoff events.
Finland is home to one of the top gaming communities in the world, and combined with a great group of international stars, Press Start opens up the week on Nov 19 with an event purely focused on game development. This is followed up by Ready to Launch on Nov 20, where the focus is on product management – an area of expertise Europe is a bit behind on. We want to do our part in bridging that gap.
Lastly, we’ll continue making the event look and feel like a weird world of our own. This is what the mythical Slush melting pot of people and ideas is all about.
Embrace the enhanced serendipity – a series of unexpected events will take over Helsinki this November.