Written by Dr. Wil Williams, Alacrity Foundation CEO.
In late November I attended the Slush tech entrepreneurship convention in Helsinki. Slush is the world’s leading startup and tech event with 25,000 attendees. I have never been to Helsinki; I have heard nothing but good things about the city; and, I wanted to eat a reindeer burger. Actually, my primary reason for attending the two-day event was that running the Foundation I rarely get away and reflect on what we do. Like any good educational institution or tech company, we evaluate every aspect of our programme and are continually amending, evolving and, hopefully, improving our offer: developing the next generation of tech entrepreneurs. But, every now and again, I feel the need to get away, on my own, from the South Wales bubble and reflect and get some new perspectives. Slush is not a Tibetan retreat: it is a high octane tech startup event. But, on your own, you can find some time and space to meditate a little.
Helsinki was actually initially an unseasonably warm +5 degrees. Darn, I had brought my whole Nordic wardrobe, including a hip flask. The event included 25K hipsters, hustlers, handlers, hackers and, of course the get-rich-quick, sharp-dressed, investors in a city of 631K; twice the size of Cardiff. But, the wealthiest and arguably the most successful person at the event was a dude from the ‘Diff – Sir Michael Moritz.
Slush itself is massive and supercharged with a focus on how to build world class tech businesses. Slush is Scandinavian in feel, but overtly global in ambition. The number of real investors is palpable. This is essential for any credible event like this. In fact, the conversations and talks were not about the lack of capital, but how to avoid the common pitfalls that tech startups make: you know; lack of focus on customers; poor UI/UX; absence of emphasis on product; experiment and fail and improve. There were some great talks from successful founders that should have scared off any sane investor. But tech is where the money is; where the markets are created and accessed; where productivity gains are to be made – after all, we are in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution that is having a dramatic impact on everything we do, the economy we operate in and the society in which we live.
Slush gets it right – the balance between corporates, finance and start-ups. Or, maybe less of a balance and more of the linking between the three.
Because Slush is in Scandinavia there was a huge sauna area at the conference – time to meditate. Quite bizarre and refreshing. Slush is mind-blowing, enlightening, engaging. It is really well organised and in a great location. Did I make friends? Well maybe not, but I did connect with a lot of people that are in the right space. By the way, no reindeer burger; it was wild boar.