A couple of weeks ago, the FieldHouse team headed out to Helsinki to attend “the world’s leading startup event” Slush – and I also had the privilege of checking out its sister event Slush Music. Now that my eyesight has re-adjusted back to daylight (five days spent almost exclusively under pink strobe lights does weird things), here are my musings.
- There are amazing things going on in the music technology space. Slush Music was packed with people from all corners of the industry – from entrepreneurs to music producers and everything in between. AI was a huge topic of conversation, with a lot of debate around what it might mean for the creative industries – it will definitely be interesting to watch that space. The obvious highlight of Slush Music was our client, Andy Chatterley from MUSO, discussing the evolution of music piracy.
- I’ve attended a fair few conferences and events in my time, and I can say without hesitation that Slush was one of the best for networking. While everyone there was likely to have some kind of motive for being there (securing funding, selling, finding the ‘next big thing’ for investment, and so on), that wasn’t the obvious purpose. Instead, everyone was happy to chat away, which differs from other, larger conferences where if you can’t add value immediately, people don’t want to talk to you. Not so at Slush: networking took centre stage and there were a lot of interesting conversations to be had.
- The aforementioned strobe lighting, while slightly disorientating to begin with, actually adds to the whole experience. It’s a slightly bizarre feeling to basically not see sunlight for five days, but not altogether a bad one.
- While there were many big brands with a presence on the hall floor, they didn’t dominate. Many events are taken over by the big names, leaving the smaller startups fighting for attention. Not at Slush – big, small, and medium all had equal billing – and that, to me, made everything more interesting and diverse. That didn’t just go for the show floor but also the speaking sessions, which brings me on to my next point…
- For a relatively small venue (we were packed in pretty tightly), there was a huge variety of stages and areas hosting speakers and panels. The emphasis at Slush was definitely on knowledge-sharing and knowledge-absorbing, with a great roster of speakers from the founders of big-name success stories to entrepreneurs starting their journey – and even a guest appearance from former Formula 1 world champion Mika Häkkinen. While we’re on diversity, props to Slush also for a good show of women as attendees, speakers, comperes, and moderators.
- Helsinki in general was also an absolute pleasure to visit. The people were all lovely – from the taxi driver who picked me up from the airport and spent the journey explaining the Finns’ love of saunas, to our Airbnb hosts who checked in frequently to make sure everything was okay – and the public transport is something else! Trams, trains, buses, metros – I took them all to get around the city, and it was easily the best system I’ve ever used, sad as this observation may be! While we were there, Finland was celebrating 100 years of independence and, as the Fins are apparently terrible at bragging about anything other than how humble they are, we all got tweeting #BragForFinland – so check out some of the other amazing things people discovered about the country while at Slush.
The main highlight – of the whole five days – for me was, however, watching the NASDAQ being opened live from Slush and simulcast to Times Square. It was an amazing thing to be part of and really showed the reach of Slush and its organisers.
And finally …
Temperatures may well have fallen far below zero, but not at the FinTech Insider Beach Party which was, to my surprise, an actual beach party. A room within a sort of leisure centre, completely covered in sand, with the heating ramped up to 25 degrees and no shoes allowed. One of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had at a networking event – but sampling a pina colada from a coconut quickly got us in the beach party spirit!
Thanks for the hospitality Helsinki – see you at Slush 2018!