Community and purpose: Lessons from Slush 2019


In November, 20,000 startups, investors and journalists descended onto a cold and dark Helsinki to talk about the high-growth ecosystem in which they operate. Here’s what we learnt.

Tom Knock
Senior Account Director

Every winter, tens-of-thousands of people descend on Helsinki for the annual Slush event, which brings together the world’s best entrepreneurs, investors, journalists, and anyone else involved in the fast-growth business ecosystem.

Indeed, Helsinki may seem a strange place for such an event. Even Slush’s own banner reads “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November.”

And yet, we do. Every year. Why? Because there’s no better event that sets the tone of the community within which we work. It truly is the bellwether of the fast-growth ecosystem.

So what did we learn this year, and how much of it will carry over into 2020?

“We believe that still today, bringing people together matters”

Slush 2019 was opened by Andreas Saari, Slush’s CEO, and Emma Lehikoinen, Slush’s president. From the outset, it was clear what the theme of this year’s Slush conference would be.

“We believe that still today, bringing people together matters. Startups attending Slush last year have since raised $1.5bn,” Lehikoinen announces to the audience. Of course, it’s a huge number, but why is that actually important beyond simply showcasing how successful businesses have been?

At FieldHouse Associates, we pride ourselves on being part of an important community in London; one that champions a thriving environment of high-growth businesses, as well as entrepreneurs, investors, and the larger corporates that support them.

We see first hand the benefits that being part of such a community can yield. Just a simple introduction can help transform a business. Indeed, when I very first joined FieldHouse, our founder and managing director, Cordelia Meacher said to me: “I truly believe that if we were to put all of our clients and contacts into a room together, every single person would benefit from meeting each other.”

For me, Slush is this ethos supersized.

Whether it’s queuing for coffee, attending one of the many side events and afterparties, everyone is willing to engage with you with a genuine sense of curiosity. There are no boundaries here, and that’s a good thing.

Of course, we didn’t want to waste the opportunity to bring some of our own network together at Slush. We hosted a dinner on the Thursday night, attended by a mix of founders, investors, media, and even some of the wonderful Slush team.

Over reindeer and (possibly a little too much) red wine, I took a moment to breathe it all in; not a network, but a community of people who are all working to promote an ecosystem of businesses who want to change the world, and one that I am proud to be part of.

After all, we’re just people with laptops. Without our network, our community, we really are nothing!

“There are no impact companies”

Of course, connecting with one another is only good if it drives us towards a common goal. For many years, the goal – for investors at least – was growth. Growth and profit are still important, but we’re seeing another priority emerge: purpose.

During the opening keynote, Emma Lehikoinen said: “There are no impact companies. All companies have an impact.”

This hit me hard. In 2019, and moving on to 2020, every business needs to remember that it has some sort of impact on society. Whether it’s targeting a specific demographic or vertical, or is aimed more broadly at consumers, every single company will be having some sort of impact.

Indeed, Atomico’s The State of European Tech survey found that only 14% of founders believe that measuring the societal and/or environmental impact of their business is irrelevant.

At the same time, 80% of VCs are assessing these impacts when investing. Clearly it is becoming more and more important for both entrepreneurs, and the funds investing in them.

As we move into another decade, I believe both community and purpose – as discussed at length at Slush – will become even more important. We’re living in an increasingly fragmented society and it’s important to remain part of something bigger, all while doing something good.

But what about us at FieldHouse? What is our impact going to be? We want to ensure we’re doing all that we can to play our part in helping these businesses change the world.

So, in the new year, we’re going to up our game. We’ve got ambitions to do more to support the thriving community within which we work, and we can’t wait to get you all involved. We have plans to expand our offering, many of which are already in motion, and all of which are laser-focused on solving the challenges that fast-growth businesses face.

Make sure you stay tuned, because I’ve got a feeling that 2020 is going to be the best year for our community yet.

By Tom Knock, @trknock

Image: Julius Konttinen