Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, Helsinki becomes the epicentre of the Tech Universe with its conference, Slush.
Since its inception, Slush has been growing every year. This year there were over 25 000 attendees including 3 500 startups and 2000 investors. All the attendees represented the standard mixture of tech adventurers, creative, weirdos and the like, with one of Slush’s official banners saying “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November…Except You. You Badass. Welcome.”
Over the course of 2 days, the quality and magnitude of the talks was unprecedented, with over 100 talks from some of the world’s best heavy hitters including Michael Moritz Partner of Sequoia Capital, John Collison Co-founder of Stripe, Kevin Lin Co-founder of Twitch, David Simas CEO of the Obama Foundation, Diane Bryant Former COO of Google and Current Group President of Intel, Lydia Jett Partner at Softbank, amongst others.
When this level of content is combined with some of the best event production you will see at any event, tech or otherwise, you will be surprised to hear that the conference was not the real star of Slush week. The real star, or stars, of the week were the side events.
Starting the Saturday before Slush, the number of Slush side events gradually increases. By the time the actual conference starts there are more than 25 each day.
These events range from meals to cocktail events, to mini conferences, to activities. Towards the end of the event, it is very likely that if you tried to go to everything going on around Slush you would have no time available for sleep. Many people come into town just for the side events and several attendees expressed that they probably would not have attended Slush except for the fact they were able to get free tickets through the community or being part of organising the event.
To give a small taste of what you could do outside Slush, here are the best side events from this year:
‘Tonic19’ was a one-day food tech event put on by Arctic Startup, creators of Arctic15. It included talks about the future of food. There was a large focus on future meat production with one of the event highlights being the talk given by Roos Forder of Halo Burger, on how we need to create the Mcdonalds of alternative proteins.
‘Tech.Eu’s Hello Darkness My Old Friend’ was an evening networking event put on by one of Europe’s tech media giants, Tech.Eu. They put together a great program of panels and fireside chats. The biggest highlight was Barbara Belvisi of Interstellar Lab, who spoke about how space technology has always been used to make life better on earth.
‘Y Science’ was a morning life science event put on by REBBLS, a biotech ecosystem builder from Copenhagen, and HiLife, the Helsinki Institute of Life Science.
The event was broken into three parts. In the first part, talks focused on showcasing some of the top research from academics in the field. In the second part, a 30 000 Euro pitch completion and the third part had talks from a mix of investors and companies. The highlight of the event was Inka Mero of Voima Ventures, who said that deep tech will be the future and we need to make sure that it is properly funded.
‘TNW’s Bowling’ was a night networking event put on by the The Next Web(TNW), a media company out of Amsterdam. Over the last few years, TNW has built a reputation for putting on great events for the startup ecosystem so it wasn’t all that surprising that they had one of the best side event’s at Slush. A fun shindig at a game parlour that had not only bowling but also food, drinks, archery, pool and other activities.
‘Backed VC’s Party’ was a party at a club that was put on by Backed VC. There are rumours that Backed VC only exists to put on side events at Slush and is not actually a VC. The self-proclaimed caterer to Optimists, this was an event not to be missed, at a club with 3 separate dance floors and the party raging.
‘Investor Day Dinner’ was a dinner that followed the Investor Day pre-event put on by the bank Nordea. This event put all the top investors from Slush in the same room for an evening of drinks and dinner. Also, if you were lucky to find it, there was a pinball corner.
So much Karaoke. An overarching theme of the side events this year was that everyone wanted to get on the karaoke train. Starting from Tuesday, there was at least one, if not more, karaoke events every single night. It seemed like different organisations kept competing with each other to see who could have the best one.
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