Slush 2017. A few princes are coming to check out the buzz. The event has so many participants that a Finn appreciating his minimum 4 square-meter personal space will suffer as it gets totally violated in the crowd. I heard that it took over an hour to queue for the cloakroom after the afterparty last year. Some people seem to be a little bit too proud that they visited the event last year. That was basically all I knew about Slush a month ago.
What is Slush? After all the hype going on, I decided I need to witness Slush myself. So, I assured my coworker that I would a good addition to Polar Bear Pitching Slush squad. And with some magic, she managed to get me a ticket only three days before the event.
With the ticket in my pocket, I traveled to Helsinki with an open mind. And I received a mind-opening experience. It was so overwhelming, massive and postmodern that it’s very hard to write a coherent story of my Slush. Instead, I give you a few more or less disconnected observations:
1. Slush touches all of your senses. It overtakes them. The music is futuristic and earthmoving. You feel the crowd around you and the steam in the air. You taste the delicious food from different cultures. You smell the scent of wood as you buy a Slush phone cover made from Finnish wood. You see the laser lights in all the possible colors forming beautiful shapes in the air and hope that there isn’t too many epileptics there.
2. Slush gets into your head. It either alters or strengthens the way you think. The event has clearly communicated values and it shows them everywhere. Everything circles around sustainability. Food is served on plates made of wood and eaten with a wooden fork. Meals include many vegetarian options. The trash is delivered to “raw-material collection” –stations where volunteers make sure it goes to the right bin. The merchandise is manufactured by a Finnish Fashion brand Pure Waste that makes its clothes from textile waste and doesn’t consume any water or dye them (4 years of their collaboration has saved 41 113 100 liters of water in the manufacturing process). When you buy Slush gear you won’t receive a paper receipt. Most of the speakers are pioneers in tackling Sustainable development goals set by United Nations. Stages are covered in the green art provided by nature.
3. Startups have the power. There is not a trade-off between being environmentally healthy and profitable. Nowadays, these two things go hand-in-hand. Investors value good business ideas but they value even more good business ideas with a sustainable vibe to it. Some of the startups will grow to be the trailblazers of the future and these companies have the power to alter the environment they operate in. Change the status quo and build new practices that be a part of the better status quo in 10 years. I had the privilege of meeting numerous startups many of which will develop our world through different brilliant ideas.
4. The speakers set an example. So many brilliant minds. So many brilliant minds doing something good. Al Gore lifted the spirit at the very beginning and made me a believer in our capability of winning the threats that haunt earth. Mika Häkkinen is a fun dude who knows pressure, criticism and quick decisions better than anyone. And he uses word “flat-out” a lot. Jonathan Hirshon, the guru of Silicon Valley, was the one who made the biggest impression. I came to listen to him mid-way through the introduction by hosts and heard the word Polar Bear Pitching. I had no idea why the hosts brought that up. I forgot it for a moment, listened to the witty and illustrative speech on the codes of PR and called our Polar Bear Pitching CEO right after he was done. “Do you know this dude, how on earth is he connected to our event and how could we get him there?” I learned that he is a friend of our event who gave a keynote and was a judge last year. I published an overall Slush-hype update on LinkedIn including Hirshon tagged due to his great speech and he answered that he is coming to the next Polar Bear pitching, as well. Excellent!
5. Practicalities were taken care of. It is a challenging task to provide thousands of participants with everything they need. Slush did it. You get a free public transportation card for three days when you pick up your badge. Badges are available in multiple locations, for example in the airport. The queues for food and toilets might have been long at some points but you could always find a place where they weren’t that bad. No practicality of the event was a target of large criticism what means they did it pretty damn well.
6. Cricket pizza is crunchy. And extremely tasty. It was the only sort of pizza served since the United Nations has advised people to eat more insects to fight world hunger. Many faces were not so happy when seeing the crickets and I bet the restaurant workers heard the phrase “Is there any other kind of pizza?” a few times. But my face was as happy as a face can be when I queued for my second cricket pizza. It was crunchy, a little spicy and overall really tasty. The taste of the crickets reminded me of shrimp that would have a little but not too crunchy surface.
After all, I see Slush as a magnificent startup event that gives value to all of its main customers: startups can showcase their company and get potential investors, investors can mingle with each other and make good investments, executives might find employees, ideas or startups to buy and students definitely learn a lot and might be even employed by someone. To me, Slush is a conscious conference which develops our world via startups. Now, I am the one who is proud of that he participated (might have bought some Slush gear, as well).
The author is suffering post-Slush symptoms: he wears Slush-shirts every day, uses a Slush phone cover and talks about Slush on a daily basis. In the spring he will most likely proceed to the pre-Slush phase that includes thinking of buying a ticket, reading every piece of Slush news available and talking about Slush on a daily basis.
Last updated: 11.12.2017