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Learnings from Slush, Europe’s leading startup and investor event

Slush 2016
Slush 2016. Photo credit: Jussi Ratilainen, Slush 2016.

Once again I spent two extremely dark, and also a bit slushy days in Helsinki. On top of AW New York, my other autumn tradition is to take part in Slush, Europe’s leading startup and investor event.

Slush 2016 was a two-day happening, which gathered 17,500 attendees from 124 countries into Helsinki. This included 2,336 startups and 1,146 investors. What an opportunity to drive business!

Slush is an inspiring occasion (especially for Finns). There you may:

  • Listen to world-class speakers
  • Learn where the startup scene is heading to (+ whom to monitor)
  • Come up with (and/or borrow) brilliant ideas
  • Discover new tools to boost business
  • Build and maintain professional network

Plus being there simply supercharges your energy level.

For the event I had set up myself 41 calendar reminders. Listening to keynotes and fireside chats, following the pitching competition, and having meetings made sure that I didn’t have a dull moment.

My top three key learnings from Slush 2016 are:

3rd: Reset the brain to an exponential mindset

First person who made my head spin was Steve Jurvetson. To put things into perspective, he was a VC investor in Hotmail, and his board seats include Tesla, SpaceX, Planet Labs to name a few.

Jurvetson’s message was that things will only speed up. For example, Moore’s law allows serious simulation = no more physical experiments needed = airplanes don’t need wind tunnels. And so on.

Naturally simulation is just one speeding element. Others include:

  • Cheaper access to resources
  • Commodity hardware combined with powerful software
  • Dematerialization of value
  • Agile operating model
  • Global markets

Yes, we have heard all this before. However, has it already changed our mindset from linear to exponential? At least I still have some “homework” to be done. Luckily sensors offer a perfect case study.

2nd: Culture makes the difference and accelerates everything

My second key learning came in smaller pieces from Uber’s Chris Messina, True Venture’s Tony Conrad and EQT Partners’ Sven Törnkvist. They tied together my detached thoughts on culture.

Uber’s Messina told that Uber emphasizes “toe-stepping culture” and “truth over ego”. He specified that when you have data to backup your hunch, you are “expected” step on toes. Admirable.

Later on True Venture’s Conrad used Google as an example. Even hardcore tech “geeks” may have pretty quirky habits that bother others, Google has created a culture where they can shine too.

Finally EQT Partners’ Sven Törnkvist pointed out that on top of tech, a lifting culture needs to be created for a whole business. His example was Waze – using Waze truly benefits all the stakeholders.

1st: Understand that artificial intelligence has a personality

Brett King, one of the world’s top influencers on financial services, had a mind-blowing presentation too. The best thing was that his speech went beyond financial services – he wanted to open our eyes.

For example, machines have already started to solve problems on their own, unconventionally. The AI behind Google Translate has created its own language for translating between languages.

Next example was Audi with its self-driving cars. King told us about “the identical twins”, AJ and Bobby. Even the cars have exactly the same hardware and software, Bobby is faster and more aggressive!

The reason for the difference is that one day a driver drove more aggressively with Bobby. This drive influenced Bobby’s machine learning capability and the way Bobby learned from that moment on.


Now I would love to hear your Slush learnings. For those Finns who chose to skip the event this year, I hope this inspired enough to attend Slush next year. If not, Mr. T has a message for you. 😉

Thanks for reading!

PS. Feel free to share the joy. Thanks!

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