Hacking the world’s biggest startup event: Slush, Helsinki

Angela Logan, November 19, 2019 7 min read

At one of the busiest tech conferences in the world, it can be hard to know where to start and what to prioritise as a tech founder. This year Tech Nation will be bringing 10 tech companies from across the country to Helsinki for a chance to connect and learn with the best and brightest in our industry, from across the world. Running over the course of a jam-packed two days (21-22 November 2019), Slush is widely regarded as being one of the most valuable conferences in the world for startups and investors.

In preparation, we’ve put together a lowdown on all the things you need to know, how to hack the conference, and who to look out for while you’re there.

What is Slush Helsinki?

Slush Helsinki is the world’s leading event for startups and scaleups. The festival plays host to 25,000 people, with approximately 4,000 startups and 2,000 investors expected to attend.

Events like Slush are immeasurably valuable to scaleups – ensuring that they get access to the best investors from across the globe, and are able to truly explore new markets and all the possible avenues that this entails.

Why are we going?

Tech Nation are taking delegates from 10 companies, carefully selected from right across the UK. Utilising the national network of technology entrepreneurs we have been building over the last year with the work of the Entrepreneur Engagement Managers, the companies selected are from Edinburgh, Belfast, Caerphilly, Leeds, Gateshead, Bournemouth, London, Reading, Ramsbottom, Cambridge.

Liz Scott, Head of Entrepreneur Engagement, Tech Nation commented: “Tech Nation, the UK network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs is excited to be taking a UK delegation to Slush 2019. The delegation represents the strength of the UK tech ecosystem as a cohesive whole and brilliantly demonstrates key growth areas for UK tech, including AI, fintech and cybersecurity.”

Tech Nation are excited to be collaborating with London and Partners, Games London and BIMA to make the impact of our trip even greater, and to best support not only the companies we work with but the UK tech sector as a whole.

Amy Williams, Founder at Good-Loop based in Edinburgh, commented: “Slush is an exciting opportunity to meet and learn from the top entrepreneurs and investors in the world. As we gear up for scale in 2020 and beyond, broadening our international network will be crucial to our success and Tech Nation has the credibility and clout to help us do that.”

The delegation are most excited about meeting investors and partners, networking with entrepreneurs and founders, seeing some of the cutting-edge tech featured at Slush, starting their next fundraising round and increasing awareness around their brands.

How to get the most out of Slush Helsinki

Visiting Helsinki

  • From the airport: The easiest way to get to/from the airport to the city centre is by train – all trains go to the central station. Buy a ticket before you board, either through the HSL app or using a ticket machine.
  • Getting around: Download the HSL (Helsinki public transport) app before arriving. It’s available in English and allows you to buy tickets for all modes of public transport. It’s also a good route guide.
  • Taxis: While public transportation is usually the best way to go in Helsinki, taxis and Uber are available. If you hail a cab from the street, you need to negotiate your price in advance – otherwise you might end up paying way too much. For example, taking a taxi from the Slush venue, Messukeskus, to the city centre should not cost more than €20.
  • Weather: Prepare for cold, potentially even snow. However, Finns are used to dealing with snow so apart from slight delays in trams/trains in the case of a proper snowstorm, snow shouldn’t really affect the day-to-day running of things.
  • Communication: English is widely spoken in Finland and wifi is fast, reliable and widely available. Finns are not big on small talk but love to talk about Finland. 
  • Payments: The vast majority of places in Finland take credit or debit cards.
  • Customs: Finns are very punctual and like to be on time. There are of course differences but generally Finns arrive early and expect meetings etc to start exactly on time. Even two minutes late can be considered properly late and in some instances rude. 
  • Charging: Electric sockets are different than those in the UK, so remember to bring adapters!

Visiting Slush

  • Plan ahead: Do your research and figure out in advance what you want to get out of it. Imagine what ‘success’ would look like. You might even want to give yourself a personal KPI to keep yourself on track, for example ‘I want to meet  ‘X’ new, series A funds per day’ or ‘I must catch up with Atomico, Index etc.’  
  • Book meetings beforehand: Everyone’s calendar fills up so quickly, so if you’re reaching out to funds, ask them if they’re planning on attending Slush. Their diary is more likely to be open.
  • Download the app: The Slush app is actually pretty good, it gives you a sense of who’s there. However, most people won’t be actively checking the app, so you might want to approach them through LinkedIn, Twitter or email to arrange a meeting.
  • Arrive well rested: Slush can be pretty full on, so make sure you arrive with plenty of energy so you can get the most out of it.
  • Meet people, and use your time well: Huge events like Slush are unique in that most of the people who you’ll want to meet (and who are usually impossible to meet) are there and they have time on their hands. Elizabeth Yin’s blog here sums it up: 

“If you are at a conference or an event, investors actually have a LOT of downtime. They have blocked off time on their calendars to be at an event for x amount of time. But aside from their speaking slot or panel or whatnot, they are more or less available! Now, a lot of investors don’t stay for the whole event, but if they are speaking, you can bet they will show up for at least that part. You have the opportunity to find them before or after their talks. Have you ever seen an investor on his/her phone emailing or texting people in the corner of a room?  That is your opportunity to jump in and do an elevator pitch. Be polite and friendly, and you won’t be interrupting.”

  • Don’t forget the stands: Larger clients like Porsche, Google etc. will have stands in the main exhibition – they’re often useful for outreach. 
  • Pay attention to the side events: Attendees of Slush often say the side events are more valuable than the main event itself. Plan to attend events each evening. The best events tend not be advertised, so locate a few people who are going, work their network and find out what events they’re going to.
  • Hustle your way into ‘invite only’ events: Lots of events at Slush will be invite only, but that doesn’t mean it’s definitely a no-go. While popular events will likely be near-impossible to get in without an invite, there’s always a chance other events will have space, so if it doesn’t hurt to try, do.
  • Check out the panels: Unlike some startup events, the panels are usually very strong, so do check out the agenda. 

Who are we bringing?

People Matter

Nigel Winship, Amy King @PeopleMatterLtd
Based in: Bournemouth
Sector: AI

People Matter created Oki – the personal mental health companion. Using a combination of AI, Digital Self and DeepTrust, they offer a unique personalised well-being solution.

Nigel Winship, Founder at People Matter:We are excited to meet investors and partners that can help us scale our business, and learn from the latest cutting-edge thinking on product development, healthtech and startup marketing. We look forward to keeping in touch with UK delegation after the event!”

Good-Loop

Daniel Winterstein, Amy Williams @GoodLoopHQ
Based in: Edinburgh
Specialism: Adtech

Good-Loop is an ethical ad platform which converts advertising money into charity donations, whilst delivering twice as much engagement and a 42% uplift in ad recall.     

Dream Agility

Elizabeth Clarke @dreamagility
Based in: Ramsbottom
Specialism: AI

Dream Agility is an award-winning AI company with proprietary cloud-based Visual AI and Machine Learning, specialising in retail.

Elizabeth Clarke, Dream Agility: “We’ve heard rave reviews about Slush. We’re keen to launch our £2m fundraise and show off our ground-breaking new Visual AI to a tech savvy audience”

Wordnerds

Pete Daykin, Steve Erdal @word_nerdy
Based in: Gateshead
Specialism: AI

Wordnerds surfaces true voice of customers, and spots trends in unstructured text, combining cutting-edge AI with old-school linguistics to help brands listen, understand and act.

WorkInConfidence

Neil Thompson, Tim Martin @InConfidence
Based in: Reading
Specialism: Employee engagement

WorkInConfidence’s online platform helps organisations create better workplaces by reducing problems, boosting engagement and increasing understanding.

Neil Thompson, WorkInConfidence:We’re excited for the PR opportunities and to increase awareness of us among major corporates, and we’re looking forward to the ability to start conversations with potential funders for a £1m fund raise. We also can’t wait to enhance our knowledge of the developments in AI”

Awen Collective

Jules Farrow @awencollective
Based in: Caerphilly
Specialism: Cyber Security

Awen’s cyber security software reduces the cost of cyber-threats to critical national infrastructure and advanced manufacturers.

Heliocor

Roderick Cameron @HelioDiD
Based in: London
Specialism: AI

Heliocor builds compliance software that is a joy to use! AI powered KYC/Onboarding/AML/Trade & Transaction monitoring.
Roderick Cameron, Heliocor: “Stopping Financial Crime is a global imperative, so Heliocor is delighted to be at Slush to meet potential partners, clients and collaborators. We are also looking for up to £5m investment, so lots of conversations to be had with the 2,000 investors attending!”

See.Sense

Phil McAleese @seesense_cc
Based in: Belfast
Specialism: IoT

See.Sense’s patented technology makes cycling safer and cities smarter by crowdsourcing never before seen data for better mobility.

Sano Genetics

Patrick Short @sanogenetics
Based in: Cambridge
Specialism: Medtech

Sano is a platform for personalised medicine. They connect people with medical conditions directly to relevant research projects.

Patrick Short, Sano Genetics: “We are planning to raise another round of funding in early 2020 and looking forward to meeting investors and partners that can help us take our approach to patient-centric research in personalised medicine to the next level!”

Hark

Jordan Appleson, Andrew Hathaway @harksys
Based in: Leeds, Yorkshire
Specialism: IoT

Improve efficiency, maximise yield, reduce waste. Hark is enterprise IoT software for connectivity, visibility and intelligence.

If you are heading to Slush, make sure you come to visit the delegation. We will be based in The Startup District, Messukeskus – L2, L4, L6, L8, L10.

So get prepared, have a few Finnish facts in your back pocket, and look out for some friendly faces of UK tech. You’ll likely never find so many investors in the same place again, so wrap up warm, and have your pitch ready.

Tech Nation news, Early Stage, Mid Stage