The annual startup and investor event SLUSH was again held in Helsinki at the end of last year. Kuopio Entrepreneurship Society board members attended the event and found out what the hype was about. So how was SLUSH and why was it necessary to attend? Let’s get to the bottom of things.
Starting with introductions, could you tell a bit about yourselves and what your role is in KuopioES?
Matti: I’m Matti Laitinen, the ES board secretary for the second year running. I’ve been involved in KuopioES for the past three years. Apart from that I also study Innovation Management (MBA) at University of Eastern Finland.
Tiina: My name is Tiina Kortelainen and I’m the Content Manager for this year. I’m not quite as far along with my studies yet as Matti but I also study Innovation Management.
So what does ES actually do and why are you involved?
Tiina: KuopioES is a voluntary organization that aims to promote entrepreneurial spirit and interdisciplinary networking among students. We organize events and hangouts on themes that are of interest, for example, to anyone wanting to know more about startup culture or starting one’s own business. I’m involved because I’m interested in startups, and I like to find like-minded people to hang out with.
Matti: I’ve gathered quite a lot of know-how during my years with KuopioES, so I have a lot to offer back. I want to be part of a change and introduce new opportunities in the field of higher education with the help of organizational activities. I think the role of organizations like the ES is important in that they bring creative people together, and allow them to create new and meaningful things in fun settings.
How does SLUSH tie into all this then?
Matti: Going to SLUSH always gives a boost for your own projects, especially for planning new ES events. In Helsinki we met members of other Finnish entrepreneurship societies as well as our contacts from Kuopio. We hope to cooperate with them so we can enhance innovation and startup culture, and to help bring together creative and passionate individuals. I believe together we can bring on a positive and inspirational change.
SLUSH has a reputation for being an event you cannot explain but rather have to experience. How was the experience for you?
Matti: This was actually my third time attending SLUSH. Compared to previous years, I have to say my experience of the event has become more coherent in many ways. There is more logic, for example, in what I choose to go see at the event.
Tiina: It was my first time at SLUSH and everybody warned me beforehand of how hectic it would be. I was expecting hectic in terms of crowds and getting from one place to another – but then realized it was the information overload I had been warned about. I was frustrated that there were so many interesting talks going on at once you couldn’t possibly attend everything you wanted even if you only concentrated on a couple of themes.
SLUSH is not just about technology despite that being often the reputation. Was there something specific that you wanted to get out of the themes?
Tiina: I concentrated on a couple of topics that interested me the most, both personally and professionally. The main theme of this year’s SLUSH was “The Mind of an Entrepreneur,” which included talks on the darker side of entrepreneurship, like living with your failures, the solitude and constant self-doubt. I also tried to get as much out of e-commerce and content-related talks as I could. Any extra time I had, I spent listening to pitching competitions.
Matti: I was looking to get specific information, for example on financing and its availability, and of course of the latest trends. I also wanted to learn more on how to form teams, environments and ideas in a way that enables success.
What was the most important panel discussion, pitch or talk that you saw?
Matti: Kristo Ovaska from Smartly IO talked about business culture where the speed of product development is maximized. It was a very concrete example of a successful way of doing things and responding to rapid external changes. It was also a great example on how a business can learn fast and cater to the needs of demanding customers.
Tiina: It’s hard to pick just one highlight from all the talks as there was so much going on. In retrospect – not to underrate any of the speakers – it was all the chance encounters and the people I talked to that made the event for me. Although the pitches and the talks were all very fascinating, at least for me it was the interaction with others that left the biggest imprint.
Did you have any expectations for the event?
Matti: I wanted to expand my contact network as well as get more perspective on the future trends of health sector. My expectations were also very much on chance encounters since SLUSH is always full of interesting people you can run into.
Tiina: As a first-timer I was generally just curious about the whole event. I was also expecting to meet interesting people and to hear their stories and maybe learn from their experiences. I have to say my expectations were met – it was an amazing two days!
Story By Tiina Kortelainen