What attracts big names in high tech business, engineering and investment communities around the globe to Helsinki? In November?
Well, they’re not here for the weather or to see the daylight start to fade at 3 PM. Rather, the gravitating forces behind this pilgrimage is Slush Helsinki, a growing and exciting technology conference, which takes place on November 11th to 12th this year.
A cocktail of cool
The conference offers a line-up of speakers and exhibiting startups. But that’s not the entire recipe: Add to the mix parties, open bars and employees from a wide range of fascinating companies. And of course, students from many Finnish universities, who are offered a reduced or even waived entrance fee through different organizations. Talent, networking opportunities and ideas everywhere!
Finnish culture has a reputation for a certain shyness. But Slush is purpose built around giving everyone a push towards open sociability: good parties and a conference complex packed with educated and driven individuals. Like a marvelous cocktail with an unsettling name, Slush adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
To help you get the most out of Helsinki’s coolest winter get together, we’ve gathered some top insider tips. And even if you don’t have a ticket for the main event, we’ve got good news for you, so please do read on.
What good is an idea if you can’t express it in a way that inspires others to invest money and time in it? Well, not much. At conventions like Slush, it’s always a good idea to at least take a good look at enthusiastic new entrepreneurs getting feedback on their pitching and presentation skills. The Slush 100 competition offers a hefty dose of these with a stage dedicated to pitching in different industries.
Don’t mistake this recommendation for us telling you to eat your broccoli. If you’re the type of person who attends Slush, you only have to watch a few pitches to get your head spinning with interesting business ideas.
Time and place: The pitches take place through the conference
Fireside chat with Caterina Fake
When it comes to Interweb history, Caterina Fake is the real deal (sorry!). No, really: Ms. Fake worked for Netscape and as Salon’s Art Director back in the nineties. She went on to co-found Flickr and has served on the board of directors for Creative Commons. She founded and sold recommendation engine Hunch, which was acquired by eBay. Ms. Fake currently serves as the chairman of the board at Etsy and runs Findery, a service for mapping local knowledge. Speaking of local knowledge: she has herself added quite a few tips about Helsinki to Findery.
Sounds fascinating? Well yes, that’s because Fake appears like a renaissance thinker and presents herself as a proponent of liberal arts in the tech field. You could do worse than checking out some interviews with her, like these on ReadWrite and Twit.tv’s Triangulation podcast.
Time and place: Silver stage at 15.00 on Thursday
Lunch, coffee and precious daylight in Kallio
Daylight is a luxury item in November, so try to get outside the convention center before mid-afternoon. Lunch or coffee in the nearby Kallio district is a perfect destination. Several venerable publications have picked up the habit of recommending Kallio for a few years now. But the nice guys at e-commerce company Holvi offer an up to date Kallio guide written with Slush visitors in mind.
If you’re not a frequent visitor to Helsinki, late 2015 is the perfect time to see Kallio in its transition from a rough working class neighborhood with a party scene to a district with nice and interesting services.
Time and Place: Take tram 7A to the Sörnäinen stop whenever you need a break.
Panel discussion: Why design should be in every company’s DNA
Everyone needs a reminder every now and then: In the industrialized world, almost everything around you is designed. Design Forum gives you such a refresh on a silver platter with a panel featuring young and experienced designers and marketers.
Here are just some of the panelists: Pyry Taanila has designed the throwable Catchbox microphone, prof. Jaana Beidler’s career spans Nike, Esprit, Microsoft, and teaching. Andreas Rosenlew has worked with design and marketing around the globe, in offline and online businesses, in both new and established companies simultaneously. How’s that for a boatload of creative business thinking to scavenge?
Time and Place: Engine Room at 15.45 on Wednesday.
Try saying “wearable devices and healthcare tech” out loud. You might cringe as your mind’s eye projects terrible ways to combine Google Glass, “the handsfree Segway for your face” and the smell of hospital food. Luckily, you’re just projecting yourself back to 2012. The state of the art has progressed, as will be evident during the Wearable Healthcare sessions.
First and foremost: just take a look at LEAF, an all-round health tracker that looks like actual jewelry. Urska Srsen, co-founder of Bellabeat, the company behind LEAF will be presenting.
So will Raoul Scherwitzl, CEO of NaturalCycles, a mobile-oriented fertility tracking service. The potential of exponentially dropping prices of wearables will certainly be explored as the sessions close with a discussion on wearables for developing technologies with panelists from e.g. UNICEF and ARM, the company behind the energy saving family computing architecture used in virtually all mobile gadgets.
Time and place: Green stage at 12.30 on Thursday
Blippar’s augmented reality magic
Here’s a story that sounds unlikely, at least to most western people: a guy drops out of high-school in 1997 Delhi, India to become an entrepreneur. The company being founded makes an IPO three years later. The guy moves to London.
That’s the background of Ambarish Mitra, who went on to form augmented reality platform Blippar back in 2011. With Blippar, Mr. Mitra has pulled off another astounding growth phenomenon by becoming one of the leaders in augmented reality, and he’s turned down astronomical acquisition offerings as well.
We want to recommend Ambarish Mitra’s Blippar talk not only for his story but for the astounding technological advancements behind the company’s AR product. Long story short: Blippar lets you “browse” your surroundings by just holding up your phone’s camera and letting the service recognize objects. With this service in existence, every business owner needs to figure out to get products, logos and packaging recognizable in augmented reality services.
Time and place: Silver stage at 16.00 on Wednesday
Hang out with the game industry
Feeling like an outsider because you don’t have a pass for Slush proper? Well, you’re not alone. But more importantly, there’s a solution.
Finland’s chapter of the International Game Developer’s Association, IGDA throws a party at Wednesday night at Messukeskus, the Slush convention center. Food and drinks are served, and surprise program is to be expected.
If this sounds like your golden ticket, quickly head over to event’s registration page and reserve your place. Note: Slush passes are not valid, so everyone needs to register.
Additionally there’s a ton of other side events that don’t require Slush tickets.
Time and place: Messukeskus convention center at 7 on Wednesday.
Have more vital tips and ideas to add to our Slush Helsinki guide? Please let us know by posting a comment.
Thomas Nybergh is a Digital Producer and writer for Ink Tank Media. Passionate about user-centred design and culture, he’s spent a decade working at the crossroads of technology and marketing. He can be found sharing his thoughts on both on Twitter
Title image credit: Jussi Hellsten