On the morning of 19 November, at least two busloads of fresh businesses, enthusiastic business students, and their supporters woke up and travelled to Helsinki to take part in the continent's largest start-up event in Helsinki. It was worth it. Fourteen thousand others had the same idea, and they'd all arrived at Messukeskus to share their ideas, seek funding for their business and to form networks.
I first went to SLUSH in 2013. That year's event was held at Helsinki's old Cable Factory. The venue was overcrowded that just moving about was a hassle. There was no chance of hearing any of the presentations. This year, with the very large Messukeskus as the venue, my expectations of at least the facilities were high.
It became apparent right off the bat that I wouldn't be spending this year's event alone, either. SLUSH 2014 was bigger than ever and crowds were everywhere.
My first task was to get up to speed on what was going on, and where. And something was definitely going on, all the time and in many channels. You can't have it all, so I had to make some choices. Thankfully, the organizers' mobile app worked perfectly and without it, the programme would have been next to useless. All I had to do was load the app and, after making my choices, do what the smartphone told me to. Easy as pie.
SLUSH 2014 was definitely worth the visit. I spent most of my time there checking out the businesses on display and getting a digest of the conference programme. Obviously, a lot of time was spent catching up with my friends. And boy, there were many friends to catch up with. I seemed to run into someone I know with every other step, which made moving about a little slow.
There was plenty of factual content as well. The very first presentation included this fact: the Nordics are responsible for 26% of all exits in Europe! We have to be doing something right, or at least we've figured out a good way of raising corporate funding. And that way has been very successful. This year's event attempted to combine Nordic know-how, American money and the Asian market with a purpose. It remains to be seen if anything comes out of it though...
The challenge with that crowd was keeping your appointments. Or, not keeping them. You need to be very precise to make it to a certain place at the right time and to find the right person in the crowd. Because it isn't a game you can play alone, both parties need to be just as punctual, and there had to have been many a missed appointment during the event.
On the other hand, the event mirrors life in that random chance sometimes plays its hand. You might find yourself next to That Person, the one you've hoped to meet only in your wildest dreams. This is what you've practiced your elevator pitch for, so go for it! It might lead to an incredible story in the future.
The event left me so impressed that I've reserved my spot on the SLUSH 2015 bus already. You should, too!
SLUSH 2014 in a nutshell:
Jyväskylä Business and Innovation Factory