Slush puppies in focus as start-ups gather in Finland

Al Gore among keynote speakers at Slush tech conference in Helsinki

Attendees of  Slush  working  in privacy pods during the   event in Helsinki, Finland,  in 2016.  Photograph:  Getty Images

Attendees of Slush working in privacy pods during the event in Helsinki, Finland, in 2016. Photograph: Getty Images

 

It may not be as big as Web Summit, and the location certainly isn’t as balmy as Lisbon, but Slush, a Finnish tech conference which gets under way on Thursday, is looking to become as well known.

In fairness it is hard to resist an event that last year had a huge banner at the entrance which proclaimed: “Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass.”

The event has grown from a 300-person gathering in 2008, and now sees speakers such as former US vice-president Al Gore appearing on stage before an audience of 20,000 attendees that includes 2,600 start-ups, 1,500 investors and 600 journalists.

As with the Web Summit, Slush has expanded significantly in recent years, and now run events in Tokyo, Singapore and Shanghai.

Attendees from 130 countries are in Helsinki for the two-day event, which also features Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Nasdaq chief executive Adena Friedman and Atomico founding partner Niklas Zennström, who also previously co-founded Skype and Kazaa.

The conference is looking to take advantage of the cold, dark days to encourage people to huddle together to listen to the latest on topics such as AR/VR and machine learning.

Slush also provides a big boost for local entrepreneurs. Investment in Finnish start-ups rose 42 per cent last year. Figures provided by the Finnish Venture Capital Association show the country also led European venture capital investments in start-up and early-stage growth companies as a percentage of GDP between 2012 and 2016.

Finland may not be as well-known as some other European nations for its start-up scene, but Slush is going all out to rectify this. The big thaw begins now.