Bright minds light up Finnish winter at Slush

“Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome.” Those were the words emblazoned on the banner greeting a massive 17,500 participants from 120 countries at this year’s Slush festival, Europe’s leading startup event.

The edginess of the greeting ignited the main event area with fire, where 2,300 enthusiastic start-ups and1,100 venture capitalists shared super-bright insights, and mixed and mingled to create the unique Slush atmosphere.

This was the first year Nordea attended Slush in an official capacity – and we made an impact with an eye-catching, heavily trafficked stand full of information on Crowdfunding, the Accelerator programme, our new mobile payment solutions. Even the Crown Prince of Norway popped by for a chat!

For many of us, it was our first time at Slush and we didn’t know quite what to expect. Everyone had said that Slush is different kind of event – and they were spot on! Ideas, energy and fresh thinking circulated among the attendees. The accessibility to all participants and the range of industries and topics covered was fantastic – health, payments, urban design, data security and more, all sharing the same space, united by their interest in the transformative potential and co-creative possibilities of new technologies.   

In addition to the hard work and conversations taking place at the stands, there were plenty of interesting, well prepared and insightful pitches from startups. On the Founder Stage, for instance, a panel with llkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell; Daniel Ek, CEO and Co-Founder of Spotify; , and Niklas Zennström, Co-Founder of Skype and CEO & Partner at Atomico talked about failure being part of success. They had different opinions in key areas, shared their mistakes and successes, and discussed whether failure is really an option. 

On the smaller Green Stage, keynote speaker Arielle Zuckerberg, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, talked about AI assistance, how artificial limbs will outperform human limbs in the future and how to manoeuvre and take ethical decisions in this coming reality. Albert Wenger, partner at Union Square Ventures, talked about the world after capital – and how we could be entering the “knowledge age”, where learning, creation and sharing based on huge amounts of data will replace capital as a socio-economic driving force.  

Blockchain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things were also predictably hot topics and companies like CybelAngel talked about the prevention of the 10 million potential data leaks they detect per day, and how that number will increase as the Internet of Things rapidly progresses. 

Nordea Startup Accelerator participants also pitched their ideas at Slush, attracting large crowds. 

Strolling around the stands a young man walked up to me and asked what I did. I told him briefly about my job as Head of Business Innovation in Transaction Banking at Nordea. He then told me about a solution that helps startups launch their products faster. Having worked in a startup myself, I challenge him a bit on why he has limited his customer base to just startups. He smiles at me, points to the bustling crowd and says: “Where’s the limitation?” 

We laugh, and I admit he is 100% right; there are no limitations at Slush – only enthusiasm, possibilities and great minds. And, of course, badasses. 

/Sophia Wikander, Head of Business Innovation in Transaction Banking at Nordea.

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