For the uninitiated, SLUSH is one of Europe's biggest tech conferences and definitely the coolest. It takes place every winter in icy Helsinki (hence the name) and brings together 20,000 techies from across the world for a festival of innovation, inspiration and imagination. (Ok the last one was a bit over the top but I am a sticker for alliteration).
Having just touched down in London after my first SLUSH I thought I would share some thoughts and observations for those not fortunate enough to attend.
- The Finns may be my new favourite people (not to stereotype of course). The ones I met, and there were many, were funny, interesting, clever, hospitable and super-creative.
- I thought the Brits loved queuing, but the Finns take it to a whole new level. There was a queue for everything – taxis, badges, cloakroom, toilets (every toilet), saunas (more of that later), it is as if they actually enjoy queuing.
- Europe is taking tech innovation to a whole new level. Helsinki, Israel (yes, we’ll claim them), Stockholm, Berlin, London…combined Europe is becoming more than a match for Silicon Valley. There are so many start-ups now, hundreds forming each week, that the idea of Europe being a Continent stuck in the past is looking less and less true each day. Incredibly, Finland alone accounted for over 10% of all the start-up capital raised in the past year! (A fact that I was told by pretty much every Finn I met).
- There were people there from almost every developed country on earth, but I was still surprised by how few non-Finns I met. I guess it was in Helsinki so what did I expect.
- Some of the speakers were good, but it really was same-old same-old for most of the main sessions. The real value came in the random 121 conversations I had with the people I bumped into.
- Not so sure about Al Gore as the keynote, he was preaching to the choir about climate change and he didn’t really say anything new. Sorry, Al!
- They really do love saunas, they are everywhere. There was a Sauna Village at the event, so you could (as you do) pop in for a quick “shvitz” in between meetings. They are all over town. I even had one in my hotel bathroom.
- What is it with Crickets? Seriously, what is it with crickets? I was given a cricket flour energy bar, they were serving cricket-flour bread, cricket burgers…I have no idea what they have against the poor creatures.
- Next year I will sign up to more of the side events. Everyone says the sessions there are even better than the main ones. But, as this was my first time I played it safe. There is so much choice it’s overwhelming, so I think next year I will just pick them out of a hat.
- It’s boring doing a top-ten, so I will be different and stick to 9.
I am going off now to book my flights for next year!