Slush: "Nothing Normal Ever Changed a Damn Thing"
When 20,000 people from over 130 countries willingly travel to a conference in the middle of Finland's cold-as-hell winter, you can sense something special is taking place. This is exactly why eight aspiring entrepreneurs from London Business School made the trip to Slush – to learn more about Europe’s next big tech hub, which looks to follow in London’s footsteps.
Slush has been described by many as “Burning Man meets TED”. While it’s more of the latter than the former, the overall atmosphere created by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and tech enthusiasts creates a fiery sensation. Much attention could be paid to the awe-inspiring main event led by Al Gore. But, the beauty of Slush lies in its seemingly hidden, behind-the-scenes action – the experiences making this conference one of a kind – the side-events.
Side-events are personalized, random, and memorable entrepreneurial adventures taking place amidst the greater-Slush universe, which, in their own right, make this short trip from London to Helsinki worthwhile. These side-events consistently echoed the core message of Slush – “nothing normal ever changed a damn thing” – giving conference attendees the chance to interact, to think differently, and to cure the virus of normalcy. With a smorgasbord of side-events across Helsinki at our disposal – options ranging from beer tastings to EdTech talks, VC connections to pitch competitions – choosing the highlights was not an easy task. But, after much mind-torturing reflection, here are the top five side-events for Slush 2017:
1 - Fintech Insider Live! at Slush
Finland is freezing in the winter and Fintech Insider is well-aware of this fact. So, what do they do? Throw an amazing beach party in a completely sand-covered venue with swimsuits and rum-filled pineapples at a prime 30 degrees Celsius.
This was by far the most original and well-crafted side-event of the whole weekend. Not only was the execution impeccable, but a live podcast taping from Fintech Insiders took center-stage, giving way to stories of thrilling fintech startups and influential leaders. After the show ended, it was party mode for all 300 attendees, where music, mojitos, conversation, and Caribbean vibes made the venue even more caliente.
2 - XcitED
The phrase “nothing normal ever changed a damn thing” echoed throughout Slush, but especially resonated within the many talks about the future of technology in education. That’s why XcitED was so important.
Branded as an official Slush partner event, XcitED brought together over 1000 Ed-Techies who shared hot issues around the education ecosystem and the role of startups in it all.
Located just around the corner from Slush, XcitED was a 5-hour event filled with inspiring conferences by education gurus from all over the world. Even better, you found over 30 promising start-ups showcasing concepts from VR to cartoon TV shows, all looking to disrupt the education sector. Changing education systems that were founded on centuries-old traditions will not be an easy task (anything worth doing rarely is), but XcitED brought to light the important steps innovators are taking toward progress.
3 - Elisa Garage Chillax 2017
I wasn’t expecting much from a 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm parking garage party hosted by Finland’s biggest telecommunications company, Elisa. But boy was I wrong!
Free-flowing alcohol, chef-crafted appetizers and one of the best DJ sets I’ve seen in my life – brought upon by non-other than “Windows95 Man” (yes that’s his name, yes, you have to check him out http://windows95man.tumblr.com/) – was the main reason to brag for Finland. A very original setting of a parking garage placed everyone (investors to founders, students to CEOs) on a leveled playing field, making networking a fun and easy experience. The creativity of the Finnish people peaked to an all-time high during Slush.
4 - Climate Impact Battle
Though officially branded as a side-event, the Climate Impact Battle took place inside the Slush main venue. The smell of competition in the air made this event memorable, as 30 start-ups battled for 50,000 EUR with ideas aimed at solving the biggest issue facing mankind: climate change. The ideas brought forward went from crazy to impossible. These start-ups were living proof that “nothing normal ever changed a damn thing.”
Slush 2017 was also branded as “A Call to Solvers” – a mantra repeated over and over as a challenge for change-makers to save the world. The Climate Impact Battle orbited this call, and the Warehouse Stage erupted with innovative ideas that will be vital to our survival of the world’s most pressing problem.
5 - The Utopic Slush Afterparty
“It’s been called legendary, it’s been called mythic. This year, they describe it as utopic – whatever that means, it will be out of this world.”
Too good to be true, right? Well, in this case it was no lie.
The main Slush venue transforms into a 3-stage concert/nightclub, capping this 20,000 person event with a night to remember. Not only was the alcohol free, but the lasers take over the stage where Al Gore kicked it all off, leaving 13 artists to perform for an over-excited crowd. This was ultimate way to end the best start-up conference in the world.
The uniqueness of Slush was the perfect match for our diversified, eight-person LBS group. We represented not only our highly-international class, but our rich interconnected world. Our cultures from Korea, Norway, Mexico, United States, South Africa, China, Hungary and New Zealand fused in Finland, repeating the reminder to look beyond the normal and unto the impossible.
Back at LBS, we are now working to answer the “call to solvers” sooner rather than later, and invite you to be a part of this ongoing movement, founded on the idea that “nothing normal ever changed a damn thing.” Stop being normal, be weird, and go change something.
For those of you who made it, don’t forget to comment with your favorite Slush moment. And, if you didn’t get the chance to go, make sure not to miss it in 2018!
For more info: http://www.slush.org/