I can’t believe it has already been a week. On 4-5 December, 2018, Slush, “the coolest tech conference on the planet,” took over Helsinki, Finland. 20,000 attendees from startups, public companies and investors across 130 countries converged on the dark and frozen city to learn about the hottest trends in startups and funding, and of course, to enjoy the conference’s cozy Sauna Village.
This year, the student-driven non-profit organization brought together a unique mix of entrepreneurs and investors from companies, ranging from small Nordic companies in early growth stages to large public companies such as Amazon, and powerhouse VCs such as Accel, Atomico and Canvas Ventures.
While I spent most of Tuesday representing Logmore at our booth, I managed to get a few glimpses of what was going around the conference centre, and saw a lot of what other companies had to offer on Wednesday. While it would be fun to brag about all the interesting people I met and the massive attention we got (I don’t think any other booth in the startup village got anywhere near as much attention as ours did), let’s focus on the whole event. Here are five highlights from this year’s unique and electric conference.
- Slush 100
One of the biggest draws of the conference is the annual Slush 100 pitching competition. More than 1,000 companies applied to the competition which allows young startups to gain visibility and refine their pitches. The top three finalists this year were:
- Aerones, a Latvian company which makes giant drones aimed at taking over dangerous tasks from humans such as cleaning turbines and fighting fires
- Lifemote Networks, a Turkish company that uses AI to improve telecom customer care
- Meeshkan, a Finnish company focused on distributed machine learning
Meeshkan won the competition with its deep learning Slack bot and its goal of helping address the shortage of data scientists. AI, which has also been discussed on our blog before, is clearly a buzzword of the day, and Meeshkan has shown a clear drive for it. Check out what they've done so far!
- Building an inclusive tech environment
One of the top trends in tech in 2018 has been the growing conversation around diversity and inclusion. This year’s conference featured a number of panels that addressed the topic. Christoff Witting, CEO of Hornet, an LGBTQ social app, shared his insights on how blockchain can be used to improve the lives of the LGBTQ community. While fading as a trendy buzzword, blockchain still has loyal fans who keep working on it.
In another panel, Francesca Warner, Co-founder and CEO of Diversity VC and Niklas Zennstrom, CEO and Founding Partner at Atomico, sat down to discuss how to make meaningful, positive changes in the industry.
Chief Diversity Officer at eBay, Damien Hooper-Campbell also shared how he relies on open communication to implement the company’s first firm-wide diversity initiative.
- AI / Big Data / Machine Learning continue to dominate
Data was again a main topic across many of the panels. Given the amount of data the digital world is producing every day, more companies are emerging to learn how to leverage this data to build a wide range of solutions. A highlight within this topic was a fireside chat with Amazon CTO, Dr. Werner Vogels, discussing the company’s growth in cloud computing. Other interesting panels discussed how to leverage data in a sustainable way that brings about positive social change.
- Shifts in logistics
Drones, delivery and new mobility solutions were another popular topic. Wing’s CEO James Ryan Burgess discussed how the company’s fleet of small aircraft can deliver in a way that better than ground delivery in terms of speed, safety and sustainability.
Executives from Lyft and Volvo mobility also discussed how transportation is changing. Notably, they shared their insights on how the shift away from car ownership to sharing services is impacting other industries beyond personal transportation.
- Current trends in investing
VCs were in attendance to learn about new trends in the space as well as share their insights on funding. Canvas Ventures and Union Square talked about how the VC landscape is shifting to bigger funds and bigger rounds. Obvious Ventures and Summa Equity shared their thoughts on impact investing and why they think it’s important to invest in companies with purpose-driven business models.
The best Slush quote
If nothing else, all attendees should take away one piece of wisdom from Backstage Capital Founder and Managing Partner, Arlan Hamilton who shared, “Remember, you don’t have to be killing it every single day, because no-one is!” Everyone has good and bad days, right?