A look at the world’s most founder-focused event – Slush 2019

This week, MyBroadband had the opportunity to visit Helsinki in Finland and attend the world’s most founder-focused event – Slush.

The event hosts 25,000 curious minds comprising 3,500 startups, 2,000 investors, 350 researchers, and several hundred policymakers, executives, media representatives, and students – all gathered to learn, connect, and collaborate in building the companies of the future.

The event, which is facilitated by over 2,400 volunteers, provides a platform for these delegates to learn from successful companies who were once startups themselves.

People who’ve walked the walk and have made a success of their own companies delivered hands-on talks, mentoring early-stage founders through topics like sustainability, gaining market trust, product-market fit, Bitcoin, AI and Machine Learning, budgeting, policy planning and many more.

Delegates also had the opportunity to meet and discuss opportunities with people from all over the world through a matchmaking tool offered through the Slush app and by participating in startup pitching competitions.

Among these start-ups were many Southern African entrepreneurs from Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Namibia who were eager to learn how to be successful in a fast advancing world.

The most efficient way of creating change in the world

According to Slush CEO Andreas Saari, entrepreneurs all over the world have always been problem solvers and the problems that we are facing today are more urgent and more complex than ever before.

“We believe that building companies can be among the most efficient ways of creating change in the world. The reason for this is because entrepreneurs are optimistic, they’re in it for the long run.”

“Building companies is incredibly hard and it takes relentless optimism to even set out on that journey. Companies are also engines that bring ideas to the world. If you have a solution, make it into a product, and build a business around that product, you will reach more people and faster than in any other form.

When you have a product that solves massive problems, at the core of the business, it’s one of the fastest routes of solving that challenge at scale.

“We want to be part of creating a world where building these kinds of companies is seen as one of the most compelling options for the upcoming generation. There are no impact companies, all companies make an impact, and we need to be aware of that. We need to start measuring that, and we need to make that information visible,” added Saari.

The reason for this is because these effects are already taking place, and people deserve to know about them so they can choose what they want to spend their time and money on.

“This year in a State of Tech survey, we found out that only 15% of founders in Europe think that it’s irrelevant for them to measure the long-term societal or environmental impacts of their business. At the same time, 80% of Venture Capitalists (VCs) are already assessing these effects on their portfolio,” said Saari.

Over the past two years, the Slush team has asked start-ups and investors attending Slush what they base their success on – and whether it is purely measured in financial terms or whether there is a wider impact.

The results show that 57% of VCs are committed to making a positive impact using their investments, while the number for startups making this commitment is at 66%.

“This is a development that we’re incredibly happy to see, but it’s also one where we see Europe being able to take the driver’s seat globally,” said Saari.

“Still, building companies, even the ones solving massive problems, is about building businesses. Company builders across industries struggle with the same challenges – managing clients, product management, hiring and firing, scaling and organisational practices – which is why we at Slush focus on the most critical aspects of company building,” Saari added.

According to Saari, the world increasingly needs arenas for different parts of society to come together to focus on solutions and not just problems.

Carien Pretorius is a guest at Slush in Helsinki, Finland, made possible by the Finnish Embassy in Pretoria.

Now read: Southern African tech startups make their mark in Helsinki

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A look at the world’s most founder-focused event – Slush 2019