Experiencing Slush as an outsider


Experiencing Slush as an outsider

For many this wasn't the first time visiting Slush, but for many others it was. Having worked in the Finnish start-up scene for a couple of years, visiting Slush has almost become something mandatory - a big part of my business network can be found at Slush and it's a fun place to meet each other. But I wanted to understand how the conference is perceived for an outsider, so I had a chat with Vassileios Stratoulias, who is working as a researcher at the University of Helsinki and both heard of and visited Slush for the first time this year.

Never has there been as much discussion of a conference in Finland, as when Slush was arranged in November this year. The conference got an enormous amount of publicity both in traditional and social media. Hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors were gathered and thousands and thousands of participants came to see what the fuzz is all about.

Vassilis is researching biology at the University of Helsinki. While the type of research Vassilis is doing is very traditional and not at all linked to the business world, visiting Slush and seeing the best of the start-up scene was something extraordinary according to him. Both the crowd, speakers and the attending companies were bigger and better than he could expect.

The greatest insights I got from speaking with Vassilis was understanding how different the start-up scene and the business field is from the standard research Vassilis is doing in his regular day-time job. Even if a big part of the basic research in biology is later on commercialized, researchers are not taught to think about the potential business value of the research they do. According to Vassilis this is a spot where synergies could be found between business and research, for example at Slush. One thing that Vassilis particularly enjoyed during the conference was how openly people were explaining about their endeavors as entrepreneurs – including talking about their failures.

He says that although it is very expensive to commercialize biological research – much more expensive than putting up a team of a couple of software developers and starting to code – there is still a lot of experience from Slush that could be taken to the research field. Even if you need the money, the legal rights, the facilities, the people, and other expensive resources to commercialize biological research, there is a lot that can be learned just by talking to people and listening to examples and experiences from the technology and start-up field. When I ask Vassilis if he will attend Slush again next year, his answer is simple: “Sure, and next year I’ll for sure attend the parties as well.”

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