The annual Slush tech event is taking place in Helsinki this week with 25,000 investors, volunteers, startups and visitors descending on the capital for the two day event.
Although Slush started life as a showcase for small Finnish startups, those have been overshadowed in recent years by the big corporations – this year including Airbus, Samsung, Google, Amazon and Nordea to name just a few – which dominate the floor space.
With side conferences happening all week leading up to Slush, the expo now seems to try and cater to every possible tech taste.
Attracting international companies to Helsinki
One area where Slush is succeeding is attracting country delegations to Finland during the darkest months of the year.
On display at Messukeskus this year are prominent pavilions from South Korea, India, China, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Israel, Italy and more.
Sixteen Dutch companies are showcasing their products at Slush this week, and despite having a strong domestic startup ecosystem, the Dutch are interested in investors as well as doing more business in northern Europe.
“This year the companies that we brought are looking to expand into the Nordic market, and they don’t really have a specific vertical as a focus but are from all kinds of different sectors” says Anne Bergshoeff from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
Some of those companies include BlockHeating which recycles data centre energy; Cloudwhale which gives people with disabilities the chance to be full participants in the gaming world with specially modified controls; and a beer company MiniBrew which allows craft beer lovers the chance to brew their own with a kitchen counter-top appliance not much bigger than a coffee maker.
Ireland looks to offset Brexit difficulties
Another country that has a strong presence at Slush this year is Ireland with a dozen companies in Helsinki.
There’s Peptalk, tapping into trends for wellness at work; event management software service Tito; and Dublin-based Social Talent who want to transform their hiring and staff training processes, among others.
“Irish companies come to Slush for a number of reasons. I’d say the main reason they come is to look for investment, and many of our companies have come here to raise so they’ve come here with the goal of meeting investors and having those conversations” explains Hannah Fraser from Enterprise Ireland.
“Other companies are here because they’re looking to build their business across the Nordics and it creates an ideal opportunity for them to meet with potential customers or partners in order for them to sell here” she adds.
Although there’s an interest in investment and expanding to new Nordic markets, the underlying trend is to try and find more non-UK customers for Irish products, to Brexit-proof the companies.
If Britain leaves the European Union, Ireland will lose free access for goods and services to one of its main markets so deals made at Slush might help offset any Brexit-related losses.
“Ireland has been vigorously encouraging Irish companies to diversify as part of its ‘Getting Brexit-Ready’ strategy” says Eddie Brannigan, Acting Ambassador at the Irish Embassy in Helsinki.
“But, regardless of Brexit – which we’ve always said is a lose/lose on all sides – Slush is so big and important for tech startups that it exerts its own gravitational force” he tells News Now Finland.
“A cornucopia of contacts, for sure, and maybe even a cornucopia of contracts.”
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