My colleague Ed Round and I recently returned from Slush 2021 in Helsinki. Slush 21 is to tech start-ups what the Golden Globes is to TV awards – and without the embarrassing speeches. I only had two bad experiences on the trip – both my flights were delayed and my luggage went AWOL but luckily turned up on the next carousel along.
The trip itself was great. As a lawyer and a patent attorney turning up for the first time at a networking event designed to put start-ups in touch with investors, we wondered whether attendees would be reluctant to talk to two professional advisors ostensibly there to take money off them but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone we talked to was happy to expand on their plans and enthusiastically receptive to any suggestions we might have had to accelerate them.
Admittedly, relying on a small profile pic on the Slush website made it somewhat challenging to find who you were looking for in an exhibition hall hosting thousands when everyone was wearing a mask, but we all managed in the end even though at times it resembled speed dating blindfold.
It’s not surprising that Helsinki is the annual venue for this event. It has been reported that Finnish companies received a whopping €929 million in private equity investments in the first half of 2021, an all-time high for that period. The record-breaking €1.5 billion invested in Finnish companies in 2020 is likely to be topped in 2021 and Covid-19 doesn’t appear to have put a dampener on investment activity at all. The reasons for this are clear; Finland is a leading innovation hub for many of the same reasons the UK is.
It’s one of the most networked countries in the world with a well-educated, technology orientated population and universities which prioritise technology transfer. Start-up companies can also benefit from a plethora of accelerators, incubators and venture capitalists together with a relatively low level of red tape. All this came home to me when I attended the opening of the XR Center in Helsinki and met local VR and other companies a couple of years ago.
We have some follow up meetings on video conferencing in the New Year and will definitely be back for Slush 2022 – with luck, without masks. As you can see, the Moomins have already dispensed with them.