Energy you won’t find elsewhere

Text: Minna Hölttä, Photos: Mikko Raskinen

Slush has phenomenal pull that stems from the passionate community of people behind it. For them, helping entrepreneurs is everything.

Marketing Helsinki in November is not an easy task: the city is dark, cold and dismal. Even so, 15 000 technology enthusiasts, 2000 startups and 1000 investors from around the globe are all rushing to Slush. As little as five years ago Slush was a small-scale event inherited by a small group of students, which brought together a few hundred entrepreneurs. What fueled its success and what is in store for this year? Let’s hear from the dynamos behind Slush 2016.


Marianne Vikkula,CEO, studies industrial management at Aalto University

“I started working at Slush in 2012 as a volunteer handing out posters and stayed on at Aaltoes doing all sorts of jobs. The next year I became financial officer and last year I took on responsibility for our collaborative partners. Now I am in charge of the event as CEO and I make sure my team has everything in order.

What makes Slush so exceptional is the emphasis it places on the entrepreneurial side. Our goal is not to be the largest technology event, but to help entrepreneurs in every possible way. The tools and services at Slush are built to accommodate as many investors at our event as you would normally expect at events with twice our attendees.

The real motor of Slush is the community of people behind it. Over two thousand volunteers create astounding energy and a mood that you cannot find anywhere else. The attendants can feel it as well and it is what entices them into coming back again and again. From communities to communities is a thought still very much at the heart of Slush, despite the fact that the event has expanded so much, and also grown international and more professional. This year people can expect a great display for example in biosciences. I myself am especially looking forward to hearing Uma Valet from artificial meat makers Memphis Meat. We are also expecting over 40 influential entrepreneurial actors from developing countries. In the future, people I would love to see at Slush include Alibaba’s founder Jack Man and Virgin Group’s founder Richard Branson.”


Nicolas Dolenc, Executive Producer and founder of Slush Music, studied Computer Science at Aalto University

”I joined Slush in 2014. I had been running Contract Catering Restaurant Täffä for two years on the Aalto campus and it was quite natural that I ended up orchestrating Slush side events. They went apparently well as the following year I was asked to join as Executive Producer. The year starts with planning and throwing around ideas and now that zero hour is approaching work is all about solving problems and helping my own team.

People make Slush magical. They are so exhilarated and it drives them to give their all. We get volunteers from 80 countries, creating a network where people gain contacts from all around the world. From day one, Slush has been created with the idea that instead of offering an event, we are offering a tremendously exciting experience: in addition to giving attendees the best value for their time and money, they also get to experience a world that cannot be found anywhere else.

Slush is successful because it resonates with what society wants right now. Larger disruptions used to occur every 10 or 20 years and now they are coming about in quarterly cycles. Growth entrepreneurs know how to operate in the changing world and also alter it themselves. As a result, everyone is interested in them, including large corporations.

This year we wanted to create a unique entity inside Slush for some audience. We considered sports and fashion and health technology and decided to choose music. It is a business that technology can expand and there are countless entrepreneurs in the music business who want to change the world. Amongst Slush Music’s guests, I am most looking forward to seeing Imogen Heap, one of the first artists to have published music with block chain technology. For personal reasons I am also looking forward to discussions about how becoming a father affects growth entrepreneurship. My first child’s expected due date is the day after Slush, so now my team and I are all excited to see if I have to leave in a hurry.”


Laura Leppälä, Black Stage Program Coordinator, studies information and service economy at Aalto University

“In 2013 I followed Slush live streaming and it seemed so incredible that I decided to apply to be a volunteer the next year. This spring I took part in Tokyo Slush through a course organized by Aalto and since summer I have been part of the team planning the program for Black Stage, which is one of Slush’s four main event stages.

Slush is unique because it is so strongly driven by students and volunteers. When there is no huge professional organization in the background, people have a completely different level of freedom to do things, take responsibility, choose, and come up with ideas. If something does not work it is easy to change it and try something new. The uniqueness of a student-driven event was very apparent in Japan where it was a completely novel concept – it is a winning idea that we could export more widely.

The most important thing you take away from Slush is the positivity. It builds a way of thinking where you see that everything is possible, also in Finland. Slush attracts top-tier entrepreneurs and investors from Silicon Valley. It shows that you don’t always have to found your company abroad – you can also succeed starting from Finland. This year I am anticipating Steve Jurvetson and Naveen Jain’s dialogue on space business. I also very much like this year’s theme Mind of an entrepreneur and the visual image that draws from Nordic mythology. In the future I would like to see even more societal aspects at Slush: people who would bring new perspective outside the startup-ecosystem.”

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