Reflections on Slush 2015

What happens when you have 15,000 enthusiastic digital entrepreneurs with more than 3,500 companies in an inspiring environment with laser beams in the roof? You will be filled with energy and feel proud to be living in the Nordic countries that are among the world’s superpowers when it comes to digitalization.

Outside the Messukeskus Expo and Convention Centre in the northern parts of Helsinki people shake their heads when seeing the crazy queues and traffic around the entrance. However, what they don’t think about is the revolution happening just in front of their eyes. The driving force behind the ever faster change in the world is digitalization. Everything starts with an idea, and the strongest ideas are born when 15,000 people from one hundred different countries are brought together.

To me as a Slush visitor the event is all about making the world a better place with digital solutions, meeting total strangers, getting to know them and learning from one another. There are 2,500 tech meetups in Europe each year but Slush is the biggest one in the Nordics, and unlike many others it puts the visitors in the center rather than the speakers.

Yes, there are around 750 investors, 700 media representatives together with more prominent participants such as prime ministers, super entrepreneurs as well as billionaires, but the atmosphere is very meritocratic. Anyone can accomplish great things and help others to succeed. Those who are successful are rather admired than envied. And that is really the essence of the Slush experience.

Here are my thoughts and observations about this year’s event:

  • There is much more diversity than I expected. Approximately one fourth of the participants are women and the number is increasing. Not everyone is under thirty, and there are people from all around the world.
  • Prince Daniel of Sweden attended the Swedish Hotspot this year. With Stockholm having the second most start-ups in the world per inhabitant after Silicon Valley, there is no doubt about Sweden’s future digital ambitions.
  • The hottest political topic at the moment, discussed on stage by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia, and Neelie Kroes, the former EU Commissioner, is the completion of the Digital Single Market (DSM) for Europe. The DSM will be a real game changer for our future opportunities.
  • The biggest news was in the speech given by Niklas Zennström, the founder of Skype. He sent a strong message to the U.S.: The year 2015 has been record-breaking for European start-ups. Over ten billion dollars are being invested, which is a significant increase to last year’s total investment of seven billion.


Photo: Sami Välikangas



André Assarsson is the Co-Founder and Chief Digital Officer at Miltton Labs in Sweden. He’s a trusted advisor on digital solutions, and a true political nerd with a firm belief that tech beats politics.

Twitter: @assarsson