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SLUSH 2016: some memorable notes

“Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November. Except you, you badass. Welcome”
When thinking of startups, Silicon Valley is typically the first place that comes to everyone's mind. Even though this may be true most of the time, it may surprise you to learn that the startup industry's focus shifts from the Bay Area to a much colder place during this time of year. And in recent years, the Nordic startup scene has become the birthplace of many outstanding products and services with 2016 becoming a record-breaking year in tech funding.

Founder Stage at SLUSH 16

At the end of each November, despite its northern location, Helsinki, the capital of Finland, becomes the hottest spot on the startup map. Founders and CEOs, investors and entrepreneurs gather together here for SLUSH - one of the largest events for the startup community worldwide. Over 17,000 participants from more than 120 countries including representatives from Skype, Spotify, Klarna, BlaBlaCar, Tinder, LinkedIN, Shazam, 500 startups and many more make the pilgrimage to Helsinki for two straight days of pitching, networking and experience sharing. And of course, the INNVATION team was also in attendance for this year's event.

SLUSH itself resembles more of a rock concert than an industry conference. Free-spirited entrepreneurs share their stories of fame and failure and speak frankly and openly to the multi-thousand audience about their profession and personal experiences. Everything is simple, they say, because there is no single recipe for winning. Each startup that succeeds is unique and the only rule that seems to apply to them all - work hard and play hard. Here are some quotes from presenters that we thought were too good not to share:

On failure & taking risks:

  • There's no such thing as failure, everything is just a pivot.
  • Embrace failure, as it is part of the process.
  • Mistakes are ok as long as they are fast and cheap.
  • Every great company has three near-death experiences.
  • If it feels safe where you are, you're not driving fast enough.

On product:

  • Take core human behaviors, reduce friction, simplify the user experience and word of mouth will take you far.
  • Usability is the thing that monetizes an app.
  • If the product is good, marketing is easy.
  • Instead of spending money on customer acquisition and marketing campaigns, fix your product-market fit.
  • Think of the world as a playground. If you're a good designer, you can design practically anything.

On building teams:

  • Corporate culture comes from its founders and you start building it very early on. If you're scaling fast, you need to be prepared to communicate - a lot.
  • The first 5-6 hires are the most important. When you have 3-4 people that click, you have a good chance to succeed.
  • If the ship is sinking, you as the captain (i.e. the CEO) have to remain the last man on board.

Of course, these are just quotes but they nonetheless provide can provide real inspiration by suggesting that anything is possible if one puts their entrepreneurial spirit on the right track. Just as we say at INNVATION - Imagine. Believe. Dare.