Geektime live reporting from Slush in Helsinki, Finland: The Australian team takes home 650,000 euros for their second Slush pitching competition win
The spirit of entrepreneurship was white hot this week at Slush, the Nordic region’s biggest event of the year. Located a five minute train ride from the center of Finland’s capital Helsinki, a crowd of over 15,000 gathered for two days to show off, pitch, connect, and celebrate the global spirit of innovation.
The culmination of the convention on Thursday was the announcement of the pitch contest known as the Slush 100. With 100 startups competing Wednesday in the fields of e-commerce and fintech, consumer tech, hardware and IoT, life sciences, and B2B software, a total of 20 companies were chosen to reach Thursday’s semi finals.
When the smoke cleared as the final four went head-to-head in front of the crowd, CareMonkey came out on top, wowing the judges with their product that instantly provides caregivers access to the emergency and medical information for those under their watch. Available for use offline, this risk management service has the potential to save lives when responding to a crisis situation.
The company has found significant success in working with schools and other organizations that have responsibility for minors.
As the winners, the team walked away with a check for 650,000 euros from the sponsors, the Finnish Business Angels Network (FiBAN) and Evli Bank, who also led the event last year when the initial prize money was 500,000 euros. CareMonkey’s CEO Troy Westley has said that they will use these funds to push their expansion, which the company has said will move towards becoming a health and safety plug-in for a range of systems and platforms that manage personal information.
Why Slush has such a huge role to play in the Finnish startup scene
With similar events in Japan and Australia, Helsinki is home to the original and draws startups, investors, and others from around the world.
The organizers kicked off the sold out event on Wednesday morning, telling the crowd that Slush 2015’s takeover of the northern city was their largest event yet. According to their report, 1,700 startups were represented on the floor, with 800 investors milling around on the hunt for new opportunities.
Walking around the massive convention center, listeners could hear a mix of Scandinavian and Asian languages over the constant hum of English that permeated the airwaves. There was a charged feeling of excitement as primarily Finland and its neighbors were able to stand in the limelight and put their talents on display.
In speaking with the young entrepreneurs, they conveyed a sense of purpose in their focus on building a stronger ecosystem. In the wake of the layoffs from the once dominant employer at Nokia over the past few years, Finns have looked towards a more diversified market for growing their country.
Finding impressive success in the gaming industry that has become the world’s envy, they are expanding to other sectors, bringing with them a developed talent for design and manufacturing, as well as their creativity and work ethic. The fruits of these efforts were laid clear in the criss cross of booths.
Big names like Google and IBM showed up to engage with these companies, hosting large stands of their own and the former offering a lineup of great speakers giving tips and tricks for growth hacking.
In addition to the matchmaking for the companies and investors, there were three active stages with a constant stream of speakers and panels, including Finland’s own superstar game maker Ilkka Paananen of Supercell who told the audience how he is inspired by entrepreneurs who have experienced failure.
Israeli investor Yossi Vardi brought laughs when he shared the secret ingredient behind the Startup Nation’s sauce, explaining that the real factor making the ecosystem so strong there is the fact that everyone has a Jewish mother who reminds them that no matter how good they are, there is always someone better.
Perhaps most impressive at the event beyond the incredible production value and the presenters who took part, was the small army of young volunteers who played a key role in the event’s successful execution. Mostly made up of teenagers, Geektime had a chance to speak with a number of these sprightly youths who are enrolled in an entrepreneurial course as a part of their studies.
They told Geektime that being a part of Slush was an inspiration for them, making it clear to them that this avenue of building their ideas can turn into exciting realities.