Coming out of Slush!after two days of pacing its enormous halls was a bit like resurfacing after a caving expedition. There was something subterranean about the whole experience. For a start there was the perpetual darkness. Helsinki in December does darkness pretty well but arriving at the show at nine and leaving at five the only daylight one experiences is the brief interlude between leaving the house and arriving at the Expo centre where the event is held.
Inside it’s all lasers and LED strips and spotlights in pink and purple. I sent one of my friends a picture. ‘Why does it look like an EDM club?’ they asked. Al Gore’s huge disembodied talking head – the head that invented the internet – on a screen over the founder’s stage, only added to the sense of surreality.
The upside of such events is always the people. I had some great conversations. Particularly delightful were those with the three people I interviewed for the BBC’s Click! Technology programme; Leila Janah, Ida Tin and Will Marshall. All three are great pointers to something I’ll discuss at length in a future post – to power of starting with a problem and working from that to finding a solution.If you want to hear snippets of our conversations you will find them here on the BBC website.
I also met a host of entrepreneurs who’d taken space at Slush! to make contacts for their nascent and growing businesses. Some of these were great. I particularly liked the guys who’d worked with the former Finnish President’s peacemaking team to turn their experience into conflict-resolution software. I mention them because, while I don’t see it as a great money-spinner (people make money starting conflicts not ending them), their goals are lofty and thoroughly admirable. It’s the sort of project that everyone in tech should throw their weight behind because it reflects well on us. There are enough platforms sowing disharmony. We need an antidote.
And so, to everyone I met in Helsinki – it was a pleasure. I’ll be in touch!