Shove your idea where the sun doesn’t shine

And by that, I mean Helsinki in fall (what did you think?). During my exchange semester in the Nordic startup metropole, I had the chance to explore the blooming ecosystem of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. An overview.

Felt more like a nightclub than a startup conference: Slush 2019 (Photo: Pasi Salminen)

When I got the mail that I will spend my exchange semester at Aalto University in Helsinki, the first thing that popped into my mind is: “You will be going to Slush Niels”. So, the next day I requested a media accreditation and some weeks later I finally got a positive reply. But after arriving in Helsinki I realized: Slush might be the grand finale of my journey through the startup ecosystem of Finland, but there is way more to discover on the way. A short and probably by far not complete list of things you can explore in the startup hotspot Helsinki:

Aaltoes at their headquarters in the Startup Sauna

In the middle of the campus of Aalto University, only five minutes away from the metro station, you can find a huge old storage building which reminded me a bit of a mix between Makerspace and theCo called Startup Sauna. Besides being the place where all on-campus startup and entrepreneurship events happen, the Startup Sauna is also the home of Aaltoes, the biggest student-run entrepreneurship society in Europe. If you did not already join Start Global, this might be the chance for you to take a first dive into the entrepreneurship community.

FallUp – Business, Design, Technology

Taking place in mid-September, FallUp was the first startup event I visited during my time in Helsinki. The event is all about entrepreneurial success stories and getting inspired as a student to dream bigger. Although there were no real big names participating, FallUp had his own charm for me as I got to know some Finnish startups and founders I never heard of before, but now really left me an impression on me.

Junction – Hack the Future

Junction is Europe’s largest hackathon and it is taking place in the building of the Aalto School of Business. Even though I was of course saddened that my lecture was cancelled because of it, the event was completely worth it. The concept is similar to the Start Hack: The 1500 hackers team up for 48 hours to work on corporate challenges – the winners get rewarded with a price. With my limited programming skills, I was unfortunately not able to participate in a challenge, but the atmosphere of all these talented students creating new tech projects was really inspiring on its own and gave me the motivation to maybe improve my Python skills a little bit in the future.

Slush – A gathering of 25’000 curious minds

That is not a typo: 25’000. Being ten times as big as the Start Summit (which was already impressive for me when I participated the first time), Slush is Europe’s biggest startup conference. To make an event of such magnitude happen, more than 2000 student volunteers are needed – and this year,Slush even had too many volunteers, showing the immenseinterest of students to participate in this unique conference. Why unique? Well, after the opening I really questioned if I am attending a startup conference or a nightclub. The dark venue combined with the insane amount of lights in different colors gives Slush the special and captivating atmosphere. At this point of the article I realize, how hard it is to put it into words how big of an impression Slush left on me. It is just something you have to experience yourself, if not as a participant then as a volunteer.

In closing, I am of course aware that not everyone wants or can spend their exchange semester in Helsinki. But if you are interested in the startup scene, want to go abroad in the fall semester and can handle the Finnish darkness and cold, Helsinki might be definitely worth considering for you. It might not be the Californian sun, but it’s honest slush.


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