Vexi Savijoki // December 05 2017

Slush ‘17: Innovation Doesn’t Ask for Permission

Slushy Helsinki was once again in the headlines and hashtags of startup- and technology-oriented world when almost 20 000 people gathered to Slush ‘17. This was my first Slush and personally I experienced an event that is truly international and contains a huge amount of forward-looking optimism. Startups and more established companies presented their innovations to other companies, investors and other interested visitors.

The two days were packed full of interesting keynote presentations and discussions on four stages. Many speakers shared their learnings and observations from different areas of life – although technology had a part almost in all presentations. Blockchain specialist Andreas M. Antonopoulos shared his views on new currency systems and told how those are often considered suspicious or even illegal. New needs require new solutions and quite often innovators don’t ask if something is allowed or not when they are aiming for revolution. Many well-known companies like Skype, Uber and Airbnb have started as, at least partly, illegal services. Self driving cars were driving in California before they were mentioned in the legislation. New financial solutions like Bitcoin have had the same challenges.

Slush acted as an arena for new products and services. Many of them wanted to enhance some traditional need or product with a cloud-based service. Estonian Themo has created an intelligent thermostat that optimizes floor heating by analyzing energy spot price, outdoor temperature and many other parameters. This saves money and also environment as higher energy price often correlates with higher use of non-ecological energy sources.

Al Gore speaking at Slush 17

Al Gore

Environmental issues were also something that were in the focus of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore’s inspirational speech. He titled himself as a climate activist and invited everyone to join sustainability revolution. Big changes need new innovations but also support form society and politics. Democratic system can also develop itself by finding new solutions for traditional needs. As people were not that interested in traditional voting, Estonia introduced electronic voting system 12 years ago. Former Estonian Government CIO Taavi Kotka reminded that the project wasn’t an easy one: it was like innovation through pain! New things are always difficult, but it shouldn’t be used as a reason to stop innovation and creation of new solutions.

Taavi Kotka

Slush is undoubtedly the most international technology event in Finland, but at the same time we saw an event that was strongly Finnish. Finnish universities and other schools presented our world class education and research system. Stage decorations were brought directly from Finnish forests and even water taps were equipped with a note that reminded about the high-quality drinking water in Finland. Pure nature and safe water has demanded, and will demand, many innovations. And if we look 100 years back and remember Finland’s road to independence, we see many situations where there was a need for innovation and forward-looking steps that were taken without asking the permission first. Quite many reasons to #BragForFinland!

Photos: Vexi Savijoki

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