As the opening party for Slush kicked off last night, right on cue a frosting of snow blanketed the streets of Helsinki. In characteristic December weather, it had turned to a grey drizzle by morning, but nothing could dampen the enthusiasm and buzz in the air as we flooded into the Messukeskus convention centre for Day 1 of Slush...
Tom Wehmeier, Partner & Head of Research at Atomico kicked off the day with an overview of the State of European Tech in 2018.
Whilst it has been a record year for investment into the European ecosystem, like elsewhere around the globe, Europe faces an urgent diversity & inclusion issue in the tech industry.
Mobilising Europe’s tech talent pool - across gender, nationality and all socioeconomic levels - poses significant opportunity for further growth. For many, the tech industry is seen as the best hope for growth in the stalling European economy.
Europe is producing $B+ companies at a level that is 15x+ higher than a decade ago.
Only 7% of VC funds in Europe go to female or mixed gender teams.
46% of women have experienced discrimination working in the European tech industry, but 75% would describe the culture at their startup as "inclusive"... so whose problem is it*?
ANSWER: We're all responsible.
Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, the fast-growing work tracking app shared his grand mission: helping humanity thrive through more efficient work.
Given the average knowledge worker spends 61% of their time on work-related work, Asana empowers teams to work faster - teams that are saving lives through technology, medicine, and emergency disaster relief (among others).
They say a clear purpose unites a team and Asana shows no signs of slowing. As one of the most recent startups to gain unicorn status - with a $1.5bn valuation last week - the Asana team stands strong.
According to Rosenstein, we all have a choice about how we make a living, and companies with purpose and impact like Tesla, Coursera and Nima are the true leaders of our day. He called for a new definition of success or an ‘ethics of code’ to identify and reward those who have the most positive impact on the world. Already operating under this code, Asana's metrics of success look at how much faster companies can operate and improvements in accountability and clarity rather than a single financial or customer acquisition figure.
"Collaboration is at the centre of human progress. We are social creatures and our future relies on more accurately aligning and uniting our efforts as a human race."
As Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner for Competition, presented her keynote on Fairness in Tech, she insisted that there is no longer a separate world for technology and therefore, we cannot have one set of rules for the real world and another for online.
When monitoring competition and behaviours around data and online privacy, she's seen it all before:
"We can use old school methods for monitoring because it is all familiar. It's about greed, it's about what you can get without competing on merit.
In the last decade, its not just tech that has changed. The businesses have changed too. The Microsofts and Apples are not startups anymore - now they themselves are the big beasts they once fought.
If we allow them to deny a startup a chance to do what they did, by carving out a place for themselves in the marketplace to do things differently, we all miss on out the benefits competition and innovation can bring."
"The key to success in the future is not just tech brilliance, it is trust. For startups, there's an opportunity to leap ahead of the giants and to take our rights and values as a reality in their business culture."
The panel on building a brand from scratch provided rapid-fire tips for founders and marketers from the incredible marketing minds behind some of Europe's best startups, VCs and accelerators.
"One of the most common misconceptions startups have about marketing is that if they are tech and/or product driven they won't need it. They say, "I've got a great product, no need to put makeup on it". They're wrong. What they need is to make their product easy to talk about, to share and to understand what it is and who it is for. This is the heart of marketing and building a brand." - Sophia Bendz, Startup Advisor & ex-Global Marketing Director, Spotify.
"How to transition a brand from startup to grownup? Keep the end in mind and be clear on the value you bring to the customer. It can be sobering to sit down and think about what truly makes you valuable or different to others. Be relentless in understanding this. This is the starting point of everything. Don't try to go straight to the storytelling without knowing your own story." - Arnd Mueller, VP of Marketing at Lilium
"Brand tone can be a really tricky thing for startups to navigate. Startups who haven't properly defined why they exist, where they exist in the market and how they express themselves will find they flip-flop all over the place when it comes to execution. This confuses the customer. Instead, early on, they must think critically about what their customer wants and how they can best deliver this to their customer." - Natasha Lytton, CMO, Seedcamp.
Arlan Hamilton - the most talked about VC of 2018 - settled in for a personal chat and some refreshing real talk about how to make it as a founder and VC.
Arlan built a $36M VC fund from the ground up, all while homeless and living in the San Francisco airport. As Founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, she helps minimise funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of colour, women, and/or LGBTQI.
Arlan's top 3 startups in the
Backstage Capital portfolio:
NEDL - a revolutionary search engine for voice offering unique benefits to B2B and B2C markets.
ShearShare - the AirBnB for salon chairs and one of the few companies led by a black women to raise $100M+.
Unchartered Power - creating renewable energy with anything that can move. Jessica Matthews is "the future of Smart Cities".
Startup Educators / Authors*:
*These people are the current startup 'do-ers' and are therefore the educators. As we see more diversity amongst successful founders, we can expect and celebrate more diverse teachers.
That's one huge day down, one to go. Come back to read the highlights from Day 2 of Slush tomorrow!