Insights from Day 2 at Slush

Hi all,

With expectations high after an incredible Day 1, Slush turned up the dial on the Nordic factor for Day 2 and it did not disappoint! With a packed program of Scandinavian speakers (and guests from further afield), the showcase of local talent, culture and technology was immersive and impressive.

If we're bringing back only one new idea from this trip, it might just be the addition of a "Sauna Village". It does wonders for guest satisfaction! Hämmästyttävä! (Amazing!)

Enjoy some of the other highlights from Day 2 below...

To a full house, Cal Henderson, co-founder and CTO of Slack shared his best advice for building software that people love. His key key takeaways?

1. Don't rush the process. Taking a non-traditional approach for enterprise software, Cal and the Slack team spent over a year designing the product to optimise it's product-market fit. 

2. "It can be really tempting to half-ass a whole lot rather than whole-ass a few things." Cal attributes much of Slack's success in growing its user base to focus and prioritisation of what really matters.

3. Before Twitter (BT), people would have to really hate something about your software before they would give feedback. Today, Twitter has really lowered the bar for people to complain. Don't overlook this rich vein of information. Paying attention to this information and digging into the signals it provides helps Slack to improve exponentially. The negative feedback you get from people in the moment of frustration is incredibly powerful.

"On the enterprise side we have additional security that is required, but at the end of the day, the people who work at large companies are still human beings. They want software that solves problems for them - software that helps them get their work done better, be more efficient, feel connected to their coworkers and have a better life."

When it comes to creating the perfect growth storm, Taavet Hinrikus and Barney Hussey-Yeo have a wealth of shared experience.

Taavet was Skype's first ever employee and Director of Strategy until 2008. He is also a co-founder and Chairman of TransferWise and a startup investor and mentor.

In the early days of TransferWise - which has now raised over $400M in funding - Taavet leveraged PR to educate the market on P2P lending and alternative fintech solutions. When they launched in the UK in 2007, 'bank bashing' was a hot topic (and quite fun!), but he found the topic fell flat and didn't resonate in US markets a few years later.

  • Key takeaway: Leverage the media and its ability to spark a conversation, but be mindful of your audience and stay keyed in to current topics.

Barney applied his experience as a data scientist to create Cleo, an AI-powered chatbot helping millennials manage their finances.

Combining a simple interface with effortless and proactive advice on financial management, Cleo brings a unique personality and playful tone to the traditionally staid and stuffy banking sector.  The personalisation and personality (think banking advice delivered through emojis!) has really resonated with the millennial market. The London-based startup is the fastest growing fintech globally, acquiring 100,000 new users monthly.

  • Key takeaway: Understanding your core audience makes it easier to create product and messaging tone that truly sings. 

In a tactical panel on laying the foundations of HR from Seed to Series F, senior execs from Spotify, Asana and Reddit emphasised the responsibility of the founders and senior leadership in driving culture as a cornerstone for growth.

Katelyn Holloway, VP of People & Culture at Reddit on building culture: As soon as you start thinking about building a company, culture matters. It starts before employee #1 and you - the founder, the leader, the individual - are responsible for it.

Building a strong culture is about translating intentions and values into actions. Don't ignore how your product or service fit along with this. Reddit is an online home for community and and belongingness, so it is quite simple to take this model and apply it to our employee base. If online we're a home for sneakerheads, parents and political activists, you should be able to find your home on Reddit and at Reddit. We take the values we believe in most and apply them in our workplace.

Katarina Berg, Chief Human Resources Officer at Spotify on scaling and maturing culture: A particular challenge for founder-led companies as they scale is how to evolve the culture. If it seems 'cool' and 'relevant' as a startup, as you scale there may be reluctance to mature. This can actually be a loosing bet as you grow or become international. The founders may say 'Don't fix it if it's not broken', but failure to mature can inhibit inclusion. To later hires, the culture can seem immature. This doesn't mean you have to become corporate or stifled, but you do have to evolve.

At Spotify, we acknowledge our culture needs to grow and we let our people guide us. They are the ones that socialise the culture, helping us to spread and share the values and norms with new hires. Ownership is incredibly empowering.

Anna Binder, Head of People Operations at Asana on intentional culture: 
What works for one company in terms of culture does not work for another. From day one be very intentional about building your culture.

In the same way that you build a product, ask yourself - What are our goals? How do we design and test for desired outcomes? Where are the bugs and how do we optimise for experience?

In the last 7 years, close to one quarter of all tech exits have come from the Nordic region. Highlighting the most prominent startups in the Nordic region today, the next Nordic superstars showcase dispelled the myth that the Nordic regions can only produce talent in gaming, enterprise SaaS and health. Three hot startups to keep your eye on? Read on!

Sulapac (Finland)

Plastic is old news. Sulapac have created a fully biodegradable and microplastic-free material which has all the benefits of plastic without the environmental impact.

Made entirely from renewable sources, the material can be used with existing plastic manufacturing machinery. One of WIRED’s top 100 startups and recently partnered with Chanel.

Hedvig (Sweden)

An InsureTech company radicalising insurance for Swedish consumers, Hedvig are on a mission to create positive insurance experiences. 

Distinguished by their 'alternative' values with a business model that commits unused claim funds to nominated charities, Hedvig are rapidly gaining market share in Sweden with their sights set firmly abroad.

Veriff (Estonia)
With a startup pedigree including alumni of Y Combinator and funded by Ashton Kutcher (among others), this is an online identification verification platform with superpowers.

As the need for trust and security climbs, Veriff are poised to provide quick, seamless verification for banks, marketplaces, and online businesses requiring additional security.

To close out Slush 2018, talking at a million miles a minute and flying from machine learning to AI, from blockchain to security and customer experience, the incredible Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon shared many nuggets of gold in his fireside chat.

"Voice is the new frontier for inclusive tech. The voice revolution will see more natural interfaces to digital. Human centric interfaces will be the new access point to tech for elderly people, younger people and those from developing countries. A large part of the world will have their first interactions with digital systems won’t look like digital at all."

"To create and embrace a culture around fast failure you have to make it cheap and acceptable from a tech perspective and also ensure that the team that works on products that fail don’t get hampered in their career prospects later on. At Amazon it becomes a badge of honour. Research, experimentation and failure go hand in hand. Experiment, measure, learn. This is a process that works well within Amazon."

"When you look at Nordic startups, you can see tremendous innovation happening here. I think generally European entrepreneurs are more suitable for building global businesses. As you travel East and West, you encounter new languages, cultures, tax systems and media. This environment creates founders who are born with a multicultural outlook.  - PLUS! If you only have one hour of daylight, you have a lot of time to spend on programming!"
We hope you've enjoyed a sneak peek at the content from Slush, Helsinki. We'll be bringing more content including the overarching trends and taking a deeper look at the best case studies and insights in our talk on Tuesday 18 December - so don't forget to RSVP.

We look forward to seeing you soon,

Sarah Gundlach & the Character team 
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