We caught up with Sofi Laakso, Expansion Lead @ Slush, to find out everything you need to know about their new Slush'D initiative. Definitely worth sharing with any local ecosystem connectors in your network!
What’s the story behind Slush’D?
The organization of the first Slush’D event that took place in 2019 in Trondheim, Norway, was based on the ecosystem's need for a forum for the local community to further connect. Trondheim had Norway’s best university of engineering and a vibrant scene in entrepreneurship but no direct, international connections which would help these companies grow.
With fairly little resources, the independent organizing team started building Slush’D, and with the brand and support from the Slush team in Helsinki, they enabled the local startup community to think big by helping them see what was possible to achieve when it comes to attracting the interest of interesting, foreign actors.
After great feedback from two Slush’D events in Trondheim, we felt that this would be the right way for Slush to help local startup ecosystems. We want to kick it off by catalyzing discussion around the bottlenecks that are present in these ecosystems. This year, we're starting to scale the concept and are looking for three to five driven individuals or teams around the world to drive their local ecosystems forward and gather them under the same roof.
What kinds of new opportunities do you see Slush’D events opening for startup founders this year?
In the countries and local ecosystems where the Slush’D events will take place this year, participating in the event allows startup founders to form valuable connections and most importantly, be part of building and making a concrete change in the local ecosystem.
Apart from connecting and building relationships, it is of course important to mention the learning opportunities these events offer for founders taking part. The magic of Slush’D is, in essence, all about learning, discussing topics relevant for the local ecosystem, and creating forums for meeting the most relevant people whether that would be investors or other startup founders and operators.
What excites you the most about the applications you’ve received so far?
We were skeptical of whether people would fully understand the concept of Slush’D. In the beginning, we weren’t completely sure if we would be able to communicate the concept of Slush’D in a way that people would fully understand it. The fact that it can be anything from a “mini-Slush of 300 visitors” to dinner for 30 relevant ecosystem actors can be difficult to grasp at first glance, but the different applicants all around the world seem to have been super creative with their ideas of what Slush’D could look like!
However, the thing I am personally the most excited about, based on the applications received so far, is learning more about how local startup ecosystems function and what are the different bottlenecks and challenges they are facing. I cannot wait to have all the organizers on board to genuinely support them in addressing these challenges and make an impact on the local community.
What’s the difference with other Slush events organized in the past outside of Helsinki - like Slush Small Talks in Paris 2018, Slush Shanghai, etc?
Out of all of the aforementioned concepts, Slush’D is the one giving the most independence to local teams to organize events that fit the local ecosystem and concretely address the challenges that are present there. What the culture at Slush is built around is the idea of trusting by default, and the Slush’D organizers will definitely experience it for themselves right when jumping into the process.
The best part? When it comes to organizing a Slush'D event, it does not aim to become another international Slush main event. The different events are completely separate from the main event in Helsinki, and thus, we’re truly giving the local organizing teams the freedom to have fun with the Slush’D concept and organize events which best fit the local needs.
Right now, I believe that with the start of the transition to the post-pandemic time, local ecosystems are the ones where we can address bottlenecks and issues with the largest impact.
What’s the #1 reason potential Slush’D event organizers should apply?
The number one reason for a team or a driven individual to apply to organize a Slush’D event is to concretely impact the local startup community and help it thrive. Based on several discussions had with the first-ever Slush’D organizers, the number one takeaway from organizing a Slush’D is definitely all the learning that happens in the course of organizing an event.
All the learning is, of course, followed by a vibrant network of people you have met either in the course of organizing or in the event itself. All the connections formed throughout the organizing process in addition to the learning that happens feels extremely worthwhile in the end, and is something that all potential organizers should think of when deciding whether to apply or not.
When looking at a local startup ecosystem as an outsider, the specific challenge which is present is usually not quite clear at first sight, and that is why it is important to start addressing them from the inside.
✍️ NB: While applications will be accepted on a rolling basis this year, the first batch will be reviewed after February 13th so be sure to apply ASAP!