Helsinki provided proper Slush weather this year –dark, cold sleet / snow.

Inside the venue was again a trade show with a really different feel, and whilst slightly less manic than in previous years (although still more nightclub than conference venue) it displayed a couple of things which for me separate it from other tech / start up gatherings.

At a side event one of the panelists spoke the “start-up jargon bingo” drivel, all buzz words and no substance (data was his growthhacking secret sauce etc). This was in marked contrast to the main conference which managed to completely avoid these clichés – in fact I didn’t see one “disrupt” across the two days.

And, clearly related, there was a seriousness of purpose to the vast majority of the early stage businesses, with a lot of education and healthcare related initiatives (plus a second wave of 3D printing).

In typical Finnish style there was also the beautifully designed but odd: speakers embedded in large tree trunks which you pressed your ear against (or hugged) to hear the recorded birdsong.

Normally there is one company which really stands out for me – and the vision of the Varjo VR product was this years.

And in a short gap one afternoon a fabulous diversion. In the centre of the picture above you can see a swimming pool in Helsinki harbour. From the sauna you run through the freezing air into a steaming outdoor pool and swim surrounded by the city in the dark.

The next day however was not swimming weather…

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