Helsinki

To a dark, cold Helsinki and Slush, still a show like no other and always valuable.

Slightly less VIP / political presence on stage this year but a high quality attendance across European tech – with AI and healthcare standing out as hot sectors.

In keeping with previous Slush’s the show tends to display more “humanity” than other tech driven events – evident in two themes:

Trust
Margrethe Verstager, the European Commissioner for Competition, delivered a strong keynote picking up the erosion of trust between users and the major tech companies – as their data trails have been mined for profit, the privacy of the individual has been quietly but substantial eroded and the platforms have potentially skewed our communications flows to our social detriment. And interlinked, have the companies also used their dominance to drive positions on competition and taxation which are unprecedented – her refusal to excuse as a new digital paradigm, relating back to desired generic corporate standard practice, was interesting.

She made a case for new businesses trading on a “trust value” and to some extent this was reflected across the show, with the start-ups at pains to show transparency on data policy.

Diversity
Atomico published its annual State of European Tech report and this year highlighted the lack of diversity in the industry – predictably it focused on male / female disparity by highlighting numbers of “female founders” and VC distribution. This feels like a rather top down view of industry change but it’s a start. More positively their side publication of a Diversity & Inclusion in Tech toolkit took a broader view of diversity and inclusion and signaled active engagement.

And at an evening event with the British Ambassador I spoke with the CEO of Supercell. I’d met him previously 7 years ago when he handed me a T shirt and talked about his mobile game. He still wears the same company branded T shirt, but Supercell is now valued at over €10Bn and had €2Bn revenues in 2016…

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