This week the feed is reporting from SLUSH in Finland, which we attended last week.
Slush is a two-day event that connects startups & tech talent with top-tier international investors, executives and media. This year with 20000 attendees in total, 2400 volunteers, +2500 startups and almost 2000 investors. The event was launched (after an epic lightshow) by the President of Finland and former vice President Al Gore, and for two day hundreds of speakers held speeches, presentations and chats on 6 different stages.
Al Gore: Will we change, and will we do it in time?
Al Gore opened SLUSH with a clear and honest request to all participants to prioritize sustainability as he made his point that entrepreneurship and innovation will be key in ensuring a sustainable future. His speech started with a horrendous list of events happening the last few years, including; rising temperatures, historic fires, floods, climate refuges (projected to grow in number exponentially), plastic soon outweighing fish in the ocean and above zero temperatures in Greenland on the same day as Slush opened (30th November).
He moved on to ask, can and will we change? Yes, we can and we will was his view (in summary). But what about Trump and the Paris agreement was the obvious question. Well, it turns out that the first day that the US can legally step out of the agreement happens to be the day after Trumps current term ends. So let’s commit to making this world a better place!
Viome, microbiome tests
What if illness was optional, asked Naveen Jain entrepreneur and billionaire in his speech.
Due to the food we eat, many of us are running around with chronic inflammation, a state where a person has inflammation in the body for an abnormally long time (months to years). The state has been linked to almost all diseases, especially chronic ones like diabetes, Alzheimer, cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s etc. Bacteria in our gut needs to be stimulated correctly or it will cause inflammation, and this is where 21st century healthcare (including companies like Naveens Viome) comes in and saves the day. Research on this topic is fairly new but what we do know is that we have more bacteria in our bodies than we have cells and the gut microbiome are strongly connected to our immune system. Modern research is showing strong connections between microbiome and our health, wellbeing and even our emotions. Additionally, research says we can strongly impact the microbiome with what we eat. That is why Viome has launched a revolutionary test on your gut microbiome. By sequencing RNA and analyzing your microbiome they can basically tell you what to eat to stay healthy.
Milk without cows?
Ryan Pandaya from Perfect day is one of many in the Slush community who has set off to take up the challenge from the President of Finland and Al Gore to make the world a better and more sustainable place. Ryan went vegan when he started learning of the environmental footprint of the foods we eat. But doing so was not easy and often the food he ate “felt like glue”. Now while today there are quite good substitutes, none of them can provide the same texture and feel that milk protein gives to food (and often not so healthy additives are used). When doing his research on these substitute products, Ryan quickly learned that there was no one trying (and really no one researching either) how to make milk proteins without cows. That’s where Perfect Day comes in and intends to “reinvent dairy. Today they are a 25 person startup (mostly researchers) who intend to launch products within the coming year. Maybe we can all go vegan, without compromise on dairy?? Eggs anyone?
Trends from Slush:
Underserved customer segments
Today many big customer segments are considered to be underserved. Products and services are often focused on the majorities rather than the minorities. The awareness of this problem is starting to grow and so do companies dealing with the issue. Femtech is already a huge buzz and considering it pinpoints half of the world’s population it should be way bigger.
Blockchain to disrupt all types of hierarchies?
Blockchain is about trust – about scaling trust and decentralize trust. Bitcoin is one application of the blockchain tech but it is not only the financial model the tech is going to disrupt. Blockchain expert Andreas Antonopoulos sees blockchain as disruption of hierarchies and cries out for a completely flat peer to peer network that allows us to interact with others without giving the power to a few. There’s a fierce ongoing battle in the startup space on who’s going to be the next Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, in a decentralized form, in the next 5-15 years.
Purpose driven talent
A clear trend among start-ups as well as established companies is the purpose driven recruitment strategy. The talent of tomorrow is requiring more of the employer in terms of a higher purpose, instead of just making money. If the company addresses our global challenges such as environmental issues, poverty or equality it has a higher chance of hiring top talent. Many start-ups are founded with the purpose of making the world a better place. The incumbents need to catch up!
Higher sense of urgency
This year at Slush we recognized more incumbents than previous year. It is clear that established companies now feel the urge to act in order to keep up with the fast technology development. Not only the venture arms of the companies were present, but also their HR department were there to reach out to the best and the brightest.
Sustainability AND profitability!
The investors seem to not only value sustainable business models and ideas, but also require a clear growth potential in the businesses. Last year venture capital focus was more on the higher purpose rather than making money. Now it seems it is not enough. It is not sustainability or profitability. It is sustainability AND profitability!
Some “to solve” open questions from Slush:
Given exponential growth in EVs, can we really produce enough batteries?
How much will ICOs disrupt stock markets the next 3-5 years?
How should nations handle income tax when millions are moving around and working abroad?
How do we ensure active engagement in school when kids don’t have to be in school (physically)?