Slush 2015 marked the launch of the Slush Global Impact Accelerator, a bootcamp for emerging market entrepreneurs organized by the World Bank Group, infoDev, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. (Toni Eliasz/World Bank Group)
It was an unseasonably warm start to the winter season in Finland, and the usual winter slush was nowhere to be found. Perhaps the buzz of excitement and potential from 15,000 makers and doers was heating up Helsinki.
Slush is an electrifying two-day event in Helsinki, Finland, where entrepreneurs and startups meet with top-tier international investors, executives, and media. In the past four years, Slush has grown from a local, 300-person event to become one of the leading celebrations of technology and innovation in the world.
More than 15,000 people from over 100 countries participated in Slush 2015, including 1,700 startup companies, 800 investors from 250 private equity funds, and 700 media representatives. Even more impressive, the event was organized by a dedicated team of 1,500 volunteers from 50 countries.
Social innovators took center stage at Slush 2015. The World Bank Group, infoDev, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland kicked off the first-ever Slush Global Impact Accelerator program, which brought 30 world-changing entrepreneurs from emerging markets to Helsinki.
The entrepreneurs participated in a nine-day bootcamp of workshops and training sessions, as well as exclusive networking opportunities with prominent investors and international partners. infoDev also held a knowledge sharing day for managers of its global network of innovation hubs in Armenia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Senegal, South Africa, and more.
The Global Impact Accelerator entrepreneurs represented a variety of fields, yet they all used technology to make a positive impact in their communities. The participating startups included:
- Leti Arts (Ghana) is building a vibrant gaming industry in Africa and creating employment opportunities for young talent in the region. Their flagship product, Africa’s Legends, offers comics, games, and videos for mobile platforms based on African artwork and folklore.
- HearScreen (South Africa) provides a low-cost mobile technology solution for early detection of hearing loss, targeting the 32 million children affected worldwide.
- Niritech (Jamaica), a woman-led startup, is an online education platform for out-of-school youth. Its online classes and study resources prepare users for more competitive jobs in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region.
Dr. De Wet Swanepoel is a co-inventor of HearScreen, a mobile health provider of affordable and accessible hearing tests.
Upon walking into Slush’s massive conference space, the dimmed lights and laser beams gave the impression of a rock concert. At any moment, the three large stages might feature speakers like Martti Ahtisaari, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Finland; Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen; and Chris Fabian, Director of Innovation at UNICEF.
With the launch of the Global Impact Accelerator program and events related to clean technology, impact investing, and digital health care, it was clear that entrepreneurs around the world are increasingly interested in building scalable solutions for global challenges. This emphasis on social innovation was evident in the Slush 100 pitching competition, where the winner of the $750,000 USD equity investment prize is developing a mobile risk management system for medical and emergency data.
The World Bank Group’s private sector investment arm, the International Finance Corporation, also launched a new acceleration program for global technology companies expanding into emerging markets at Slush. TechEmerge will connect health technology innovators with health systems in India to make health care more accessible, affordable, and effective.
Eyram Tawia is the CEO and co-founder of Leti Arts, a video game development studio with characters based on African folklore.
Nichole Crawford-Thompson is the COO and co-founder of Niritech, an affordable online education platform for out-of-school youth in the Caribbean.
By Loren Nadres, infoDev