Silicon what? Forget about sunny California; for the next few days, the innovators behind the world’s most promising high-tech startups will be in brisk and breezy Finland. Thousands will be packing their winter coats and heading to Helsinki for what Skype’s co-founder describes as “the center of the universe in technology right now.”
Slush is a global landmark event celebrating entrepreneurship and bringing together startups, investors, media, and stakeholders from 100 countries to Helsinki. The world-renowned conference has grown from a 300-person event in 2008 to the leading startup event in Europe, with over 15,000 participants in 2015. This year, Slush kicks off on November 30 and several world-class speakers and investors are already checking in to attend some of the official side events, including those organized in collaboration with infoDev.
As part of the Global Impact Accelerator (GIA) program, 40 entrepreneurs from 21 countries across the globe have already started an intensive Boot Camp. For the second year, GIA has brought impact entrepreneurs from emerging markets to Helsinki to accelerate their business, attract additional financing, and make an even greater impact on their communities. Half of this year’s participants have flown in from the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Their ‘journey to Slush’ started back in March, and several World-Bank-supported mLabs and innovation hubs served as local partners in the startup selection process, which involved pitching competitions in each of the 21 countries represented.
Nichole Crawford, one of the infoDev-supported entrepreneurs who participated in the GIA 2015, said that “[Slush] was a wonderful experience … the accelerator program was geared towards ‘perfect pitch,’ networking, and how to approach investors.” Nichole Crawford is a co-founder of Niritech, a Jamaican startup that offers online study resources for high school students. Her experience has led four of her fellow Caribbean entrepreneurs from BookFusion, Crimebot Limited, Global Learning Technologies, and WeGreenArmy to join GIA 2016.
This year, Slush, infoDev, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, and other partners decided to create an opportunity for the entire innovation community to gather and learn from each other. Thus, Impact Day intends to bring together innovation hub managers, policy makers, investors, and startup entrepreneurs.
On Monday, November 28, over 400 participants from emerging markets spanning four continents will gather to share lessons learned on how to build sustainable startup ecosystems and how to measure their impact. infoDev’s Ganesh Rasagam will join a high-level panel of speakers to discuss ‘Purpose-driven businesses fueling wellbeing’ with a group of business enablers, CEOs, and policymakers. The event will be followed by a day tailored for participating policymakers and hub managers on Tuesday Nov 29th, where Finnish ministries and innovation and entrepreneurship institutions will discuss insights from their local innovation and entrepreneurship programs.
Currently, the World Bank has 95 projects focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in 28 countries across five different regions, which it hopes to scale up into national programs and policies. At Slush, the World Bank is supporting a delegation of policymakers from Kenya, South Africa, Bangladesh, and the Caribbean to meet other delegates from around the world. The overall goal is to dig deeper into what impact means for all the players within the startup ecosystem, and to find collaboration and funding opportunities that create sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. Several of these policymakers will also have a chance to share their own insights on Wednesday Nov 30th through a panel discussion moderated by infoDev’s Toni Eliasz titled ‘Emerging Market Startup Ecosystems’.
The overall goal of Slush is to convene, inspire, and activate a global community of impact-driven startups, investors, NGOs, and various public and private sector stakeholders. By engaging policymakers and entrepreneurs with the promising tech stars and impact investors from across the globe, the World Bank hopes to enable business connections, increase knowledge sharing, and inspire innovation across the startup ecosystem.