Slush is over for another year and in its wake lies a wreckage of food, drinks, business cards and worn out souls. The two day startup conference in Helsinki brought together a host of early-stage startup companies, angel investors and venture capitalists from across Europe and the US to meet, greet and perform the elaborate mating ritual dances normally reserved for wildlife TV shows. The resultant conflagration was an exhausting experience but well worth the energy expended to meet so many people and be overwhelmed by their ideas and passion.

Since lists are the in thing this month (at least for the purposes of this article) here’s one about the things that stood out at Slush to me.

Cool stuff for kids

Gigglebug and Outo both caught my eye; two companies developing children’s TV shows and mobile apps based on their own IP with plans to leverage that and sell all sorts of merchandising off the back of it (think Angry Birds.)

KidMemo has a sweet idea that lets parents and family create beautiful photo albums of their children online that can then be ordered as hardback books.

Puteko encourages children to colour in printed pages and then using their own Augmented Reality software, available on the Apple App Store and Google’s Play Store, bring those coloured in characters to life on the screen. An engaging idea and they’re trying to grow by bringing in copyrighted content from the likes of Disney, if that happens they could really take off.

Good and er… interesting drinks

Kalle Freese, Finnish Barista Champion 2013, and his team at the Futurice Cafe were knocking out delicious coffee throughout the conference. Why anyone queued for the coffee machines near the Blue Stage I don’t know when such great coffee was so near at Green. Club-Mate deserved recognition both for their bottled cola, which was great, and the pale yellow malt that I found undrinkable.

A un-honourable mention has to go to Ambro for the lazy man’s health drink created to fulfil your daily nutrition requirements that makes you ask what joyless vegan focus group told them this tasted like anything other than blended grass and dirt?

Supercell know how to spend money

Coming off the back of the recent news that 51% of the company was sold for $1.5bn we all suspected that the party Supercell would throw on Wednesday night would be big but did anyone expect the crazy amount of free drinks available and the quality of the DJs on both stages? I can’t credit them with the super cool lasers, which we all know makes any party more awesome, since they were there for the whole event, but they certainly fitted the scene and added to the ambiance.

Travel is fun and getting easier

A Russian startup called Piiine (imagine someone shouting that as an evergreen topples towards your head) is developing a website and later app that will allow you to sketch out a road trip and easily find hotels and B&Bs along the route to stay in. Makes organising that a lot easier, and anything that makes my life easier I like.

Meanwhile Bookiwoo are attempting to get the many hotels in places like Africa and Latin America that don’t have a web presence or booking facilities online with their own cloud-based hotel management solution.

Pitches, pitches and more pitches

Everywhere you looked people were pitching; on the stages, over lunch, at stalls, and even in the toilets; people were promoting themselves and their ideas. Most could get away with being casual and conversational but the pitching competition that began early on the Green Stage brought into stark focus the need to be clear and simple when pitching your idea inside two minutes, especially without Powerpoint to back you up. The lesson? If you can’t tell me what you do, why it’s interesting and how it will make money without resorting to buzzwords go away and don’t come back until you can. I heard so many people talk for two minutes and at the end still had no idea what their company did. Your company could live or die by the pitch you make, prepare and give it the attention it deserves.

Did I mention the lasers?

Students and proto-ideas

Mixed in amongst startups hogging the stands and investors prowling the floor were students, many there as volunteers to help out with Slush, with their own creative visions that could become the next generation of Finnish startups. It was exciting to talk with some of these men and women about their ideas and I’m sure we’ll be writing about them in the future.

In conclusion

So that’s a little of what comes to mind when I think about Slush after taking a weekend to recuperate. Two days of walking the show floor, talking to more startups than I can remember, collecting more business cards than I know what to do with and my strongest memories are of the sight of shiny lasers and the taste of a terrible health drink. What memories did you take from the show?

Main photo by Samuli Pentti
DJ and Laser photos by Sami Heiskanen