Our highlights from the Slush 2023 conference

Technology, trends and takeaways from Europe's largest startup- and founder-focused event in Helsinki.

Slush 2023


Editorial team

5,000 founders and 3,000 investors gathered at Europe's largest startup and venture capital conference. In the midst of it were some of our teammates. We've put together our Slush highlights—from promising start-ups to those competing with the tech giants.

The pursuit of speed through attention to detail

How to build a product that sparks people's interest and inspires them was what David was most excited about. As our Creative Director he attended various talks about product management and design including: "Scaling New Heights – Trade Republic's Journey to Become Europe's Leading Savings Platform". In this talk Christian Hecker, founder & CEO of Trade Republic, and Johan Brenner, General Partner of Creandum, shared their experiences on products that become a topic of conversation at the lunch table. The goal for founders must therefore be to make people proud of their products and their use, so that they say: "Oh yeah, I heard about it, and I also use it."

David was also inspired by the talk given by the German-Finnish start-up investor and former professional racing driver Nico Rosberg. Together with Rochert Lacher, founding partner of the Visionaries Club, the former Formula 1 world champion shared with the audience his view on the pursuit of speed. Rosberg's meticulous approach to racing unfolded in a series of small but impactful decisions: By cutting off his socks and holes into his seat, he reduced weight and gained an advantage of a few milliseconds on the racetrack. Rosberg's constant striving to improve his craft—even in the details—peaked in his success as Formula 1 world champion in 2016.

This story shows the power of attention to detail. Rosberg used this power not only in Formula 1, but also in the startup world: it ultimately makes him faster in the end.

From Slush to the Silicon Valley

Artur, our Head of Brand & Design, especially enjoyed the atmosphere and drive of the Slush conference. "It was good to see people with ideas, going beyond the next email-marketing application and solving larger scale problems." What stood out to him the most was the combination of two worlds: early-stage startups with 3-to-6 people teams building their very first products—and founders as well as CEOs of grown tech companies like Discord, Slack, Tinder, Stripe, and Tesla talking about their growth and the challenges their leaders face.

One of Artur's highlights was Ben Evans' yearly presentation. "I really looked forward to this talk because Ben is so good at cutting through the noise and providing a calm yet entertaining analysis of what's going on beyond any hype—especially in AI." Regarding the latest developments, Ben agreed that we are currently in a period of major technological and product change, but pointed out that nobody really knows how big this will be and in what time frame this will happen. So the phrase "We don't know" became his most frequently used expression in his talk.

What we know for sure though, Ben said, is that the new tools will change the nature of work (again), just as technology and other tools have done many times in human history.

The ambition to compete with Google

"Got into competition with Google." That’s how Jaroslaw Kutylowski got introduced at the Slush conference. The founder & CEO of DeepL launched their AI-based translation service in 2017 as an alternative to Google Translate. Since then, DeepL has managed to gain significant market share in the translation market. In his fireside chat with Eric Liaw, General Partner at IVP, Jaroslaw discussed how to disrupt the big players in the AI market—and if and how this can also be done from Germany and Europe.

Obviously, "there are more AI and tech companies in the US than in Europe", Jaroslaw said. Still, he pointed out: "That doesn't mean that you cannot build a great tech company in Europe." Our own CEO & co-founder, Johannes, couldn't agree more. In the case of DeepL, however, one would have to add: "Even if that means having to compete with Google."

Positive change and impact at Slush

Beyond what we have reported on here, much of Slush was about positive change and impact. If you want to take the deep dive, have a closer look at Slush 2023 on YouTube.

In particular, we recommend following the startup competition Slush 100: Various early-stage start-ups pitched against each other to win a €1,000,000 equity investment from the five top-tier VCs AccelGeneral CatalystLightspeed Venture PartnersNEA, and Northzone. These funds have backed iconic companies like Meta, Stripe, Airbnb, Snap, Uber, Spotify, Salesforce, and Klarna. This year's award went to the Berlin-based start-up faircado, which we also congratulate wholeheartedly! With their venture, faircando founders Evoléna D'Estmael and Ali Nezamolmaleki aspire to reduce waste of natural resources by creating a second-hand marketplace for retail goods such as electronics, books and fashion. We wish them all the best for this endeavor.

That's it from us at Slush 2023. For us, this marks the end of an inspiring conference year. We'll be back in 2024 with more reports from the tech & start-up world. Stay tuned for more!


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