Eeva Kiuru, the CEO of Health Innovation Academy, describes the pulsating innovative energy created once again at this year’s SLUSH.

Europe’s biggest startup event—Slush—created a Helsinki gathering of over 14,000 entrepreneurs, investors, executives and other startup-minded people from over 70 countries. Slush is an embodiment of the Nordic startup movement, which began seven years ago through the inspiration of some community-minded Finnish entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs take the main stage at Slush. They are either looking for funding, talent, partners, customers or networks for their fledging startups. At the core of startup-ism is the need to find a business model which will enable rapid global growth. That requires strong utilization of technical elements within the business model—therefore the whole phenomenon is geared toward startups with technological talent.

Healthcare is one of the sectors going through a massive wave of innovation right now. This was clear also at Slush. There were over 150 health tech startups being showcased, including:

  • Online doctor services (Meedoc)
  • Smart training tools (Checkmylevel)
  • Diabetes management products (Sensotrend)
  • Bright-light therapy products (Valkee)
  • Sleep quality monitors (Beddit)
  • Hand-held retinal imaging devices (Optomed)
  • Energy tests for workplace wellbeing (Laturi)
  • Online yoga-studios (Yoogaia)

The health tech stage was packed as people poured in to check out the business opportunities and smart novelties and learn from the wisdom of industry veterans, like former Nokia chief—Anssi Vanjoki. As an investor, he discussed what he is looking for: innovative luxury products and smart energy management solutions for wearables.

In its early years, Slush was just a subculture of entrepreneurship-minded young individuals. Fast forward seven years and today Slush is a must-attend event for any leader who wants to feel the pulse and energy of modern entrepreneurship in the Nordics.

This status was evidenced by opening speeches by the Prime Minister of Finland—who was joined by Wang Yang, the Vice Premier of China. This was the first time a high-ranking member of the Chinese Politburo ever appeared at a non-political event. The reason for the political interest is clear: the majority of jobs are created in new companies less than 5 years of age.

One part of Slush is the pitching competition. One hundred pre-selected startup founders give their presentations and investor judges pick the winner. This time the winner of the record-breaking seed-money-prize of 500.000 EUR was from Hungary.

Industry giants have also noticed the nimble innovativeness of the startups here, and are figuring out new ways to work together on innovations. New models of collaboration have been piloted in Finland by several companies. For example GE Healthcare has founded a health tech accelerator in its premises in Helsinki and supports building a healthy startup ecosystem at its own corporate campus.

Located in Helsinki, Slush was founded in 2008, and meets annually to bring together Eurasian startups and tech talent with top-level international investors and media. Greatly responsible for the high innovative energy on the Finnish landscape, the Slush Facebook page says it best:

“It's no coincidence that Linux, MySQL, Skype and Spotify were all developed in this small, frozen region on the far edge of the world.” 

Eeva Kiuru (M.Sc.) has 20 years of health tech commercialisation experience. She is currently the CEO at Health Innovation Academy. She is also an advisor to many health tech, medtech and pharma companies and an advisory board member at the University of Oulu, Finland. You can follow her on Twitter: @eevakiuru. This article is reprinted with permission.

The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.