Slush is the most founder-focused startup conference in the world.
If you’ve never been it has top quality production, elite tier speakers and a plethora of side events and activities designed to get founders building high growth businesses.
It is also the largest meeting of venture capitalists in the world.
That’s why it made total sense to me to volunteer to host one of their community events and help put Liverpool’s name on the global tech map through leveraging such a powerful brand.
Liverpool Slush’D took place on Thursday, September 14 and I felt incredibly excited and privileged to put it together.
Slush’D events are community-hosted events that are put on in towns and cities around the world ahead of the main Slush event in Helsinki, which took place between November 30 – December 1.
Before I got into tech entrepreneurship and angel investing, I worked in economic development.
It has given me a unique perspective on things. I’m a realist and I know that a single event, programme, fund or startup on its own is unlikely to radically alter the course of a regional economy – but it definitely feels like something special is happening in Liverpool of late.
The region’s sector has seen a swathe of landmark investments made by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, such as the LYVA Labs incubator, Baltic Ventures accelerator, a revitalised angel network and a soon-to-be live seed fund.
Hubs of considerable activity in the Baltic Triangle and SciTech Daresbury are seeing a consistent stream of success stories and local founders are taking the initiative, going out and raising money from London, Europe and the USA.
I felt that we needed a big, landmark event to bring everyone together each year, have tough discussions and celebrate our wins. What else could we learn from our Finnish neighbours so that we do even better though?
Slush itself is run entirely by students and recent graduates. Yes, you read that right. When it first began in 2008, Finland’s economy was reeling from the decline of Nokia.
Less than 1 per cent of Finnish undergraduate students were interested in starting a business. Fast forward to today, and that figure is near 50 per cent – and the country’s tech sector boasts a highly diversified selection of unicorns and other venture scale businesses.
Core to this transformation was good national and regional policy – getting the basics right.
The UK has some fantastic tax breaks for investing in startups, but we are a patchwork quilt of economic strategies, poorly thought-out education and talent initiatives and crumbling transport infrastructure.
The incredible, world-changing spinouts produced at University of Helsinki and Aalto University are an example which the UK university sector urgently needs to wake up to, as opposed to the current setup where TTOs are too quick to hamstring some of our country’s brightest deep tech prospects.
Culture is another non-negotiable ingredient of success. Making tech an attractive career prospect to young people and providing meetups, interest groups and other ‘soft power’ opportunities to people considering starting a startup is incredibly useful – it’s core to why I started Startup Grind Liverpool.
The phrase ‘I founded a startup’ needs to become as rooted in the local vernacular as ‘I work in a bar’.
I’ve come back from Slush 2023 absolutely charged up and refreshed – ready to push forward new projects and concepts which will support a new generation of founders in Liverpool.
Planning has begun for Liverpool Slush’D 2024 and I know that our growing, scaling tech sector is hungry for more high profile speakers, more of that fantastic party atmosphere and more success stories from our fantastic local founders.