Slush, the largest startup event in the Nordics, took place in the “death month” of November in Helsinki. With over 15,000 attendees comprising 1,700 startups, the array of new companies and technologies can be dizzying. From the SLUSH 100 pitching competition to the 240 demo booths, here are 5 startups that caught our eye.
FairStart is a startup for unique gifts, handmade by refugees and asylum seekers in reception centres. The idea came alive in Startup Refugees, a network founded by two world explorers and the creators of Madventure and Docventures, Tunna Milonof and Riku Rantala. FairStart is based on fighting the fear and biases against refugees by offering everybody a fair start and possibility to support themselves.
All products are designed and made by the asylum seekers, and each piece is signed by the artist. Right now, there are two products available for preordering: the life seeker boat, a hand crafted boat made of wood, and the “Not Just a Number” bracelet, necklace, or keyring, a small 925 silver plate where you choose a personal significant number to accompany the text “Life seeker”. Products with a powerful message, for sure.
Pleo, a Danish fintech startup, offers a simplified corporate card solution aimed at tackling the company credit card market. Via a web and mobile app, employees can get both physical and digital card. The app also saves all receipts, so employees don’t have to worry about tracking business expenses every time they go out for lunch or commute to visit a client. The app also gives an easy way for management to issue and track the business cards.
Pleo took home the Pioneer of the Year award at the 2016 Pioneers festival in Vienna, and was among the favorites at the Money2020 conference. Slush organizers took notice, and invited Pleo to present on stage. “To be selected as one of the best up-and-coming startups in the region at such a high-profile event is great recognition for Pleo,” Alen Cvisic, marketing manager, told Trendsonline in an interview. Pleo is currently beta testing in Denmark and the UK, but you can sign up for early access on their website.
Kanssani (in English, with me) is a company making sustainable design memory books. Reduce, reuse and recycle is the more idea of the company. Therefore, all the books are made of recycled paper – which is hard to believe when you see the soft, velvety pages. Designer and CEO Melissa Wang thinks that the best design comes from adventure and beauty.
Kanssani made special edition Slush memory books, which are still available on their web store The operative director Jouni Kari started his startup life with a very crazy idea ten years ago – selling walking poles in Oman. He and his doctor friend wanted to introduce Nordic walking as a sport in a country where diabetes was becoming more and more common. So, Jouni left his day job and started selling walking poles at the Omani beaches. Jouni’s biggest inspiration was Guy Kawasaki’s book The Art of the Start. “I used to be an air traffic controller, where you learn that you cannot make mistakes. In startup world you learn to do mistakes and then learn from them.”
Slow loading time on websites is the bane of the internet. But user frustration aside, loading times also have a quantifiable impact. For e-commerce, just a fraction of a second difference in loading time can mean the loss of millions of dollars. This is the problem the Hamburg-based startup Baqend wants to solve. Back in September, Baqend wowed the crowd at the ultra-hip Reeperbahn Festival, Europe’s answer to SXSW, and took home the grand prize at the Reeperbahn Startup Pitch.
The company is the brainchild of CEO Felix Gessert and CTO Florian Bücklers. The product is based on 5 years of research the pair conducted studying computer science at the University of Hamburg. The service aims to make websites and apps not just faster, but the absolute fastest – hands down. While the technology behind the service can be difficult for laypeople to understand, the results can be clearly measured: making your page load 100 milliseconds faster will increase revenue by 1%.
A well-known fact about music is that eventually, it’s all copied. You can play loads of songs with just the same 4 notes. Music, like all art, is recreating what already exists. Machines are much faster at understanding huge amounts of data, and then assimilating it and recombining it into something new – a new melody for example. With just a couple of clicks where you define the style and atmosphere you prefer, Jukedeck’s AI software will create a piece of music for you.
It’s free for individuals, small companies or NGO’s to use the track created. Ed Newton-Rex, one of the founders, says that the company’s team is made up of musicians. He thinks that it is important to understand music very well to be able to teach machines to compose it. He also promises that Jukedeck will not cause musicians to be unemployed in the future. Why we enjoy listening particular artists comes partly from the story behind the artist, and AI can’t have a story in the same sense. “Composing music is a creative task for humans. How fast or well AI is able to do music, there will always be a need for humans to be creative.”