There’s something in the ice-cold Finnish water: key takeaways from Slush 2021

Written by Alex Kent

8 February 2022


Business Finland appointed Berkeley Communications, the storytelling PR agency, following a competitive pitch in late 2021.

Berkeley is tasked with building awareness for Finland and its industry ecosystems to raise the profile of the country as a go-to for technology, investment, talent and start-ups. As well as content and media relations, Berkeley delivers support for Slush – one of the world’s leading start-up and tech events, held in Helsinki every November.

Here, Business Finland account director Alex Kent shares his insights and key takeaways from the 2021 event and his week in Finland.

Experiencing Slush 2021

Just days before the news of the Omicron strain broke back in December, some of the Berkeley Business Finland team flew to Helsinki to lead a media tour of international journalists at Slush 2021.

The overall theme of the event was ‘The new age of entrepreneurship: the entrepreneurial renaissance’, and it really felt like a coming together of like-minded people, genuinely there to work together and build companies that change the world.

Now back from the Christmas break and struggling with the cold and gloomy British weather, I started to think about how the Finns cope with tougher conditions (long hours of darkness, cold temperatures and lots of snow and slush) than we do, yet manage to be the world’s happiest country (awarded by the United Nations, no less), as well as what I learned about their entrepreneurial spirit while I was there.

Here are some of my key takeaways to share with you:

  • There’s something in the Finnish water! If you’ve never heard of ‘sisu’, then look it up. It’s a concept used by Finns (with no equivalent word in English) to describe their national character of stoic determination, tenacity, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness. This filters through into their amazing culture, both in business and in their personal lives (the happiest country in the world).
  • If you can dream something, then you can build something. There’s never been a better time to do it. The tools and the knowledge are out there, and they are easier to find than you think.
  • There are so many genuine people out there that really want to help each other. Rather than guarding themselves against the competition, they believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.
  • We need more Finnish saunas in the UK. They are totally different and so, so so much better. The Finns really are mad about them too. It’s not just a stereotype! If you get a chance, make sure you then take a dip in the ice-cold water.
  • There’s a huge need for tech talent. There are so many fast-growing companies struggling to recruit to keep up with their growth trajectory.
  • Business and ethics can and must go hand in hand. Be proud of the tax you pay, the people you help and the impact you have on the world.
  • Brand is the currency of trust, built by developing a narrative around who you are, why you exist and where you are heading, and then delivering on that promise over and over again. You can measure your brand by how many people believe in it.
  • Finnish gin and whiskey tastes amazing. A few years ago, they realised the country produces a lot of rye but was sending loads of it to America, who in turn sent them back whiskey. Realising they were missing a trick, there’s now a growing Finnish distillery industry.

Hopefully these words will have inspired you on what’s probably a cold and dark day. There’s never a better time to start working on what excites you than now. As ever, at Berkeley, we’d love to connect and hear your thoughts. We thrive on conversation. And hopefully we might see you at Slush 2022 as well…