Over 4,000 tech companies and around 25,000 people don’t come to Helsinki each November to enjoy the Finnish weather – they come to hear from the hottest startups seeking to change the world. This year was no different.
Bigger and better than before, Slush 2019 officially took place from November 21-22, but was book-ended with almost an entire week of related side events that took place at locations around Helsinki. Through the core and side events, attendees had the opportunity to meet and discuss ideas during matchmaking sessions, pitching competitions, and exhibitions.
The core ethos behind Slush is to offer the latest business and tech know-how to event attendees. And who would be better at that than experts from some of the fastest growing companies in the world?
Among this year’s high-profile speakers was John Collison, president of Stripe, Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch and Tina Sharkey, co-founder of Brandless.
I learnt from previous years attending Slush that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and to try and visit more keynote presentations than is realistically possible. With that in mind, my strategy this year was to prioritize experiencing presentations and demos related to FinTech – since this is one of my main focus areas at Arvato Financial Solutions.
I selected two core presentations to prioritize attending: Under The Deck (organized by LVS Brokers and Ukko.fi) and Finding Fintech: Open Innovation For All (organized by Mastercard).
Finding Fintech: Open Innovation For All
For the second year in a row Mastercard presented Finding Fintech, arguably the conference’s largest fintech networking event. In his keynote, Sarel Tal, VP of EMEA at Rapyd shared insights about how they built and scaled the world’s largest local payment network.
Making and scaling social impact
There were two panel discussions. The first panel focused on ways to make innovation inclusive and sustainable. It featured Agate Freimane, Investment Director, at Norrsken; Ola Lowden, Founder and CEO at Omocom; and Kristina Kloberdanz, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mastercard.
The trio showcased different ways startups and incumbents are working together to solve problems related to sustainability and inclusion.
They spoke about the grave need to help our planet and the role businesses can take to help scale social impact. It was refreshing to hear how these companies are not only encouraging startups that help the world but also investing them. I’m hopeful that this trend in responsible business continues and isn’t just a fad.
Open banking gathers momentum
The second panel discussion was on open banking and featured Gwen Sandberg, Business development Director at Tink; Keith Grose, International Lead at Plaid; and Mikko Kairtamo
Business Development Director at Mastercard.
The panelists explained how open banking will enable third-party developers to build applications and services around financial institutions. As a result, consumers will be able to save money, borrow easily, and pay painlessly, they highlighted.
Open banking is a big deal for banks, regulators, and startups. However, the market is still maturing so it remains unclear when it will become more universally adopted and expected.
Mastercard’s Lighthouse Program finalists Enterpay got to take center stage and present their solution to attendees.
Enterpay’s solution aims to significantly optimize the payment process for B2B e-commerce by automating the invoicing process.
Enterpay’s payment scheme consists of an open platform where all necessary parties can enable automated B2B-trade and cooperate seamlessly.
The B2B merchants can increase the number of profitable customers through improved credit scoring and automated invoicing. The corporate buyer experiences easier onboarding at new merchants and more seamless check-out flow. Finally, integrating with financial institutions allows these to deliver improved financing solutions to the merchants.
Enterpay is cooperating with Arvato Financial Solutions in Finland and many merchants, such as Halpa-Halli, have already decided to offer Enterpay’s payment method to their commercial customers. It’s great to witness the engagement around the solution and the growing digital marketplace.
Watch our video interview with Enterpay at Slush 2019 to learn more.
Under The Deck
We heard about two impressive growth stories during the Under the Deck session. A spokesperson from Kaslink, the Finnish oat drink producer (acquired by Fazer a few months ago) spoke about creating a strong brand through storytelling. They underlined the importance of following through on your core vision, even after your company begins gaining momentum.
A spokesperson from Freska, a Finnish cleaning company, explained how they adopted a data-driven subscription-based approach to drive business. This strategy helped them identify problem areas quickly and clearly. As a result, operations could be fine-tuned, and costs slashed.
Sustainability and making a difference in the world were dominant and recurring themes I noticed in many of the presentations during Slush 2019 which gives me hope for the future of our planet.
The interest in FinTech, as evidenced by the many great keynote presentations and demos, suggests that the financial services industry is entering into a new phase where technology-enabled innovation and disruption is becoming more commonplace.
FinTech might be considered by some as still a burgeoning scene in Finland but several companies, such as Enterpay and Kaslink, are proving they can become profitable quickly, which I think must be inspirational for entrepreneurs.
Looking back, other startups who were perhaps struggling to be profitable just a couple of years ago are now scaling up and show no signs of slowing down. This year we heard about more new players entering the FinTech market which is fueling momentum. The result is better and more innovative offerings for end users. I might be exhausted from attending Slush but I’m also inspired and already excited by what’s on the horizon.