Last week, a team of product managers, developers and sales reps from our various markets braved the icy November darkness of Helsinki to attend Slush, one of the world’s hottest tech startup events.
This year, 17,000 people, 2,000 start-ups and 800 venture capitalists from more than 120 countries gathered to listen to insights and new business models while networking and sharing with their peers. This is where you come to learn from the best of the best: how to stay ahead, what to prepare for, and what to watch out for in the coming year(s).
Among the key takeaways this year were:
- Yes, blockchain will revolutionise everything from asset tracking (diamonds, artwork, land titles and deeds…) to supply chain transparency (for example food production and harvesting processes) and smart contracts (performance-related payments), although it might be a while for the full effect to hit financial solutions.
- Yes, disruption is real and waiting in the wings for a number of as yet unchallenged industries such as transportation (autonomous vehicles), space (commercial space initiatives), agriculture (how about lab-grown meatballs?), biotech and, not least, banking.The banking industry, as one familiar speaker put it, is ripe for disruption. Dominated by large companies, with high barriers to entry, a slow pace of change and a slew of unhappy customers, it’s primed for change.
- Yes, our belief that the second payment service directive could revolutionise the financial services landscape in Europe was confirmed, as well as our conviction that the final decision by the EBA on banks’ approach to open APIs will make all the difference to how fast this change will impact the financial services industry.
- Yes, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics are all here and ready to be deployed on a broad scale, from retail to entertainment to healthcare to transportation.
It’s unavoidable to go to Slush and not be stressed out by all the change going on around you, as well as the pace of it. But it’s also impossible not to be inspired by the success stories of entrepreneurs who have turned their ideas into billion-dollar valuations (always built on sweat, blood and tears).
And I sleep better knowing that in many ways we are on the right track: we’re already running several robotics initiatives within Arvato; we’re working hard to capitalise on opportunities from regulatory change in banking and fintech; we’re on top of NFC payments, and looking to deliver a superior customer experience across all our solutions from pay after delivery to debt collection; and we have a common approach to increasing diversity in our company as well as avoiding unconscious bias in the recruitment process and our daily operations.
Listening to the speakers and 50 or more pitches by fledgling start-ups inevitably triggers ideas and new insights. To be honest, all of the companies are relevant to us, either because they are in the same vertical as us, can add value to our solutions, or simply because they need to get paid – and everyone needs to get paid.
“Nobody in their right mind would come to Helsinki in November,” proclaimed the sign welcoming us to Slush. On the contrary, if you ask me.
– Head of Strategy and Innovation, Arvato Financial Solutions Nordics