17 Nov 2015
Slush opening

Slush 2015 Aftermath: Building a company for a century & Cyber security

From slush.org:

“Slush is the focal point for startups and tech talent to meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. This year, Slush brings together 15.000 attendees and more than 1700 startups for the two-day event. 800 investors have arrived to Helsinki to meet startups in nearly 4000 pre-booked meetings. Slush is a non-profit event organized by a community of entrepreneurs, investors, students and music festival organizers. Although Slush has grown from a 300-person event to become one of the leading events of its kind in the world, the philosophy behind it has remained the same: to help the next generation of great, world-conquering companies forward.”

This year team Devilabs didn’t have a booth and Markus handled meeting the investors with Antti, so I had the chance to fill my schedule with the talks. Because of this, Slush was more like a festival to my eyes. There were many stages, food trucks, flashy lights, drinks and something interesting was always happening somewhere. The organizers managed to grab several high-profile keynote speakers including Prince Daniel from Sweden, Ilkka Paananen: Co-founder& CEO of Supercell, Risto Siilasmaa: Chairman of Nokia and F-Secure, Marcus Wallenberg: Chairman of SEB, Niklas Zennström: Co-founder of Skype and Atomico plus several others. There certainly was something for everyone, but I liked especially two of the presentations.

On wednesday, Risto Siilasmaa and Marcus Wallenberg shared the stage to talk about building a company that lasts for centuries. Both men agreed that it is of primary importance to love the product and the customers. Many for example get too interested about what the media writes about them which is irrelevant and doesn’t drive the company forward, says Siilasmaa. Both also stated that it is important to have a clear vision of where you heading. It is likely that you will not travel the path you originally had in mind, and you should not concentrate too much on technology because it will change anyway. Other details along the way (like hiring the right people) can also help, according to Mr Siilasmaa. Neither of the men believe solely in luck. The gentlemen concluded that innovation and hard work are the key elements to success.

Thursday’s pick is a bit more on the techie-side. First thing in the morning was the cyber security session which included two infosec superstars from Finland and a very interesting panel with cyber security startups and investors.

Hyppönen at Slush

Mikko Hyppönen, Chief Research Officer of F-Secure gave a very intense talk about how software is controlling everything that surrounds us and noted that we are actually in the middle of an (cyber) arms race. According to Mikko, some nation states are currently also very much involved in finding new security vulnerabilities and developing advanced malware. An interesting observation about the computer security industry was that the people working in computer security thought that their line of work was about protecting the computers. Mikko argued that this is not the case anymore and these days computer security is about protecting the society as a whole.

After Mikko, Harri Hursti took the stage to further intimidate the audience with the non-existent security of the infamous Internet of Things. Harri Hursti was a child prodigy who won a popular game show “Double or Nothing” with his in-depth knowledge about the programming language BASIC. Mr Hursti has been working as a security professional since he was 15 (born 1968) and is now one of the most prestigious data security experts in the world. Mikko and Mr Hursti were both very conserned about the growing trend of Internet of Things (which is, inserting a network adapter to a screwdriver or a toaster). Hursti’s presentation was a bit more technical but a lot more apocalyptic. Hursti gave several examples of the flawed security stemming from obsolete design principles and bad programming in modern household appliances.

About the event in general, every aspect of the arrangements seemed to work like a swiss clock which lead to a very pleasant overall experience. The startups and investors could focus on each other instead of tinkering with the details. The volunteering students were very helpful and had worked out everything so that it was hard to spot a long queue in any critical phase of the event. All in all, Slush was a very exciting experience and I will definetely be participating next year!

About Mikko Ala-Jaakkola

Master of the Blinking Lights/ System Specialist at Devilabs Inc. Also busy with writing my Master's thesis in Computer Science. HP Certified in Server and Storage. Interests: Security, Operating systems, Virtualization and Analytics. Open to everything new & Sceptical about everything.

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