More than 40 Skolkovo resident companies are to fly to Helsinki next month for Slush, one of Europe’s biggest startup investment conferences, to woo financiers and get a sense of how they measure up to international competition.
Organizers are hoping for a turnout of around 15,000 investors, company executives, fledgling entrepreneurs and media for the two-day event on November 18-19 in the Finnish capital.
Among them will be Skolkovo’s biggest delegation, led by 22 startups from the IT research cluster and including ten space-themed startups, six nuclear startups, three biomed and two energy companies.
Slush 2013 attracted nearly 10,000 visitors. Photo: Jussi Hellsten
“It’s an international benchmark,” said Pekka Viljakainen, one of the original 20 founding partners of the event.
“We are at Slush so that our companies, and also Russian startups on a larger scale, can actually see other companies – what is their competition? Because at the end of the day we are all competing for financing and visibility.”
Viljakainen, an advisor to Skolkovo Foundation President Viktor Vekselberg, noted Slush was “no holiday” and that Skolkovo’s startups would have to put in persuasive pitches to prize investment from any of the numerous venture funds at Helsinki.
But he added: “I think it’s very reasonable to believe that if our companies are making a good show there, and a good pitch there, then they will find financing there.”
Slush claims to have tracked upwards of $200 million in investment made as a result of last year’s event, which was attended by people from 68 countries.
The difficult political climate makes Slush all the more important this year as a halfway house between Russia and the West, Viljakainen told sk.ru.
“In the center of Slush we have a Russian science café. It’s like a window for all those people who already know something about Russia but who are skeptical, cynical, doubtful about whether Russia can be the right place,” he said.
Viljakainen, meanwhile, noted that it’s not all one-way traffic when it comes to Russian business with the West.
“There are a lot of companies who are searching for a place to start their business in Russia,” he said. “So we are there promoting our technopark, we are definitely there promoting the fact that our Skolkovo facilities, all our support is available for foreign companies, and we warmly welcome them to come to Russia and to Skolkovo to start their R&D activities and become full members here.”
Skolkovo has a Soft Landing program available for such instances, which considerably eases entry to the Russian market.
“There is an unlimited amount of energy, so to say,” said Viljakainen.
Slush is the sister event for Skolkovo’s Startup Village – exactly six months separate them on the calendar – and it follows the same principle in generating interest on a promotional tour beforehand. The Slush team visited 40 countries from China to Brazil, the United States to Japan to whip up enthusiasm and pick the top startups to showcase.
Skolkovo plans to use Slush as a platform to announce the 2015 Startup Tour, the annual warm-up for the Startup Village.
The www.slush.org website notes that two days of talks will feature the founders of companies like Supercell, Skype and Rovio as well as executives behind success stories such as Alibaba, Softbank and Spotify.