A visit to Slush 2019

Welcome to Helsinki. A place that, in modern times, has been synonymous with world-class education and pioneering technology. Helsinki is also home to Slush, one of the world’s largest and most renowned Tech events. In the 2019 edition of Slush, REBBLS joined with the aim of getting Biotech on the map and exploring the Biotech scene in Finland. Here we share our experience in the land of ‘Nokia’, ‘Jaloviina’, and ‘Angry Birds’.

Many would go as far to say that Helsinki is one of the epicenters of the technological revolution, shaping the way we interact with Tech today. It kicked off in 1979, with one of the first applications of automation and artificial intelligence, namely for the game of chess. It was an astounding accomplishment at the time. Fun fact: It was built as a hobby project by a guy that was in-between jobs! This was just the beginning of a long row of epic game development which would later flow out of Finland. The latest success perhaps being ‘Angry Birds’, the beloved mobile game downloaded billions of times worldwide. Hardware development is an area with even more Finish success. In 2007, Nokia had more than 50% of the global market of cellular phones and was truly the company that brought the cellular phone to the masses.

This legacy and excellence in computer science, design, hardware and an overall love for Tech makes Slush the unique melting pot for inventors that it is today. Slush has an energy that makes you feel the next big thing might be present in the room. We found that the next big thing in Finland will probably be in Biotech. Here’s why. 

Finland is the home to several world-class universities, generating great science and researchers. However, the trend observed over the last decade is that researchers and inventors must leave Finland to find the highly specialized jobs that they crave. Today, Biotech is becoming a field where hardware, computer science and the life sciences are simultaneously merging. With the entrepreneurial spirit, excellent talent, and strong programming and hardware infrastructure, Finland has all the prerequisites for generating excellent Biotech companies. Through Y Science at Slush, we experienced a surge in interest from investors and serial entrepreneurs towards biotech. This was evident from the 450 visitors to our 3-hour Biotech side event, as well as the fact that a life science company made it to the top 3 in the Slush Top 100 Pitch Competition.

 

We see a new narrative surfacing on the Biotech scene. One in which Biotech is seen as fast paced, a key driver for sustainability, and with unlimited potential. Investors, entrepreneurs and citizens in general are starting to prioritize the impact and purpose of companies in the highest regard when considering their career moves. People want to see startups succeed, especially those which address the  UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and thereby equality for people and the planet. Biotech startups are beginning to tick all these boxes and the world is noticing – rightfully so. The acceleration of the underlying levers of Biotech’s application and scale (such as reading, writing & editing DNA) makes us able to design biological systems, with the features we desire i.e. circularity, sustainability and wellbeing. These advances are also generating phenomenal amounts of hope that Biotech startups will answer many of the challenges we face with very concrete applications. REBBLS helped Y Science showcase eight such examples at the Life Science Pitching competition. These eight companies illustrated some of the great breakthroughs which Biotech is delivering, spanning from health and life sciences to sustainable farming. The winner of the competition and €30k was Medicortex, who is changing how traditional medicine deals with head traumas.

With strong science and tech-prowess, REBBLS puts their money on more and more Biotech being brought to life by big Finnish ambitions and talent. The Y Science finalists were a wonderful testament to what we believe the future has in-store: a world built on Biotech to achieve sustainability and better lives for all. Slush offered a window into the future – and the future will be Biotech.

Y Science 2019 was organized by the Helsinki Institute of Life Science (HiLIFE, University of Helsinki) to bring together the curious scientific community and the business world. HiLIFE partnered with REBBLS, KasKas Media, BioInnovation Institute and University of Oulu to organize a Life Science Pitching competition. This competition was the core part of Y Science, truly embodying the transition from academic discovery to concrete actions to society. A big thanks to Chiara Facciotto for being a rock-star event coordinator and making this happen.

REBBLS is proud to have contributed to Y Science and to continue to help accelerate the bio-transition through empowerment of bold Bio-entrepreneurs.

 

About the Author: Alexander Moldt Nielsen has a passion for scoping new technologies, business models and innovative systems to improve our future world. His adventure-seeking spirit leads him down a labyrinth of exciting paths, which twist and weave through the rich tapestry of Biotech today. Alexander is a member of the CORE REBBLS team and the Executive Board.