Slush comes to Shenzhen

Slushhas arrived in Shenzhen. Not the stuff that comes after a heavy snowfall, but Europe’s leading startup and tech event – all the way from Finland.

Slush has been described by its organisers as the coolest tech conference on the planet, a description that has been well-earned since it was founded in Helsinki over a decade ago. Spreading from Finland to Japan, Singapore and China, the brand is growing in its efforts to bring together thousands of start-ups, entrepreneurs and investors under a global umbrella of cool.

The one-day Shenzhen event, taking place at the Pingshan International Expo Center in the new district’s Hi-tech Zone, had an eclectic lineup of panel discussions including a keynote speech by Peter Vesterbacka, founder of Angry Bird, exhibition space and an elevator pitch section. It culminated in a very loud after party, the Slush Music Festival. The organizer claimed that 2,500 tech-savvy executives from corporations, investment agencies, startups and media attended the event, a far cry compared to Slush’s usual 25,000 strong attendees in its home city, but not a bad start for Pingshan.

With a planned area of 51.6 square kilometers, the Pingshan hi-tech zone was only officially unveiled this week. It is located in the eastern part of Shenzhen, closer to Huizhou and the Shenzhen-Shantou Special Cooperation Zone than the city’s traditional tech hub of Nanshan. The zone is home to China’s leading energy vehicle maker, BYD, which has a street name after it here. 

The event, which resembled a nightclub scene with flashing spotlight and pumping music, was kickstarted by a dreadlock-sporting rock band, Spice. Ren Lin, vice president of BYD, led the fireside chat with some good advice: “At its initial stage, a startup should be concerned with the creativity of the product, its adaptability to the market and the suvival of the company. But a company’s mission has to be linked with the future of humanity.”

The carmaker ventured into rail transit in 2016 to “ease traffic congestion that faces many of China’s major cities” and Ren expected great changes to happen in the next three to five years, as “China has the largest market and world’s leading technologies in rail transit.” 

Topics of discussion were diverse. They included Future Technologies, Women in Leadership, How corporates work with startups, IoT & hardware, and open innovation. The exhibition floor was small but fairly interesting with six exhibitors coming from Finland, bringing software like virtual reality training content or hardware like smart cookers that can make any dish with an inbuilt program. 

Norwegian Ketil Larsen was one of the exhibitors. He moved to Shenzhen three months ago and has set up a company that makes special LED displays. “Why not Shenzhen? Why not China?” Larsen barked against a noisy background. “There’re so many opportunities here. We got to be here.” That pretty much summed up the sentiment of the event, not least because of a music festival to look forward to at the end of the day. 

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