What is Slush?
Slush originated in Helsinki 15 years ago, initiated by a group of students as an informal gathering for budding tech entrepreneurs. It has earned recognition as a celebration of tenacious entrepreneurship. It started with a one-day affair made up of around 250 people similar to the event in Liverpool last week.
Over time, Slush has transformed into a significant annual gathering, attracting prominent figures from the startup and investment realms. The organisers credit Slush's success to its unique approach of nurturing a close-knit community of innovators and investors while addressing the challenges that hinder local startups, resulting in substantial economic growth for Helsinki.
Liverpool is a hotbed of creativity, teeming with enthusiastic individuals who have an immense love for their city and consistently produce remarkable work. This dynamic environment naturally fosters a supportive community with a resounding 'can-do' spirit. This is vividly illustrated by the recent achievements of Liverpool, such as the thriving Baltic Triangle and Paddington Village, as well as the global success of homegrown businesses that were showcased at the event.
However, like many cities, there remains a challenge in bridging the gap between the public and private sectors which Steven Rotherham focused on, discussing the focus must now shift towards nurturing our people and building stronger communities. He mentioned 'the people of Liverpool have talent but need the opportunity' and the plans to create the first innovation zone within the UK Government Innovation prospects identify as 5% of the city region 44,000 jobs & £42 billion pounds in economic growth, sounds like the right opportunity.
Stefan Lindstrom (Finnish Ambassador for Digital Affairs) compared the opportunity in Helsinki following the closure of Nokia to creating the biggest startup tech event in the world is comparable to the opportunity in the north right now. The closure of the Nokia factory in Helsinki created decline and unemployment however “with every forest fire, green shoots grow”.
He mentioned ‘Silicon Valley isn’t just a place it’s a Mindset and a Network’ where the question is ‘how can I help you’.
Slush’d Liverpool – Key Events
Slush’d kicked off with a bang! The LCR Angel Network hosted an exciting pitching event, featuring five visionary founders who graced the stage. We saw David Dunne of Hexis, Laura Pomfret of Financielle, Richard Turner of Reakt, Kate Longworth of Gaia Learning, and Karli Büchling of Yoni Health who gave us an exciting live taste of what it takes to pitch for investment, with questions from investors in the crowd and on stage.
Oliver Yonchev, a notable entrepreneur, speaker, and the CEO of Flight Story, a marketing and communications firm he co-established alongside Dragon's Den celebrity Steven Bartlett. Having previously held the position of Managing Director at Social Chain AG, a prominent player in the global social media and e-commerce industry, Oliver delivered an enlightening presentation titled "AI - An Imperative for Our Future!" This talk delved deep into the transformative impact of artificial intelligence on both the technological realm and society at large.
Henry Whorwood, the Head of Research at Beauhurst, known for pioneering the tracking of startup activities and investments throughout the UK. Beauhurst's data indicates promising growth within the tech ecosystem of the Liverpool City Region across all key metrics.
In light of overarching trends like the Ukrainian conflict, the pandemic, political instability, and the valuation landscape of 2021, we've observed a deceleration in fundraising efforts. Investors appear to be prioritising the support of existing ventures over venturing into new ones. The process of securing investment deals is becoming more time-consuming, and a significant portion of these deals are follow-on investments, bridge funding rounds, and down rounds, characterised by more conventional valuations. Companies in the Series C and D stages are seeking exit opportunities, however, the IPO market remains inaccessible, and achieving success in mergers and acquisitions demands a keen strategic approach.
Currently, significant investments are flowing into leading startups that operate within the realms of 'critical emerging technologies' such as Cleantech, Artificial Intelligence, and Quantum, along with the broader ecosystem encompassing these areas. For those with a more versatile approach, the dynamics for early-stage startup investments remain unchanged: investors continue to support founders, their teams, and unique ideas that stand out from the rest. Below, I've summarised the key insights.
Successfully navigating the journey from pre-seed to seed
Craft Your Narrative: Demonstrate Why You're the Ideal Founder for the Role
Investors are in search of the elusive "Founder-Market-Fit," and a pivotal element in an investor's decision-making process, particularly in the earliest stages, is the calibre of the team. Intertwine your pitch with a compelling narrative that underscores your unique suitability to tackle this specific problem.
Metrics: The Cornerstones of Triumph
Investors prioritise evidence of traction. Throughout your presentation, zero in on the key metrics that accentuate your company's strengths. This could involve showcasing metrics such as Revenue Growth, Unit Economics, CAC, LTV or NPS depending on your business to illustrate your progress.
Cultivate Long-Term Bonds
Investors seek trustworthy individuals with whom they can potentially entrust substantial sums. The most common mistake I observe among founders is hastily embarking on fundraising endeavours fuelled by desperation. Even if an investor declines your initial proposition, it's essential to maintain them in the loop regarding your business's ongoing developments. You never know – they might emerge as the lead for your subsequent funding round!
Importance of Talent & Diversity
Investment is crucial for early-stage businesses, offering not just funding but also expertise, advice, and networking. However, there's a lack of diversity in this investment landscape, with underrepresented groups struggling to access these resources. Jenny Tooth indicated that there is a lack of diversity among the Angel investment community with just 14% of angel investors in the UK being Women.
The challenge around diversity hasn’t come and gone it is still very much at the forefront of the best startups, investors and founders. At Harmonic, we pride ourselves on our strong focus on DE&I internally and in the shortlists we provide.
We jointly commissioned a research report with Tech Nation and Harmonic assessing the top 2,200 UK start-ups ‘Diversity & Inclusion in Tech’.
As a B Corporation, we embed DE&I into both our culture and working practices, to find out more download our August 2023 impact report.
Slush’d Start-Up Resources
The connection for the likes of Lorna Green from LYVA Labs and Claire Lewis from Baltic Ventures, with national support readily available from organisations like Sam Simpson from FounderCatalyst and Jenny Tooth OBE from UK Business Angels Association.
A notable mention for Baltic Ventures who is a leading tech accelerator based in Liverpool's Baltic Triangle, dedicated to empowering early-stage entrepreneurial teams to develop innovative solutions and businesses.
They aim to boost founders' potential by connecting them with networks, coaching, and talent to secure investment funding and accelerate growth.
Baltic Ventures operates as a not-for-profit organisation, prioritising inclusivity and breaking biases in the entrepreneurial space.
Their Accelerator 2023 program, starting in September 2023, offers a 4-month cohort program with extensive resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities. It selected 9 successful companies out of over 200 applicants from across the UK and beyond.
9 Start-Ups in Baltic Ventures Community
Founded by Cam McGimpsey and Peter Lydon, with extensive retail tech experience, addressing sustainability and circular economy challenges in fashion, focusing on simplicity and speed.
Cubode - Build your own AI Model visually in minutes 🚀
Founded by Rebeca and David Garcia, making coding accessible for data analysts and corporate professionals with accurate coding fine-tuning for large language models.
Founded by Ash & Tom Lewis, enhancing software development efficiency with AI-powered products and AGI expertise.
Founded by Laura Pomfret and Holly Holland, empowering women's financial control with comprehensive tools and community support.
Founded by Kate Carney and Kirstin Coughtrie, supports neurodivergent children through personalized education, emphasizing holistic understanding.
Founded by Simon Roberts and Thomas Farquhar, advances eco-smart technology and smart home energy modeling, facilitating a transition to cleaner energy usage.
Hexis Founded by David Dunne, Dr Xiaoxi Yan, Dr Rodrigo Mazorra, Dr Sam Impey Hexis unleashes human potential through predictive nutrition for athletes, saving time and enhancing performance.
Founded by Paul Anthony Williams and Paul Gardiner with over 30 years of industry experience ittybit offers a comprehensive solution for managing rich media, including machine learning-based encoding.
Founded by Simi Lindgren. Google-backed AI-as-a-Service (AIaaS) Beauty Tech company offering hyper-personalisation, recognised by major media outlets, and securing significant funding.
To learn more about Baltic Ventures or learn more about the successful companies who were selected from 200 applicants click here.
Exceptional event and true entrepreneurial spirit from Jonny Clark for introducing Slush to the UK, with a showcase of Liverpool's unique influence on the event. Steven Rotherham emphasised the importance of promoting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, and the areas in between as a united force, transcending rivalries and leveraging the global appeal of these cities to create new opportunities. This proactive "how can I help you" attitude will facilitate foreign direct investment, global talent pools, and, most importantly, support the emerging initiatives that are taking root within the regions.
Harmonic a certified B Corporation
With well-established foothold in Manchester, where we serve Tech North, have robust partnerships with Technation with a focus on regional initiatives, and an exclusive search partnership with Sifted Summit.
How can we help you?
We specialise in Finance and Operations recruitment for fast-growing startups, scale-ups, and creative companies worldwide, offering both interim and permanent solutions.
Our values Knowledge, Respect, and Community drive our service. From CFOs and Financial Controllers to HR Directors and COOs, we employ a boutique culture-focused search process to find top talent for our clients, prioritising purpose over profit.
Contact – Stephen.Kerins@harmonicfinance.com to schedule a coffee / call to discuss your hiring plans.