A stage set at the Kamppi shopping center in downtown Helsinki on Wednesday, Nov. 20 gave a glimpse of what is to come for the next two days at the largest start-up community gathering in the world. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

With more than 200 side events, Slush continues to grow and consolidate its brand as the largest start-up community gathering worldwide.

This year the massive event will welcome 25,000 attendees, 3,500 start-ups, 2000 investors, 600 journalists and 350 researchers—all of whom represent more than 130 nationalities.

Before the beginning of the official event today at Messukeskus (Helsinki, Expo and Convention Center), yesterday the City of Helsinki and Business Finland welcomed foreign and local investors, start-ups, and media representatives in several events taking place in Maria01, the former hospital complex that became the home of some of the most high-tech start-ups in Finland just five years ago and now undergoing a massive expansion and renovation to become the largest start-up campus in Europe.

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Although Slush gathers high players from the world of finance, government, technology, academia and the corporate world, its educational focus has not disappeared. It is still organized mostly by students and volunteers eager to learn from the professional players. An example of spaces opened up for the coming generations, today young people had the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in a stage built at the shopping center Kamppi, one of the most transited areas in Helsinki. In addition, all the Slush speakers give one hour of mentoring to start-ups: this year 2,000 people will be mentored at Slush.

Slush is traditionally committed to matters that require solutions. Sustainability has been a common topic, nevertheless this year there seems to be a special emphasis on gender equality. It is usually assumed that tech and business fields are male-dominated but in fact, there are many women with leadership and managing positions within the start-up community. One example is Amel Gaily who became the managing director of FIBAN (Finnish Business Angel network) this year and who will move the organization beyond its 10th anniversary next year.

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Slush promises a lot this year; today and tomorrow we will see and understand what synergy really means. Everyone’s hopes and dreams are put on solving different challenges in business and society, and that can only be a good and positive start, even in slushy times.