With Blockchain being all the hype this year, Slush, Europe's leading startup event, turns the spotlight on the technology behind Bitcoin, making it one of its most notable themes in 2016. Taking place next week from Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 in Helsinki, Slush connects startups and tech talent with top-tier international investors, executives and media.

Arielle Zuckerberg, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), one of the largest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley and one of the keynote speakers at Slush 2016, says:

“I invested in a Helsinki-based startup before joining KPCB, and I’m excited to meet more talented teams from the area! I look for founders that are passionate, persistent and mission-driven. They should have a sense of purpose that extends beyond themselves.”

In 2015, the world famous tech event gathered 15,000 attendees, including 1,700 startups, 800 investors and 630 journalists, together representing 100 countries. The reason behind its remarkable popularity is not only its scale, visual appeal, perfect record and vibrant atmosphere but also the high efficiency of its main feature - the Matchmaking tool.

Where outstanding ideas and big money meet

The Slush Matchmaking tool was established in 2013, and in the past three years over half a bln dollars in capital has been invested as a result of the meetings. It automatically calculates matches between startups and investors and suggests people you should meet during Slush.

One of the success stories from 2015, generated by Matchmaking, is that of M-Files. This was how the company connected with Partech Ventures, and a couple months later they announced €33 mln in funding, one of the biggest funding rounds in Finnish history.

“We knew Partech Ventures was one of the top-tier VCs in Europe capable of writing checks that were in the right ballpark for us. We suggested a meeting with Partech by using the Slush Matchmaking Tool, as we had a match,” explains Miika Mäkitalo, CEO of M-Files.

“Partech understood M-Files’ value prop and technology right from the first meeting.”

“One of the key value propositions of Slush is our Matchmaking tool,” confirms Teemu Laurikainen, partnerships lead at Slush.

“It allows investors, startups, the media and executives to pre-book meetings with each other for the event. Matchmaking uses a smart algorithm to provide the best matches possible. This year I'm expecting a lot more beneficial meetings for the startups attending Slush, as well as great investing opportunities for the investors.”

What’s on the agenda?

The program is built under five main themes with numerous program tracks. Blockchain, Bitcoin and FinTech are included in the Self-driving Society theme.

“There are interesting things happening in financial technology currently, and I believe FinTech in general has not been highlighted enough as a major theme in our previous events,” Laurikainen explains to Cointelegraph.

“Global remittances, mobile banking, Blockchain and cryptocurrencies, to name a few, are transforming the global financial system and it is important that we highlight these topics in Slush,” he adds.

“There will be discussions and keynotes about Blockchain and FinTech, networking meetup sessions focusing on FinTech in the Engine Room, and also founder stories on the Founder stage.”

Founder Stage is the arena committed for the founder stories, whereas Engine Room hosts networking and gathering events from different fields. There is also a new intimate location for Q&A sessions called Speaker Studio, allowing the attendees to continue the discussion with the speakers after their talks.

The themes and tracks are covered on all of the stages and structured on the agenda under the following:

  1. The Mind of an Entrepreneur is the main theme of the event. By having founders share stories about their hardest moments, we want to raise awareness about how challenges are a normal part of entrepreneurial life. This theme covers the topics of Startup Academy and Design.
  2. The next 100 years of your life covers the topics of Biotech, Education and Work, Health & Well-being and Science.
  3. Survival Plan for Planet Earth covers topics such as FoodTech, CleanTech & Energy, Social Entrepreneurship and Space.
  4. Augmenting the Real Life covers Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, Gaming & Entertainment, Music, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality.
  5. Self-driving Society covers B2B software & Internet of Things, Cybersecurity, FinTech & Blockchain, Mobility & Smart Cities.

Who are the speakers?

2,000 startups, 800 venture capitalists and 700 journalists from over 100 countries are expected to attend Slush this year. As for the key speakers, the most exciting ones are perhaps:

  • Daniel Ek, “The Most Important Man In Music”, founder of Spotify
  • Chris Sacca, investor in Twitter, Instagram and Uber
  • Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
  • Steve Jurvetson, managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson
  • Joel Spolsky, CEO & co-founder at Stack Overflow
  • Sebastian Siemiatkowski, founder & CEO of Klarna
  • Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of Indiegogo.
  • Dave McClure, venture capitalist & founding partner at 500 Startups
Altogether 137 speakers have been announced so far. Most of them are founders, startup team members, researchers, or specialists. “I'm very excited about different VR/AR related new startups and showcases we will have at Slush,” notes Laurikainen. “I believe 2016 is the year virtual reality is truly introduced to the masses, with larger companies coming out with their own VR-headsets for consumer use. This will be seen at Slush 2016.”

Blockchain this, Blockchain that, plus FinTech and a bit of Bitcoin

Being included in the main theme of the Self-Driving Society, FinTech challenges seem to be addressed through the question of “Are we happy to give more control to machines, and at what cost?” The experts that will try to answer it are the following:

  • Jutta Steiner, Ethcore
  • Thomas Conté, Microsoft
  • Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger
  • Elizabeth Stark, co-founder and CEO at Lightning
  • Paul Puey, Airbitz
  • Jacob deGeer, founder of iZettle
  • Aage Reerslev, founder of Wrapp
  • Roelant Prins, CCO at Adyen
In addition to this, representatives from Stripe and executives and venture arms from global financial institutions will have their say.

Nicolas Cary, president & co-founder of Blockchain, a leading financial technology and data company, will discuss in his talk called “Blockchain: The Holy Grail of Fintech” about building an open, accessible and fair financial future, one piece of software at a time.

Elizabeth Stark, co-founder and CEO at Lightning, will speak on “Less Trust Is More: Bitcoin, Blockchains and the Future of Decentralized Technology.” She believes that the real power of Bitcoin lies in its trustless, decentralized nature and its underlying technology, a distributed ledger called the Blockchain. However, she asks whether these new decentralized technologies will change the face of the internet as we know it.

Among other related topics and events are, for example, a panel discussion “Fintech Startups Democratizing The Capital Markets - Empower the People,” “Big Things Start Small - iZettle and the Future of Fintech,” Blockchain Hackathon “Let’s Create a Trust Machine!,” “Go F**tech Yourself,” FinTech invitational pitching competition, FinTech Mash/Up, “FinTech and regulation: how will the new payment service directive change the world?” and last but not least “Fintechs and big finance: collaboration, not just competition.” The full list of events (remember to check side events as well!) can be found here.

Conference passes

There are four types of Slush 2016 passes depending on the attendance goals: Conference Pass, Executive Pass, Startup Pass and Investor Pass. The event is often sold out, and at the moment of writing this, only 197 Conference Passes are left.

In addition to passes, this year the Slush team has decided to run a private Boeing A350 plane between Silicon Valley and Helsinki in order to bring more SV investors and speakers to the event. The flight details can be found here.

Cointelegraph readers can enjoy a 20 percent discount on Startup and Conference Passes by entering COINTXSLUSH16 during the registration.

“I warmly welcome you to attend Slush this year and hope to see as many of you here as possible!” says Laurikainen.