About Slush and the Helsinki Startup Scene

The annual startup event Slush, held in Helsinki, has become well-known as one of the most hip ones worldwide.

And Slush has been growing exponentially. In 2011 the event had 1,500 attendees, in 2012 the number raised to 3,500, and the year after that to 7,000. Two years back, in 2014, the amount of attendees was about to double and the event had to be relocated to Messukeskus Expo and Convention Center.

Last year, in 2015, the event attracted over 25,000 visitors.

This year, the program of Slush will focus, more than ever, on stories from world-conquering founders of successful tech companies, such as David Helgason, Co-Founder of Unity, Ilkka Paananen, CEO & Founder of Supercell, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO & Co-Founder of Klarna, Niklas Zennström, Co-Founder of Skype & Founder of Atomico.

According to the Slush blog, a new survey on around 700 founders of successful startups confirms the notion that hotspots in the Nordic countries are increasingly gaining reputation as best places to found a startup in Europe. In this survey, as in many others, Berlin and London naturally dominate the charts.

However, in this survey, Stockholm and Copenhagen are ranked among the Top 10 of best cities to found a startup, with Helsinki as a close runner-up.

Maria 0-1, or MariaZeroOne, a brand new startup hub, opened downtown Helsinki with a cool opening party yesterday. I attended the event, and was able to get a sneak-peek preview of the premises. As many of the key players in Helsinki ecosystem have now moved in to Maria or are about to move in soon, this venue is likely to become one of the largest and most inspiring of the Nordic startup hubs.

The hub spans across former Maria hospital area, with the renovation project still going on. The refurbishing of the buildings will continue into 2017.

By the end of the year, Maria will be the new home for 60 start-ups, as well as for many selected investors and accelerators. A few big investors have premises there too, including Superhero Capital and Butterfly Ventures.

“Maria 0-1 will be the centre for events and players driving the growth, as well as being a supporting community for new growth companies,” says Voitto Kangas, director of the venue. “We want to create the meeting point where the ambition will meet the latest technology know-how as well as the drive to succeed internationally”, he explains.

It is now two months until the next Slush event in Helsinki, with the registration still open. With many well-known VIPs from Silicon Valley such as Steve Jurvetson, Caterina Fake, Arielle Zuckerberg, and Ankur Jain also joining Slush this year with direct flights from San Fransisco organized by Finnair, it is no wonder the hype is huge.

Jenni Kääriäinen, Chief of Design at Slush, has been part of the Slush organization since the beginning. Kääriäinen works hard to visualize the soul of Slush for a flock of thousands of visitors every year. For many years, the venue has been decorated and furnished much like a giant rave party, adorned with lasers.

In the Slush blog, Kääriäinen recently revealed that this year, the Slush participants who enter the venue will walk in Messukeskus under a thousand dreamcatchers. This choice made as for the main interior decoration theme of the event seems to me like a very well chosen one.

Read more about Slush and register for the event: http://www.slush.org/

The Lowdown on Flow Festival

Last weekend, I went to the Flow Festival 2016 here in Helsinki. The festival venue at Kalasatama area was packed to its maximum capacity for three days.

I found that I did not enjoy the festival nearly as much as during the previous years – in spite of the fact that I spent the time there with my very good friends and I saw many excellent artists – such as Kamasi Washington, Morrissey, M83 and Sia perform live.

Besides the congestion of a huge flock of hipsters, there was another big factor that made me nauseous about the whole event – that is, the very visible and prominent sponsor plots scattered around the festival area.

Because of the crowd, one naturally had to arrive early in order not to miss any of their favourite artists. Upon entering the festival area, you could spot Toyota’s brand new car being promoted much like in a car show, with the addition of selfie-sticks. While proceeding towards the stage, you would proceed through various commercial playgrounds of brands such as Zalando and Lapin Kulta towards the stage, just to look at 20-30 minutes of more ads on the screens besides the stages before any artists even begin to perform.

This year, the festival had 21 sponsors and partners, and in my opinion, that makes way too many, even for an event of this scale.

Attending the event made me wonder what transformed the easy-going and laid-back festival spirit of the previous festival events disappear.

It is quite evident, that this time, the festival organizers simply overdid it as for the sponsor and partnership deals.

Marketing anything to millennials is tricky to begin with, so no wonder things like this happen when a popular festival event organization and a whole bunch of local and global brands are involved. Some brands, such as the local hip media Basso, and Resident Advisor, naturally contributed to the festival event, but as for many others, contributions at the festival area seemed quite irrelevant.

Christine Göös wrote recently in the Kiosked blog that “almost 70% of successful, millennial-targeted campaigns are connected to real life events”.

You can read the full article on millennial marketing online by Christina Göös here: http://blog.kiosked.com/en/the-secret-to-marketing-to-millennials.

Hip events are increasingly being funded via sponsorship deals, and as if that were not enough, local hip events targeted at millennials are now being increasingly created on-demand by big global brands and corporations. Millennials wish to differentiate from their peers and participate in unique events, and they are eager and willing to share the brand content online in the form of photos and videos.

As the majority of millennials – as much as 60% according to some sources – state that they would rather spend money on experiences instead of material goods, this kind of marketing targeted at us makes a lot of sense.

The pitfall here is that the aura of authenticity and originality of the unique experience is lost in case a hip event such as Flow Festival becomes overly commercial.

On Personalization and Generating ROI Online

According to the recent Salesforce “State of Marketing” report that surveyed 4 000 marketing leaders worldwide, by 2021, around 75% of marketing budgets will be spent on digital marketing efforts.

So what kind of marketing efforts are the most effective when it comes to online marketing?

This, of course, depends on the customer segments you reach out to, and the desired return of investment of each channel. Mobile is becoming increasingly important, of course. But I will give a few pointers more.

It is a well-known fact that standard display ads are not actually viewed by anyone online in around 50% of the cases. According to many sources, the average click-through rate of a standard banner ad is around 0.12-0.14 %. As the use of ad blockers is on the rise, it is gradually becoming even more difficult to deliver relevant ads to potential and returning customers online. This is one reason why the app industry is so big now.

Around 30% of all Finnish people currently use this kind of software, with the same figure now being over 50% among Finnish youth. I use this kind of software myself, only occasionally turning it off for any site.

According to Contently, however, data-driven marketing efforts lead to revenue increases for over 50% of the marketers, and over 75% of marketers generated positive returns from content marketing.

As often cited, content is still king, and in the online kingdom, it seems that context is queen.

Creating original content that will be displayed in the relevant context matters, and so it will in the future too. This is where search engine marketing and optimization via keywords and metadata come in.

In case your team still has no segmented content strategy, I think you should definitely create one soon.

Personalizing online content drives revenue, and this is evident based on this year’s Salesforce report.

The Salesforce “State of Marketing” report breaks the marketing teams surveyed to three categories: underperformers, that are “slightly” or “not at all” satisfied with their current marketing outcomes, moderate performers, that are “very” or “moderately” satisfied, and high-performers, that are “extremely” satisfied with their marketing outcomes. Of the 4000 teams surveyed, only 18% fall into the last category.

According to this year’s report, 83% of the high-performing marketing teams worldwide use customer data to segment or target ads. 79% of these teams currently employ some form of predictive intelligence in their marketing, with 49% of these marketing teams reporting extensive usage of online personalization.

This is what high-performance inbound online marketing now and in the very near future is all about.

Asking to subscribe an email newsletter or registering in order to download original content makes all the difference. An easy-to-find, easy-to-fill, concise contact form with questions on some basic demographic information is needed, of course, in order to get a segmented, up-to-date customer register together.

I find the increasingly common pop-ups asking to supply any information really annoying, and would thereby recommend that the contact information or registration form is included at the very front page of your company, or alternatively, appearing right next to your most popular pieces of content.

A/B testing different landing pages with a contact form is a very useful technique to ensure, that the bounce rate and churn rates are kept to a minimum, and you are getting people to sign up and stay.

It is paramount to collect behaviour-based data as well.

Google Analytics will deliver detailed reports on website visitors, as long as the Tag Manager is utilized to its full potential, and aligned with the selected attribution models of monitoring the customer journey.

When optimizing and personalizing, it is good to keep in mind that the majority of any first-time website visitors, especially those that are browsing the site mobile, are unlikely ready to be your customers – and it is likewise unlikely that they will ever convert, if the initial call-to-action is missing. So there must be something easy-going for these visitors to do besides making a purchase. Liking or sharing website content in social media are examples of such actions.

And naturally, returning visitors are likely be more satisfied, if you can target them with some form of optimized content. If and when the conversion happens, this should, of course, also be acknowledged – for example by a simple “Thank you” note and by simultaneously giving the customers a chance to give immediate feedback on their experience. In the ideal situation, after the initial conversion happens, the customers are also offered some relevant, personalized content in the newsletter and at the website.

I found this infographic on the online marketing environment below in a SlideShare presentation – the size of each circle is representative of the approximate ROI of each channel. This image was created in 2014. I firmly believe we will observe a significant increase in the SEM and SEO & Content ROI over a few years.

digitalmarketingbw

Read the article “Your Content Is Outstanding But Is It Standing Out?” by Sanjeev Nambudiri:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/your-content-outstanding-standing-out-sanjeev-nambudiri

With BuzzSumo, you can find out about today’s content trends and see how your content is performing: http://buzzsumo.com/

Website Grader, powered by HubSpot, is a nice, free tool for rating your website’s overall performance: https://website.grader.com/