For some time, it’s been known that North of Europe is at the forefront when it comes to tech, with new start-ups being rolled out on an on-going basis. But it’s not just the tech market that Scandinavia is dominating at the moment, they are also ‘best in class’ in terms of economy with Norway leading the way for Gross Domestic Product per capita (2011).
And then we have Finland, the home of a famous rally driver but also the home of some incredible tech businesses and a very cool vibe, worlds apart from the British and mainland Europe scenes.
Over the last week, I spend two days, or actually one as the other one I spent admiring my Radisson hotel room due to illness, at the annual Slush tech conference in Helsinki.
Slush was held at the original Nokia factory and despite the cold weather the atmosphere was warmed up by the energy and enthusiasm of the thousands of people attending. Although loving it, it dawned on me that the current tech entrepreneurs are very young, to the point where I very much felt like a pensioner.
However, with all the excitement and high investments taking place, I felt we were back in 1998. For one of the Fireside chats, Mike Butcher of TechCrunch interviewed Swedish born Eric Wahlforss from Sound Cloud and reportedly, although not confirming, they’ve recently raised £50m in funding, looking at a valuation of £500m.
The interview was concluded with Mike Butcher playing some chords of John Lennon’s Imagine, with lyrics slightly tweaked by Eric Wahlforss - it’s worth checking out on YouTube:
Another great Fireside chat was with Ilkka Paananen from Super Cell and actually one of the interviews where I found myself agreeing with his comments - his achievements since 2000 are pretty amazing!! Again, it’s worth YouTube-ing his interview.
One of the companies that really stood out and seem to be helping the wave of the next generation banking was Holvi. Based in the same building as the event, not only were the tickets for Slush sold through Holvi, the platform also acted as the entire finance backend, from budgeting to invoicing.
Billed as ’smart banking for teams,’ Holvi looks to integrate traditional bookkeeping with real-time banking to shift the paradigm of banking in silos consisting of work, personal, charity, family and volunteer activities, such as Slush, and provide a platform that gives users an all-in-one approach to managing their finances.
Users can open up as many accounts as they want, and are able to store money and make payments, with the company partnering with other financial institutions to safeguard funds and transactions. Unlike traditional online accounts, accounts on Holvi can be shared with a team of people relevant to a particular activity.
Over the next two weeks, these guys are visiting 10 countries across Europe to start spreading the word of the ‘future of banking’ and planning on expansion outside Scandinavia.
I look forward to seeing these guys evolve and even possibly using their solution in the UK some time very soon as the banking space really needs some change.
In the past year, I have been to a fair amount of different events and conferences across Europe and there’s always a risk they can all become a little bit similar in terms of format and exhibitions.
Thus, it was really refreshing to attend Slush - an amazing event with top end content and if not for the fact that I am now even more educated in the world of "Angry Birds", a brand that seems to have taken over Finland.
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Former LinkedIn European Business Leader of the Year, Tech world and Smarta Winner, David Murray-Hundley is a chairman, adviser and NED of a number of tech companies. He is CEO of Adaro Red and now, having once been a humble employee of the very same firm, he is the new founder of Commerce One "the next generation". Yet, even with a workload to rival a few peoples schedules put together he still doesn't feel like he actually "works" for a living.
Murray-Hundley started developing games at a young age and published his first ... for Superior Software at just 11 years old (only BBC nerds will get that). He worked for the first internet companies when people still asked him for ID. He was one of the founding team members at Commerce One long before it peaked at a $22bn market cap. In 2002, the same company also bankrupted him.
DMH moved onto his first CEO role at 27, messed that up, learnt from it too and became CTO for Utility One. More recently, he has been working with the public sector and, much to his frustration, the NHS in particular. He's an advocate of the 'we should all have a go at changing the near impossible for the better' attitude.
Murray-Hundley's a book 'The Grumpy Entrepreneur' is due out this year. He hopes it will answer the some of the questions he is asked repeatedly most days.