The Next 100

Innovating together for the next 100 years

Every year, Slush brings some of the world’s hottest start-ups to Helsinki. This year, a group of the best-known companies from Finland and Sweden want to encourage attendees to take a broader view of who can drive industries forward, and how it can be done.

Text: Lara McCoy Photo: Wärtsilä

There is plenty that a start-up can teach legacy companies about innovation, but the process actually goes both ways. This is the message firms like Husqvarna Group, KONE, Saab, Scania, Stora Enso and Wärtsilä want to communicate to the start-ups and scale-ups coming to Slush. 

These legacy companies understand the importance of constantly looking for ways to revolutionise their industries and bring new ideas to their customers, which is why these six firms have joined together to host an official Slush side event for start-ups, titled ‘The Next 100’, which will be held on 22 November 2019.

“Start-ups don’t jump on every opportunity they get. They jump on the opportunities that give them the best value and the best way forward, so we need to be a credible partner for collaboration,” says Suvi Hakala, Manager, Venturing & Scouting at Wärtsilä. 

“Joining forces with other big corporations and start-ups that share our values is a way to make our impact greater.” 

This year at Slush, Wärtsilä is looking for talent in the areas of Additive Manufacturing, Carbon Neutral Solutions & Circular Economy and Vessel Energy Management, as well as those working towards autonomous vessels. 

“The event and the campaign building up to it will help spread our message about creating a better world. We want to reach out to potential partners to push the boundaries of technology together,” Hakala says.

Sharing and learning

Hakala says that start-ups and companies like Wärtsilä have a lot to learn from each other. 

“We are a big company and we have our own processes, but it’s inevitable that we must be faster in what we do, faster in developing new solutions, and picking up new technologies. It means that we also need to be exploring new ways of being faster. Collaborating with start-ups is one way to do that,” Hakala says.

Malin Östman, Head of Communications, IT and Digitalisation at Stora Enso, a provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions and paper, agrees. 

“We need speed to make an impact and to be the first to be out with new products and services,” says Östman. “Our long-term target is to have 15% of our annual revenue generated from services and products that didn’t exist three years ago, so we’re putting great emphasis on innovation, R&D and digitalisation.”

Meeting these kinds of ambitious targets often means being open to sharing and collaborating with both established companies and up-and-coming firms. 

“At Slush, we hope to find fast-moving and innovative start-up companies who are willing to join forces with us to take the next leap on this journey,” Östman says. “As we often say, innovation doesn’t happen in isolation.” 

The power of collaboration and connections

The companies know that working together is a recipe for attracting more attention in the global tech start-up space. One way they do that is by coordinating their efforts through Combient Foundry, the Venture Client Unit of the 30-member business transformation organisation Combient Group.

“If you look externally at the tech startup space, it's a global race for best talent. In this digital era, all Combient companies are competing against the Amazons, Alibabas and Googles of the world. When we join forces of the 30 companies, we become more attractive to the best talent and can compete for it on a global scale,” says Lauri Lehtovuori, the founder and head of Combient Foundry.

He adds that the organization also helps companies find the best partners.

“There are some 4,000 start-ups from over 100 countries coming to Slush. That's a massive amount of talent and technological solutions under one roof in two days,” Lehtovuori says. “Since we know Wärtsilä's business interests, we can find and attract the most relevant and interesting companies to meet them.”

"By combining the power of these industrial companies and the most talented teams from tech startups, we can accelerate transformation across industries,” he adds.

Östman says that collaborating with Combient has been useful for Stora Enso.

“It has not only provided us with a structured process, but also access to the people, start-ups and ideas from all over the world,” Östman says.

The motto of this year’s Slush is “Stop Waiting for Happy Accidents.” With the Next 100 event, the Combient companies are embodying this philosophy, creating an environment for connections to take place.

“Our joint event will characterize how we do entrepreneurial innovation. It will set the scene and explain how we are working, what we are looking for and where we are heading,” says Hakala. “This kind of event is about networking and knowing what is going on and exchanging ideas, talking to potential start-ups and scale-ups, understanding what they are doing and finding synergies — perhaps for the next 100 years.”


Read more about the Next 100 and get a seat at the table