My 2 days at Slush conference in Helsinki, Finland
It happened to me to be in Turku, Finland during the time of the conference, I arrived in Turku a week before to visit my sister and to sign up some documents with the bank as I opened my company called Cosmo Studios Oy here with her to focus on iOS development. I heard of the conference through Facebook by the guys at BoostTurku, “Slush is the largest tech, design & startup conference covering Northern Europe and Russia”, as they advertised on their website, I found it to be a perfect chance to extend my stay in Finland, so I decided to delay the return ticket to Milan to two days after the conference. After attending the conference, I can say that I did not regret about my decision.
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I registered through their website in a lightweight track as a startup, with hope that they will accept my application and let me have the chance to demo my application FMFinder during the event, but that was not the case. There were about 500 startups all over Europe registered to their website, and there’re only 100 slots for pitching. I got accepted as a startup but without the chance to pitch, I was a little bit disappointed at first, but I decided to go to the conference anyway. I bought the train ticket through vr.fi website and took the early train from Turku to Helsinki, as I want to save, I chose a Hostel close to the station that costs the least, it was ok for me by the way, the Hostel Erottajanpuisto has affordable price, and I had chance to talk to a bunch of people the night I stay there. Arrived in Helsinki station, I walked to the hostel which took me about 20 minutes, not so bad, exercising in the morning, dropped my luggage inside, and headed to the bus station close to the hostel. The bus 20 took me directly to the Cable Factory, where the conference was taken place, it was the place where early employees of Nokia started to develop their first phones. Arrived at 9.30 in the morning, it rained lightly outside, my first impression in any tech conference was the queue to register to get my badges, the organizers seemed to be very professional, they divided the badges to several difference booths by attendances’ last name, one could just jump in the queue with the last name and get the badge really fast. The info desk is right inside, where they provided me with all information about the locations, breakfast, restaurants, the stages. Breakfasts are included in the ticket conference, so the first thing I did was filling my stomach for the busy morning program ahead. In time to get back to the main stage where the Finnish prime minister Jyrki Katainen had his initial speech to officially open the conference, I heard how eager the leader of a high tech country was with his speech, applauded by the whole audience, then the keynote by Kristian Segerstråle was also very impressive, MCs announced that there were about 3000 people inside the venue, such a big number of people in a tech conference gathered by a non profit organization. After the lightning talks by David Gardner from EA and Jason Chein from Amazon, the team at Jolla Mobile officially launch the mobile operating system called Sailfish OS, the one developed by the team behind MeeGo of Nokia. I was not really looking for this but the whole audience seemed to be very supported, easily understood as most of them are Finnish. Finns can’t stand to see their biggest phone maker on the planet loosing their market shares to Apple, Google and Samsung. It’s promising, the team had their great demo. Hope they will become good player on the market.
I did not have much time in the main stage, as I felt I need to talk to investors to introduce as fast as I can my application FMFinder. So I walked out, a lot of companies presenting their products in the stands, investors also have their own stands, but in the pitching stage, something caught my eyes, several small startups have their two-three minutes pitching to the judges and the audience, I sat down and listen to some of them, it happened to be the one I listened to on the very first day won the final price the day after, FishBrain. There are so many different things that happened in different places, I felt quite lost in the first day, one reason be that I did not spend time reading the agenda very carefully the day before, other be that there were so many startups participated that I gave up looking on each of the website of the companies on slush web page. Lunch time was the best time to talk, I had great time talking with several different people that sat down in the same table with me, only at lunch time, people are willing to talk most as I realized that during the event, you don’t have such a chance. Investors, developers, CEOs, founders, students, media reporters were all there eating the same dish as me, I was not lucky enough to get my application idea to the right person during lunch break, but I had great time talking to a couple of investors in their stands after that. There are several startups looking for funding, 500 of them and investors were limited, it was like 50 guys dating with a girl, you had to be stand out from the crowd for them to be considered. But I did not give up on presenting my application to a couple of them, VisionPlus, Tekes, Polte had their stands with someone to talk to, so I didn’t miss the chance. Other venture capitalists and angel investors I met during lunch break or inside the venue did not seem to be interested. I was so innocent to think that investors are the one that having money and startups are the one that need them, so let’s pitch to anyone I can see in their badge written “Investor”. Thing does not happen that way, I talked to some venture capitalists and angel investors, their interests are in very specific field of the industry, or sometimes only on a very high level of standards. I wish that on Slush website, there’s a section describing what the venture capitalists, angel investors are specializing on, the contact information, or at least their Twitter accounts to follow. Playing match game with dozens of investors seemed to be pretty hard. I asked the event assistant in the info desk if there’s a way to talk to investors, the only information that she can give me is the color of the badge of the investors, and that I could see them in the venue walking somehow. Hmm, that’s interesting.
The first day event seemed to last for the whole night, after the event conference, the main stage was closed for the production of the TV channel MTV3, a Finnish broadcasting company, they had direct program that interviewed Peter Vesterbacka, the founder of Rovio Mobile and also the event organizers. The after party was provided by Supercell, a Finnish company that have two of the titles among the top grossing iOS games on the AppStore, Hay Day and Clash of Clans. Beers, wines, champagnes, fruit juices are always ready to be served, outside, they are grilling hot dogs on one side and on the other side, people are relaxing by entering to the sauna bus, that is typical Finnish culture, almost every house has their own sauna. The event organizer wants to bring that to the participants of Slush as well, I didn’t know about that sooner otherwise I also brought my own swim suit to enjoy! The party was the perfect time for networking, but unfortunately I had to come back to the hostel with the late night bus.
Second day of the conference, I brought my luggage and leave it at the cloakroom, the assistants were so nice, they always smiled when I brought them my luggage and got it back after the day. I spent the breakfast talking with a bunch of people, I presented my application FMFinder to them and got several suggestions such as how I could improve the UI for the app to look better, which color schemes I should use. Arrived in the main stage where there were several different speakers talking about design, it was so good to listen to them, I learned quite some lessons from leading designers in the industry. Although I had the feeling that one had a unprepared presentation, not sure if he drank so much the day before. I was tired after the lunch break so I decided to get into the stands to talk to other developers to see how they are doing, there are bunches of awesomenesses that developers, CEOs and founders all over Europe and Russia brought to the conference. Ovelin has been around for quite some years, but it’s the first time I know them, their product called Guitar Bots is definitely the thing that I will try to learn to play guitar when I come back to Milan, using the guitar itself as a controller, one can play the guitar and on the screen, the virtual band will rock your afternoon, if you are a good guitar player then you’ll be a super star with this application. I listened to the presentation of Berggram in the Event stage, it seemed a huge amount of work had been spent on designing the Music Theory Automation. Deveo had the git hosting service themselves and it promised to give small team free hosting forever, so why not try their product? Rovio Mobile had their stand for two days, who does not know that they are the makers of several Angry Birds games in the AppStore, and the Holywood movie Angry Birds Rio. Holvi helps provide the banking solution to business owners the easiest way possible, their sale team was very helpful in giving me useful information to help my sister build her own payment website to help her guesses pay when they stay in her apartments in Turku. Info.gram sounds promising, as they revealed during the event in the Event Stage, several big media companies in the world use their service to generate infographics graph to put into the articles. Several others that I did not have enough time to write them down here. Check out the list of all startups on Slush webpage to find out by yourself!
In the main stage, the winner of the lightweight track finally was announced, FishBrain. Slush 2012 ended. I came back to Turku to stay for two days before taking the flight to go back to Milan, Italy. Hope I will be here in the conference next year with my own stand. Who knows?
Hoang Pham graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, he spent two years working for a Danish company in Sai Gon, he was so bored that he decided to get a master degree in Politecnico di Milano, Italy. He has spent the last 3 years dedicating on iPhone/iPad development working as a consultant and an employee. In September 2012, he started his own company in Turku, Finland.
In the summer of 2012, Hoang Pham travelled to the United States from Italy to attend the World Wide Developer Conference 2012 in San Francisco taken place between 11th and 15th June, his very first time to attend such a conference. After the conference, he flied to Chicago to meet his long time friend Tuan Nhon from university in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and also in Politecnico di Milano in Italy. In Chicago, he talked to him about his PhD research, one of his research interest was data visualization, works such as visualization of a whole population were beautifully drawn in a graph, and another work that impressed Hoang Pham was how to display the song similarities in a graph. Hoang Pham came up with the idea to build an app on iPhone/iPad to visualize the songs/artists similarities. FMFinder came out as the result, music discovery and recommendations has never been so fun!
About FMFinder application:
FMFinder helps you to discover new music based on your tastes. Supposed you’re listening to a song on your Music application on iPhone/iPad, let’s say “Glad you came”, by “The Wanted”. You launch the app and tap on “Current playback song” on the left menu, the application will download automatically 16 songs similar to this one (by similar, it means, by rhythm, by artists, authors, other users listening preferences on last.fm. Further reference is on the Q&A on the website). Some similar songs that the app found are: “Where have you been, by Rihanna”, “What Makes You Beautiful, by The Wanted”, “Call Me Maybe, by Carly Rae Jepsen”, and many more. These songs are then displayed in a graph with each song represented by a node, these nodes connected to the center node which is the song you selected. Tapping on a song “Call Me Maybe” will bring up a new screen where you can then watch the video preview of the song, watch the related YouTube videos, and read the song facts, after the video preview finished playing, there are options to buy song audio/video on iTunes. In case you want to further discover the similar songs related to this one, you can easily tap on “View Related” button and the graph will be reloaded with the new data. The song “Call Me Maybe” will appear in the center node and the similar songs are surrounded by this one. Switching between “Songs” and “Artists” similarities is within a thumb, if you are viewing “Call Me Maybe”, switch to “Artists”, the app will show “Carly Rae Jepsen” in the center and similar artists to “Carly Rae Jepsen” are surrounded, such as: “Ellie Goulding”, “Cher Lloyd”, “Taylor Swift”, “Justin Bieber”. Tapping on an Artist, you can then watch all songs available on YouTube of the Artist, or read his/her biography. There’s also a quick link to go to the Artist page on iTunes.
The most powerful feature of the application is the ability to recommend new music based entirely on your Music library, you can access your music library by Playlists, by Albums or by Artists. Songs are then available to select in the according categories, “music recommendation based on the ones that you already own, that’s a unique experience” - said Hoang Pham, CEO and Founder of Cosmo Studios.
What happens if you don’t have any music in your library, worry no more, the app has three categories to help you stay up to date with the trend: top last.fm songs, top iTunes songs, and top iTunes music videos. These categories bring you the latest songs from their site, with top last.fm songs the category is the worldwide one, while with iTunes songs and iTunes music videos, the category is based on the country in the Settings function.
Still not satisfy with the provided categories? Then, search for the one you like, simply input the song title or the artist name in the search field, all of the songs with that title or from that artist will be displayed, scrolling through the list to find out the one you like, and tap on any song to watch the preview and related YouTube videos, find out the similar songs to the one you like. It’s that simple!
With the Settings function, you can increase or decrease the number of songs downloaded from last.fm or iTunes songs/music videos. Also, it’s possible to modify the graph to view more or less items, on the iPad, you may want to increase the number of items to view, while on the iPhone, this number you may want to decrease.
The History section contains the list of songs that you have tapped so far, this helps you better navigate back and forth to the songs you want to discover.
FMFinder has been created with all the love from a team of two enthusiasts developers, company registered in Turku, Finland.
Follow me on Twitter: @pnhoang