Liverpool Slush’D was a resounding success. From the Slushy atmosphere of the venue to the wonderful content on stage. Conversations were flowing in the networking area while the stage content provided valuable advice curated for local founders.
What is especially impressive is that this event was created and lead by just one person, Jonathon Clark with a steering group for backup. So let’s hear it from Jonny:
BECOMING PART OF THE SLUSH’D COMMUNITY
I have spent a large part of my career designing, setting up, running and evaluating programmes to support entrepreneurs in the Digital, Tech and Creative industries. As part of this, I had put on fairly large events before. Yet, since the COVID-19 lockdowns, there had not been a large scale event for local tech or startup entrepreneurs in Liverpool. I wanted to change that, and after my enchanting visit to Slush 2022 and finding out about Slush’D, I knew this was the perfect opportunity.
Liverpool City Region is an emerging destination for tech entrepreneurs. It is not somewhere traditionally thought of as ‘techy’ – but by all measures (jobs, startups, investment rounds) it is growing in importance. I wanted to put on an event which connected, educated and inspired founders – and told the world “Hey, Liverpool DOES do tech and actually we’re pretty good at it – so consider starting your business here!”. By all accounts, we achieved all of our objectives.
Organising Slush’D definitely fulfilled my expectations. The value we obtained by leveraging the internationally respected brand definitely helped us with building profile, exciting the audience and enticing our sponsors.
THE HIGHS AND LOWS
It has been a long time since I have put together such a large event (and previously, nothing quite this large [>600 total registrations, peak audience c.400 on the day during the day-night changeover]. It was definitely stressful handling all of the administrative tasks and I was very fortunate to have a great local agency take all of the PR and Social Media work out of my hands. We had a flurry of last minute dropouts from speakers and even a couple of sponsors, which caused a great amount of additional stress – but we managed to navigate a way forward regardless.
The most rewarding part of this has been that the event put a sort of ‘jewel in the crown’ or ‘icing on the cake’ [not sure this phrase translate into Finnish with the meaning as it does in English slang!]. I am well known in the local startup scene and I’ve been a part of putting together many meetups, funds, incubators and accelerators which have cultivated the green seedlings of what is now a flourishing ecosystem. Hosting such a big celebration and high profile event felt to me like tying up all of the previously disparate, disconnected bits of work I had done and giving it a kind of orderliness.
This has been particularly helpful as I’m looking to launch a venture capital fund in the next year or so which targets underrepresented founders across the North of the UK.
LEARNINGS FOR FUTURE EVENTS
Lessons for next time will be largely on the administrative side. Due to a mix-up in communication at the venue, we have been unable to get recordings of the sessions. I would also be much firmer and up-front with all speakers and sponsors, getting them to sign contracts about their commitment and sponsorship payment deadlines. Late-paying sponsors and dropout sponsors meant that I had to cashflow a lot of the conference before it took place, which I am very fortunate to have been able to do; but this presents a huge risk, still. Are challenge now is continuing the momentum from the event and – if we do another – keeping some kind of background campaign active until the “pre-event campaign” for the next one kicks in.
Even now, a month on, people are still talking about Slush’D and asking if it will happen again next year. I’ve not quite had the headspace to fully think about that yet, but there is clearly huge demand from the community. Most people had never heard of Slush when the team and I started posting about it and trying to build up hype around our Slush’D event. When people discovered it, they really fell in love with it – and there will definitely be a large Liverpool contingent at Slush 2023 this year because of this allure.
There is something a little bit magical, for lack of a better word, about Slush. I certainly feel it when I go and set foot in Helsinki, but you get a hint of the essence of Slush well before you physically attend the event. Being able to bottle up a little bit of this magic and pour it into my local startup ecosystem has created an enormous buzz and given the entrepreneurs a massive confidence boost. There are acute social and economic problems facing Liverpool and the wider UK at the moment, and it feels like Slush’D has boosted our business community’s determination and resilience.
For somebody considering applying to host a Slush’D event, I would strongly encourage them to do it. Much like building a startup, you find that you’re often assembling your parachute after you have already exited the aircraft. It is enormously character-building and offers much capacity for personal development. From an ecosystem perspective, it provides a well-respected brand for businesses and other organisations to coalesce around, and allows people to come together to drive forward business growth and community development. It is essential that Slush’D hosts work collaboratively and find good venues, PR & Comms partners and create an agenda which will really encourage people to get involved and give up their time and pay for a ticket.
Now that we are getting closer to the end of the year, we only have 2 more Slush’D events before the big one in Helsinki. We can’t wait to see you in New Delhi or NYUAD for our final Slush’D events of the year!