By @SimonCocking. Interview with Antti Sonninen @SlushAsia CEO

When is Slush Tokyo on?

March 29-30, 2017 in Tokyo

How many years has it been going?

In 2015 and 2016 we did an event called “Slush Asia” in Tokyo and in 2017 we are changing the name to “Slush Tokyo” due to two new successful events in Singapore and Shanghai (Slush Singapore & Slush Shanghai).

What was the inspiration to start it?

Taizo Son (prominent Japanese serial entrepreneur and investor) and myself visited Slush Helsinki from Japan in 2013 and 2014 and were very impressed with the energy and especially community/volunteer spirit that we saw. We had not seen something similar in Japan and felt this sort of open-source mentality to tech events is groundbreaking and approached the Helsinki team about an event in Tokyo. They were extremely supportive and that’s how we got started. After the event was done we got similar phone calls from what later became the Singapore and China teams of Slush.

What exciting things can people look forward to for the 2017 version?

With 5000+ people attending, we are looking at one of the largest if not the largest tech gatherings in Japan and Asia. We go to great lengths to make sure that there is a great mix of local and global key people present, which is most of the time not the case in this part of the world where events are either ultra-local or then gatherings of expats with little contact with locally relevant key tech people. Also, as far as we know, we are the only non-profit community in the region that working with this ambition level.

What is the relationship to / with Slush Helsinki, do they help you?

We have a great relationship with Helsinki as well as Shanghai and Singapore. While we are from an organization standpoint independent (not a typical HQ structure, but rather a collection of sister events that coordinate the brand jointly), we work very closely and help each other with each event.

What is your own background and your interests?

My own background is engineering and business studies in Aalto University with an exchange in Tokyo University and Stanford University. 2011 I co-founded a development aid startup in Helsinki. It failed later so I joined Angry Birds and led their Japan expansion. In 2014, a friends startup raised a series A round so joined his company as COO. At that time the first Slush Asia started as a weekend project and the next thing I noticed I was working more on Slush than the startup.

What opportunities are on offer for startups and companies attending Slush Tokyo?

For foreign startups there has never been this easy of a landing pad to the Japanese market. We run the program mostly in English while keeping all locally relevant people deeply engaged. For Japanese startups, we are their door to the outside world as we bring some of the most powerful people in tech from overseas to the region.

What tips would you give to people attending to get the most out of it?

For startups and investors, I recommend putting a lot of effort in the matchmaking tool which is great for meeting with the people who you want to. For foreigners I recommend engaging as much as possible with Japanese and Asian attendees as there usually are not sort of shortcuts to this part of the world. For Japanese and Asian attendees I recommend building bridges not only in Asia, but also regions like Europe and America. Oh, and it will be cherry blossom season during our event so expect a lot of great parties at the time as well!

How can people book tickets / when does it usually sell out?

Tickets are available here. Our super early bird deal ends on Dec 21. The early bird will end by the beginning of February. We expect the event to sell out a few weeks before the event in early March. When it happens, we will look into ways how to increase venue capacity to accommodate more.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked?

For people in tech that are planning to visit Japan or Asia once in 2017, March 29-30 is probably the best time to come! We look forward to welcoming all readers of Irish Tech News 🙂

We focus on giving maximum value to founders and entrepreneurs, Marianne Vikkula, Slush CEO


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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