The event proved once again the importance of categories to differentiate Europe’s tech. Amidst the buzz about what’s hot or not right now, tech’s current rate of change means ‘different not better’ is now more critical than ever. The themes which seemed to resonate the most with the 1,300 investors and several thousand startup attendees this year were Web 3.0, ClimateTech and Facebook – sorry, Meta’s – metaverse category play. Taking them in order…
Web 3.0 the magic number?
The emerging meme of Web 3.0 and its promise of a decentralized Internet, no longer controlled by Big Tech, continues to baffle many. But the sheer number of references in Slush sessions means it is a red hot category now. Those mentions included the visionary Benedict Evans, Sifted’s Isabel Woodford and the CEO of former payments unicorn client Checkout.com to name but three. All of which means Web 3.0 has become an unstoppable uber-category for tech firms to fight over globally.
Of course, with concepts as large as Web 3.0, speculation reigns. Will fiat currencies succumb to the so-called stablecoins? Is there a role for non-fungible tokens (NFT) in sanctioning inappropriate in-game banter? For the record, the consensus was that crypto has reached a tipping point, so Governments now need to come onboard with them. Meanwhile the growing awareness of privacy effectively rules out using NFTs to ‘red card’ bad online behaviour.
A ClimateTech of change?
Nothing came across as clearly at Slush this year as the importance investors now place on the biggest issue facing the planet; climate change. Critics could point out that, like COP ‘26, there was an over-representation of the Western world in Helsinki. But there was in fact a significant Chinese presence on a very busy Huawei stand and as always former Soviet states, like Ukraine, where so much of Europe’s top technical talent resides, were well-represented.
Highlights included a very competent pitch from London’s own Climate-X, who showed a Google Street Map-style 3D overlay of potential flood models over actual London Streets. The founders claim to be able to use their AI models to accurately predict where in the capital buyers are less likely to find bijoux residences and more potential risks on an uninsurable flood plain. If this works as billed, the UK may have produced a potential category leader.
The frickin’ metaverse
In the same vein, quote of the week goes, Tony Fadell, the actual inventor of the iPad, three generations of the iPhone and Nest home device who, now commenting as a Paris-based investor said “We need to save the planet, not the fricking #metaverse, sorry.” This brought a lot of applause from the audience. As did the questioner who asked Facebook VP, Ime Archibong, if the Metaverse was an attempt to distract us from the firm’s recent negative media attention. He ducked the question.
Like it or lump it though the Metaverse is a Category whose time has come. This is ironic, partly because Web 3.0. is a reaction to the overbearing control of Facebook and others. We can only hope that, like Slush. the sum of the Metaverse is more valuable than its parts.
Time will tell and it seems, as with any Category Designer who wants to lead, Facebook is aware it needs to stay ahead of the cool kids at Slush if it is to maintain its lead.
As Archibong said, “The first thing you put out there is not the thing that works. You need lots of shots on goal”. Let’s see who owns the Metaverse next November as Slush returns.