International Entrepreneurship


Katherine Sears

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


UND College of Business & Public Administration students attend entrepreneurship conference in Helsinki, Finland.

By: Katherine Sears, Entrepreneurship Student

Eight students from the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Entrepreneurship attended a worldwide innovation conference in Helsinki, Finland, on November 30 and December 1. The conference, entitled SLUSH, is Europe’s leading tech startup event connecting top-tier entrepreneurs, talent, investors and media. It is a student-driven event created to connect entrepreneur founders, talent and investors from around the globe to foster new business.

The conference’s website states that it aims to “facilitate founder and investor meetings and to build a world-wide startup community” and “to help the next generation of great, world-conquering companies move forward.”

The annual conference was established in 2011 by entrepreneur students from Aalto University in Helsinki when they grew frustrated about the non-existent entrepreneurship and investor community in the city, and ultimately, much of Europe. Beginning as a 300-person gathering, it has grown exponentially each year. This year’s conference boasted 17,500 attendees, 2,336 startups, 1,146 investors and 610 journalists.

The entrepreneurship minded students from UND attended both days of the conference where they had the opportunity to visit startup booths and listen to experts in many disciplines – from keynote speakers to dialogues and fireside chats with founders and investors.

“Throughout the week, we were able to learn about new innovations, different entrepreneurial business perspectives and how different countries develop up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” said Katie Mcphail, one of the UND students attending the conference. They also had the opportunity to watch the SLUSH 100 Pitching Competition where 100 startups compete with their pitches to win 500,000 euros.

In addition to SLUSH, the students were able to visit the Aalto Design Factory at Aalto University. The facility offers an experimental learning and co-creation environment for education, research and application of product design, while fostering significant interactions between students, faculty, researchers and professional practitioners. The factory contains several prototyping facilities, including a machine shop, 3D printing room, knitting shop, print shop and electronics shop, among lounge, study, social and other creative spaces. This type of experiential earning has resulted in a network of 10 design factories on five different continents.

Bill Paulin, Entrepreneur-in-Resident with the UND Center for Innovation Foundation accompanied the eight UND students to Finland where he has been an entrepreneur coach for 23 years and worked to develop the entrepreneur ecosystem of Finland. He observed, “It was very important to expose our entrepreneurship students to a world-class tech entrepreneur event that is driven to help the next generation of tech entrepreneurs move forward. It allows our students to see what is possible and how they can impact North Dakota--even if the conference was held during winter in one of Europe’s most northern capitals.”

Tim O’Keefe, Executive Director and Chair of the UND School of Entrepreneurship noted, “It is because of the generosity of the Edson & Margaret Larson Foundation that our students were able to attend t h is international conference, exposing them to top-tier international entrepreneurs and to the world-class entrepreneurship education facilities at Aalto University. We are thankful for this investment in such a high-impact learning opportunity for our students.”

The UND School of Entrepreneurship

The UND School of Entrepreneurship was launched in 2014, evolving from a nationally ranked entrepreneur program in the UND College of Business & Public Administration. The School breaks away from the traditional lecture-based classroom experience in favor more of professional practice and experiential learning experience. The faculty have designed a program to equip students with a comprehensive set of entrepreneurial skills. The program focuses on reasoning, creativity, testing and critical thinking skills valued most by successful entrepreneurs and leading companies.