The leading innovation-focused Joule 2021 is done and dusted. It truly delievered the heavy hitters this year with a wide ranging discussion with one main theme bringing it all together: communication.
A full recording of the stream will be available at a later date.
After a dramatic intro sequence, our favourite conferencier Kaj Kunnas once again enters the stage. Kaj announces that, for the first time, the event will be done fully in English. The word "communication" gets dropped, setting the theme of the night's discussion.
Kaj welcomes an excited NIC board onto the stage, after which an important question is posed to August: "What is NIC?" August lays it out: "A non-profit organization that allows people to find themselves and realize their dreams."
After this, Frank explains why and how NIC got its start. "The idea for NIC came out of the Sampo Accelerator in Helsinki." This followed by a shout-out to Mike Bradshaw, the founder of Sampo and one of the night's guests. "We need openness, willingness to fail, and the ability to learn from those failures".
Caroline goes on the explain what NIC has done over the past years: "One concrete thing is that five startups have their foundation in NIC." Lucas continues by explaining that NIC is now continuing its operations by collaborating with local schools.
"We also have a physical place where people can explain ideas and inspire each other, and allow innovation to flourish." Christoffer and Daniel explains about NIC's co-working space.
Oscar finishes up by laying out his expectations for the night. "I've heard there may be a key to the internet available tonight..."
Before kicking off the show, a brief recap of the activities of NIC plays. This is followed by a greeting from Peter Vesterbacka, a regular at previous events who could not make it physically to the show this year.
Says an intrigued Kaj about the open source community. Sarah Novotny is introduced: one of the leaders and most prominent figures within that community. Sarah joins us from a mixed-use building in Seattle, which combines retail, co-working and residential space all in one building. "I'm lucky enough to be able to live right here. Technology meets creativity." says Sarah.
"What is open source?" asks Kaj. Sarah goes on explaining how it is currently primarily a way to develop software collaboratively. "On equal footing with competitors", referencing how she as a Microsoft exec recently had a collaborative meeting with IBM. Kaj notices a painting behind Sarah saying "Information Libre". "What does information freedom mean to you, in terms of communication?" asks Kaj. Sarah draws parallells between the painting's origins, the '68 riots in France, to the fact that we really need to shake up our paradigms of protectionism and that freedom of information is truly the way forward.
The discussion continued with discussions as to how governments could save money by embracing open source.
"No, it's Finland's very own Otaniemi. We don't need another Silicon Valley, we need new places with new interesting things happening." says Mike Bradshaw, Sampo Accelerator Head Coach, to that. "NIC said we're in the Lithium Lowlands, given all of the new interesting deveopments in battery technology in the region" Kaj follows up. "That one works." Mike agrees.
Kaj mentioned the five startups that NIC has led to, to which Mike thought "Large cities will always have startups. In smaller places, where they don't have as many easy available benefits, the founders are usually more interesting as they have to make an effort. In Helsinki investors and startup organizations are all over the place. When you go outside of the Ring 3, you find people who are more driven." He continues with "for the amount of people they are pulling from, 5 startups is probably one of the better numbers in the country."
"I have lots of reactions" says Sarah. "Solidarity. People who has to work harder are usually more invested." Sarah draws parallels to this to underrepresented minorities, as they also have to work harder to achieve the same goals.
"'Bullshit jobs', you mentioned", Kaj continues with. Mike corrects by saying "It's not my theory, but we need to try to move away from jobs where you have to ask 'what is it that you actually do?' and the answer is 'truthfully, what I mostly do is product emails, carbon dioxide and Powerpoints'. Where they genuinely don't produce something of value, they just move things around."
Anne-Marie joins the stage from her summer cottage on the Åland islands. "There are 14 literal keys to the internet in the whole world" Kaj opens up. "I'm getting goosebumps, because Anne-Marie has one of these keys. Just how powerful are you?" Anne-Marie quickly responds "Not at all. It's not about power. It's all about making the internet better and more secure."
Kaj quickly follows up with asking what these keys really are. Anne-Marie comprises a complex story that usually takes over an hour to explain into a brief summary how these keys really work and what their purpose is.
The Vastaamo case in Finland was a high profile cyber security incident. Kaj inquires as to who really are behind these sorts of attacks. "People who are greedy. They don't really care. They have no feelings, to be honest. They harm people and cause damage. They just need financing for other criminal activities such as trafficking and drugs." Anne-Marie continues "What is sad about this story, is that they did not only attack the organization, but they targeted the patients of Vastaamo directly. It was in my opinions one of the worst incidents I have seen."
"Were you scared to take this internet key?" Kaj asks. "No, no, I'm not scared at all. If I fail with something, I'll learn and improve." Mike adds to this by drawing parallels to the startup concept of failing fast and learning from your mistakes. Sarah also added "That discomfort you're feeling when failing, it's learning."
Sofia Ahläng is welcomed to the stage as the second physical guest. Kaj jumps in by asking who Sofia's audience really is. "In this industry, when you send a song out from a publishing company out to a record company, the artists are my audience." explains Sofia who wrote the hit k-pop song "TEAMO" which reached the top six downloaded song globally. "But it wasn't called that when I wrote it" she added to that fact.
The artist rewrote Sofia's lyrics, and are now in Korean. "How do you know it's still the same?" Kaj asks. "I've seen the revisions. It's not entirely the same, but I don't think it needs to be though. You don't even need to understand the lyrics, you can just enjoy the music and get the vibe" Sofia explains.
Sarah and Anne-Marie elaborates on how tech and internet has enabled this immediate global spread of Sofia's work. Mike adds that "every third of Korean startups work on apps that allow k-pop artists to communicate with their fans. It's a huge market."
"I really see still myself shining though in the remade version" responds Sofia when Sarah asks whether she still recognizes herself in the Korean version. "It was very clear to me what I wanted the song to sound like. It fit me very well and it's clear it's still my song."
"Nihao" Ted greets. "I heard you were in Thailand on vacation when the pandemic struck, what happened then?" Kaj asks, to which Ted responds "we had to decide whether to go back to China for work, or to go back home. After some deep consideration we considered to go back to our cottage in Monäs." Kaj then wonders what it's like to lead Mirka in Asia from a cottage in Monäs. Ted reflects by saying "I can laugh now, but I can promise there was times where I didn't. Managing 24/7 with the family around and with the time difference - it was a huge change."
Ted having had sixty 1-3 hour teams meeting per month, explained he had to figure out how to properly manage and lead the time across this camera gap. "It was a nice challenge" he adds.
The whole stage chimed in on the concept of communication and how we can ensure the future of an open world through internet, security and openness.
"We are talking about communication, but it's fundamentally just people" Mike says. "We've had to learn about security, screenshot sharing, and so on. Generation Z, though, they grew up with this. This for them is like walking and breathing." He continues by saying this gives him hope for the future.
"You don't need an allowance to connect to the internet" Anne-Marie explains. "That is about to change, however, which is very sad. We are now going back to centralization from the initial roots of decentralization. If you decide to put your content on one single provider you're back to something that is not good."
"Internet is perfect for sharing information, in the sense of democratizing it" Sarah says, continuing by explaining that "the ability to freely share information without being intermediated by a government or a corporation gives us a huge opportunity to invest any power or privileage to improve systemic challenges that exists all over the globe. The free flow of information is paramount. As we slip back to protectionism, I worry very much about this".
Photos by Walberg Media.
Frank Sandqvist (Chairman)