The Shift Business Festival

Ever since 1827 Turku has been a venue for hot events. The Shift is the most recent example of this development.

Shift (it makes me uncomfortable to keep writing “The” Shift all the time, so I’m going to leave that out from now on) is a business festival, which was arranged first time in Turku this year. The focus was on startups, but that is not the whole story.

The venue was amazing. Turku castle, being one of the few buildings that survived the 1827 event, offers a spectacular contrast with the technology exhibited. It was fun to see Kristoffer Lawson presenting his new computer, Solu, in the King’s Hall of the castle, with paintings of old nobility hanging on the walls.

Shift Kristoffer Lawson
Kristoffer Lawson, co-founder of Holvi, presenting his new project, Solu.
Shift Linna ja Juhani
Turku Castle and a huge trampoline with ThinkCo Board Member Juhani!

The festival offered interesting keynote speakers. Ravi Belani, an investor who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford and runs his own incubator, Alchemist, spoke about companies that scale very fast (Unicorns) and corporations that are slow on their moves (Elephants).

Cecilia Hertz, on the other hand, described how space technology can change the life on Earth. Who starts her own company turning space materials into being used on Earth? Pretty rad.

Shift Ravi Belani
Ravi Belani talking about Unicorns and Elephants.
Shift Cecilia Hertz
Cecilia Hertz telling us why we need space technology on Earth.

There was also a pitching competition, in which Dutch team Bomberbot took home the prize of € 10,000. There was after party at Kakola prison, there were roundtable discussions, and plenty of different workshops.

Shift pitch winner
Bomberbot won the pitching competition. (Photo: Emmi Kiesvaara)
Shift Kakola
Kakola prison offered a different venue for the afterparty. (Photo: Emmi Kiesvaara)

This is all amazing, but kind of “all cool startup business events have that” stuff.

The most interesting thing about Shift is that the underlying idea is to make it broader than being “just” a business festival. I spoke with Erika Halonen, one of the main organizers of the event. “Human is a human, also in business,” she said.

Shift Erika Halonen
Erika Halonen, the mastermind behind The Shift. (Photo: Emmi Kiesvaara)

This point of view became clear in Keiichi Matsuda’s presentation on Hyper Reality. Matsuda has been creating videos of the world of tomorrow, a world, which is consumed by a truly ubiquitous technology.

Matsuda was critical of some technological developments and was asking people to reflect on the different possibilities. This was something I have never seen in business festivals. That sounds much more like a conference on Arts and Humanities, not on business.

Shift Keiichi Matsuda
Keiichi Matsuda presenting “Hyper Reality”. (Photo: Emmi Kiesvaara)

But is this so weird? It has become, at least it seems so to me, unfashionable to reflect on the development. We are talking about technology and innovation all the time, but rarely I hear talk on the possible dangers of them. I might even be among the first ones yelling “Luddite!” when encountering something else than mere praise for the technological advances.

My own background is in philosophy and I am henceforth used to critical reflection, but I have never encountered that in business and especially not in startup events. It was refreshing to have someone giving a reflective point of view. I realized, I haven’t thought critically since I entered the startup scene. Maybe that is something we shouldn’t forget.

To close this post, I would like to mention entrepreneurship societies. Boost Turku had their own booth and were, as usual, totally awesome. Haaga Helia ES, TampereES, LAMKES, and KuopioES were also present. Always nice to see people from other ESs.

Shift Boost
The awesome Boost Turku people!



Karri Liikkanen
Chair of Helsinki Think Company


p.s. After coming back to Helsinki, I noticed a permanent reminder of Boost in our Vuorikatu venue.

Boost trolli
They are here to stay – Boost Turku never leaving us.

Photo Credits
Bomberbot, Kakola Prison, Keiichi Matsuda, and Erika Halonen photos by Emmi Kiesvaara. Other photos by Karri Liikkanen.