Europe’s got [tech] talent

The temperature hovered just above freezing in Helsinki last week, with not a trace of snow on the ground, for the presentation of the first Digital Top 50 Awards at the annual Slush technology conference. Supported by McKinsey, Google, and Rocket Internet, the awards recognize Europe's top 50 digital start-ups, scale-ups, and companies using technology for social impact.

Held under the patronage of Carlos Moedas, European commissioner for research, science, and innovation, the Digital Top 50 Awards also celebrate Europe’s vibrant start-up scene. Of all the entrants, from countries including Greece, the United Kingdom, and Germany, a shortlist of 50 founders were invited to the award ceremony at Slush in Helsinki. Last week, the five winners were announced:

  • B2B start-up: Everledger, which uses blockchain technology to provide a ledger of diamond ownership and transactions to help combat fraud and theft.
  • B2B scale-up: Seerene, which helps companies manage technology by providing tools to analyze, benchmark, and visualize the performance of software-development projects.
  • B2C start-up: Hey Habito, a digital mortgage broker that uses an artificial-intelligence-powered chatbot to help consumers find and apply for the best mortgage deal.
  • B2C scale-up: Bragi, a pioneer in the field of “hearables” and maker of wireless earbuds that not only play music but also record biometric data, track movement, and provide audible feedback.
  • Tech for social impact: Peek Vision, which developed and sells a portable eye-testing and diagnostics kit for use in low- and middle-income countries, and donates profits to a charitable foundation.

The winners receive consulting and coaching from McKinsey, management feedback and fundraising support from Rocket Internet, and an invitation to Google I/O—the company’s annual developer conference in San Francisco. Additionally, the start-up and social impact winners were awarded a cash prize of €50,000.

Europe's got tech talent
Karel Dorner, Senior Partner at McKinsey; Alexander Kudlich, Board Member and Group Managing Director at Rocket Internet; Torsten Schuppe, VP Marketing at Google at the Digital Top 50 Awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum of Helsinki.
Europe's got tech talent

Also of value is the profile and expanded network of contacts that comes from winning such a jointly-backed award. In addition to representatives from McKinsey, Google, Rocket Internet, and INSEAD—the awards’ academic supporter—the Digital Top 50 judging panel included Harriet Green, leader of three IBM business divisions, Roland Busch, a managing board member of Siemens, and Patricia Barbizet, CEO and chairwoman of Christie’s International.

What’s in it for McKinsey? “The digital landscape in Europe is changing, and our clients are increasingly looking to work with young start-ups,” says Karel Dörner, a McKinsey senior partner based in Munich and a leader of Digital McKinsey. “We want to tap into the growth happening in cities like London, Berlin, and Stockholm and connect growing companies with established ones.”

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