Why would any sane person come up with an idea of having a pitching event during the winter in a Nordic country, outside, in an ice hole?
Our story started in 2013 in the prosperous and promising city of Oulu. Winds of change were blowing and major tech companies, like Nokia, were shutting down entire units resulting in large volumes of talented people left without a job. These people were capable of creating world class products, so lots of start-ups were established, and they were looking forward to conquer markets globally. The problem, however, was to find a way to stand out in global competition. How to get the word about these start-ups to investors? Oulu is not Silicon Valley, but we have something else – heaps of high tech know-how combined with our own way of doing things – and an innovative atmosphere. These things could lead Oulu to become comparable to Silicon Valley in people’s minds. The question was, how?
Another major problem the start-ups were facing was their way of pitching their ideas. The products were great but very technical and complex. It was necessary to coach the start-ups to adjust their talk. Less technical describing, so any listener would understand the idea. The companies were in need of a small encouragement to cut to the chase in their pitching.
At the time, media wrote about Oulu with quite a negative tone, as if all hope had been lost because of the massive lay-offs. But in Finland we have this thing called “Sisu” – something so unique and typical to Finnish people, that it can’t even be translated fully. Perseverance. Not giving up no matter how hard the circumstances get. Oulu was getting a cold shower, and that is exactly why it was more important than ever to show that we still have world class talent and no tendency to stay in despair.
The idea of Polar Bear Pitching got its origin from Business Kitchen, an entrepreneur hub that works as a community and as a location bringing together people from numerous fields of study and industries. This innovative atmosphere allowed people and ideas to mingle, swap and take new forms in order to create something unique.
In cooperation with Midnight Pitch Fest, the idea of a new kind of pitching event was made into reality.
Polar Bear Pitching is very much a community effort of the Oulu entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Polar Bear Pitching’s mission is to create snowballs of success and strip down the barriers that block development and growth. We embrace positive uniqueness and pursue honesty to oneself and others.
The university of Oulu plays a huge role in organizing Polar Bear Pitching. University is the employer of the core organizing team, it funds the event every year and Polar Bear Pitching itself was created in the university of Oulu in collaboration with the other stakeholders in this area. Even many of the successful startups we see in the ice hole, were born on the corridors of our university.
About 2,6 billion people use technology developed in Oulu on a daily basis. For example, 5G development is heavily based in Oulu and the research project to create 6G network started this year in the university of Oulu. The first internet chat system, IRC, was built here and our researchers have created a material that converts heat, sunlight and motion to energy simultaneously.
The extent of multidisciplinarity makes the university of Oulu special. In the university main building, there are 6 faculties and 4 focus institutes under one roof, which makes it easy to collaborate with a large variety of researchers and professionals. Altogether, the university has 9 faculties and 7 campuses and research stations around northern Finland.
The university was founded 1958 and it celebrates the 60thanniversary in 2019. University has been a driving force in shaping the city of Oulu to the technology hub it is nowadays.
There are five strategic themes the university of Oulu focuses on: Earth and near space system and environmental change, digital solutions in sensing and interactions, understanding humans in change, creating sustainability by materials and systems and molecular and environmental basis for life-long learning.
There are people from 90 different nationalities studying or working in the university of Oulu. The most famous of our 50 000 alumni is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008, former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.
The top-notch research and advanced technological know-how make the university of Oulu the place for high-impact innovations that shape the world we live in. We call it science with arctic attitude.
– in pushing forward when the going gets tough.
– in stepping out of the comfort zone and aiming high.
– to remind everyone that to be taken seriously one doesn’t need to be serious.