THE WINNER OF POLAR BEAR PITCHING 2019 IS BOOKIS!

14.03.2019, 10:28

Norwegian company Bookis has won Polar Bear Pitching competition 2019. Their idea is focused on buying and selling second-hand books. We were lucky to get to interview the company representatives Lasse Brurok and Arne-Morten Willumsen both in Tuesday’s semifinals and after their victory. Bookis won the semifinals in Norway, which secured them a place straight in the finals.

Semifinals

We know you’ve already taken part in the championships in Norway, so you have some experience about pitching from an ice hole. After the semifinals, what are your expectations for tomorrow?

We have big expectations as it was a really good show in Norway and there were a lot of good companies. It was our first pitching contest ever and it was a great networking opportunity. We got to know many Finnish people, so now we’re just running around and hugging, meeting old and new friends! It’s a great event, but now we’re just not looking forward to jumping into the water tomorrow, so lucky we are going straight to the finals! We are spreading the word about PBP to a lot of start-ups, because it’s not only about going on stage, but also building a team with other entrepreneurs and suffering together. It is also an awesome event for the crowd, because it’s spectacular and attracts a lot of audience and investors.

What are your tips to stay calm and focus in the cold water?

We have a slogan: “Druus or lose”. It’s half Norwegian and half English and it means that we don’t care, we ‘just do it’. You just have to adjust and breathe slowly, and then start talking, not vice versa. That’s how you can stay in water for a long time.

Finals: After the victory

Did your experience meet your expectations here in Oulu?

Somewhat yes. We knew there will be so many good companies, but when we saw the other pitches, we were like “wow, okay, this is going to be really hard.” You really have to put your mind to it.

But it seems like your slogan and “just do it” attitude did the trick!

Yes, it did!

What would you like to say to the future participants or someone who is considering the competition but afraid?

Lasse: I would say that just to be here is winning because it’s this great program, it’s a lot of great people. When it comes to the bathing, it sucks. That’s how it is. You just have to do it.

Arne-Morten: And it’s the same for everyone. I think it’s a great opportunity to anyone who wants to come here: networking, and also just to getting your name out there. It’s a cool way to do it, because the concept of Polar Bear Pitching, ice water and all, it’s just awesome.

So from the whole Polar Bear Pitching team, congratulations Bookis! We hope that we will hear about your success story and see you again in Oulu!

Kicking off Polar Bear Pitching 2019!

12.03.2019, 11:32

Polar Bear Pitching is finally here! Today we host our brave semi-finalists in the first round of the event. 15 participants will take to the Ice-Hole in the hopes of making into tomorrow’s final, joining our Norwegian competition winners: Bookis.

Below you can get to know the start-ups joining us in today’s event. Not only do we have Finnish companies coming to compete, but several international start-ups from all over the world!

This year we have two participants coming all the way from Japan. Funky Jump are developing hands free community relation management software, using voice recognition to ease the process, and O:inc work on an application to help regulate our body’s internal clock.

A joint start-up from both Latvia and the United Kingdom, CakeHR is HR software company that streamlines attendance, performance and recruitment management for customers worldwide.

Joining us from the United States we have TensorFlight. TensorFlight are developing software that makes use of artificial intelligence to analyse satellite, aerial, drone and street view imagery.

From Estonia we have VideoCV, a platform where prospective employees can respond to job offers with a video CV.

From Finland we have a range of participants from many different fields. First up we have PlayGain, a start-up using artificial intelligence to aid in management decisions.

Doerz is an application to link travellers with locals. The aim is to provide a community platform to help tourists experience local culture through the help of local residents.

Zenniz are a Finnish brand working to develop smart tracking technology for use on tennis courts.

New Cable Corporation works to design shielded, flat, flexible cables to save the resources of both their customers and the planet.

AISpotter Oy is creating software to automatically analyse video data from sport events, aiming to help coaches provide fast, efficient feedback for players.

Mealbox provide a healthy online food delivery service. Using fresh ingredients, users can create meals based on their own health goals.

Rat Crew Studios are a Finnish games company developing high-quality role-playing games and transmedia franchises.

Kidday is a mobile application for creating a ‘kid book’ for families to capture important moments in their child’s life.

Simlab are creating a platform that allows organizations to create immersive lessons of their own online and distribute direct to their customers.

Delektre Ltd are bringing an application to noninvasively track body signs within their users, with the aim to help balance their health life.

Today we will see who has the strength – and more importantly the spirit – to make it through the ice-hole’s epic challenge. Join us tomorrow at 6pm to witness the finalists at our free event.

 

 

Laskiainen

05.03.2019, 17:27

Today our Polar Bear Pitching team took on another Finnish tradition: the Laskiainen sledge races. The event – organised by the Konekilta student guild – saw our volunteers sliding down a hill at Raksila and racing their way back up. Whilst the team wasn’t successful in the race, a good day was had as we hosted our Instagram #Bearfie raffle. The eager spectators had the opportunity to track down our very own Jcub, and get their photo uploaded to Instagram. Five lucky participants will win a student ticket for this year’s event, which includes full access to the Business Unusual Conference and workshops, as well as entry for our pre- and post- parties. If you managed to get your #bearfie but have yet to upload it, be sure to get it submitted quickly (with @PolarBearPitch tagged) before the draw.

From Harsh Circumstances into a Success Story

03.03.2019, 14:18

Polar Bear Pitching is a competition in which entrepreneurs pitch, or in other words, try sell their business ideas to investors – all while standing in an ice hole! The event is held for the sixth time this year and it brings together the entrepreneurs, investors and the general public. Mia Kemppaala, who is behind the original concept of the event, tells how the idea came to be and what it feels like to stand and speak in the freezing ice hole.

The year was 2013 and Mia Kemppaala was annoyed. Nokia had just left from Oulu and there were constant predictions in the media that the city -which had once leaned heavily on the mobile phone technology- would desolate rapidly. At the time, Kemppaala was working for the city of Oulu and the universities’ shared entrepreneurship hub Business Kitchen, where she helped the recently-jobless ICT experts to launch new careers as entrepreneurs. However, because of the complex terminology the entrepreneurs-to-be used while presenting their business idea, it was really hard to hang on. In October 2013 a brilliant idea struck Kemppaala: what if the entrepreneurs were to speak from an ice hole where the chilly water would force them to crystallize their message to include only the absolute essentials?

Kemppaala presented her crazy idea to her colleagues and manager, and was almost sure it would be dismissed immediately. To her surprise, many were enthusiastic about it and as a result of wide collaboration, the very first Polar Bear Pitching saw the light in the spring 2014. ”It became a snowball effect on the whole city of Oulu”, Kemppaala describes.

Instead of a competition, she defines Polar Bear Pitching as a phenomenon that represents how the Finnish never-give-up attitude of sisu, –which stems from the arctic environment- has helped to turn the harsh circumstances into a success story that has united the whole city. The event drew interest from all around the world right away because of it exoticness and uniqueness, and nowadays there are more participants from abroad than from Finland.

Organizing an event that is dependent of the weather conditions and the amount of ice is just a constant chain of surprises after one another. For example it has been so cold that the ice hole froze over again overnight and the organizers were forced to delay the finals to reopen the ice hole with a chainsaw. ”If it was easy, it wouldn’t be for us! Luckily we have learned to cope with the uncertainty throughout the years,” tells Kemppaala, who currently works for Tellus Innovation Arena.

Kemppaala encourages every Oulu citizen to head to Torinranta in the evening of March 13th regardless of their knowledge about the business world. The Polar Bear Pitching final event is open to the public and free of charge and activities such as reindeer rides and dance performance might interest families with children or arts enthusiasts. There will also be magnificent fireworks at the end of the evening. Maybe you’ll also find some inspiration for a business idea of your own!

But what it is like to pitch from the ice hole? ”It was hard to breath in the ice hole at first and I had to force myself to go on and speak. However, the experience was very positive once I realized that I can do this. Afterwards there was a huge endorphin rush and the feeling of having bettered myself was really awesome,” tells Kemppaala.

The Jason Brower Power Hour

01.03.2019, 08:36

Here in Finland, February 28th is Kalevala’s Day – the country’s national epic – and with it a celebration of Finnish culture. Today we also celebrate the concept of Sisu; a term representing the grit and determination Finns have in the face of adversity, both physically and mentally. Our incoming entrepreneurs will need to find their Sisu if they hope to conquer the ice-hole.

We sat down with our very own business-savvy polar bear Jason Brower – better known to some as JBear- to discuss his experiences with Polar Bear Pitching, and how participants can tap into their Sisu!

 

How did you first get involved with the event, and how much convincing did it take to don the bear suit?

Six years ago I was contacted by some people I knew who worked with Business Kitchen at the university. They were developing this Polar Bear Pitching idea – it was like the first day of putting it together as a group. They said “We gotta do something crazy, what can we do? We can have a mascot, and it will be a massive polar bear for Polar Bear Pitching! It’s the wildest idea we can think of”

They decided they needed somebody who knew business but also had a personality that would work. Somehow, they thought of me. I was called up and they said “Would you like some free tickets to go to Slush this year? The only condition is you have to wear a polar bear suit.” That became the first jump into being JBear. As I said, it’s been 6 years now so, eh… it’s been quite the change!

Over the past several years, how has the entrepreneurial culture of Oulu developed and changed, and do you think the event has influenced it?

Yeah, I really do. When the recession hit, people were pulling back. Companies were pulling back; starting to lay off people. Oulu in particular was hit pretty bad with changes in Nokia. The pitching culture was very young and very fresh back then. It was essentially a bunch of people begging for money: people who didn’t have developed ideas or anything like that. We needed a way to help stand out in that crowd; that’s where Polar Bear Pitching came in. It became not just some fun event where you jump into the cold water, but also about a spirit of pushing through and perseverance. The ice-hole creates a really beautiful symbol of jumping in and facing something that might be scary, but coming out inspired and pushing on.

Fast forward six years – pitching isn’t really the strong hold here, BUT the spirit is still there: perseverance, that willingness to keep pushing forward, Sisu. The people pitching aren’t saying “Uh I need 1 million euro please,” they’re saying “I have this great idea. Nothing is going to stop me. I will be amazing.” The investors are there and they’re happy to hear it, but it’s not so much about getting the investment from the ice-hole. It’s more about showing you have commitment to your product and showing your team you’re committed to the long term.

What are the most memorable moments as JBear?

There’re several really amazing things. When I put the suit on it isn’t like I turn into a bear. I’m JBear: this business guy who knows that if he wears a funky crazy suit to represent PBP, he actually generates business. And that’s a really weird thing to happen, but it does.

I get really cool opportunities, like if there is a celebrity, or a diplomat from another country, or a president of something, I can just walk up. I just walk right up to that person. There’s nothing that really stops me from doing that. For some reason putting on that furry suit makes that change happen. So, when I meet The Dudesons I just walk up to them, and we have fun, and we wrestle around. That’s cool. I make connections, for example: one of the greatest people I know: Riku Asikainen. He’s a busy guy but he’s able to find time for people and really has a lot of heart in what he does as an investor.

In terms of other moments, sometimes it’s just giving hugs and making people smile. It’s those little moments that really make a difference. It’s fun to help lift a city or help lift the people. I’ve been doing it so long now – six years – that whenever I go to Slush people are seeking me out! They’re saying “We get to have our annual picture!” It’s so cool. I have all my photos shared on the cloud, so when my TV is on it will go through the pictures, and it’s so fun to reminisce about all the different people and the lives that were lifted up a little bit that day. It really helps a lot to keep me going with the bear suit.

For startups considering joining next year but are a bit scared of the prospect, how you would you encourage them to embrace their inner Sisu?

Remember it’s not so much about the ice-hole. It’s about committing to push through and persevere in this rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurialism. One day you’ll get what you need, and one day you’ll be begging your family so you can get by. It sure is a rough ride, but it’s worth it in the end. You learn so much, even if you fail. I think that’s the biggest part; people go into that icy water knowing they have a little bit of a risk there, a little bit of failure. But they can also look at that crowd and know those people are there to warm them up, and I think that’s really cool. So if you’re preparing for Polar Bear Pitching next year, think of it that way. Outside of medical reasons I can’t think of one reason someone can’t jump in that water and enjoy the experience.

Finally, for those who don’t have cosy, thick, polar bear fur, what tips would you give them to help survive the ice-hole?

Let’s just say if you’re going in the ice-hole, don’t wear a t-shirt unless it has your logo and you want to get really cold. The shirts usually stick to you, and they start freeze as soon as you get out. Otherwise just bring some can-do attitude and get yourself some layers; you should be fine. For those who are volunteering, you get a PBP hat which is a prized possession amongst those involved. That’s a pretty good hat and it keeps you warm, so keep it close.

 

 

JBear is coming to Oulu for our free Polar Bear Pitching events. Join us at the Oulu Market Square, March 12th & 13th. For more information about the events visit https://polarbearpitching.com/program/

Last year’s winner’s testimonial

29.11.2018, 15:17

Still wondering whether to apply for Polar Bear Pitching 2019? Check out an inspiring story from our last year’s winner Laava Tech (Artisun at that time):

 

Laava Tech journey after the Polar Bear Pitching Competition

It has been 9 months since Laava Tech won the PBP competition. It was the boldest decision to apply and to go and pitch there but it was so worth it. The actual value of winning the PBP, I’ve realized not when we got 10,000 euros as a prize and not even when I got to visit Chinese Silicon Valley (which was a part of the prize), but months later. But let’s see where it all started.

Anyone can pitch when you’re in a warm room and you have all the time in the world, but the icy water aspect makes Polar Bear Pitching a totally different animal. I had read that the longest pitch in previous years was close to five minutes, but luckily I had honed my pitch down to two minutes (still was almost 3 minutes during the final). My biggest fear was that I will stop around 40-50 sec and just run to sauna.

I was scheduled to pitch in the semifinal on the first day of the competition.

 

About Staff:

When I first arrived at the scene, the organizers were quick to welcome me and handed me a cool red woolly hat (that I still have and proudly wear) and a bath rope. Organizers of the Polar Bear Pitching competition is a really great team, who was supporting us through the whole event, who were replying to our facebook messages with literally any questions immediately and they were there for us whenever anyone needed something. It really meant a lot for me as I was alone from our team in Oulu and I’ve appreciated all the support I could get.

 

About pitching in avanto:

The freezing water was my biggest concern, and of course I forgot a big part of my pitch during the semifinal. Even though the water was not that bad. I mean it was freezing cold and at some point I needed to stop my pitch for a sec as it felt like someone took the air of my lungs. But in overall – I was really proud that I didn’t jump out in the middle of the pitch. Progressing into the final was already a great achievement, but I really wanted more. I knew that all teams are very strong and they all had great ideas, so I was trying just to be happy that I got to the final and consider going to the freezing water twice as one of my personal biggest achievements.

 

About final day:  

The day of the final was much crazier with a lot of people in the audience, presenters running around asking questions, and of course there were cameras everywhere, not to mention the long line of judges who’d eventually decide the winner. Though for me the hardest part was live streaming as I knew that my team as well as all my friends are watching me and I just wanted to do my best. The second time going into the water was actually harder for me (mentally as I knew what I signed up for), but there wasn’t much I could do except go in. I’m not very modest, so I will say that by the end of all pitches I just had a feeling that our startup will be in top-3 – our startup is working hard and our idea is really good and I’ve put all my passion about ArtiSun (now Laava Tech) into my pitch. But I would never expect getting the 1st place. I was really happy that I presented ArtiSun at it’s best and of course very happy with all the prizes (money will be used for the research and trip to China and is just an amazing opportunity). The rest of the day and evening was crazy with all the interviews and investors wanting to talk to me. I think I ended up with hundreds of new LinkedIn connections, a bag full of business cards, and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

 

About after PBP – what happened:

After the competition, we got a big increase in traffic on our website and ended up in publications and websites around the world. I’ve seen Polar Bear Pitching and our company in the news in for example China, South-Korea, and many others. The highlight for me was an awesome article in Mashable.com. You can’t really buy that kind of PR.

In a month Laava Tech got to visit MiniSV in Nanjing, China, which is a Chinese Silicon Valley. We were not visiting alone, the 2d place and 3d place startups were travelling as well. China is a completely different world and it was really interesting to have that experience, but we wanted to validate Laava Tech in European and US markets first, before going to Asia.

So we’ve applied to the Alchemist Accelerator – Forbes recognized it as a best B2B accelerator worldwide. And we got in! I think partly it was due to the fact that Laava Tech was so easy to find in the media thanks to PBP. Also a lot of investors from Silicon Valley have heard about the PBP and it’s way easier to get a meeting with them once they know that I’m “that crazy girl” who went into a freezing water for her startup. Now we have a small office in Silicon Valley and trying to concur US market.

And lately Laava Tech won the University Startup World Cup competition in Copenhagen, Denmark. All the jury members did know about the PBP pitching and I think every participant and organizer watched the video of me pitching from the ice hole. That video is a great networking tool – you impress people straight away and they also become really interested in your startup and do listen to what you say.

I still have long lasting relations with half of the startups who took part in the competition – and that’s the best part. All startups who are brave and crazy enough to take part are the ones you should become friends with. They will understand you and will support even a year after.

The PBP gave me friends, insane media coverage for Laava Tech, also ever-lasting recognition by the startup community. But more than that, it helped me to believe in myself. After I’ve pitched from the icy cold water for my startup I knew that I will do anything to make Laava Tech a success. During the PBP I got international validation for Laava Tech.

Apply to Polar Bear Pitching 2019