Program and speakers

Excited to know more about this year’s program?

Take a quick glance down below  and learn more about our dazzling speakers!


Tuesday March 12th

9:00 Science Under Radar at University of Oulu

A showcase by science-based startups for investors and media representatives.

 12:00 the Semifinals at Oulu Market Square

This is your chance! Don’t freeze – impress the investors and media with your pitch, and win a spot at the Finals.

The semifinals are free of charge for the audience.

14:00 Special program for startups and investors at Nallikari

Mentoring sessions – Matchmaking – Arctic Experiences at Nallikari beach

20:00 Pre-Party at Zivago & 45 Special

wednesday March 13th

10:00 – 16:00 “Business Unusual” Conference Program at Oulu City Center

The venue  of the conference program is movie theatre Finnkino at Oulu City Center.

You can see the announced speakers on the Program site.

18:00 The Finals at Oulu Market Square

This is it! A competition you’ve never experienced before!

Top startups get to pitch to investors, media and a global audience for a chance to win amazing prizes. Get to the point. And remember to breathe!

The finals are free of charge for the audience.

20:00 The Official Polar Bear Pitching After Party at Nightclub Ilona

Conference speakers

Amsterdam-based Risto Kuulasmaa has a prolific background in creative industries. He has co-founded Tubecon influencer event network organising arena-sized influencer events in Europe with the largest events gathering up to 18.000 visitors. Outside events, he is a creative entrepreneur advising several startups and an award-winning television producer who has been working with tv-shows such as Madventures, Docventures, and The Dudesons . He has worked as an executive at the Finnish Broadcasting company, Yleisradio, and is a board member at UNICEF Finland.⁣

In his keynote Risto will discuss leadership and media in the future and answer questions such as ”Why do people think it’s hard to lead millenials?” and “How does vlogging and social media transform media?”

Pekka Hyysalo was an internationally renowned Finnish Freestyle skier, whose career ended in a serious injury in 2010. During the shooting of a freestyle skiing film, a heavy gust of wind grabbed him making him overshoot the landing, which led to Hyysalo hitting his head and falling into a coma for over three weeks. Luckily, his helmet saved his life but he got a life-threatening traumatic brain injury. Against all expectations and prognosis given by doctors, he started recovering, but he had lost his ability to speak, move and function all together. After a summer spent at a rehab center Hyysalo decided, that he will not give up but fight back instead.

Today Pekka’s story and the FightBack brand stands for positive thinking, persistence and not giving up on what’s most important to you. This is a prime example of how it is possible for Finnish ”Sisu” to create success stories and make one achieve their goals even in the most difficult circumstances.

Steven LaValle is Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, in Particular Robotics and Virtual Reality, at the University of Oulu.

He has been a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois and also held positions at Stanford University and Iowa State University.  His research interests include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, sensing, planning
algorithms, computational geometry, and control theory.  In research, he is known for his introduction of the Rapidly exploring Random Tree (RRT) algorithm, which is widely used in robotics and other engineering fields.  In industry, he was an early founder and chief scientist of Oculus VR, acquired by Facebook in 2014, where he developed patented tracking technology for consumer virtual reality and led a team of perceptual psychologists to provide principled approaches to virtual reality system calibration, health and safety, and the design of comfortable user experiences.  2016-2017 he was Vice President and Chief Scientist of VR/AR/MR at Huawei Technologies, Ltd.  He has authored the books Planning Algorithms, Sensing and Filtering, and Virtual Reality.

Mikko Setälä joined Rovio Entertainment as the Chairman of the Board in 2006. He has also served Rovio in roles of CFO and as the President of the Rovio Animation Company and other subsidiaries of Rovio in North America. He is currently Executive Vice President and in charge of Rovio’s investor relations.

Mikko’s background is in the software industry and he has been an entrepreneur, worked as an executive in major software companies and also as the CEO of a listed company. Mikko has written two books and acts as an angel investor and board member.

In his keynote Mikko will take you from the streets of Helsinki to Hollywood and all the way to NASDAQ.

Mikko Setälä has a M.Sc. (Eng.) degree from Helsinki University of Technology

Karita Kasurinen, jade-of-all-trades of the startup world, is currently working for which accelerates the process of scientific discovery., a science assistant, drastically increases performance of R&D teams in mapping out existing knowledge. Prior to, Karita was working for Valossa, an AI-powered video intelligence and recognition platform, which combines multimodal video analysis and recognition with interactive tools that enable inspection and overviews of video content.

During her free time, Karita spends considerable amounts of time educating people about entrepreneurship, building startup communities, and inspiring especially women and girls to seek opportunities in business and technology. She gives talks and organizes events that encourage others to think differently, discover new things and act smarter. She is also a facilitator at TechStars’ Startup Program, Startup Weekend.

In her keynote Karita will bring light to the world of Artificial Intelligence. She aims to convey the message of rising opportunities in the intersection of technology and business.


Sylvain Bureau, Scientific Director of the Jean-Baptiste Say Institute at ESCP Europe (the first business school created in the world in 1819), has carried out extensive studies on creative practices in entrepreneurship (within startups or large corporations), in collaboration with colleagues at Stanford University and University College of London.

Based on his research, he has designed Art Thinking, an agile method to create improbable outcomes with certainty. The method helps question mainstream values, assumptions taken for granted, and ways of doing things in order to create improbable business models and solutions that can shift paradigms. Sylvain teaches the method at ESCP Europe, especially to large corporations facing disruption and the transformation of work (Orange, Canon, Galeries Lafayette, La Redoute, BPCE, Sacem…), as well as at Stanford, HEC Montreal, Oulu University, or 42.

Sylvain is also the co-founder of Storymakers, an app that you can use to create pitches on an online one-pager and published Free Your Pitch last year.

In his keynote, “Art Thinking: A method to create the improbable with certainty”, Sylvain will explore entrepreneurship from the perspective of an artistic process and gives you tools that will help you design improbable solutions. In order to succeed, entrepreneurs need to develop activities that aim to challenge the status quo, break rules and subvert systems. Furthermore conflicts, emotional strains and uncertainties are often part of entrepreneurship. The keynote will teach you how such things can be learnt and taught.

Sylvain has Ph.D. from Ecole Polytechnique and has been a visiting scholar at MIT Sloan School of Management and UC Berkeley.

Saxophonist Jukka Perko’s rapid ascent to international fame began in 1987 when the legendary Dizzy Gillespie recruited him to his big band. Perko’s dazzling talent was compared to the young Charlie Parker and won him rave reviews. Perko has led numerous successful bands and ensembles, and has performed in over forty countries. Powered by his spectacular playing technique, and by mixing traditional jazz with some distinctly Finnish elements, he has earned his place as one of the most celebrated saxophonists of his entire generation. His most current bands are Jukka Perko Avara, a sax trio with two guitarist. In addition to his own groups, he is a regular soloist of symphony orchestras and big bands. Since 2006 Perko has been offering trainings for companies and communities through Hidas Ltd. and Romana Management Ltd. Perko is also the Artistic Director of Helsinki-based Viapori Jazz Festival, as well as a teacher at the Sibelius Academy.

Jukka Perko and Avara’s interactive workshop, “Who waves the baton?”, offers new perspectives on leadership and creativity within organizations. Modern work life requires a new approach to leadership. The managers need to know how to lead dynamic teams, but also employees need to learn to tell how they want to be managed. But when should one act as the conductor or a musician of a symphony orchestra, and when should one act as jazz bands do? The workshop helps teams and leaders find a healthy balance between individual solos and common rhythm. The workshop is done in collaboration with Oulu Music Festival.

Ville Heikkinen is a hands-on technology, transaction and investment specialist, with over 15 years of experience as investor, legal counsel, advisor, board member and entrepreneur in the areas of venture capital financing, M&A and technology management in Europe and USA. Currently Heikkinen is a partner at Butterfly Ventures.

Earlier, attorney-at-law with the leading Nordic commercial law firm and NYC based law firm, partner and manager with the first publicly  listed law firm in the Nordics and corporate governance and technology transactions in the Finnish listed companies. Most recently, partner of the early stage investment company, investment committee member of the venture capital fund and chairman of the board of the venture capital fund. Master of Laws (L.LM), Master of Science in Economics and studies at MIT.

Neil Peterson is Director and Founder of Inside Track, a cultural and creative consultancy which focuses on helping clients – normally major UK and European cities – to deliver positive social and economic changes through culture, creativity, sports and other participatory activities.

Neil has played a significant role in the development of the European Capital of Culture project over recent years, being a founding member of the ECoC network. He was a member of the Liverpool 2008 senior team where he led both the international relations work and programmes around volunteering, community participation and tourism benefits.

His special experience is the understanding of role of culture and sport to encourage more creative and active participation in city life and finding practical ways to connect cultural and sporting programming with the wider economic development of major cities. He has advised several successful ECoC candidate cities and worked with other ECoCs on developing their programmes.

He also works with a number of leading creative organisations in the UK, advising on strategy, funding and European partnership development.

Brent Ó Caiside is an Irish musician and Gaelic singer who has been performing traditional Irish music in Oulu, throughout Finland, Ireland and as far afield as Hollywood for nearly all of the 20 years he has lived in Oulu.


He has helped to revitalise the Irish music culture in Oulu along with a core group of friends and musicians. In 2006, he founded The Irish Festival of Oulu with his fellow musicians and friends and has been the director ever since. Since 2006, the festival has attracted 87.000 people from all over the world, became the premier Irish festival in the nordic countries and has attracted a who’s who of the greatest performers including 6 time grammy award winning band The Chieftains. It is no surprise Helsingin Sanomat gave the title of “Irish Culture Mecca in Finland” to Oulu because of these feats. Brent believes Irish music and culture belongs to everyone and tries to empower and offer opportunity to staff, volunteers and partners while promoting the richness of Irish culture in an intimate and personal environment that is the festival.