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Japan’s first official Polar Bear Pitching 2020 lands at Sendai

City of Sendai, the official friendship city of Oulu since 2005, piloted Polar Bear Pitching in Japan in Feb 2019. The pilot of Polar Bear Pitching was organized as one of the side events of Tohoku Growth Accelerator; a start-up program in Tohoku Region of Japan operated by City of Sendai and MAKOTO company. The event was very successful and it attracted lots of audience. Japanese winner, funky jump, got tickets to Oulu where its CEO Yuta Aoki bravely pitched in a real ice hole carved in the frozen Baltic Sea. After a successful pilot, Polar Bear Pitching will be organized as an independent pitching contest in Sendai on 11th Jan 2020!

Polar Bear Pitching Sendai 2020 

Schedule: 11 Jan 2020 (Sat) at 14:00 – 18:30 (including the networking party)
Venue: Aoba-no-kaze terrace, Sendai, Japan
Organizer: City of Sendai, MAKOTO, Tohoku Growth Accelerator and BusinessOulu
PBP Sendai 2020 official site
PBP Sendai 2020 Facebook event page

 

Yuya Shirakawa, Public Connector, City of Sendai (Organizer of PBP Sendai)
Why did you decide to organize Polar Bear Pitching Sendai?

City of Sendai and city of Oulu have carried out several projects together since 2005 when the cities signed the Co-Incubation Agreement. Based on this unique relationship, we wanted to provide an opportunity for the entrepreneurs of Sendai, Tohoku region, to be introduced to the world. Our desire resulted in organizing the pilot of Polar Bear Pitching in Sendai 2019 as a qualifying round for Polar Bear Pitching Oulu, sort of like the PBP national championship in Japan. In addition, 2019 marked the 100th year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Finland. Therefore, we decided to organize PBP Sendai with the hope of developing the two countries’ relationship.

Do you have a message to news readers about PBP Sendai?

Sendai is located in Tohoku Region, in Northern part of Japan and it is the capital of Tohoku. After the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Tohoku region in 2011, the number of entrepreneurs has been rising and various kinds of businesses have been created. I believe that the new businesses established in Tohoku, a developing region facing challenges, have possibilities to solve global challenges. Sendai offers opportunities to entrepreneurs who are seeking to make a difference in the world. At the same time, Sendai offers support to people who come to Tohoku from all over the world. Please come and visit Sendai! 

Yuta Aoki from funky jump winner of Polar Bear Pitching 2019 Sendai
Award ceremony of Polar Bear Pitching Sendai 2019 Pilot, Winner Yuta Aoki, CEO, funky jump

 

Hiroki Horie, in charge of Tohoku Growth Accelerator, MAKOTO (Organizer of PBP Sendai)
Why did you decide to organize Polar Bear Pitching Sendai?

As we were thinking of ways to expand collaboration between Sendai and Oulu, we got the idea of Polar Bear Pitching from Takako Uchida, BusinessOulu, and Yuya Shirakawa, City of Sendai. We immediately decided to organize the event in Sendai, because we thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase ourselves and our companies by directly going abroad from Sendai/Tohoku region. We also thought it was a great way to not only encourage business growth, but also bring our mindsets to a global level. Additionally, Polar Bear Pitching is the craziest and coolest event I have ever heard of. Therefore, it was also a good opportunity for entrepreneurs and local citizens in Sendai to learn about the Finnish mindset and culture.

Do you have a message to news readers about PBP Sendai?

I have visited Finland for the past three years and I visited Oulu during Polar Bear Pitching 2019. At that time, I was impressed by how close each community was and I felt the spirit of open-mindedness which was similar to us. My aim is to build  stronger and longer ties between our regions and in doing so I want to utilize the similarities between Oulu and Sendai, even Finland and Japan, as well as combine the differences of our regions. That’s why Polar Bear Pitching has become an important tool for us. Oulu is the gateway to Finland and Sendai is the gateway to Japan, so let’s accelerate the relationships between people and businesses! 

MAKATO Group is a Japanese company located in Sendai providing services for business creation. The company’s mission is to “Make a society where people live happily”. They focus on  funding, academic collaborations, local municipality collaborations and creating an entrepreneurship environment. Since its founding in 2011, MAKOTO supports a large variety of entrepreneurs and invests in and trains start-ups founded mainly in the Tohoku region. 

 

Yuta Aoki, Founder & CEO, funky jump (Winner of Polar Bear Pitching Sendai 2019 Pilot) 
How did you feel about Polar Bear Pitching?

Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu was a true business event, not just a fun event. All of the jury members were investors and during the daytime a start-up conference and a meet-up event were organized. The pitching environment as well as the support from the operating staff showed attention to detail which made the event awesome. After I participated in Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu, I became determined that “I am going into overseas market”. Though I already had a global-oriented mind before my participation, going abroad (Oulu) with our product TAISY expanded my perspective. It was a new and a very good experience for me to explain TAISY in English. 

After I came back to Japan from Oulu, the fact that I had pitched at Polar Bear Pitching became a very useful tool for my business activities, because the experience of this ice water pitching contest was so unique. Whenever I showed a photo of me in the ice hole, I immediately got attention from all audiences. Also, I received inquiries related to overseas & startup matters. In addition, I hired a Finnish intern to my company. My participation in the Polar Bear Pitching competition has brought many new opportunities for me and my company. 

After participating in Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu, how did the people around you react?

People in Sendai warmly welcomed me, because the Polar Bear Pitching Sendai 2019 Pilot was the first PBP experience for Sendai. Thanks to the ice hole pitching in Oulu, one very important person officially decided to join my company, which was the biggest achievement for me. Japanese media, Newspics, published an article about me. As a result of that, I was contacted by investors. 

What is the current status and future plans?

From Dec 2019, we have started pilot testing of TAISY at a co-working space in Sendai. We are planning to develop our service until the end of March 2020. Then, we want to launch our product in Spring 2020.

In PBP Oulu 2019, I presented a global perspective for TAISY and I stated “Who wants to be a witness to mankind’s evolution?” in the end of my pitching. During one year, our achievement for the global perspective has been very little, but I am continuously doing my best to achieve it fully. 

Are you going to participate in PBP Sendai 2020?

I won’t join this time. If I will join PBP Sendai, it’s the time I will win in PBP Oulu (become a world champion).

Could you give a message to Japanese start-ups?

Polar Bear Pitching will be an unforgettable experience and it gives a very exciting feeling unlike other pitching events. You can feel unity with the whole pitching place as well as with the entire town of Oulu. Competing with foreign start-ups at the same stage is highly stimulating. I am sure that Polar Bear Pitching helps us challenge the world with our businesses. Even  though you are not allowed to use slides during your pitch at Polar Bear Pitching, the unique pitching condition takes it to a completely new level. So, please show the world your passion for your business from the ice water!

TAISY provided by funky jump: https://taisy.tech/ 

 

Author: Takako Uchida, BusinessOulu