People behind the red beanies - Marketing coordinator Riikka

The coolest pitching event in the world is set up totally by volunteers. As Polar Bear Pitching 2018 gets closer, we wish to introduce you the ones who make it all happen, people behind the red beanies. Volunteers have different backgrounds and they attend for various reasons. We start the series by introducing the story of our marketing coordinator, Riikka. 

This is Riikka. ©Susana Markinez

This is Riikka. ©Susana Markinez

Behind the beanie

My name is Riikka Keskitalo, and I am a volunteer. Besides that, I am also a student and an entrepreneur. Long story very short, I moved to Oulu four years ago, when I begun with my studies at OUAS in the field of International Business. Things happened in between then and present, and at this moment of time I’m in the middle of finishing my thesis and studies of Bachelor of Business Administration. In between I also ended up putting together my own company and started working as a freelance content provider. So to not get this thing too long, my story with Polar Bear Pitching opens up more things about me and some reasons behind my decision of becoming an entrepreneur.

 

What - in a nutshell

I attended Polar Bear Pitching first time as a volunteer in 2017, as a member of the marketing team. Prior the event itself I mainly created content for the website and Facebook page. I got a chance to contribute planning the content and to coordinate the content group. In practice I interviewed people, wrote texts, created graphics, promoted, took photos and made Facebook posts. During the event days my focus was on the two latter ones. On the day of finals I kept the channel busy together with one great pal and a bunch of photographers.

The tasks I did for the event were pretty much the same I have been doing as a freelancer now, which are naturally the things I like to do. It was nice to have English as a working language, as it’s the language of my degree and I enjoy international environment. In Polar Bear Pitching English is used generally everywhere, giving opportunity also for international students to attend and gain experience and new contacts.

This is the red beanie that characterises the Polar Bear Pitching crew. ©Susana Markinez

This is the red beanie that characterises the Polar Bear Pitching crew. ©Susana Markinez

One absolutely positive pro of attending as a volunteer was to get a chance to network with so many great people. Polar Bear Pitching gathers together makers, doers and creators, inspiring and active people from various fields in forms of startups, volunteers and companies. All in all, people who are fun to work with, and in some cases they can be future coworkers or employers. A good network is crucial in business field, especially when looking for a job - or working as a freelancer.

 

How it all started

I got an idea of applying as a volunteer for the 2017 event when a friend of mine recommended me to do it. In November 2016 I was browsing my Facebook newsfeed and came across with an add of volunteer recruitment for Polar Bear Pitching. I applied, but didn’t quite know what to wait for. I assumed to gain new experiences and get new contacts, but amounts and quality of them overcame all my perquisites. In the middle of enhancing new skills I got new friends and awesome memories, deeper understanding of the startup scene and learnt of the art of organising an event, just to mention a few.

Will to learn and get always-so-precious experience were my fundamental motivations for applying. Also, I didn’t know what I want to do after graduation, so I decided to start doing things to find it out. Or, to find out what I do not want to do. Which way around, it worked. I got a chance to do things I was interested about, which eventually led me to find my inner entrepreneur.  

 

©Susana Markinez

©Susana Markinez

Why to do it again

Polar Bear Pitching is not only about business, it is about having a positive impact on Oulu, its startups scene and giving opportunities to students. I find the values of the concept important and I want to contribute them, so consequently, now I am a member of the board and run second time as a volunteer. This is a great chance to develop myself and my skills further with a great team, which I do this time as a marketing coordinator. I really look forward to our next year’s event, and it is gonna be (again) bigger than ever!

 

So welcome on board!

We’re looking for new volunteers to grow with us, so if you feel like being the next Marketing Enthusiast, Social Media Wizard, Story Writer, Growth Hacker, Master of After Party, Rainmaker or Visual Designer, do not hesitate to fill the application form! We recruit people continuously and invite the matching people to join our crew. Your interests towards tasks are widely taken into account, so this is your chance to burst into creativity and test your wings on things you have always wanted to try!

Check more detailed information about the positions from here and fill in and send your application in here. Then just take it easy, we’ll get back to you.

 

SuomiAreena - A Brief Recap

The compulsory team selfie (a teamie?) in location.

The compulsory team selfie (a teamie?) in location.

A while back we took our renowned Polar Bear Pitching concept and headed to SuomiAreena in Pori. On Friday, 14th of July, eight brave startups took the plunge and pitched their products from the tub filled with ice cold water. Their business ideas and products were judged by seasoned veterans Bruce Oreck, Hjallis Harkimo, and Jorma Terentjeff. Here’s a recap in case you missed the event.

Contestants

1. Satu Laboratory produces an alternative to wet wipes: a gel you can apply on regular toilet paper. Their solution is gentler to the sensitive bottom skin than dry paper and completely environmentally friendly.

2. Exiops presented Kipuwex, an IoT device that measures pain level wirelessly. Kipuwex makes it possible to determine painkiller efficiency on babies, helping doctors more accurately assess the right dosage.

3. Envirate is an app for users to rate their environment, producing a real-time heatmap of environmental quality with the data of changes. This data can then be used by individuals, businesses, NGOs, and policymakers alike.

4. Diske pitched their healthcare app that utilizes big data to create a virtual model of your health.

5. Jalla introduced Jalla Board, a locally handcrafted longboard. Jalla’s vision is to provide talents an opportunity to get their products out there.

6. Noccela provides retailers with an improved way to track products, to both catch shoplifters more efficiently as well as acquire data of customer behaviour.

7. Psyon Games, the team behind the game Trump Vs Science, pitched their new project Antidote, an educational game designed to counter misinformation with science in an engaging way.

8. Skyler is a project-based learning platform for students and teachers, encouraging students to take responsibility of their studies and giving teachers better tools for progress assessment.

Prizes

What did we have in store for the team with the best pitch?

- A custom polar bear necklace by YO ZEN Design

- Ticket to next year’s Polar Bear Pitching, travel costs and accommodation included

- Weekend getaway in a cabin at Iso-Syöte, at the top of the fell

Winners

After careful consideration, the judges decided on not one but TWO winners. The best pitches were… drumroll, please: Kipuwex by Exiops and Noccela!

Congratulations to both teams!

5 Reasons to Attend PITCH or FREEZE!

Polar Bear Pitching has garnered international fame with our unique concept: a pitching competition where the startups pitch from an ice hole. And now the Oulu-born event arrives in Pori!

Here are five good reasons to attend our event:

1. The event is all about entrepreneurship and what it takes to shift attitudes towards a startup friendly atmosphere. Some of our speakers are Asmo Saloranta, the man behind ASMO Charger, Josefiina Kotilainen, CFO at Slush, and Jyri Lindén, co-founder at Nordic Business Forum.

2. A Suomi100 campaign, Lämmitystalkoot, will be joining us to talk about challenges the current public discussion culture, polarized and full of hate speech, entail, and how to turn those challenges into possibilities. A handful of influencers will also jump in the cold water to make warm promises for a better future for Finland.

 

3. What would a Polar Bear Pitching event be without our trademark pitching competition! Come and witness the maddest and most interesting pitching event of them all: passionate startup entrepreneurs going all-in and pitching their ideas standing in ice cold water! The participants might be shivering, but our prestigious jury won't leave you cold: the startups will be judged by Bruce Oreck, Hjallis Harkimo, and Jorma Terentjeff.

 

4. A must-see attraction, our mascot J-Bear, – possibly the only polar bear to actually ever walk on the streets of any Finnish city – will, of course, attend the event. Now, this is an encounter surely worth a selfie, don't you think?

 

5. The "ice hole" is open for everyone. Dare to jump in, or do you have cold feet?

Polar Bear Pitching event will be live on the Aika stage on Friday, 14th of July, 10 AM – 3 PM. See you there!

Polar Bear Pitching goes SuomiAreena

Lately our Social Media channels didn’t know any other topic besides SuomiAreena. We are all hyped about the happening and the whole Polar Bear Pitching team is super excited about the upcoming days.

After a successful run of Polar Bear Pitching in Silicon Valley in 2016, we are doing it again. We organize a smaller Polar Bear Pitching competition in the summer, this time in the Finnish summer. SuomiAreena in Pori and our ongoing Suomen Lämmitystalkoot are the perfect environment to host our competition. This is the reason why we shifted all our attention and effort of the last months towards this and went on a journey to Pori. As always, also this journey went quite “different” than you might expect. Our CEO ended up packing a minivan on her own and driving it down to Pori from up North, the team totally scattered all over Finland, trying to make their way to Pori.

Image credit: Kaisa Pappila

Image credit: Kaisa Pappila

Some ended up in the middle of nowhere, some got there straight with no major issues, and some arrived there way too early. So as you see a normal trip for us, but you might figure why all the trouble and why SuomiAreena what’s this happening all about? And why would WE all the way from Oulu get to Pori in the south?

So what is SuomiAreena?

Five days of discussions and opinions about the latest topics society is engaging with – SuomiAreena in a nutshell. The event is organized for the 11th time this year and speakers include politicians and entrepreneurs as well as representatives of media, entertainment, arts, and other fields. The event, located in Pori, starts on Monday, 10th of July, and ends on Friday, 14th of July.

Image credit: suomiareena.fi

Image credit: suomiareena.fi

Image credit: Instagram user @havettavatati

Image credit: Instagram user @havettavatati

SuomiAreena is free and open for everyone. Last year over 63 000 visitors attended the various talks over the week. Most of the talks are in Finnish, although you can find a few events also in English and Swedish. The SuomiAreena website has a handy program chart you can use to find events that suit your interests best.

SuomiAreena is organized by the city of Pori and MTV3.

And we are going to be there on Friday 14th of July, come to Aika-lava (Aika Stage) and see our startups pitching from freezing cold water or come and listen to our panel discussion. We invited the hottest young entrepreneurs and influencers to share their experiences, passion and way of working with you. In the jury of the pitching competition we’ll have Hjallis Harkimo, Jorma Terentjeff and Bruce Oreck. Who will walk away with the main prize?

Oulu-based company takes Polar Bear Pitching seriously - hired a world champion in winter swimming

This year Polar Bear Pitch competition is searching even bigger visibility around the world. So is Oulu-based company QuietOn who is putting lots of effort on global visibility. The company who invented active noise canceling earplugs has now decided to take part in home town’s own show Polar Bear Pitch, and Dark Bear semifinals. QuietOn is making it properly: They have hired a world championship owner of winter swimming, Salla Lamminpää. Well, in real life Salla who is competing in 25m and 50m series is also managing QuietOn’s customer service and logistics process.

-It’s fun that I can introduce my talents so versatile ways at work. I’ll try to present values of our company, tell about QuietOn’s new sales channels and open our internationalization strategy. Ice swimming and the earplugs that create silence are a good match. Wellbeing and peacefulness are common for them, thinks perky Salla.

-We will compete seriously and Salla is our silver bullet! I don’t think anyone else in our team is in ice hole shape for success, laughs QuietOn’s Founder Janne Kyllönen.

-I need to say that my winter swimming distances are quite short so this is fair for the other competitors too. Let’s see how much I’m able to chat about QuietOn’s benefits before I freeze out, smiles Salla who usually dips in an ice hole many times a week.

From the ice hole to a million dollar fund - Greetings from last year's winner

Innovative, energized, straightforward - with a pitch cooked with these ingredients Didrik Dege Dimmen took the first place of Polar Bear Pitching 2016. The product was FlowMotion ONE, a new era stabilizer for smartphones that promises an end to shaky videos. A lot has been going on with FlowMotion Technologies after Didrik backflipped to the ice hole, and it seems to be only a tip of an iceberg.

Congratulations for the winner 2016. ©Bruno Posa. 

Congratulations for the winner 2016. ©Bruno Posa. 

FlowMotion gained a lot visibility in Norway regarding the victory of Polar Bear Pitching, “Surprisingly lot”, according to Didrik. The start-up attracted also foreign media’s attention, like Forbes, Business Insider and DigitalTrends. List of victories and awards got longer with 1st place in pitching event in San Francisco, a victory of Norway’s largest business plan competition and an award as Norway’s Most Promising Start-up. A new office got established in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and number of employees increased to 10. 

As the last but not totally the least, the Kickstarter campaign engaged as much as 5,500 backers who pledged together amazing €1,2 million for FlowMotion ONE. Facts speak for themselves: 100% funded only in one hour, and the total exceeded the official goal with over 4000%.

 FlowMotion ONE keeps the camera stable in every situation. ©FlowMotion Technologies

 FlowMotion ONE keeps the camera stable in every situation. ©FlowMotion Technologies

The first products will be shipped to the backers in April 2017. Raising and pre ordering continues in Indiegogo, check the link for more details.

The headquarters of FlowMotion Technologies locate in Trondheim, Norway, where Didrik works, as most of the team. About a year after Didrik left Oulu with the grand prize of Polar Bear Pitching in his back pocket, the value of the event and prize can be seen from more long-term point of view. “Money was great, but the visibility and support for our product were things that mattered more,“ Didrik says about the victory.  “And the event is not only about the ice-hole, pitch and investors, but about all the talented people it gathers together. Oulu has a lot cool start-ups and Polar Bear Pitching is a great place to network with them. “

Hear Didrik's keynote speech on 15th of February in PBP 2017. ©Jennifer Hicks. 

Hear Didrik's keynote speech on 15th of February in PBP 2017. ©Jennifer Hicks. 

“I highly recommend attending Polar Bear Pitching for each and every start-up. Although there’s only one who gets the prize, everyone can get the value out of visibility, networking and side events. Go there, small talk with everyone and attend every after party you can!”

Dimmen will be seen in Polar Bear Pitching 2017 as a keynote speaker, so if You are interested to dig deeper to the success story of FlowMotion and catch the best tips for a kickass kickstarter campaign, join the group of innovative people in Oulu City Theatre on 15th of February. Didrik will have his speech right in between Max Kelly’s and John Bates’ ones - check the full list of inspiring keynote speakers and the schedule from here. With the same ticket You can enjoy the offering of both the Day Program and After Swim Party, get Yours from here

How we set the ice on fire from the beginning

You might wonder how any sane person would come up with an idea of having a pitching event during the winter in a Nordic country, outside, in an ice hole. WHY?!

It all 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 former employees 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 could investors know about these start-ups? Oulu is not like Silicon Valley, though we have something else – amounts of high tech know-how combined with own way of doing things and innovative atmosphere. These things can lead Oulu to gain a position comparable to Silicon Valley in people’s minds. But the question remains, 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, so it was necessary to coach the start-ups to adjust their talk to a way that didn’t contain too much technical describing, so any listener would understand the idea. It’s harder for companies to get help, if a product and the problem it solves are not presented in simple, interesting and understandable way. The companies were in need of a small encouragement to cut to the chase and present only the essential in their pitching.

Jury on action. © Bruno Posa 

Jury on action. © Bruno Posa 

At the time media wrote about Oulu with a quite negative tone, as if all hope had been lost because of the massive lay-offs that Oulu was facing. But in Finland we have this thing called “Sisu” –  something so great and unique, 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 even more important than ever to show that we still have world class talent in here and no tendency to stay in despair.

The idea of Polar Bear Pitching got its origin from Business Kitchen, universities’ entrepreneur hub that works as a community and as a location bringing together people from numerous fields of study and industries. University of Oulu, Oulu University of Applied Sciences, BusinessOulu and Business Kitchen have succeeded in creating together inspiring circumstances and innovative atmosphere where ideas are free to mingle, swap and take new forms in order to create something unique. The Polar Bear Pitching is a good example of what happens when there’s combined innovative people, trust for crazy ideas and tools and freedom to make things happen.

 In cooperation with Midnight Pitch Fest the idea of a new kind of pitching event was made into reality. What was originally supposed to be a small event with local companies, suddenly attracted attention widely. As the word spread about a pitching event having no time limit, with a minor rule of pitching while standing in a freezing ice-built-hole, the hype got real. The organizers understood that this is something that needs to be done in a way bigger scale than originally intended.

Few months later, in February 2014, the first Polar Bear Pitching event took place, with much more still to come. We have only scratched the surface of what Polar Bear Pitching can be. A phenomenon. Fun and exciting. An event that connects people and doesn’t leave anyone cold.

 

The mascot J-Bear warming up. © Bruno Posa.

The mascot J-Bear warming up. © Bruno Posa.

How pure arctic nature was brought to the ice hole

Nordic herb business Arctic Warriors attended to Polar Bear Pitching 2016. Tuija Kauppinen, Sales and Marketing Manager from Arctic Warriors had great time with their team on the event days!

As far as wild and grazy ideas are concerned, we at Arctic Warriors are in! That’s why we found ourselves at the Polar Bear Pitching 2016.
As our business is to turn Lappish herbs into tasty and healthy products, we were a bit worried we would be “weirdos” amongst all the tech companies. How wrong we were!
Already the application process was great fun! We shot in several locations in Lapland in freezing temperatures which was well worth the effort as we got selected!
Tuija from Arctic Warriors pitching from the ice hole

Tuija from Arctic Warriors pitching from the ice hole

The warm-up event was great fun and a natural way to forget titles and to get to know each other. Of course it was nice to win to race, too!
As far as the more serious program goes, the workshop held by Jennifer Hicks, journalist at Forbes, was one of the best I’ve ever been to. Highly professional talk with real life examples and onsite coaching on how to pitch international media was straight to the point.
And then came the pitch in the icy water. Balancing between horror and humor, I chose the last one and decided to enjoy the crowd, jury, cameras and blowing wind. Enjoyed it so much I forgot the icy water altogether! It as was an experience I will never forget. Jennifer Hicks thanking me for excellent pitch was an icing to the cake!
A nice spin off after the event was to give a comment to Businessweek Magazine on my experience in pitching in an ice hole.
I can nothing but warmly recommend this cool event!
-Tuija Kauppinen, Arctic Warriors