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