Ice-breaking spectacle based on the Finns’ love of all things frozen

OULU, FINLAND: You would be forgiven for thinking that Polar Bear Pitching – start-ups and growing companies taking turns to present to investors while standing in a freezing water-filled ice hole in the Baltic Sea – is yet another spin off Dragons’ Den-style event. But for the Finnish city of Oulu, this annual spectacle, which draws its participants from far away, has become one of the more visible steps towards economic resurrection, following the global collapse of Nokia’s once mighty Mobile Devices.

Polar Bear Pitching is an ice-breaking event offering start-ups literally the coolest possible stage for pitching; a hole cut through the ice in the frozen Baltic Sea. Included in Polar Bear Pitching are world class workshops and talks that will inspire you to aim even higher.

Big ambitions. But for the relatively small city of Oulu and its 250,000 inhabitants, the reaction of Nokia collapse and the resulting challenge has been refocused into an opportunity – and the community has very big ambitions. The city has begun wooing global companies to invest in its local businesses and the pitch competition draw positive attention to Oulu.

Held in February and the middle of winter, Polar Bear Pitching celebrates the city´s overlooked attributes – the cold winter and darkness that takes over for nine months every year. The event also appeals to general public and real-world key to the success of any start-up.

A furry Polar Bear. Oulu is getting a lot of attention which is helping the city share it’s “open for business” message with the world, helped in part by an unlikely focal point for entrepreneurial endeavour – a polar bear, the furry-faced mascot of the Polar Bear Pitching event, known locally as J-Bear, the event volunteer and networker Jason Brower.

Polar Bear Pitching is an annual event based on the Finns’ love of all things frozen – from ice swimming, ice fishing to plunging into ice cold water for no logical reason.

Advice. Here are some cold advices for next winter’s happening: If you suffer from high blood pressure, please consult with your doctor. Warm up thoroughly before going in the icy water. You might feel like you can’t breathe. Relax, that’s only normal and harmless. It will pass.

The event is organised and delivered by a team of enthusiastic volunteers who give up their free time to plan and run the annual pitching activity. After the ice cold plunging is over, there is an evening event of hospitality, networking and keynote speakers, as well as a finale awards presentation ceremony for the day’s best pitches. The winner walked off with a cold, hard-won 10,000 euros.

The best part about Polar Bear Pitching; You don´t have to be a finalist to enjoy all these things. It was a cool experience and as the Finnish promised – they didn´t leave us cold!

Make it Happen!

Touch Down: Travel to Oulu by Finnair. Norwegian fly to Oulu from Helsinki

Stay: Stay at Lapland Hotel, located in the centre of the city. This is an elegant 4-star hotel with a modern restaurant, sauna and indoor pool and a cosy bar.

Eat: Ravintola Hugo serves local food with innovative flavour. Ravintolahugo.fi

Play: Jump into the icy water. The normal time for this bizarre performance is 2 minutes and 40 seconds

Mini Guide: It was overwhelming and shocking. It´s icy cold and nudging at your concentration", one of the finalists told.

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