Startups Pitch VCs From Freezing Water

Proof that entrepreneurs will do almost anything for funding: In early February, representatives of 20 startups from around the world traveled to Oulu, Finland, as finalists in Polar Bear Pitching, one of two annual competitions run by Midnight Pitch Fest, a nonprofit event organizer. Each finalist jumped into an ice hole and, submerged in zero-Celsius water, presented ideas to a jury of potential investors. Photographs by Aapo Huhta for Bloomberg Businessweek

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    The J-Bear—the word for “polar bear” in Finnish is “jääkarhu”—is the event mascot. 

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    Samuel Kuosmanen (left) of ElfGroup makes cotton candy for the Polar Bear Pitching participants during the day; Mira Anttinen (middle) of Nortal chats with the J-Bear. 

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    Among the spectators were former engineers at Nokia, whose mobile phone division once called Oulu home.

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    Carl Kempendorf, founder and chief technology officer of Vessla, under the water after his turn in the ice hole. 

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    Charles Adams Jr., U.S. ambassador to Finland, joined Canada’s ambassador (not pictured) to open the show.

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    Tuija Kauppinen of health food company Arctic Warriors spent more than two minutes in the water for her pitch. “My adrenaline was running so high, I totally forgot the icy water,” she said. 

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    Lars Gjølme from Voico relaxes in a hot tub after his performance in the ice hole. The hot tub was brought for the competitors to get warm again. 

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    Omodara Gbotemi of Fineria Energy, which designed a sustainable generator.

    Photographer: Aapo Huhta

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    Norway’s FlowMotion Technologies won the €10,000 ($11,000) top prize for its GoPro stabilizer. The afterparty of the event was held at the Radisson Blu Hotel Oulu.

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    Jason Brower is the J-Bear, the official mascot of the Polar Bear Pitching event.