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

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

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. 

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

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

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

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. 

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. 

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

Photographer: Aapo Huhta

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.

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