Building brand from icehole

Building a strong brand starts with establishing credibility and a story that people care about.

By Minna Törmälä

The biggest challenge every startup faces is the lack of credibility. Imagine yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur with little or no track record trying to convince investors, partners and customers about a business idea that is not even yet a proven concept.

Without credibility, there is no business, and in the case of a startup, the credibility comes down to the people behind it. More than the idea itself, it is the human capital of the individuals in the team and their perceived capability to execute the idea that counts when investors evaluate the business potential of a startup. Any investment in a startup is, thus, ultimately an investment in the entrepreneurs.

Polar Bear Pitching competition, organised annually in Oulu Northern Finland, offers a unique arena for entrepreneurs to demonstrate their credibility. It puts early stage startups, and their sales skills, to the test in icy water. Without a doubt, establishing a credible business requires more than just a dip in an ice hole. However, delivering a convincing sales pitch while standing waist deep in an ice-cold water in front of industry experts, investors and a global live stream audience is an act that shows courage and persistence. All the entrepreneurs who have managed to pull it through earn special respect.

Polar Bear Pitching adds a page in a startup’s story

Michal Hubschmann, the founder of Relevancy Data, felt that pitching from the ice hole gave credibility to her personality. She had never been in an ice hole before, but she showcased real perseverance as she practised three weeks in Tel Aviv, Israel by buying bags of ice and filling her hot tub with the ice. Her cool-headed performance was not left unnoticed. Many investors and experts contacted her after the event and offered help to develop her business.


For Michal Hubschmann, the founder of Relevancy Data, the challenge was a symbolic way to showcase how entrepreneurs will push through hard times. (photo: Henri Luoma Photography)

Getting the first investors or industry experts on board to partner with a startup is a huge vote of confidence in what they do and represents a major turning point that helps to set the wheels in motion. Well-respected investors and experts as partners give leverage to small startups, promote confidence and act as “door openers”. For Asmo Saloranta, the founder of Asmo Charger, a snowball effect started at Polar Bear Pitching in 2014. A week after his pitch in the ice hole leading mobile phone manufacturers started calling him. He also met his current CEO, Marc Dillon, at the event.


Asmo Saloranta managed to capture the essence of his product during the short time he stood waist deep in ice-cold water on a stage carved in the frozen Baltic Sea. (Photo: Henri Luoma photography).

A strong brand not only needs to be credible but also something people can relate to. A good story gives a business the soul and the personality, which makes it meaningful to others. In addition to the reputation of a persistent entrepreneur, Polar Bear Pitching gives its participants an unforgettable story that will be told onwards and won’t leave anyone cold.

Polar Bear Pitching gives early stage startups a stepping stone for a breakthrough. The winner of 2016 event Didrik Dege Dimmen from FlowMotion Technologies, Norway, testifies: “Polar Bear Pitching was a great boost for our company. The money was of course helpful, but the attention we got was overwhelming”. Indeed it gave them a great kickstart for their business – 8 months later their Kickstarter campaign reached its goal in an hour. Half-way through their ongoing campaign, they had reached the goal 11 fold.


Didrik Dege Dimmen, FlowMotion Technologies, presents their smartphone stabilizer that captures smooth, cinematic videos. (photo: Juha Sarkkinen)

Polar Bear Pitching will be organised for the fourth time in Oulu, Finland on February 14-15th 2017.

The application period for startups is open until January 8. 12 startups will be selected based on the applications to the live-streamed finals on February 15th and three startups get in through the dark horse competition organised in Oulu the day before. Also, Polar Bear Pitching offers exciting meetups, keynotes, and workshops worth attending. The detailed program will be announced in January.

Minna Törmälä is a marketing PhD with years of research on branding startups