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Sales pitching while polar bear swimming

An Oulu-based company meets every lunch hour in the icy winter waters of Northern Finland to hone their sales pitches in English. They're one of 20 companies gearing up for an international pitching contest in the water that pairs companies with potential investors in Oulu in February.

Video: Avantouinti
Laturi Corporation's employees practice sales pitches in the Oulujoki river.

Imagine your boss calling regular team meetings in the water –  in the winter – in Northern Finland, where the average air temperature is between -5 and -20 degrees Celsius. At Oulu's Laturi Corporation, a wellness company, that's exactly what they do. Half a dozen of the company's employees (pictured in the video) go for a daily lunch time dip to practice and hone pitching ideas and products in English.

Laturi’s enthusiasm was sparked by the Polar Bear Pitching event that takes place on February 7 in Oulu and will be broadcast via the social media to audiences around the world. Polar Bear Pitching bills itself as an “unparallelled pitching competition” that “offers the coolest stage on the globe for start-ups.” As the water temperature is on average about 1 degree Celsius during the winter months, participants can present their ideas for as long as they can stay in the water, which is usually less than a minute.

Polar pitching

With several partners including Oulu Business Kitchen, the universities’ entrepreneurship hub, the pitching event will include participants from companies marketing their products and services and private equity investors.

In many pitching events (on land), it's common that companies only have a few minutes to get their message across to potential investors. But in this unique format, the added challenge is that participants can only talk while they're in the water.

“The first dip into the water is only a few seconds long. In such cold water the first reaction is to get out quickly,” says Laturi Corporation’s Niina Palmu.

Then, gradually mind and body get used to being in the water for a slightly longer stretch. But it's still a very short time, which means that those practicing for the event quickly learn to hone their pitch.

“What you want to say when you’re in the water needs to be very carefully thought out in advance. Everything unnecessary is left out. Let’s see if I even remember to greet all of the participants or if I go directly to my speech,” says Palmu, with a laugh. Twenty start-ups have signed up for the event.

Oulu has been named as one of the top ten startup cities in the world by international media including Fortune magazine and CNN.

Winter swimming or ice swimming is practiced by about 120,000 people in Finland. It's believed to relieve stress, and leave both mind and body relaxed. Usually a short dip - 30 seconds is considered ideal - in the water is followed by a warm-up session in a sauna.

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