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Entrepreneurs dip into ice water to attract investors in Finland

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An entrepreneur pitches her business at the Polar Bear Pitching event in Oulu on February 29th
Björk Brynjarsdóttir from Melta: event was a fun way to get the message out about what we are doing | Photo: Marcio Delgado

With temperatures hovering around -3°C on the leap day of 2024, the weather was almost too warm for the Polar Bear Pitching, an annual competition taking place in Oulu, Finland, where startups pitched to investors from an ice hole in the Baltic Sea. But for those wearing summer outfits to present their ideas, the freezing water was as challenging as running a new enterprise.

Startups from several countries presented their ideas throughout a two-hour event organized by BusinessOulu, a local initiative responsible for implementing the city’s industry and employment policies.

One of the several companies descending on Oulu, a city 600 km from Helsinki, was Melta, a startup from Iceland offering a circular solution for waste management in rural municipalities by brewing fertilizer from food waste. The company was founded by Björk Brynjarsdóttir, a former facilitator and service designer in both software and urban development.

“There were a handful of reasons why we attended it, but the biggest one is that this is a fun way to get the message out about what we are doing. Our company focuses specifically on addressing the unique challenges of waste management in rural municipalities at northern latitudes. Participating in the event in Oulu provided us with the opportunity to connect with individuals from similar regions, learn about their communities, and explore potential collaborations. Additionally, traveling and meeting fellow startups is a great source of inspiration for us. The diverse perspectives and problem-solving approaches we encounter help us refine our own strategies and storytelling techniques. Each person we meet offered valuable insights into their worldview, enriching our understanding and engagement with our own narrative,” says Brynjarsdóttir. In the weeks leading up to the event, she prepared herself by training in a cold tub at her local swimming pool, and her startup managed to secure third place in the competition on February 29th.

Another startup vying for the judges’ attention – and the 10,000 Euros cash prize – was Arlan Biotech from Kazakhstan. Co-founder Dauken Seitaki, an AI engineer, decided to apply after watching videos of previous Polar Bear Pitching events on YouTube.

“It was our first time taking part in the Polar Bear Pitching competition, and we are very glad we did it. As a startup, we are not afraid of anything, and despite the challenge, pitching at an event such as this one may attract attention from EU customers too,” says Seitaki.

“I trained myself by taking cold showers for about a week. I also had a chance to rehearse in a real ice hole provided by the organizers to be aware of what to expect in the main event. It is not easy but possible to do and definitely not even close to cold showers.”

Originally from Japan and with over 20 years of experience in international business development, Kumiko Takimoto joined computer programmer Hiroshi Doyu to pitch NinjaLabo, a startup making AI models more affordable by compressing big AI models to run efficiently.

“The Finnish startup ecosystem is really supportive and with nice people. After the collapse of Nokia, I made the decision to remain in Finland, where last year I founded NinjaLabo. Our mission is to democratize artificial intelligence as the current costs of AI training and infrastructure are substantial and primarily controlled by large tech companies. However, with our technology, we can streamline AI models, making them more efficient and affordable. It will give any company the ability to explore artificial intelligence,” says Doyo, who spent 18 years at Nokia.

Doyu and Takimoto, from NinjaLabo: own startup after leaving Nokia | Photo: Marcio Delgado


After working in the same industry for many years, I am excited about our new journey, exploring new ways to provide solutions for the artificial intelligence field. Training by the river ahead of the pitching night was really cool. There was a stream of really cold fresh water, and I was getting worried about the competition. However, we received many tips from local companies on how to perform well even while pitching in ice water, which made the challenge less worrying,” says Kumiko Takimoto, who has been visiting Finland since 2006.

Seitaki, Takimoto and Doyu were not the only ones training the night before to boost their chances of getting to the end of their business presentations in freezing conditions at the Polar Bear Pitching.

I caught up with Aura Pyykönen the day before the event, as she also spent the evening training in a smaller ice hole to prepare for her Polar Bear Pitching performance. Aura, an obstetrician and gynecologist who has worked in women’s hospitals in both Finland and Sweden, was getting ready to pitch Natal Mind, a startup offering assistance for calmer pregnancies and better perinatal care.

The next day, we met again backstage, an hour ahead the event on February 29th. She would end up being the first-place winner.

“It is my personal passion to improve women’s health in general, and I see birth as a fundamental part of the whole well-being journey of being a woman. Winning was great not only because it gives us more visibility to our goals and media exposure, but also because of the bit of money – which will be used to develop our idea even further and probably help us secure more investment so we can scale up the project and make Natal Mind available internationally,” says Pyykönen.

Mia Kemppaala launched the Polar Bear Pitching 10 years ago | Photo: Marcio Delgado

For Mia Kemppaala, founder of Polar Bear Pitching, the event was a success from day one due to the positive reception it received when she found herself on the pitching side.

“When I got the idea for Polar Bear Pitching, I immediately called a colleague and shared it with him. There was a brief moment of silence on the other end of the line. But then, after the pause, he said, ‘Yes, this is amazing, let’s do it.’ After that, we had the entire city, I would say, working with us; everyone was on board. People really wanted to contribute from day one. The collective feeling was that it was something we would be proud to showcase to the world.

Oulu is the right-sized city in the sense that it’s easy to attract an audience from grassroots level upwards. Then, all the organizations within the city came together to make the event happen: the university, the city hall, entrepreneurs, startups, and volunteers,” recalls Mia.

To find out more about the Polar Bear Pitching and to watch the full streaming, head to: www.polarbearpitching.com

Marcio Delgado traveled to Finland at the invitation of BusinessOulu to cover the Polar Bear Pitching event

Marcio Delgado is a Journalist, Producer and Influencer Marketing Manager working with brands and publications in Europe, America and Asia.

Business

Event brings entrepreneurs together to talk the future of tech in the UK

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Spotify has assembled entrepreneurs and trailblazers for a series of thought-provoking conversations alongside a group of influencers, commentators, and policymakers. Dustee Jenkins, Chief Public Affairs Officer at Spotify, hosted the evening at the company’s HQ in London. To kick things off, Jenkins sat down with Brent Hoberman, who cofounded the online travel and leisure retailer lastminute.com in 1998. “Primarily what is organic here [in the UK] is talent,” he noted. “There is a huge depth of talent. It’s one of the highest densities of top corporates: Those corporates actually educate and train talent, and a lot of that talent wants to work at startups. You’ve got talent, capital and skills.” Spotify’s Co-President and Chief Business Officer Alex Norström then sat down with venture capitalist Harry Stebbings, host of The Twenty Minute VC podcast. Harry launched the podcast as a teenager in 2015 and has since interviewed thousands of investors, entrepreneurs, and startup founders. The two unpacked how founders can overcome barriers to growth in today’s tech sector, and Harry asked Alex what he likes about London. “I’m impressed by the passion of London,” Alex replied. “I came here thinking I was going to get a lot of rain. I got vibrancy and dynamism, both culturally as well as in business.” The event also featured her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York – founder of BY-EQ and Vice President of Partnerships and Strategy at Afiniti - hosting a fireside chat with Priya Dogra, Former President of WarnerBros Discovery for EMEA, and Sakshi Chhabra Mittal, founder and CEO of Foodhak, a science-based meal delivery service. The three discussed the impact tech is having on mission-driven companies and strategies for designing businesses in the modern age, as well as how to bring more women into tech. Exceeding £1 trillion, the UK’s technology market is the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world. The country has been an important piece of the Spotify puzzle since it launched in 2008. Nowadays as one of our biggest research and development hubs, it’s where the company experiment with some of its newest launches and products, including audiobooks in Premium, video-based learning courses, and, most recently, AI Playlist. Spotify’s success in the U.K. is due in large part to the country’s open, connected, and competitive economy.
Spotify has assembled entrepreneurs and trailblazers for a series of conversations in London

Spotify has assembled entrepreneurs and trailblazers for a series of thought-provoking conversations alongside a group of influencers, commentators, and policymakers. Dustee Jenkins, Chief Public Affairs Officer at Spotify, hosted the evening at the company’s HQ in London.

To kick things off, Jenkins sat down with Brent Hoberman, who cofounded the online travel and leisure retailer lastminute.com in 1998.

“Primarily what is organic here [in the UK] is talent,” he noted. “There is a huge depth of talent. It’s one of the highest densities of top corporates: Those corporates actually educate and train talent, and a lot of that talent wants to work at startups. You’ve got talent, capital and skills.”

Spotify’s Co-President and Chief Business Officer Alex Norström then sat down with venture capitalist Harry Stebbings, host of The Twenty Minute VC podcast. Harry launched the podcast as a teenager in 2015 and has since interviewed thousands of investors, entrepreneurs, and startup founders. The two unpacked how founders can overcome barriers to growth in today’s tech sector, and Harry asked Alex what he likes about London.

“I’m impressed by the passion of London,” Alex replied. “I came here thinking I was going to get a lot of rain. I got vibrancy and dynamism, both culturally as well as in business.”

The event also featured her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York – founder of BY-EQ and Vice President of Partnerships and Strategy at Afiniti – hosting a fireside chat with Priya Dogra, Former President of WarnerBros Discovery for EMEA, and Sakshi Chhabra Mittal, founder and CEO of Foodhak, a science-based meal delivery service. The three discussed the impact tech is having on mission-driven companies and strategies for designing businesses in the modern age, as well as how to bring more women into tech.

Exceeding £1 trillion, the UK’s technology market is the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world. The country has been an important piece of the Spotify puzzle since it launched in 2008. Nowadays as one of our biggest research and development hubs, it’s where the company experiment with some of its newest launches and products, including audiobooks in Premium, video-based learning courses, and, most recently, AI Playlist.

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What is credit invisibility and how can it affect your finances?

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A woman paying groceries with cash
Only paying in cash will make it difficult to build a credit history and may make you may be credit invisible

If you’ve never taken out a loan or owned a credit card, you may be credit invisible. This means that financial institutions have no records to show that you’ve borrowed money responsibly in the past, which lenders largely rely on to approve you for financial products.

Everybody starts off with invisible credit. However, it can affect you in more ways than one, so it’s important to seek ways to build your credit history as early as you can. Here, we look at some of the effects of credit invisibility on your finances, and offer a few tips to start becoming credit visible.

Access to financial products

Before being approved for any kind of financial product in which you borrow an amount of money, a lender will run a credit check to ensure you have a good credit history. Usually, they’ll be looking to see that you have a high credit score – this would prove that you’ve borrowed money responsibly in the past, and have been able to continuously keep up with repayment obligations.

When you have no credit history for lenders to look at, it can make it harder to qualify for financial products. Your lender will know that you have no prior experience managing borrowed money, and therefore can’t for certain know that you’ll pay any amount back that you borrow. This can be true of all kinds of borrowing options, such as credit cards and loans.

Low limits, high fees

Ultimately, everyone starts off with limited or invisible credit history. So, there will always be a restricted number of financial products available to those looking to borrow for the first time.

However, you may not be offered the best deal if you’re credit invisible. For example, you might be offered a lower limit on a credit card you apply for, or a smaller sum of money on a loan. Plus, you’re likely to face higher interest fees than those who have a visible credit history.

Stagnated progression

Most people will need to borrow money from a lender at some point or another. Usually this will be to pay for a big life expense – you may be buying a house with a mortgage, or purchasing a car on finance. Having limited access to credit options can make goals like these much harder to work towards and obtain. Unfortunately, this could have a knock on effect on your overall quality of life.

Limited access to financial products means that you’ll largely have to rely on your own savings to make any big purchases – this could set you back years when it comes to owning a property.

How can you become credit visible?

Luckily, credit invisibility impacting your quality of life in the long-term is a worst-case scenario. As long as you take a proactive approach towards your finances, you can easily remedy your credit invisibility.

There are plenty of simple steps you can take to become credit visible – you can get on the electoral roll, link your current account to a credit reference agency, or take out a monthly mobile phone contract. These tasks won’t necessarily prove that you can borrow money responsibly, but they’re a good place to start.

Next, you’ll want to look into credit options. Taking out a credit card or loan with a low limit and a high interest rate can seem like an unappealing option, but as long as you can cope with the financial responsibility, it’ll be worth it in the long run. By sticking to your limit and repayment commitments, you’ll prove to your lender that you are a responsible borrower. In turn, this will be reflected on your credit report, and your credit history will begin to take shape. Using such a product responsibly is likely to boost your credit score rather swiftly, which can qualify you for further credit options. You may even find that after a set period of time, your lender is willing to increase your limit and offer a lower rate of interest on your product.

Getting started

Keen to start building your credit history? Do plenty of research on the products available to you before making any long-term commitment. To ensure that you can keep up with the financial responsibility, create a detailed financial plan for the best results.

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Extreme tourism market to reach $91 Billion

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Extreme Tourism Market to Reach $91.0 Billion
Mountain climbing held the highest extreme tourism market share in 2022 | Photo: Connor Moynihan

A recent report published by Allied Market Research forecasts that the global extreme tourism market, valued at $24.2 billion in 2022, could reach $91.0 billion by 2032.

The growing influence of social media is a powerful force surging demand in the extreme tourism market, which attracts travellers those leaving their comfort zones to engage in activities that are considered high-risk, adventurous, or unconventional, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and rock climbing. Thanks to platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, serving visuals and tutorials breathtaking adventures,

Travelers, inspired by visually appealing content on platforms such as Instagram and YouTube, are actively seeking out thrilling experiences to share on their own social networks, driving a sense of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) among younger demographics, compelling them to actively participate in adrenaline-pumping activities to create their shareable moments.

By adventure type, the mountain climbing segment held the highest market share in 2022, accounting for more the two-fifths of the global extreme tourism market revenue and is estimated to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period. However, the skydiving segment is projected to manifest the highest CAGR of 15.2% from 2023 to 2032.

25 to 45 years is the age group holding the highest market share since 2022, according to the report, accounting for more than two-fifths of the global extreme tourism market revenue. The segment is estimated to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period. However, by 2032 it will be below 25 years segment that is projected to have the highest CAGR: 15.3%.

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