Pitching from an ice hole in Finland

Polar  Bear Pitching 2016 is a global investment event where over the course of 2 days startups from different countries introduce their projects to the whole world – from a freezing ice hole in Oulu, Finland.  We interviewed Anna Svirelkina from To Round about her experience.

The event, which is held yearly, allows competing startups to communicate with investors and go to workshops. The year, workshops were held by Forbes, Startup100, Inventure, Unity and SME.  And of course, there is a pitching competition.

The top 20 startups compete for the grand prize of €10,000 while standing in an ice hole. Just for the reference – the temperature of the water in Oulu was 0°C!


How was To Round founded? Who are the founders? How big is the team now?

We are a team of creative, business people with vast array of ideas, projects and tasks. We need to intelligently manage our time.  We tried many different task managers, but none of the existing solutions answered our demands. That is why we decided to create a task manager, which will satisfy all our needs. The idea became a challenging task for us, since on the one hand, we wanted our to-do app to be a full-fledged task manager, and on the other – we needed a solution that is very simple and easy to use. Another important thing we kept in mind while designing our task manager is that just a quick glance at the main screen should give you an idea of how important a task is. After a series of brainstorming sessions, we created our unique main screen – the funnel, where each task is shown as a bubble and the task importance is represented by the bubble size, the bigger the bubble the more important is the task to be done. The title To Round reflects the concept of a task manager where tasks are represented as bubbles.

We are a highly competent team of experts, developed and organized the launch of several successful projects while 5 years of working as a team. Now, our team includes 10 people. Alexander, our founder, more than 10 years of IT management skills. Anna, marketing expert. Mikhail, marketing expert. Andrew, marketing expert. Tanya, lead designer. Victoria, interpreter. Ekaterina, project manager. Egor, core developer. Daria, iOS developer. Max, android developer.


What do you want to achieve within the next 3 years?

In the nearest future we will translate the service to 13 languages. By 2016, we plan to attract 100,000 users and start the monetization. Then, we plan to scale our project.


What was the goal for To Round to participate in the pitching competition at polar bear pitching comps in general?

We wanted to attract new users and got some advice about together work with investors. Our team regularly participates in different events like the SLUSH and the PolarBearPitching. We learnt about the PolarBearPitching at the SLUSH. So, we wanted to participate in the event. But we understood that we had little chance, because the jury had to choose between 20 startups from around the world. To get into the final 20, we made a short inspirational greeting video in English. I just told about our friendly team and the challenges I overcome in my entrepreneurial life. When I opened an invitation email, I didn’t believe it. To make sure we were in, I read the email twice. The jury selected us and invited us to Oulu, Finland.


What is the most difficult part of the pitching, and what did you enjoy about it?

The culmination of the event was the speech from the ice hole. Of course, I was cold. Especially considering, that I had never ever dipped into an ice hole before. I understood that I had completely frozen after 15 seconds. At that moment, I faltered. But there was my team right beside me, and I felt their support and excitement for me. It gave me the strength, so I was able to concentrate and finish the presentation. By the way, by the end of the speech, I did not feel the cold already. This is a great victory over myself. Now, I harden to the freeze and I am going to take part in the PBP next year.


What advice you would give for others who want to participate in 2017?

Harden to the freeze and practice! You can arrive earlier at Oulu and practice dive into an ice hole. Present to your friends, team and to unknown people. Check how much time it takes to do the pitch.