StartupSmart’s first ever pitching competition, So You Think You Can Start-up, is on tomorrow night. The 10 finalists are competing for a raft of great prizes, including a year’s office space anywhere in the world with sponsor Servcorp valued at $250,000. The business-to-business start-ups will be pitching in front of a distinguished panel of judges including entrepreneur and founder of Kogan Technologies, Ruslan Kogan, Sydney Seed Fund partner Garry Visontay and start-up expert Dr Jana Matthews. The event will be webcast live from 6.30pm, Thursday, February 6 and can be seen by registering here and the list of finalists can be viewed here. StartupSmart received over 100 entries to the competition from a range of industries including enterprise software, consulting, agriculture and outsourcing. The majority of start-ups were one or two years old, with 40% launching in 2013 and 36% in 2012.
High-profile entrepreneurs and investors Garry Visontay, Benjamin Chong and Ari Klinger have joined forces to launch a new $2 million seed funding venture. The Sydney Seed Fund is looking to invest in 20 tech start-ups companies over the next two to three years. Garry Visontay told StartupSmart the trio had identified a funding gap they believe is holding back the Australian tech start-up sector over a year ago. “We saw this vacuum for a fund working at a very early stage. We thought this would be a great vehicle to provide some financial return but also, importantly, to keep the Australian start-up sector growing,” says Visontay. The fund has already received over 25 applications since launching earlier this week. In return for the funding, the Sydney Seed Fund will receive a minority stake in the companies they invest in. Each investment company will receive $50,000 to $150,000. “It’s not designed to be the only investment, but it’s meant to come in at a critical time,” says Visontay. They’re looking for globally scalable businesses that are young (18 months or younger preferred) but ready for investment. “We’re not investing in someone’s idea. We’re looking to invest in them getting to the point where they have the ability to begin earning dollars with their team. They will need to have got their team in place and have their technology prototype completed, or very near to completion,” says Visontay. “Critically, show us how you’re going to make money. A lot of business ideas get off the ground and their founders have lots of enthusiasm, but they haven’t worked out how their model will actually make money.” Visontay says the fund is interested in investing in companies with a founding team of two or three, rather than a single person company. “Getting a tech start-up off the ground is really hard, and a team with two to three gives you greater depth and capacity to grow,” says Visontay. “The skill set is important. In that founding team we’re looking for entrepreneurial skills and business acumen. We’re looking for technical and development skills, and that’s usually the two person combination. The third person is usually domain expertise.” The investment is designed to help businesses work out how to scale their business. Visontay says the Sydney Seed Fund anticipates the funds will be used for experimenting, sales and marketing, adding some resources and developing their scaling model. Visontay urges start-ups not to apply until they’re ready. “Don’t come to us too early. Come to us with your team and your technology ready,” he says. “It’s very exciting to be exposed to so many new business ideas and the whole start up scene in Australia is just gathering more and more momentum. It’s rewarding to be able to provide some funding and assistance to these businesses to get them off the ground.” He says the fund expects to announce its first investments within a few months.
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