Five top Australian start-up pitching events
The founder of Dolphin Tank, a new support network for female entrepreneurs, caused a bit of a stir this week by claiming that start-up pitching events were male-centric.
Wendy Simpson singled out Startup Bus – a concept that involves cramming techies into a travelling bus and letting them create new businesses – as being indicative of an “approach (that) seems to be based on a kind of testosterone, pumped up ‘We have to win, we’ll kill the competition’ [mindset].”
“Women often care about how the other competitors are faring as well.”
Whether Simpson is correct in her analysis or not, it’s fair to say that Australian start-ups have more choice than ever before if they want to pitch their idea to potential investors.
So if you’re struggling to get in front of the right decision makers that can help take your idea to the next level, why not try out one of these five pitching opportunities?
1. Innovation Bay
In the sprightly world of start-up pitching events, Innovation Bay is something of a grizzled veteran. The angel dinner and pitch sessions have been running since 2003, commands a 600-strong network of entrepreneurs and has helped raise $6 million for budding entrepreneurs.
Having recently expanded to Brisbane from its Sydney base, Innovation Bay’s process remains pretty simple – have breakfast or lunch, listen to a guest speaker or two and then pitch your idea to a panel of investors.
Founders Ian Gardiner, CEO of Viocorp and Phaedon Stough, CEO of Mitchellake Consulting, have created a valuable fixture on the start-up pitching scene, facilitating a first glimpse of businesses such as Spreets, which went on to be purchased by Yahoo7 for $40 million.
2. PushStart’s Mentor Live!
Throwing yourself into the pitching bear pit doesn’t have to just be in the quest to secure much-needed funds for your business.
Last year, start-up accelerator PushStart introduced the concept of mentor "speed dating" to Australia, encouraging aspiring business builders to have whirlwind interactions with industry experts.
Budding entrepreneurs are allowed to book up to three, 15-minute sessions with different mentors. They then have to get across their idea, answer questions and take any criticism on the chin in the allocated time.
Three Mentor Live! events took place in 2011, across Sydney and Melbourne, comprising a total of more than 400 mentoring sessions.
Even if you don’t get a priceless nugget of advice for your business, the process should at least allow you to sharpen your pitch up from a flabby waffle to a well-honed sales spiel.
If you quite like the idea of dreaming up a business over the course of just two days, but are terrified about the prospect of pitching it under the steely glare of angels and VCs, you should probably avoid Launch48.
The concept was introduced to Melbourne last year, with a follow-up in Sydney held in Atlassian’s offices.
Launch48 will return to Melbourne on June 1 with an even greater focus on the pitching element – an area that organisers feel is a weak spot among many Australian start-ups.
“Speaking to angels and VCs, there’s a strong concern that start-ups just don’t spend enough time pitching their idea," says organiser Daniel May.
"They are so focused on building their idea that they don’t practice pitching it.”
“This event will help them realise that pitching is an important process. We will streamline the pitches so that they are more focused on the pitch, rather than being a talkfest.”
4. Startup Weekend
For the slouches among you, Startup Weekend offers a longer period than Launch48 in which to device, plan and execute a new business – a luxurious 54 hours.
The global Startup Weekend concept landed in Australia last year and has since spread to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The event requires plenty of innovation and thinking on your feet, but the rewards are decent – successful pitches win funding and support for teams. Competition is fierce, with one former Startup Weekend Sydney winner recently stressing that participants should arrive armed with an idea beforehand.
5. What’s your big idea Queensland?
Who said Queensland was a mining-only state? Fast-growth start-ups also have the opportunity to have their ideas recognised via the state government’s ‘What’s your big idea?’ program.
Launched in 2010, the $5.5 million program offers start-ups across the state $50,000 to commercialise their ideas.
An artificial heart and a modular bathroom for the mining industry were among the 31 innovations to secure funding in the latest funding round.
Want a piece of the action? The program accepts written submissions, but why not go for the three-minute video pitch option?