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Start-ups highlight lessons learnt at Advance Innovation pitch-fest

Monday, 18 February 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

Entrepreneurs have spoken of their experiences at the “start-up pitch-fests” held for the Advance Innovation Program, highlighting the importance of preparation and the structure of your pitch.


The Advance Innovation Program gives Australian start-ups the opportunity to be mentored by successful Australians in the United States, and network with top-tier incubators, accelerators and investors in Silicon Valley.


Last week, a series of pitching sessions were held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The participants were pitching for a place in the 2013 Advance Innovation Program.


At these pitching sessions, companies were given just five minutes to convince a panel of serial entrepreneurs and investors why their technology has what it takes to play on the global stage.


The panel included Commercialisation Australia chief Doron Ben-Meir, Inspire9 founder Nathan Sampimon, Adventure Capital founder Stuart Richardson, and Starfish Ventures investment director Malcolm Thornton.


In each city, around 11 companies pitched. But only 25 will be selected for the program, which kicks off in April.


In Melbourne, the panel heard from Alison Hardacre, co-founder and managing director of HealthKit, which brings together health practitioners and patients throughout the world.


“We have a general pitch that we use but we realised that, for most start-up businesses, everything is changing all the time,” Hardacre told StartupSmart.


“[We decided to modify] that general pitch – that’s how we prepared.


“We’ve also been doing a lot of pitching competitions over the last little while so we were pretty comfortable with it. [However,] I think the judges at this pitching event were really quite knowledgeable about technology.”


In this respect, Hardacre says it pays to find out who you’re pitching to. You also need to think about the structure of your pitch, she says.


“We had some feedback from the panel and Doron came back to us and had some really helpful advice. He said we undersold ourselves a bit,” she says.


“We kind of left the bit out about where we were up to in the market, our ambitions, and the kind of strong platform we’ve developed.


“Last year, we won an iAward award. We left that bit till last… Doron said if we’d put that first, we would have had everyone’s attention.”


Andrew Dowling, who pitched about his start-up Tapestry at the Sydney event, says the challenges for each business are different.


“What we find more of a challenge is our product is reasonably easy to get but understanding why that’s important… is not as clear to people,” he says.


“That’s very hard for me to fit [into a five-minute pitch]. I have to talk very quickly to squeeze it all into that timeframe.”


Ultimately, Dowling says it all comes down to preparation.


“Overall, the thing I would take away from the whole thing would be the importance of being well prepared,” he says.


“There were a few pitches where the people needed a little bit more practice.”