Recently, I blogged about Audiobus, and the success of its collaborative approach to app development. So last week, I attended a very entertaining “pitch’n'pizza” evening for start-ups, to see what other interesting things are going on in app and content development. The event was organised by Lean Startup Melbourne and hosted by inspire9. Other support came from BlueChilli, General Assembly, Startup Leadership, PlayFi and Kussowski Brothers.
The idea was a mix of Open Mic Night, and “Dragons’ Den” – 6 start-ups presented their pitch to a panel of VC’s and angel investors, in front of an audience of 300+ friends, colleagues, hangers-on and curious onlookers all fuelled by free beer and pizza.
Melbourne is something of a “Silicon Laneway” – not quite a valley, but more of an alley, given the city’s landscape of back streets and converted warehouses that are fostering a culture of start-ups, digital creatives and social media entrepreneurs.
On the night, the 6 hopefuls that presented were:
- Tablo – a self-publishing platform for authors – sort of Bandcamp for books, but with even better content distribution
- PetHomeStay – an on-line booking system for pet owners who want to leave their animals with a trusted pet lover while they are on holiday
- CareMonkey – an app that shares childrens’ health care needs with relatives, schools and sporting clubs, so that teachers, coaches and carers have relevant support information at their fingertips
- CoinJar – a platform that enables consumers and merchants to transact with Bitcoin
- Fairshare – an app designed to take the hassle out of shared living (but not to be confused with FairShare….?)
- SwatchMate – a combined app and smart phone device for matching colours, primarily for painting and decorating
Each presentation was of a very high quality, although some were more polished and rehearsed than others, and only a couple really shone through in terms of having both a great idea and a great commercial offering.
The questions asked by the panel of experts provided some helpful insights on what makes a successful or engaging pitch:
- Why? Having a personal experience resonates, and can avoid the awkward “is this a solution in search of a problem?”
- Competitors? What makes you different – smarter? cheaper? quicker? Are you truly disruptive or innovative? Or have you just designed a better mousetrap?
- Commercialisation? Show me the money! What’s the business model? Where is the revenue coming from? (“Simple is not always best, but best is always simple”)
- Customers vs Users? If the paying customer is actually different to the end-user, then make sure this is clear and you have a strategy to connect the dots and to monetize the key part of the transaction
- Real world vs On-line? Are you replicating something which already happens in the real world? Can real world transactions easily dis-intermediate your on-line business model?
- App or Website? Is it a dedicated app, or is it a website that works well on mobile devices? Going for a well-designed website may be cheaper, and lead to greater/faster customer adoption.
And in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I would add that the essence of all of these new businesses is having interesting content and a meaningful way for people to engage and transact with it.
At the end of the presentations, the panel selected their favourite pitch (the winner getting the chance of a meeting with the VC of their choice), while the audience voted for the people’s choice. Not surprisingly, the panel went with CoinJar, while the people went for Tablo (which also got my vote).
Disclosure: The author does not have any connection to or commercial relationship with the presenters or sponsors mentioned in this blog. He didn’t even get there in time for a free slice of pizza or bottle of beer.