#StartupVic launches new-look #pitch event

The team at Startup Victoria have been working hard over the summer: not only have they brought on a whole bunch of new commercial sponsors, but they have also launched a new format for their pitch nights. The idea is to invite startup founders to register their interest in pitching to a panel of judges. The contestants get the opportunity to compete in front of a live audience, for a chance to win face time with local VC’s, along with some other startup goodies.

global_446720634It’s not Shark Tank (there’s no hard cash on offer), nor is it an open mic night (there is a pre-screening and audition process) – but it does enable entrepreneurs to test their pitch, get some early exposure, and receive some great feedback and advice. It also doesn’t matter what stage the startups are at, although businesses that already have some market traction or have built and tested an MVP are probably in a better position to compete.

The launch night saw pitches from four startups, who are at various stages of development. In no particular order they were:

Ad Hoc Media with Passenger Pad, a digital Out Of Home advertising medium for taxis, using interactive touch screens inside the cab. To date, there has been a low take-up rate of this technology by the taxi industry in Australia, mainly due to regulatory issues, but the landscape is changing. With a background in taxi electronics and hardware, the founders are about to launch with 400 taxis in Melbourne, and plan to expand to other cities. There is no doubt that using a combination of passenger, location and fare data (duration, time of day, pick-up and drop-off points), the screens will be able to offer brands and their media buyers targeted audiences and in-depth customer analytics. The challenge will be to offer advertisers a competitive rate card, especially as this is essentially a new medium: it offers viewer choice like TV, can serve up targeted content like web or mobile, and is ideal for special offers linked to location and time of day.

Global Patient Portal offers a free platform for e-health records. Having already launched in Kolkata, India with 40,000 users signed up in 11 weeks, GPP is aiming at lower socio-economic communities and emerging markets. The initial business goal is simple: to support ownership of e-health records by users. Using a combination of bootstrapping and NGO funding, GPP has been able to hire a team of “scribes” in India who sit in on patient consultations and capture the medical notes, which can then be referred to at the next consultation. (Currently, a lot of time and resource is wasted because patient records are captured on paper, which is easily lost once the patient leaves the clinic.) Commercial revenue will come from selling anonymized patient data (subject to legal compliance, privacy obligations and data accuracy) for research and policy planning purposes. In choosing to launch in Kolkata, GPP was aware that in some more affluent urban communities in India, the favoured means of patient communication is WhatsApp?, so they would be less likely to adopt a separate platform. Also, in Australia, having talked to GPs about the various government attempts to establish the e-health system for patient records, I am aware of a reluctance within the medical profession to buy in to the scheme: first, there is no financial incentive for them to capture patient data via a common e-health platform; second, why would they want to share patient data with their competitors?

prevyou is aiming to disrupt a large part of the recruitment and job ad market, by directly connecting students with job opportunities at SMEs. The two-sided market effectively crowdsources available jobs from SMEs, who typically do not have access to the hiring market or to full-time and dedicated HR resources. The goal is to streamline the hiring process, and to offer a mix of standard and premium services (e.g., video resumes, applicant screening, skills matching, personality profiling etc.) and later to add validation of applicant credentials and qualifications. In return, the business will take a commission once a job has been offered and/or candidate hired. While the focus is initially on capturing the market for casual and part-time jobs, the judges urged them to look at the enterprise HR market (under an outsourcing or white label model?). Looking ahead, there is the opportunity include student internships (although, like the legal issues with Year 10 work experience, internships and placements present additional challenges such as achieving student learning outcomes and other employment law issues).

OurHome is an app to help families manage, share and track household chores, so that children learn to take some responsibility around the house, and they can get rewarded for their contribution. It emerged out of an earlier app, Fairshare, that was aimed at shared houses. Apparently, people living in shared houses don’t care enough about whose turn it is to clean the bathroom, or are happy with paper charts and lists on the fridge door. Describing itself as “an integral household tool with indirect network effects (i.e., like Google, not Facebook)”, OurHome also claims to be the #1 chores app. Using advanced algorithms, and other features such as customisation and Dropbox integration, the app also introduces an element of gamification through rewards (intrinsic and extrinsic). For busy families, it replaces those fridge notes and task charts (although, as the judges noted, there’s no calendar yet). Of particular interest is the very positive feedback the team have had from families who have children with ADD.

Despite a few technical glitches (concerning mics and audio quality), the first new-look pitch night was a success, and Global Patient Portal won the on-line audience vote. I was luck enough to meet with one of the teams a few days later. They thought it was a useful experience, but they hadn’t quite known what to expect, and they had anticipated more of a grilling from the judges and tougher questions from the audience.

Next week: More In The Moment




Making the most of the moment…

I’m the first to admit that I am not very good at practising meditation. It’s not that I don’t aspire to a state of mindfulness, but I sometimes find it hard to “be in the moment”. It does not come easily or naturally to me, because I’m often too busy thinking about the objective context, rather than the subjective conscious experience. So it was really interesting to see this photo of myself at last weekend’s Global Service Jam, organised by the Melbourne Jam Team at Swinburne Design Factory, and supported by Deloitte Digital, the School of Design Thinking and Huddle.

“This is where the magic happens…” (Photo by Johan Pang – image sourced from Twitter)

This photo was probably taken about halfway through the 48-hour event. Our team had got to the stage where we had articulated our problem statement (after much ideation…), scoped a solution model, done some validation through research and field interviews, and refined our key persona, all supported by some feedback from role-play and scenario testing. We had also just completed a lightning prototyping workshop, so the team needed to decide the overall form of our proposed service design solution, and reach agreement on the presentation format. Although there was so much still to do, we were at risk of revisiting things that had already been decided, because it felt like there was some remaining uncertainty about our prototype and some of the choices we had made along the way.

I don’t recall the exact “moment” (how imprecise a measure of time is that word?) but without realising it I found myself almost urging the team to stick with our existing decisions, and work through the remaining tasks based on the information we had to hand. It was a subconscious reaction to the message we had been given in the prototyping workshop about making decisions based on “the authority of the moment”. (Thank you, Rez Ntoumos!)

Sure, we weren’t having to make split-second, life-or-death decisions under enormous pressure, but if there was any “magic” here, it was probably about being able to be in the zone – the willingness to submit to the situation, to go with the flow. Throughout the weekend, we were advised not to fall in love with a particular idea or solution, but at the same time we were encouraged to get behind the team decisions and the options we chose – partly to sustain momentum, and partly to make sure we met the project deadlines!

There is a huge lesson here, because it goes some way to addressing the dilemma that many organisations face in making and implementing decisions (be they boards, policy makers, executive teams, startups, project managers, entrepreneurs, product developers or designers….). While it’s important to have robust decision-making processes, and it’s vital to consider all available data, the quality of any decision may not rest on whether it was the “best” choice to make, because usually only the benefit of hindsight can tell you that. If, however, at the time, it seemed like the right or appropriate choice, then in that moment it has to be the best-available decision.

Of course, there needs to be governance, transparency, authority and information to support, justify and legitimise the decision. Good decisions are usually those which can be fully articulated, the reasons easily communicated, and the implications clearly understood. Then once a choice has been made, the organisation or team that gets right behind the decision is more likely to succeed in the execution. All organisations at some point make “bad” decisions or inappropriate choices, but I think more often, even good decisions can suffer through poor implementation.

I acknowledge the need to get better at meditating, to enhance mindfulness for both personal reflection and clarity of thinking. Above all I recognise the enormous value of making the most of the moment when it comes to decision-making.

Next week: Startup Victoria’s latest pitch night

ANZ’s new CEO on #FinTech, CX and #digital disruption – 10 Key Takeaways

I went to the recent Q&A with the new CEO of ANZ, Shayne Elliott, organised by FinTech Melbourne. It was the first public speaking appearance by Shayne since becoming CEO (excluding his gig at the Australian Tennis Open), and followed a similar event last year with Patrick Maes, the bank’s CTO.

600_446693337The key themes were:

  1. Improving the customer experience (CX) is paramount
  2. Maintaining the high level of trust customers place in their banks is key
  3. Being aware of FinTech disruption is important, but remaining focused on core strategy is even more important
  4. FinTech can coexist with traditional banks, but the latter will win out in the end
  5. The bigger opportunity for FinTech is probably in SME solutions, rather than B2C
  6. Increased process automation is in support of CX, not about reducing headcount
  7. Big data and customer analytics are all very well, but have to drive CX outcomes
  8. Customers still see the relationship with their main financial institution in terms of basic transaction accounts, which is why payment solutions (a high volume/low margin activity) are vital to the banks’ sustainability
  9. ANZ is about to appoint a head of digital banking who will report direct to the CEO
  10. ANZ has been rated as one of the top global banks in terms of its use of Twitter and social media (but from what I have seen, much of the Big 4 banks’ social media presence can be attributed to their sports sponsorship…)

There was also some discussion around ANZ’s Asian strategy, and the statement last year that the “new” strategy is about becoming a digital bank. Shayne was quick to point out that they are not abandoning the Asian strategy (it’s not either/or) but because they embarked on Asia 8 years ago, most of the work has been done. Now they need to consolidate and expand the platform they have built. He also placed ANZ’s Australian business as being a comparatively small part of the group’s portfolio, and also took the view that despite ANZ’s size, resources and reach, digital products have to be developed market by market – it’s not a one size fits all approach. (Several FinTech founders in the audience took a very different perspective on this.)

And, in a bid to appear entirely approachable, both Shayne and Patrick were happy for people to contact them direct by e-mail… So if any budding FinTech founders have an idea to pitch to a major bank, you know who to contact.

Next week: Making the most of the moment…

Technology vs The Human Factor

Several times over the past month I have been reminded that the pursuit of technology for its own sake can give rise to misguided innovation; so-called solutions that are divorced from real world problems cannot justify the effort or resources. It feels like we are entering a new phase of the post-industrial revolution era, where a lack of “the human touch” will render many new inventions as worthless, irrelevant or redundant.

Street scultpure, Nagoya. Photo © Rory Manchee (all rights reserved)

Street sculpture, Nagoya. Photo © Rory Manchee (all rights reserved)

In no particular order:

  • At the second Above All Human conference in Melbourne, there was a consistent theme: how do we make sure there is a real connection between human needs and bleeding edge technology?
  • A Slow School of Business excursion to an eco-friendly homestead in rural Victoria offered a practical lesson on how to create harmony between technology and nature, and still achieve a modern (but modest), highly personal and comfortable home.
  • The economic debate about whether technology is improving our standard of living (as reported in the latest CPA magazine), which also echoes a recent CEDA report on automation and the implications for job losses.
  • A Q&A with Shayne Elliott, the new CEO of ANZ Bank, which prompted the observation that big data analytics, process automation and digital disruption are all very well, but will prove meaningless unless they can improve the customer experience. (But Elliott also conceded that the likes of Uber and Airbnb have succeeded because of complacency among industry incumbents.)

Advances in technology don’t have to lead us to the dystopian worlds of “Modern Times” or “Metropolis” (or any of the other post-apocalyptic visions that cinema and literature like to give us). However, the understandable focus on innovation must take the “human factor” into greater account when making design decisions, undertaking cost-benefit analysis and opting for one technology format over another.

Conclusion? It’s not totally clear whether we are entering another dot.com market correction, but there is a case to be made for whether or not we are seeing enough of a “technology dividend” from the current digital disruption and economic displacement centred on the use of cloud, social and mobile platforms; and whether we need a new methodology to measure the impact of the Internet of Things, robotics, AI, nano-technology, AR/VR, cognitive apps, wearables, 3-D printing, etc.

Next week: It’s never too late to change….