#Startup Victoria’s Pitch Night – @ParentPaperwork takes the honours…

The repositioning of Lean Startup Melbourne as Startup Victoria continues apace, with a formal Pitch Night hosted by Inspire9, sponsored by Bank of Melbourne, Bluechilli and The X Gene, and featuring an expert panel.

The 5 plucky pitchers were (in order of appearance):

  • Arts ‘n Smarts – An early childhood learning platform, offering a subscription service comprising monthly home deliveries of craft materials for use in structured play activities. The business has identified strong channel potential via play groups, partnerships with content providers and craft suppliers, and cross-over sales from the gift and baby/toddler markets. However, the panel felt that the subscription revenue model needed more analysis, and there was a risk that they were “pitching to the converted” – that informed parents would already be engaged in their children’s learning activities.
  • CreoLud – Custom 3-D printing for Dungeons & Dragons figurines which aims to fill the design gap between concept and production. Given the somewhat esoteric nature of fantasy board games, it was unsurprising that the panel were a little perplexed by this pitch. However, quoting some McKinsey research suggesting there is a $16.2bn global market for broader physical gaming and figures markets, this pitch could represent just the start of a growth trend in customisation and personalization, leveraging 3-D printing technology.
  • ParentPaperwork – Online student consent form service for schools that uses standard e-mail templates, a secure website and real-time reporting. By adopting a SaaS model, the business eliminates the need for software installation, app downloads, or social network registration processes. Although each State education system has different purchasing models for schools, the panel clearly recognised the potential to scale the product and take it overseas. However, there were concerns about privacy and confidentiality issues; and while there may be a crossover to the school enrolment process, another similar local startup, CareMonkey is already gaining traction and incorporates permission slips into its solution.
  • YourGrocer – This home delivery service for local suppliers has been featured in my blog before and continues to grow its customer base and weekly revenues at a steady rate. The combination of local shopping with added convenience is very appealing, but the panel quickly challenged the business to specify how it will grow out of its single-suburb service, currently based on a sole delivery van and driver. There appears to be some “creative tension” about how to expand the business beyond the borders of Brunswick – the choices being either to hire more full-time drivers, to build a franchise network, or to establish a marketplace of independent owner-drivers.
  • StageLabel – Describing itself as “a crowd-funded label bringing democracy to fashion…“, this online venture recognises the high failure rate for new designer labels, but is banking on its market disruption strategy for success. The business model is to test and validate new designs in pre-production, then gain funding to go into production. The business will also offer strategy sessions on pricing and production, and take a lower sales commission on successful projects when compared to the traditional retail mark-up. With over 80 designers already signed up, partnerships with fashion schools and launch events at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, the business is hoping to outmanoeuvre competitor betabrand which only produces own-label designs. In their feedback, the panel concluded that the idea represented “high effort, low volumes”.

On the night, the audience voted ParentPaperwork as the winning pitch, earning them a chat with Square Peg Capital, mentoring from two panel members of their choice, and temporary co-working space at Queens Collective. The successful team graciously acknowledged that all 5 teams had collaborated to help each other hone their respective pitches, and no doubt there has been a huge amount of individual effort and collective goodwill in helping to bring these startups to a wider audience.


This meetup was just the latest in a growing number of pitch nights coming out of the local startup scene (in the wake of similar events such as the AngelCube graduation nights, Melbourne University’s Accelerator Program, and Oxygen Venture’s BIG Pitch). If you don’t happen to live in Melbourne, or can’t get out in the evening, you could always tune into “That Start Up Show”.





6 Melbourne Start-Ups to Watch…

LogoRecently, 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:

  1. Why? Having a personal experience resonates, and can avoid the awkward “is this a solution in search of a problem?”
  2. Competitors? What makes you different – smarter? cheaper? quicker? Are you truly disruptive or innovative? Or have you just designed a better mousetrap?
  3. 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”)
  4. 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
  5. 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?
  6. 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.