Startup Victoria’s #Pitch Night for #Startup Week

The grand finale of Melbourne Startup Week was Startup Victoria‘s regular pitch night held at inspire9. Six months in, and this new monthly format has become a major fixture on the startup calendar, judging by the audience size, and the range of startups applying to pitch. There are still a few teething problems (the AV quality is a bit variable, and some of the judging panels are probably too “soft”…), but it’s established something of a benchmark against which other pitch nights might be compared. This month’s cohort covered medtech, wellness and the greetings industry.

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Cardly is an online service that allows users to send personalized greetings cards to friends and loved ones. Under the banner of “you write, we post”, customers can choose from a range of artist-designed cards, add their own message, and Cardly will then print and send the card from a location as close as possible to the recipient (currently London, Sydney and New York).

A variant on the familiar 2-sided market model, Cardly has built a community of independent artists who supply the card designs. Artists are charged a sales commission on each order, and they get their own store front on Cardly. And for anyone struggling for words, there’s a range of predefined texts and doodles.

Because this is a print-on-demand model, using digital printing, there is zero wastage (unlike the traditional greeting card industry where over-production and limited distribution are commercial headaches). However, even with some “handwriting” fonts, there are some design and user limitations, which something like the Sensel Morph touch-sensitive track-pad may be able to address?

Cardly is aiming to take a chunk of the retail market and disrupt the global greetings card industry. The judges took a slightly different view. Based on the founders’ own data, consumer customers will probably send an average of 12 cards per annum, and at $6.45 per card, it’s a tough sell. However, by looking at a lower cost per acquisition, addressing the corporate market and offering a white label solution, the business would be in a better position to scale. There was also a suggestion for an engineered viral solution to drive traction through collaborative cards, and other ideas for partnerships (e.g., gift buying services and gift cards).


Cardihab (“Get Back To Life”) has appeared in this blog before, and is a CSIRO spin-out that has developed a mobile support solution for cardiac patients via an app and a patient/GP portal. As someone whose father is recovering from major heart surgery, this pitch got my personal vote!

The success rate is staggering – patients using the app are 70% more likely to complete rehab. So far, four hospitals have signed up, with three more in the pipeline. As well publishing their research, the founders see Cardihab as being a broader platform for managing chronic illnesses.

Currently in the process of getting investor ready, the proposed business model will charge an annual license for hospitals, plus a per patient fee.

The judges had some questions about the potential market (“Anyone with heart disease”) and wanted to know a bit more about the bench strength of the team.


Staying with the medtech and after-care theme, Black‘s modest goal is to “revolutionise healthcare”, via an in-home observation solution that scans patient movement and analyses interaction with their helpers. The scanner strips out personal data (features, attire) using skeleton tracking to monitor movement and falls, while learning from patient gestures. It can use real-time alerts to contact helpers, carers and emergency services.

The scanning software is currently trialing in casinos to refine the machine-learning algorithms, and all trials are subject to ethical approval.

Although still at a conceptual stage (in terms of health care applications), and notwithstanding privacy concerns, this project demonstrates that predictive tools will be vital to helping the elderly and the infirm to continue living independently in their own homes, which will have significant advantages to the cost of long-term care, preventative health services, patient rehabilitation and after-care services. There are doubtless other, similar solutions in development, and the outcome will likely be a mix of blended services based on ease of use, cost of roll-out, system interoperability and patient efficacy.


Last to present was the team from Honee which is bringing digital connectivity to the wellness, fitness and beauty industry. The solution they offer is designed to make it easier to discover and book an appointment for a treatment, consultation or workout session, by connecting merchants and users.

With previous international experience at Delivery Hero, Quandoo and Zomato, the founders have strong startup business credentials in adjacent markets – connecting consumers to service providers via search discovery, customer reviews, personal recommendations and proximity.  Of particular interest in this sector is the growing “wellness travel market”.

There are undoubtedly competitors already working on similar solutions; and it may just be that I’ve seen far too many pitches in the past few years, but I’m sure there was a startup out there offering a “just in time” service to help find and book appointments for personal services – Fit Me In? – and I recall another comparable startup idea for restaurants to offer last-minute menu specials via a location-based app.

Nevertheless, as we know, execution is key, and the judges asked about the huge cost to build a consumer brand – hence Honee is focusing on service providers to get their brands on line. There is an MVP in pre-launch, and Honee has built a mobile responsive website, with a grant from the Melbourne Accelerator Program.

After the vote (and thanks to technology, the results of which were available in minutes….) Cardly was declared the night’s winner.

Next week: Moving #innovation from “permitted” to “possible”

Another weekend, another hackathon….

Last month, I competed in my second hackathon of the year, the #HSCodeFest sponsored by the Herald Sun and News Corp, and hosted by Melbourne University’s Carlton Connect. I’m pleased to say that our team of four, which was only formed on the first night, came 3rd in the pitch competition – with an idea for a news quiz app.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 3.44.56 PMThat particular weekend was quite an eventful one for local startups – not only were there at least two other hackathons being held in Melbourne at the same time, but the State Government also announced its LaunchVic initiative. Small Business Minister, Philip Dalidakis found time in his busy schedule to address the #HSCodeFest participants, which was a great incentive. The previous weekend saw another Startup Weekend event, and last weekend Carlton Connect hosted yet another industry hackathon sponsored by the GE Industrial Challenge. And of course, since then we have had the Prime Minister announce the National Innovation and Science Agenda. To paraphrase Mr Turnbull, there’s never been a more interesting time to be a startup….

Having participated in Startup Weekend’s first #FinTech hackathon back in March this year, I was a lot more prepared, and had a much better idea of what to expect. Even though I didn’t pitch a specific idea on the opening night, I used my previous team-building experience to make sure we had a balanced mix of skills and expertise. I was also clear to make sure that once we had agreed on the project idea, everyone had specific roles, and we constantly checked in on progress and next steps.

As usual, the team generated far more content, data and ideas than we actually used in the pitch presentation. We also kept it very simple, by focusing on the key concept, demoing an MVP, outlining the commercial strategy, describing the business plan, and establishing just enough knowledge and awareness about the market opportunities, even though it had not been possible to fully scope them. For an insider’s view, check out my team-member Nathan’s blog.

We have seen over the past 12-18 months that the hackathon model is being deployed in many different ways to try to stimulate innovation and generate new business ideas. Even government departments and public utilities are getting in on the act, by enabling participants to access data sets, software, technology and APIs to see what they can come up with. Large corporates, who struggle to embed innovation into their organisations, are also holding internal competitions drawing on the experience of meetups, hackathons and pitch nights.

I only see this as a positive development, as long as the energy, enthusiasm and experience can be channelled into meaningful outcomes, which enable in-house talent and external expertise to combine to build great products and services that customers want, and/or identify and deliver significant process improvements and efficiency gains.

However, part of me is sceptical – as someone who is probably much older than the average age of a hackathon participant, I’m still amazed how many of my contemporaries either have no idea or simply don’t “get” the hackathon or meetup concept. They seem astonished that anyone would want to get together with total strangers, and spend their evenings let alone a whole weekend working with them, for “free”. To those of my peers who may see it that way, I would point out that participating in these events is a cheap and effective way of accessing new ideas and skills, meeting talented people, and acquiring new skills and knowledge.

Finally, if your organisation is thinking about running a hackathon or similar event for the first time, I’m more than happy to share my insights – contact me via this blog.

Since the holidays will soon be upon us, Content in Context is taking a short break. Normal service will be resumed on January 5. To my many regular readers and followers, I wish you all a safe and peaceful New Year.

Next: Surrealism, Manifestos and the Art of Juxtaposition