Geelong start-ups hone business pitches to panel of investors

FoundX Event – June 2018

WELCOME to pitch night.

A string of start-ups took the opportunity to hone their business pitches to a panel of investors in Geelong last week.

It was like an entrepreneur’s speed date with the first steps to a business relationship formulating over an initial flirtatious meeting lasting just three minutes plus a quick question time.

It takes courage to pitch. Not just in the desire to make a strong first impression but to start to share your business dream with others, which in this case included an audience of about 70 at Runway Geelong.

But it’s a crucial step for start-ups who are usually chasing seed money to take their business proposition to the next level.

Among the suite of things which may grab an investor’s fancy is the need to see a well-researched solution to a problem, a quality value proposition for the target client, the scalability of the business and a likely exit strategy.

And they need to have confidence in the founder with the ability to pitch also important.

Right from the start the investors made it clear they were not necessarily industry experts.

Investor Nick Stanley, who was among the panel of four from the Geelong Angel Investor Network, said founders needed to keep their pitch “really simple”.

“Get on to the best things,” Stanley advised. “How you are going to execute and why you are the best person to do it.”

Hosted by FoundX on Wednesday night, seven budding businesses pitched to the supportive panel of investors.

The parade of dreams began with Sridhar Dhanapalan, from Career Nexus, one of the current cohort in Runway’s business accelerator program.

“We help people always be prepared to hire,” Mr Dhanapalan said in his cut-through opening line.

Career Nexus is a subscription-based software as a service hosted in the cloud which provides efficiencies for businesses by recruiting more appropriate and timely hires for attitude and fit.

Mr Dhanapalan said recruitment could be an expensive issue for business and his pitch showed how companies could be always ready to hire the right person and how Career Nexus provided choice for both employers and job seekers.

Mr Stanley said he liked the pitch but as a two-sided marketplace he needed to secure one side or the other first.

“You need some X-factor as to how you get that talent on there,” he said.

Mr Stanley was again looking for X-factor with how Geelong designer Angus Fitzpatrick might launch his Rynse bottle attachment which can be attached to most commercial water bottles to make an eye rinse.

Mr Fitzpatrick’s pitch, complete with a demonstration of using Rynse on his own eye, focused on why his intention was to launch the product in the US where he had just filed for a patent with his target market people working in trades.

He was looking for $250K to take the next steps in production, marketing and sales development.

While applauding Mr Fitzpatrick as a “born entrepreneur”, Mr Stanley wasn’t convinced retaining his intellectual property by patent would deter competition.

“The simplicity is its strength and a weakness … it’s too easy to copy and hard to defend the patent,” Mr Stanley said.

He advised to nail a route to market by launching with a big partner “otherwise you are at risk”.

Two businesses, AgMesh and Rubens, offered innovative use of low-cost sensors in agriculture and horticulture to enable detailed real-time analysis for farmers and growers.

AgMesh has a “smart trough” system which keeps ongoing records on individual livestock and provides a mechanism for more efficient stock and paddock management.

Rubens also uses sensors in the field to better manage the harvest and distribution of fruit with an eye on the value-added export market.

The potential scale of both products was significant.

AgMesh’s pitch noted there were 677,000 paddocks with water troughs in Australia which could fit its devices.

Rubens highlighted that Australia was missing out on profits available by supplying fresh fruit to the northern hemisphere.

Rubens founder Daniel Pelliccia said his device would help predict harvest time so the logistics around storage and distribution could be better managed and monitored along the whole chain.

Angel investors Robert Reed and Keith Robert wanted the businesses to better articulate the value proposition for the client.

“The bit I am wanting to understand is, what is the benefit to me (as customer)?” Mr Reed asked of AgMesh.

The investors also heard pitches from getsetgo which offers an online marketing solution for small to medium-sized businesses, Ninedots, a buyer advocate for new home builds, and CLANN which has a platform focused on the home-based family day care sector.

After the pitches, the investors judged the night’s winning pitch with the winner receiving a two-hour mentoring session.

Mr Stanley said Rubens and Rynse were tied in the eyes of the investors with the nod going to Mr Pelliccia by the barest of margins which included that he would get a lot of value out of the mentoring session.

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