Startup Journey

IBM’s SmartCamp Melbourne bought together a wealth of young talent to pitch their ideas and learn from the best

The startup scene has grown significantly in Australia and in particular, Melbourne. IBM’s SmartCamp allowed participants to apply and be selected for what was essentially a boot camp for entrepreneurs. Five teams were chosen to attend who pitched in the morning, had the day with mentors to question validity of ideas, extract information and refine pitches. The five finalists pitched to an interested audience in the evening and a winner was announced, sending them off to the international finals.

Mentor time was certainly invaluable and many teams commented on the commitment and enthusiasm shown by the mentors. There were a number of talks throughout the day. Cathy from IBM Australia spoke on the history of innovation in Australia, noting how the culture has become one of co-working, co-location and cooperation. Temando, the winner of last’s year’s SmartCamp spoke about their experiences as a startup. Hamish told us how they knew their idea was “a rocket ship” they just needed to convey it to the audience. This is really key! Everyone knows (or thinks) their idea is the best, but they often fall short on communicating this message. The reason Temando won last year is they listened to every word the mentors had to say to them. The team watched mentors tear their business model to shreds but explained how this was invaluable mentorship as it allowed them to step back, think about the bigger picture and see their idea from the outside world. Hamish stressed the point of simplicity when you are pitching; don’t make things too complicated, just make sure you get your idea across.

Like any startup, one might need some money. The audience was treated to a panel on venture capital featuring some influential players from the York Butter Factory (Darcy Naughton), Starfish Ventures (John Dyson) and Dean Lappen Foundation (Michael Lappen), facilitated by Director of Community Development for SoftLayer, Brendan Yell. They spoke about how startups are making massive tangible impacts. If you read my last post on Masterclasses, you would know this is a common consensus in Australia. Not only are startups making social impacts, but they are also making impacts on big businesses, who really need to start getting involved. There is a lot of corporate interest in the startup world and we are definitely seeing a shift towards innovation and creativity, even in the banks. Recently ANZ and Westpac have run hackathons with many more corporates to follow (look out for a write-up on this soon).

The final guest speaker for the day blew everyone away with his… well loose-ness, but also some really moving stories about life as a startup. Andre Elkmeier from Vinomofo (don’t ask what it means) talked about the balance between living a ‘normal’ life and trying to run a business… when is enough, enough? When does it start to impact your family life, relationships, the people you care about? Andre found he had real passion for his idea, but no real revenue model. No one wanted to invest in his business because they didn’t see any value in it. But, if you have passion, you will find a way. Always sit back, reflect, remember and learn from your past experiences. Those who don’t know history are likely to repeat it. So if you fail or fall short it is really only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it. Life is a journey! One with twists, turns, ups, downs and passion. It doesn’t really matter if you succeed, change, failure or even if you chased down your dreams, but whether you embraced the journey of life, took it in two hands and ran with it. You can’t always be prepared for what life will throw at you, but take it as it comes!

As Andre moved his life journey props from the stage (a champagne bottle, some keys and a wallet – one could almost make a metaphor out of these, but I won’t) the judges entered the room and took the stage to announce the winners.

Everyone had great ideas; don’t forget they were all finalists! We had, identifying software bugs by making it into a game (Bugwolf), using photos as passwords to prevent hacking (Cryptophoto), Project Management software for auto-mated reporting (Level35), using proximity technology to communicate in real-time with customers (localz) and using gamification to make banking fun (Moroku). Bugwolf took out the People’s Choice Award and 2nd place with localz narrowly stealing the cake to win overall.

Congrats to all involved! I know the mentors, volunteers and speakers all had a fantastic time as well. You know, mentors get just as much out of these days as participants do. See you all at the next big thing.

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