On Wednesday the 13th August Canberra had a double dose of young entrepreneurship. Innovation ACT (IACT) was hosting its launch event and ANU Entrepreneurs was hosting its own pitching night. It made sense for both parties to join forces and make the two events into one. The result was undeniably positive.
For those of you who don’t know, IACT is a ‘business model’ competition. It’s open to students, staff and alumni from ANU, UC, CIT, AIE, ACU, CSU and ADFA. Participants enter and attend workshops on a weekly basis. In these workshops students learn about the different elements of business planning and execution. In teams students will develop and refine the business model during the 3-month process. Towards the end the best business models are awarded the right to pitch their business idea to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs. This structure deviates from the usual ‘pitch first and be judged on that pitch’ type events. The reasoning for this is twofold. Firstly, they want to enhance the educational dimension of the competition, preventing it from being just another competition. Secondly, well, the judges will spend their time judging business models that have had the opportunity to be refined, which almost certainly means the business models will be better. The side benefit for some students is that it opens up the possibility of joining even if the idea you have is simply that – an idea. After all, enter the event and you’ll get time and help to develop the concept further.
Oh yeah, and there’s 50k in funding money to be awarded.
Before I get into my experience with the event, I should mention that ANU Entrepreneurs is a student society dedicated to entrepreneurship at ANU. This year they have expanded their reach and presence quite successfully. It is another testament to Canberra’s blossoming entrepreneurial culture.
I went to the ANU Entrepreneurs pitching event/IACT launch event (henceforth referred to only as ‘the event’) not knowing what to expect. I knew it was going to be held at the ANU Medical School yet I had never stepped foot there. I did not know how many to expect to in terms of numbers or of demographics such as age and occupation. In truth, there was a small part of me expecting a large congregation of students to make up the near entirety of the audience. I also had no inkling as to what level of quality I should expect from the pitches.
Upon arriving I was impressed by the venue. The medical school is an impressive building, with glass walls and architecture reminiscent of something that should belong somewhere in Massachusetts. I walked up the broad stone steps and the closer I came, the clearer it became that the lobby was packed with people who were here for ‘the event’. I walked in and signed in.
Taking a moment to processes the crowd, I was struck by the range of guests that attended, more than half the attendants were in formal attire, while the other half were dressed anywhere from smart casual to ‘so casual I can’t believe they’re wearing that’. There was a wide spread in terms of age, I could see clusters of students and clusters of people too old to be students, from which I inferred were either member’s of Canberra’s business community, or representatives of stakeholders who have an interest in the development of Canberra’s entrepreneurial community. I was probably right. There were students curious about entrepreneurship and there were students who were budding entrepreneurs themselves. Mingling around the room were entrepreneurs of all levels, including a number who ‘had already made it’ and who you’ll find are open, even eager, to share their knowledge, skills and experience with the community. There were many other types at ‘the event’, those that helped organize or where representing various university groups, as well as those who were simply interested in the nature of ‘the event’ and wanted to see what it was all about. If you are interested in entrepreneurship in Canberra it was a place where you needed to be.
After mingling with a few different groups it was time for the pitches to commence. We were directed towards one of the lecture theatres. Sitting in the crowd, I was eager to hear what business ideas ANU students were pitching and I was also eager to judge them for myself.
If my notes serve correctly there were nine pitches, signifying nine different business ideas that sought to meet the needs of nine different problems (or sets of problems).
Each pitch was delivered from the stage. There was much explaining, imploring, storytelling and joke-making. At the end of it I was impressed.
There were some great ideas but I want to mention the two that captured my imagination the most.
There was ‘Ingiv’ which was an app based idea that sought to create a database of volunteers, so that not for profit organizations could more easily, and more efficiently utilize the skills of people who are eager to contribute towards social good. I liked the idea, perhaps because ‘The Canberra Entrepreneur’ is recruiting volunteer writers/reporters and the idea of an app with a massive database of volunteers, which matches your needs with their skills, is – to understate it – quite appealing.
The other business idea I want to mention ended up winning the pitching competition.
The company is called ‘BioMyne’. It seeks to utilize cloud based information technologies so that users can have copies of all their necessary documents online wherever you go. At the pitch, the problem they were seeking to solve was ‘qualification fraud’ (imagine someone claiming to have graduated with a certain degree and never did) by being able to provide documents quickly through cloud-based technology. Its potential goes beyond that. We’ve all been asked to present three forms of identification, whether it is to get a passport, or get a driver’s license, what if there was an app where you wouldn’t have to worry about these things because it was all online? What if all the documents and information you needed was on a secure app on your smartphone?
The potential for the app is huge. There are off course challenges, as pointed out by the judging panel of Rory Ford and Hamish Hawthorne. The product essentially seeks to change the way large bureaucratic institutions do the things they do. It will take time to change this. It also will have to prove the security of its technology. It will depend on their execution.
For information on IACT check out their webpage here.
You can find out more about BioMyne here.