Innovation ACT Pitch Night (Innovation Noir) was held this evening at the Shine dome in Canberra. It was "Back to the Future" day but this setting was more "The day The Earth Stood Still" being in a building like a 1960s flying saucer.
Innovation ACT is a start-up business planning competition for university students in Canberra, created by ANU, but now backed by the ACT government with participants from other universities.
This evening a shortlist of teams presented their products. Each team has only a five minutes to impress a panel of judges, in front of hundreds of people, with a video camera recording. This is a high stress situation with the time limit for presentations tightly controlled.
The presentations were:
1. Eternabooks: indestructible books for children.
2. Recomeal "Shop Smarter. Eat Better" smart grocery list.
3. Workhorse Finance: A website to help young people invest in the share market.
4. HF Games Studio, with a game called "For King and Coinage".
5. Project Cleopatra: Forex market.
- 90 Day House*: Polystyrene core plywood wall low cost DIY house* Open house 2pm this Sunday.
- Sustainable Packaging Design*: "N-G"
- Team Mude Creative Agency*: Photography, Music, Video, Graphic Design.
6. BringTeam+: Bringing like-minded students together for group work.
7. Tutora#: Educational assistance for international students.
8. Gradlife: Find rental accommodation for graduate students.
9. Popular Choice: Help for consumers choosing products.
10. Certified Renewable: Certify businesses as using renewable energy.
The presenters have to get their message across is a clear and engaging way, without looking like a clone of Steve Jobs. Also the teams have to overcome the skepticism of the judges who have seen any number of web based business proposals before. The problem is that really good new business ideas either sound simple and obvious, or weird and impossible. The teams this evening did well. It is interesting that several of the teams are proposing products and services for postgraduate international students.
The winners will be announced at the Innovation ACT Awards Night, 31 October.
Events like this are taking place around the world every day, to help university students make the transition from study and research to business. Canberra has a unique advantage in that it has a government supported competition integrated with a co-working space and incubator (the "Canberra Innovation Network"). I am mentoring one team in the competition, am the customer for another and one team this year I mentored last year. In past years my teams have won the pitch. Also I have been a presenter, a competitor and am currently designing on-line learning materials to help.
This same approach can be used inside large companies and government organizations, to encourage innovation.
* Three presentations were not part of the competition.
+ I mentored some of the BringTeam last year on an earlier version of this idea and it is interesting to see it refined.
# I mentored Tutora this year. I am be biased, but I thought they had the best presentation, if not the best product.