Review: Demo Day 2013
No need to go to Silicon Valley, world-class technologists and aspiring entrepreneurs are here on campus
“The presentations at Demo Day frankly blew the roof off. The quality of some of these teams was superior, in my opinion, to the very best that you would see come out of an incubator like YCombinator in the USA”, commented Matt Barrie – Australian entrepreneur and CEO of Freelancer.com.
While many recent university alumni will be starting the year in their first graduate role, the students and alumni involved with INCUBATE will be busy building their first company and pitching to investors.
INCUBATE is the first student union backed startup incubation program in Asia pacific. Over eleven weeks eight startup companies, consisting of students and recent alumni, were selected from a pool of over 50 applications to participate in the first summer cycle.
Last week the summer cycle concluded with INCUBATE’s Demo Day at Sydney University. The startups, built by young entrepreneurs, pitched their businesses to a full house of investors, industry and university community. Two of the startups have already raised over 1.1 million between them.
The startups were extremely well received. Matt Barrie, an alumnus of the university, added, “Interest in the program was huge, and certainly the transformation in the teams participating over the summer was incredible to watch.”
“On all counts, as a pilot, INCUBATE has exceeded my expectations. There’s no need to go all the way to Silicon Valley to find world-class technologists and aspirant entrepreneurs – they are right here in Sydney and on campus”. – Randal Leeb-du Toit, Head of Commercialisation, University of Sydney
Randal Leeb du-toit, serial entrepreneur and Head of Commercialisation at Sydney University, also attended Demo Day and assisted the startups as one of the program’s mentors, “On all counts, as a pilot, INCUBATE has exceeded my expectations. There’s no need to go all the way to Silicon Valley to find world-class technologists and aspirant entrepreneurs – they are right here in Sydney and on campus”.
James Alexander, a recent graduate himself and co-founder of the program with the University of Sydney Union explains, “We provide funding, co-working space and mentorship from Australia’s most recognised entrepreneurs. We then throw in a pretty scary deadline of eleven weeks before they pitch to the public”.
As Australia looks to shift our economic future away from a resources-dependent economy, INCUBATE is a program dedicated to fostering Australia’s next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and business disrupters.
“The future of this country will be dependent on our ability to capitalise on this by developing entrepreneurs who build new businesses to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity…I supported the INCUBATE program for this very reason. I’ve been amazed by what James Alexander and the (USU) team have put together over the last 11 weeks or so.” – Matt Barrie, CEO Freelancer.com
Matt Barrie, has supported the program from the very beginning, “One of the greatest economic transformations is occurring as we speak. The Internet and technology are disruptively remapping every industry. The future of this country will be dependent on our ability to capitalise on this by developing entrepreneurs who build new businesses to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity…particularly pertinent to Australia.”
Matt continues, “I supported the INCUBATE program for this very reason. I’ve been amazed by what James Alexander and the (USU) team have put together over the last 11 weeks or so.”
James explains that, “Starting your own or helping another young entrepreneur build a successful business can create so much more value for our economy then just applying for a grad job. Australia’s next generation of entrepreneurs and global business leaders need support now, while they still live in Australia.”
Louise Anthony, Student Programs Director at the University of Sydney Union (USU) gave the opening welcome at Demo Day, “INCUBATE excites the USU because it takes us into new territory. We’re a relatively old organisation at 140 years old. This program really ups the ante as far as our commitment to innovation is concerned.”
INCUBATE is not just about helping startups, James continues, “we run our own workshops and events are open to everyone. By doing this we hope to foster a supportive and successful community of risk-takers and innovators.”
Whitney Komor, founder of TheBestDay, successfully raised over 1 million dollars at the end of 2012 in a Series A funding round. She now has four employees and plans to release her new online social planning tool in April 2013. “We have several major Australian business partners already on board for our launch. Businesses want to make it easy for their customers to organise group bookings so we have developed a simple plan widget that a partner can add to their site so their customers can instantly put their plans into action”.
Georgia Kia, founder of WeSit had more than a couple of hitches during the eleven weeks. Her original co-founder left to focus on other projects and she was forced to find another way to develop her first app, “We pitched the idea to BlackBerry and they were so impressed they wanted to fund the development of our app for BlackBerry World – we’re so excited to be working with them.”
Georgia consequently received 20k funding from Research in Motion and WeSit will be a part of the official BlackBerry 10 launch as well as a featured app on their app store.
James Boyden co-founded SnapDisco – a photo enhancing tool involving cutting edge computer vision. SnapDisco pivoted on their idea multiple times over the course of the eleven weeks, “We were accepted into INCUBATE with some cutting-edge technology and big ideas, but the customers just weren’t buying. The INCUBATE mentors helped us find our product-market fit, and we now have customers waiting to buy our product.”
Alexander Stamp founded CloudHerd, a way for famers to manage and sell cattle online. For an industry that has not yet embraced the power for cloud technologies, CloudHerd could be a revolutionary tool for farmers. Alexander explains, ” INCUBATE was an excellent experience for us and really sharpened our development and business processes. We now have a complete prototype and actual users; an enormous leap in progress. We would recommend it to any up and coming entrepreneurs.”
James Peter-Cooper Stanbury, an undergraduate studying Computer Science at Sydney University, has helped create what they call an “elastic social network” called Muro. Its a photo sharing service, where the people you connect with automatically grow and shrink depending on your activity. “INCUBATE has been an unforgettable experience. At the beginning we went from having no business experience, and now we have built an early-stage company with heaps of valuable feedback from people around the world!”
The Edisse team hopes to save lives with its watch that automatically detects falls. The team has also developed web and smartphone applications, which can communicate to the watch in real-time. Edisse CEO, Nicholas Tong, detailed the company’s growth strategy, “We aim to target the global market for elderly healthcare. Our watch will provide an affordable way for carers and family members to keep track of their loved ones. This is a product that will ultimately save lives.”
Weaver is focussing on education. They’ve developed an educational robotic toy to teach young kids the principles of engineering. Fernando Vega an international student and CEO describes their motivation, “Programming is often seen as boring and demotivating, yet it is essential for students to learn in our modern world. We believe we can teach engineering principles and programing through an engaging toy robot.”
Feedback is INCUBATE’s first not-for-profit venture. The founders have developed an app that allows users to raise money on the go while completing market research surveys. Martin Seneviratne, University medalist who currently studies medicine explains, “fundraising in person with a bucket on the street is old fashioned. We thought – why not leverage peoples’ idle commuting time? You fill out a short survey on your iPhone and raise money for your chosen charity in the process.”
The eight incubate startups are also listed in our Demo Day booklet available for download: Demo Day Booklet 2013
More photos available on Facebook.
In pitch order:
Connecting parents with trusted babysitters.
Automated photo processing using computer vision
An innovative watch for the elderly
Bringing livestock inventorying and trading into the 21st century
The elastic social network
Engaging children through technology
Raising money on the go
The Best Day
Make plans happen
Interested in partnering with Incubate to support Australia’s next entrepreneurs? Please get in touch.