James Riley
August 7, 2013

The power of the private pitchfest

The power of the private pitchfest
 

There are a variety of government programs aimed at raising the business profile of technology startups. This support, from state and federal governments, ranges from sponsoring the beer at a networking event to subsidised international travel to trade shows.

All good stuff. This kind of money has been important in seeding the local startup infrastructure. But it is fair to say the success of different programs has been mixed – from actions that were credibly effective to others that have been a colossal waste of money.

You’ve got to have a go. But there’s an austere wind blowing and an audit is in the air. For the federal funding at least, the scrutiny of an election will serve the purpose of running a ruler over some of these programs to measure their usefulness.

In the meantime, the number of private events grows. And these have a knack for allowing the quality ideas and quality personnel to get to the surface. Last night it was US-based data centre giant Rackspace’s ‘Small Teams Big Impact Down Under’ pitching competition.

The event was won by Queesland 3G cloudphone developer Ollo Mobile which has developed a wearable, one-button phone device for the telehealth industry and for keeping in contact with kids.

Ollo Mobile has a massive challenge, for no other reason than its solution – albeit an integrated cloud-mobile offering – includes hardware. This adds several layers of difficulty (and expense) to a startup enterprise. But the company’s story is so compelling Ollo and its founder Hugh Gieger keep rising to the top of these pitching events.

In May, Ollo won the inaugural CeBIT StartUp pitch-fest and built some momentum. Last night it won the inaugural Rackspace pitching contest. The keyword for the contests is inaugural. We’ll seen these events back next year. This is good.

And also this week Ollo was pitching in the finals of the iAwards.

These events are important because they give startup ventures exposure to mainstream businesses, in addition to whatever profile they can wrangle through their pitch. Of course government still has an important role to play in this area – but the emergence of the many more events from large private sector players is a significant development.

I don’t know what Ollo Mobile won last night. But the US uber-blogger Robert Scoble (who is Rackspace’s startup liaison officer) was at this event. So Ollo is now on his radar, which is a very good thing. And if Scoble blogs about it to his ridiculously large readership, that is a prize in itself.

Congratulations to Ollo founder Hugh Geiger. He is the real deal and it is great to watch the sector reward smart committed people. He is still shaking the money tree and this pitch fest win will do his prospects no harm at all.

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