Since “Pause” was a twinkle in the eye of its current self, starting 6 years ago, it has had the unwavering goal of connecting creative, tech and business change makers. It is a festival of innovation, networking and empowerment. Pause helps folks to stay on the pulse of the latest technology and connect with important thought leaders from all over the world.
The room is a who’s who of the tech startup scene of Melbourne and beyond. Most people seem to attend for the networking aspect. However, there are workshops that present useful content to action back in our daily work lives. More recently, a startup expo to showcase the latest in the Australian startup scene. It’s refreshing to see a recurring cast of international faces that keep showing up in Melbourne to see what we are building.
We sent our Melbourne team, a few lucky Sydney staff and a bunch of our startups to Pause. Everyone went with a different agenda, linked to their own business or personal interests.
PAUSEFEST FOR A STARTUP
It’s very exciting to see the startup expo, pitch competition and volume of keynotes around the theme of startups and entrepreneurship. This year, we had four BlueChilli portfolio startups attend as part of the expo. We asked them to report back on their experience. Button, Capability Builder, Shiftiez and QuickSafety all attended a number of the events and presentations.
THE PITCH COMP
Other than the obvious benefits of being able to spruik their products and ideas within the expo, the pitch competition was a big factor for some of our founders. The opportunity to pitch in front of a crowd is great practice to refine pitch decks and get exposure.
While valuable, our founders also experienced some challenges in the pitch process. Communication over how and when to apply for the pitch sessions was confusing and unclear. The process of shortlisting by a panel from written submissions had the potential to create an uneven playing field. Some startups look great on paper but may not translate on stage, and vice versa. As Hugh from Button said:
“The stage is like sunshine for startups so I’m all for pitch comps that maximise face time for founders.”
We hope this great initiative to give startups room to shine is expanded and opened up next year.
HUSTLING FOR NUMBERS
Warm introductions to investors and speakers were extremely valuable for a all of our founders. Meeting those they would not otherwise have the opportunity to speak with, due to distance or schedule conflicts. John from Shiftiez was grateful for that, stating:
“Typically investors look for a warm intro so this was a good way to get past that. One kindly offered to connect via LinkedIn which was generous considering how many people must be knocking on their door every day.”
A couple of our representatives felt that the event was spread a little too thin or starting to suffer a bit of an identity crisis. Some found it difficult to create a coherent learning track to follow through the event. Others felt that it struggled to strike an even balance between practical application and idea exploration. In some ways Pause 2017 seemed to be falling between two stools, and needs to perhaps refocus on a clear mission, to showcase innovation or critically engage with ideas.
Positively, our BlueChilli founders were, rarely without somebody at their tables. Some of the other more popular companies were the VR experiences, which has been a theme for a couple of years and is still the flavour of the month!
Each one of our founders embraced the opportunity to network. Whether it be in the short gaps between presentations or the expo itself, Pause does create a great atmosphere to share ideas and contacts. There are a lot of mixed industries, types of products and various stage startups represented. This can make it hard to ensure the right audience are learning about your product or service. Something that would benefit from consideration in next year’s planning.
Due to the level of potential customer involvement and questions, we recommend that startups with a viable MVP built or beyond are best suited to participate in the startup expo. Though, any startup who would benefit with connecting to more customers, partnership opportunities, or potential corporate clients/acquisition channels will likely find value in attending.
Pause certainly creates a great atmosphere to share ideas, contacts and conversations. Shout out to QuickSafety who did pick up a prize valued at $15K from Morgans Consulting for a Digital Placement … that’s even more value added, top effort!
THE BIGGER PICTURE
It wasn’t just about exploring existing startups. There was a strong focus on VC and broader investment. This was certainly international in flavour, and the value of the Aussie startup community does seem to be on the international radar. While they see strong growth, the international investment community coming over here for Pause this year alluded to it still being ‘a bit early’ for the national startup ecosystem.
The information from investor sessions on fundraising discussed how people should approach them in the first instance. Advice containing real life application of how to go about starting up communication with investors was prevalent. It’s clearly worth listening carefully to such valuable advice. Learning at what point in a startup an investor is going to be interested about getting involved is a golden opportunity.
These sessions included prominent players such as Scale Investors, Carthona Capital and Pozible. Whilst interesting, the questions the audience asked reflected quite an immature cross section of the startup community. Hopefully, that’s because all the serious founders were off having real meetings and getting customers and clients or in the startup expo hustling for exposure!
There was a lot of focus on the process of initial investment but not so much on the nuts and bolts of pre or post revenue rounds considered. There still isn’t a startup festival or expo in Australia that covers this kind of functional information. The closest you could come would be attending about a half dozen business, marketing, hardware and software conferences around the greater Asia-Pacific region. Which is another reason why we can be so successful at mentoring our own startups at BlueChilli.
THE VALUE OF CONNECTION
Pause does a great job of understanding that its audience aren’t passive workers, but people of all walks that don’t stop for an hour let alone a day or three. Passionate people that delve into technology, design and creating organisations to solve daunting, complex, and vitally important issues of our time.
The most value attendees and startups can get out of all of the sessions and activities is from two-way knowledge exchange and individual connections. Pause isn’t about passive absorption of knowledge. If you are clear with what you are working on and how you would like to expand that work in the digital or technology space, then you will likely get a lot out of attending.Hugh Cameron Kurt Alexander Button Capability Builder Shiftiez QuickSafety