We’ve just wrapped up our second PitchComp in Australia, concluding our hunt for the next great startup built on the Salesforce Platform. And did we find a star! We take a look at what Socialsuite did right to walk away with the USD$100,000 investment from Salesforce Ventures, and why the future is bright for Australian startups.
The field of PitchComp applicants this year really showed a maturation, which is encouraging because it means as an ecosystem we’re successfully moving more startups to scale-ups.
Now, how do we help these seeds that have turned into saplings grow into massive oak trees? This is something we’re really passionate about at Salesforce, given we were a startup ourselves 19 years ago, and we know how much work and passion it takes to turn an idea into a successful business. Based on our own startup journey, we believe long-term success comes down to three things:
Access to capital or cash.
Access to customers.
The capacity to handle growth.
PitchComp is designed to give today’s startups an opportunity to get a leg-up on these three factors.
The diversity of the application pool this year was incredible. But, when assessing the original idea and level of innovation, three startups impressed the most:
Moroku is bringing gamification to financial services and making banking fun. They’re asking why people are better at playing Angry Bird than managing their finances, and taking inspiration from the former and applying it to the latter.
Socialsuite is a technology platform that enables not-for-profits and community service organisations to measure the impact of their programs and services. This really appeals to Salesforce’s values of supporting social enterprise.
Dashcord is a native event management app that sits within Salesforce, providing end-to-end support for events — invitations, registration, ticketing, payment, calendaring, capacity management and more. It bridges the gap between consumer-facing, inflexible and custom-built, siloed event management platforms.
All three finalists are very different, but they’re equally trying to solve really interesting problems that – should they succeed – have a truly meaningful impact on the local economy.
On the day Socialsuite came out on top, walking away with a $100,000 investment from Salesforce Ventures. Co-founder Damian Hajda started his presentation with a question: would you invest in a company that had no proof of its effectiveness?
Obviously, our judges would not. Yet, Hajda pointed out, this is what many NFPs are forced to expect when applying for funding. Socialsuite closes this gap, helping NFPs report on effectively delivering on their goals and secure future funding.
Hajda owned the company’s story – he knew exactly Socialsuite’s market size – $1.1 billion globally – as well as the share the organisation is aiming for in Australia and globally, the value of that share, and the path to claim it. He knew exactly the cost of acquiring each customer and keeping it, and the value of that customer once won. Critically to judge Steve Baxter, Hajda was happy to share this critical knowledge.
Judge Niki Scevak praised Socialsuite’s defined purpose and alignment on it, while Kara Frederik agreed that Hajda had clearly captured the needs of the NFP sector.
Socialsuite was also the only finalist to clearly show the depth in its team: two co-founders Hajda and Dr Clara Ong are supported by an experienced CEO – former Commstrat and Travelzoo CEO and Catch Group Head of Strategy Brad Gurrie – and a team across sales, UX, implementation, sales and more.
Moroku, Socialsuite and Dashcord all have a promising future. The possibilities are unbounded, and that's the really exciting part of being a startup. You're breaking new ground, and you're blazing your own trail.
The PitchComp experience will stand all three businesses in good stead because it’s given them a very public opportunity to practice the art of storytelling – a vitally important skill for an entrepreneur. As a startup you have to constantly inspire people. You need to inspire skilled talent to leave their comfortable workplaces and join you on your journey, you need to inspire early stage investors to put money behind you, and you need to inspire customers. Compelling storytelling is integral to all of this – it’s really a startup’s superpower.
I'm bullish on the future for Australian startups. Any startup ecosystem is the interplay of risk capital, entrepreneurs, universities and government. For a long time in Australia, those pieces have been working independently, but now we’re beginning to see the pieces of the engine turn in unison, which is when you get the multiplier effect.
This is a really interesting time to be a startup, given we’re in uncharted territory, navigating a marketplace that’s evolving at incredible speed. In this environment, a strong culture underpins survival and culture isn’t something you figure out when you become a 1000 or 10,000-person organisation - it’s something you figure out on day one.
How prepared is your startup to navigate the business environment of the future? Download The Top Future Challenge Facing Small Businesses ebook to find out.
[BIO] Robert Wickham is Regional Vice President – Innovation and Digital Transformation at Salesforce. Read more from Robert.