As the race to Christmas begins and we start to wind down after another busy year, Startup News caught up with three of the Perth-based participants in this year’s Pitch@Palace event to see what they thought of the Duke of York’s work.
Not even a month after the Duke visited Perth to bring us the pitching event series for the first time, three global winners have been crowned, including Western Australian med-tech pioneers, OncoRes, who we’ll speak to later this week.
After pitching in Perth, they were joined by seven other startups on Team WA, as they trekked over to Brisbane for a pitching boot camp and the Australian finals.
41 teams pitched at the Australian final, but only 12, including OncoRes and Maker Kids Club,were given the full three minutes – the rest only had 30 seconds to sum up their idea.
From there, OncoRes was selected to jet off to London with NSW-based PowerWells, who were formed after a local Startup Weekend and have been working on bringing solar energy to remote communities.
Making the most of the opportunity
Chemical engineer and financial educator Lacey Filipich founded Maker Kids Club in 2017, to help Year 5 and 6 students learn about managing money through founding their own micro-businesses.
After pitching in Perth, Maker Kids Club was selected for the Australian boot camp and final in Brisbane, where Lacey delivered her three-minute pitch.
Reflecting on the experience, Lacey said she felt it brought participants from all kinds of startups together.
“It’s just such an inclusive atmosphere,” she said.
“It really builds this feeling of being part of a team, which I find is often missing in entrepreneurship in general, not just in Perth.
“It’s left me feeling really inspired, which I love, and I feel like I belong to part of a community now, which is great.”
That community is a core element of the Pitch@Palace experience,with startups encouraged to reach out to the Duke’s office, and their peers, if they’re ever in need.
More than just providing a networking opportunity for individual startups though, Pitch@Palace also gives businesses the chance to fly the flag for their hometown.
Lacey said she felt the entire experience showcased the strength of Perth’s startup scene.
“I think it’s wonderful recognition for us and it really sends a message that we do have a presence, and that they recognise that it’s worth coming out here,” she said.
“The comments that we did get from the whole Pitch@Palace team was how polished and how awesome the businesses were in WA.
“Part of that is the awesome preparation we had because Murdoch Uni and particularly Matthew Evans spent so much time with Jeremy Chetty and Melanie Molloy getting everything really well organised for us, so we could all feel really confident.
“I think we’ve set a very high standard, and I think [the Pitch@Palace team] were very impressed with that, which is excellent.”
Finding a new platform
Another Western Australian company to take their tech to Brisbane was Chironix, who are working on combining machine learning, robotics and wearable tech down at FLUX.
Managing Director Daniel Milford said their Pitch@Palace experience was about accelerating their connections to key people.
“Getting your name known, getting heard amongst the background noise of everyone else … that’s what we got out of it,” he said.
“We’ve got the products, we’ve got the people, we’re operating as a business, the books are flowing. We’re a business. We’re operating. He gave us a platform.”
Daniel said the events helped overcome one of the biggest challenges of starting a business from Perth – being able to make those key connections.
“That platform was very useful to be able to reach out to a number of the companies we wanted to engage [with],” he said.
“The problem we have is not [that we don’t know] who we need to engage with … and sell too, the problem we have is access.
“We’re 11 people based here in Perth, headquartered here in Perth, and it is very difficult doing business in Perth. It’s a small isolated city.
“Having that national platform and the support of the Duke of York gave us the ability to reach out not just within Australia but ultimately into Asia.”
Daniel also had the chance to meet the Duke when he toured FLUX while in Perth, and had nothing but praise for the royal.
“It was an honour to receive the Duke of York,” he said.
“He’s very grounded and sincere.
“I was impressed with his level of knowledge, and obviously with his former experience as a helicopter pilot during the Falkland’s War, the moment that we explained the beginning of the concept to him, he immediately understood its application.”
Header image: Keane Bourke