It wasn't exactly the World Cup but the inaugural Big Pitch got fans of start up business in Australia cheering. The event attracted a stellar line up of creative entrepreneurs seeking funding to move ahead to the next stage of their business development. Amid the theatre and drama and the big money on offer, a new era of venture capital was born.
It all started when the call went out a few months back for startups willing to compete – and we mean compete – for $5 million big ones from local venture capitalists Oxygen Ventures. Founded and funded by Dodo genius (yes, those two words can go together) Larry Kestelman, The Big Pitch was intended not only to find the Next Big Thing on the local startup map, but also to garner broader interest in the value and economic potential of small, smart businesses.
And did the event deliver. There were 350 entrants clamouring to be heard and their quality only underlines what Oxygen have sensed for some time: Australia is a hotbed of tech startups just waiting to happen.
Among the final five were brilliant ideas in online shopping, games, education, e-marketing and workplace productivity and all pitched strong and hard inside the heated (thankfully) confines of Melbourne's Deakin Edge theatre in Fed Square. Three hundred lucky watchers fizzed with enthusiasm. A good night was had by all.
Even better for two big pitchers: Ecal and WeTeachMe who shared the honour jointly of being the first ever winners of The Big Pitch.
The judges couldn't split them - despite some good natured bust-ups behind the scenes apparently - and so there will be two new babies joining Larry Kestelman's growing family of business ventures. Each will benefit from being part of a stable of networked businesses which, as Larry himself is keen to point out, embodies the relationship-based form of venture capital Oxygen is looking to develop.
So, it's not all about the money. But these two did rather score well on that front. With $5 million in the first place prize pool, both can look forward to healthy balance sheets for the foreseeable future. And perhaps a couple of Jager bombs to celebrate. Go on guys...
Oxygen Ventures are already putting the plans in place for The Big Pitch 2015 so the event is now part of the local business investment landscape. Time for entrepreneurs to dust off their ideas and polish their pitch routines.
Sure, it may not have been the World Cup, but for those who went home to watch a Brazil/Mexico nil-nil game in the wee hours, it probably won on excitement last night.