Judging The Big Pitch

The final of The Big Pitch 2015 sees five true tech entrepreneurs pitch live to a panel of judges, and with up to $5 million in funding on the line, the pressure is on.
 
The judging panel includes Ben Pfisterer, Country Manager Australia for Square who points out Australia has a strong, rich history of entrepreneurs but primarily in more traditional sectors: entrepreneurial tech is still in its early stages. "The Big Pitch is a fantastic platform for startups to get their ideas out there, to get feedback, and even the opportunity to get funded."
 
Fellow judge Dr. Raoul Oberman is a coach and advisor to CEOs, also assisting startups and later stage ventures with growth acceleration. He's a Director Emeritus at McKinsey, having worked with the firm in Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. For one day a week (although his wife says it's one and a half) he works pro bono with Endeavour, a global mentoring program for entrepreneurs.
 
Dr. Oberman says—aside from considering if the business model can economically work—the question is whether aspiration exists. “Is there a real vision or desire by this person to go the extra mile to make something big happen?”
 
The Pitch Itself
The Big Pitch is a very, very high profile platform, says Pfisterer, so putting a pitch together at this level isn't everyone's specialty. This means judges won’t be focusing solely on the pitch as the selling point.
 
Pfisterer does point out, however, that after the first pitch, if you do go on, get funded, build a product and launch, you have to continually sell. "So it's certainly a strength you can't do without."
 
Stronger Concept or Stronger Market Plan?
“If somebody is open to learning, he or she will make it," says Dr. Oberman. "If somebody has the answer for what they have, but you see they’re not listening and got it by accident, they’re dangerous—you can't scale him or her, and the people under the person are going to run dry. You're going to destroy a whole team by supporting that person.”
 
Market Trends
Things like the on-demand instant gratification trend will always be of interest, says Pfisterer. "But if someone or some group is putting a pitch in a trend that's very well developed or already run its course, that's more of a red flag than an opportunity." He says the greatest ideas start a new market trend. "But it's often hard for those people to convey their ideas because the understanding from the general population or investors is a lot lower. If you're pitching something within a trend at the very early stages that's also ideal."
 
Passion For The Project
Dr. Oberman says he's looking for somebody who truly believes in what they’re doing. “A good leader has failed more often than bad leaders, so I’m looking for people who are open to learning, or open to getting up again. If I sense that, it’s a go.”
 
Dr. Oberman fundamentally believes great companies that have grown and that last have done so because of a clear a purpose. “Can you articulate a purpose? In the beginning Apple said “we will put a computer on everybody's desk”. That was a mission. That attracted outstanding people.”

Interviewer & Journalist: Gillian O’Meagher