The night of the closing reception at AON in Sydney, Australia, was one that really made me proud of the eight women entrepreneurs who were chosen for the Springboard Class of 2014. It started out with Wanida Chua-anusorn, co- founder of a radiology-based company based in Perth named MagnePath, working to put vital body imaging product into smart phones for easy access. She expertly explained how her innovative three dimensional readout could be transmitted to a smart phone and shared instantly with your physician, dietician or others in your healthcare loop. What she is doing fits into the Tricorder challenge that was launched by XPrize, funded with $10 million commitment from Qualcomm to “put healthcare in the palm of your hand”. She is truly a Woman@the Frontier.
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She was followed in quick succession by:
Why was I so bursting with pride watching these bold women? In the two days of boot camp just concluded they had already been transformed into people who could boldly transfix the audience with their vision – something most entrepreneurs lack when they enter a program like ours. More importantly, the audience was wowed by their poise, articulate portrayal of their business and their ability to make the direct ask for funding that will help them accelerate growth.
Over the two weeks I spent in Australia, first in Melbourne and then Sydney, I witnessed the sprouting green shoots of an entrepreneurial community coming alive. I was honored to speak before a room of supporters hosted by Coors law firm first in Melbourne, then Sydney. The American Chamber of Commerce and Ducere University organized a breakfast meeting of 150 leading business people in Melbourne.
A bright green shoot in particular was publically launched while we were in Melbourne. Scale Investors is the name of the women-founded angel investment fund founded by Carol Schwartz, Annette Kimmit and Susan Oliver, who brought their vision of women investing behind women to fruition during the summer of 2013. They announced their first investment in Paloma, founded by Jennifer Zanich, a serial entrepreneur in the telecom industry. Paloma has a compression technology that makes it possible to transmit photos and video to feature phones. Targeting the emerging markets where low-cost feature phones are dominant, she is moving aggressively into markets like Indonesia.
In Sydney, noted entrepreneur Mark Carnegie hosted our opening reception in their startup incubator for the second year. I was enormously pleased by all those who came out and contributed their time, talents, and resources to building a supportive eco-system around these companies. Entrepreneurs from the class of 2013 came to share their experiences too, which is part of the human capital connection we emphasize at Springboard.
We had a magnificent two days at IBM, who hosted our boot camp for the eight new entrepreneurs. Host Tony Best was very gracious in providing an attentive staff of support for the event that saw over 100 people convening to share their knowledge with these bold women. Over two days, they learned about term sheets, financial reporting, negotiations, team building and much more. They pitched themselves, then their businesses in the highly engaging Dolphin Tank interactive exercise with experts as the panel of judges. Importantly each company got a critical review from technology experts from IBM and CA Technologies.
We visited with Alan Crabbe and Matt Benetti at Pozible, reportedly the third largest crowd funding platform globally behind Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While most of their fundraising is for non-profits, the arts and small business, the average $5-10 thousand raise has a high completion rate. Pozible is aiming at the global market and expects to elevate Australian entrepreneurs to new heights.
I left the sunny silicon beach shores of Australia with optimism regarding the growing entrepreneurial community in Australia, a country where the high risk investment required for the innovation community does not come easily. We hope to have acceptance that a failing business is not a failure, but an opportunity to learn, where people can be bold enough to stand out from the crowd, and where entrepreneurs rise to compete on a global scale. We know they can, and if the human capital network continues to develop, we know they will.