The importance of funding, guidance and ingenuity were on full display at iLab’s Germinate 5 pitch event earlier this month, with ideas ranging from online counselling to group travel showcasing some of the best of Queensland’s ecosystem.
Held directly after the Mentor Blaze last Thursday, the event began with introductions by iLab director Bernie Woodcroft, who spoke of the five Germinate programs since the concept’s 2012 inception, and Artesian Capital’s Stuart Fox, who discussed the planned $10m iLab/Artesian Fund in depth. Fox outlined his desire to “deliver returns for Queensland” lead to his involvement with iLab, and that the ingenuity of the night’s startups reflected the state’s unique position within Australia’s ecosystem.
But the night belonged to the three Germinate teams themselves, who pitched their ideas, research, startup histories and revenue models to a room full of mentors, peers and investors.
Online counselling platform Mindstar is aimed at solving gaps within Australia and New Zealand’s mental health systems, specifically the perceived stigma and embarrassment associated with mental illness, and problems with the access and quality of mental health practitioners. The Brisbane-based platform offers interactive, self-guided programs, group education and counselling programs and individual counselling.
Mindstar CEO and co-founder Aaron Williams saw the need for early intervention and prevention as a child and youth therapist, and stresses the barriers that traditional support systems face with regional and rural communities.
“Three out of four people who benefit from support don’t get it,” Williams said. “But taking it online breaks down a lot of barriers.”
“We’re talking a bloke maybe in Mirimbah, working in the mines for four weeks on and a week at home,” he said. “He’s making money but his families breaking down, he’s not seeing his kids.
“So he can get online and talk to someone. There are probably no councillors close to where he is, but he can talk to a bloke in Melbourne.”
The platform mirrors similar online services “e-couch” and “eheadspace,” but Williams hopes Mindstar’s database of mental health professionals will help distinguish it for users seeking specified help. With case studies conducted across Queensland schools and universities, Mindstar has a planned October launch.
“Our next step is to take it national,” Williams said. “And international aspirations include south asia countries,which have fantastic broadband and smartphone use, and of course the US, where positive psychology has taken massive hold.”
“Because worldwide it’s the same systems [and problems with] access to support,” he said. “In China there’s 172 million people with mental health issues and 158 million don’t access support, so it’s a global issue.”
Within both a vastly different field and startup stage is the Carins-based Why Not Tours, which manages and services group travel Australia-wide. The company works to streamline travel planning with both customisable tour management systems and pre-made tour/event packages.
Unlike Mindstar and most of the smaller startup teams, Why Not Tours was available nationally before the Germinate program, which, according to Dorahy, “provided another kick along not just for the financial support but for the mentors, knowledge and advice”. A builder by trade, Dorahy said finding developers, staff and travel resources had been the main issues with starting the company.
“I did the opposite of a lean startup and, in the first twelve months, put lots of money into it,” creator Sam Dorahy said. “We had a lot of interest and traction through the website, so I sort of ramped it up a bit and put a lot of staff on.”
“We want to get a lot more traction in Australia over the next fifteen, eighteen months or so, and then put a global product together and take it to Why Not Tours US or Why Not Tours New Zealand.
The third team, Academic Karma, outlined their peer review program in a video presentation, where founders Louis Stowasser and Lachlan Coin contrasted the profitability of scientific publishing with the concurrent slow turnaround time of peer reviewed papers. Currently financed with subscriptions and targeted advertising, the centralised platform for peer reviews is aimed at tightening these turnaround times through managing papers and offering benefits for both editors and academics to review within ten days, partners.
The night was rounded out by Troy Barnes, who followed up the pitches with an outline of iLab partner theSPACE’s role in the Cairns startup scene, and iLab teams Elastice, Hirehive, Hypermancer, Footballr, Crowdsites and Flowpro, who presented in a final round of sixty-second pitches.