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Tech Tank II

Australian Innovation in Action

By Mark Iles


I took part in the inaugural Tech Tank event late last year and when they were kind enough to invite me back for the second event I jumped at the chance.  The event is hosted by Newport Capital Group and Minter Ellison and the premise is simple; invite a small number of emerging Australian technology companies and ask them to present an investment proposition to a small number of investors and have a panel of “sharks” grill them on the company and potential as an investment.  As well as myself as the Technology Analyst from Tech Research Asia the other sharks were Anthony Lloyd a technology focussed partner from Minters, Andrea Kowalski from Bailador investment group and special guest Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for innovation (I think it’s a sign of ageing when the politicians start to look younger than you although he was the youngest ever MP to be elected in Australi).  The event was held at Minter Ellison offices in Sydney hosted by Will Mateu from Minters and Bruce Goldsmith of Newport Capital.


The companies represented some of the most innovative tech players in Australia at the moment across Social Media, Fin Tech, Agri Business (IOT) and smart homes (IOT).  Wyatt Roy kicked things off covering the governments focus on innovation and some of the current proposals under development to help grow Australian innovation including further tax concessions for research and IP development and he also made the rather insightful comment that Australians spend twice as much betting on the Melbourne Cup than was invested in startups through venture capital last year.

First up was Moneyplace a peer to peer lender in the emerging Fin Tech space (does it get any hotter than Fin Tech right now).  The business model is really quite clever and the value proposition of quick, tailored personal loans with a super slick application process via mobile has serious merit.  The loan funds are provided by wholesalers at the moment but the plan is to open to other non-commercial lenders in the future.  This business is all about risk and the technology smarts to assess and minimise risk and provide a customised loan rate for consumers based on a rich set of data is very interesting and has the potential to shake up the big banks who struggle to be this nimble.  The management team and board are also quite impressive.

Mav Social is an emerging player in the social media marketing space, again a hot area right now as companies try to figure out their digital marketing strategies for engaging customers and need to find ways to manage all their content and publishing across multiple.  Mav Social runs a now well established “Freemium model” and hence it’s all about driving users to try the software and then convert to paying customers.  There are a few other players in this space, notably Hootsuite, however, Mav Social has some unique features that allows it compete and it’s certainly a growth area.

Next Instruments is a more established business that has discovered the power of IP in Agriculture  Agri-Business is one of the most talked about industries for IOT adoption and this is a great example.  Although more focussed at the moment on the hardware equipment the solution that sits on a combine harvester and does real-time soil analysis is super interesting and has the potential to leverage Big Data Analytics as the bank of data from customers around the world builds up. Great example of a smart end-end solution for farmers.

Last up was Wattcost a smart home system built around a device developed from scratch by the team which includes some previous google folks.  The technology is quite clever and simply connects to your electricity meter and measures usage in real time and is able to send notifications to you to remind you that you left the heating for example.  The business model is a little hard to predict as initially the device is being charged at $149 for early adopters (kick starter funding style) but longer term of course could be provided by the electricity providers and also the potential of commissions from the many companies focussed on switching.  Although there are dependencies on the devices in the home being smart enabled there are a lot of companies working in this area including Apple and Samsung.

It’s great to see Australian innovation thriving, as a nation has to be the new Ore and I look forward to seeing what the government brings to the table to enable innovation and to see what Tech Tank III brings along.