Lessons In Being Pitch Perfect

The Exo Digital Pitch Tank competition was aimed at encouraging and supporting young entrepreneurs to start their own businesses.

Overview

The entrants participated in the Mandy Money Movers and Makers day, which allowed young Australians to learn how to innovate and create their own Start-Up. 

The competition took place over three rounds, with an expert judging panel watching and discussing the pitches and giving constructive feedback. They then each voted for the idea that they thought was the most innovative and viable to go to market.

Up for grabs was an Innovation Sprint workshop, which will run over the Christmas break. The aim is to document the prize and publicize it across our social channels to help the winners find investment for their product.

In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into all of the participating teams and judging panel, the pitches that we received, the judges’ feedback and thoughts, and the overall journey that we took to crown the winners. Let’s go!

The Judging Panel

Rob Wijaya – Managing Director & Founder at Exo Digital

With 20+ years of experience bringing the vision of big business brands to life, Rob was the perfect candidate to form part of the judging panel for the Pitch Tank.

He is passionate about assisting brands in creating meaningful results by guiding them in connecting with their target audience and focusing on designing impactful solutions that drive positive change within those businesses.

Andrew Budiman – Co-founder and CPO at Detexian

Andy has had a lot of experience with the journey that a small start-up goes on to become independent and fully able to stand on its own two feet. Since coming on board at Detexian, Andy has ridden the start-up rollercoaster of ups and downs and navigated his way through many obstacles and opportunities to get Detexian to where it is today.

Andy’s knowledge and experience of making a start-up successful added another dimension and depth to the judging panel.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

David has spent his career in customer-facing roles, developing an intuitive and deep understanding of how his high EQ can be leveraged and adapted to suit differing personalities.

He brought this experience to the judging panel, coupled with his years in marketing and leadership roles.

Elle Marengo – Council of Small Business Organisations Australia

COSBOA has a proud history of strong advocacy on small business issues ranging from taxation and workplace relations to competition law and retail tenancy. It is the voice that represents small businesses across Australia and acts as a conduit of information and facilitator between their members and other organisations.

Friska Wirya – Change Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska

Friska owns her own company that specialises in implementing change in businesses.

She comes into a company on a consultancy basis as the champion for change within that business. She ensures that the changes that they want to implement actually happen, without wasting precious resources.

Participants and Pitch Summary

All of the entrants in this competition are in Year 10, 11 or 12 at high school. Their ideas and the pitches that they produced were incredible.

Given their ages, this would likely have been the first time they had the opportunity to confidently present an original concept to a group of people that have the potential to bring that idea to life.

JobFish – Eli Henningsen

Getting into the job market is extremely difficult for people with no prior experience in the industry they want to get into. Continued knockback from being fresh to the workforce can be very difficult for people, impacting long-term unemployment rates.

JobFish aims to remedy this situation by providing opportunities to gain this coveted experience. JobFish charges employers to list internship programs on their application, which becomes a fantastic resource for those specifically looking for positions requiring no prior experience.

The Ideas Lounge

Boredom increases stress and destructive behaviour. The Ideas Lounge aims to remedy this boredom by recommending ideas, such as games, new hobbies and even mental health tips. The app will generate income through ad revenue.

Helping Hand

This product is targeted towards supporting young people who struggle to access mental health services. It does this by providing content helpful to those undergoing mental health challenges and supporting good habits through a habit tracker function.

One of their biggest goals is to destigmatize mental health issues with young people.

Step Up – Kaaviyaa Yathavan

Shopping has a negative impact on the environment due to fast fashion. Step Up aims to make it easier and more accessible for everyone to buy and sell or donate second-hand clothes through a post, packaging and delivery service.

The product will incorporate a rewards function that will give users points that can be redeemed with their key business partners.

StudyMeter – Eric Rametta

Students are overwhelmed by studying, and this product aims to remedy this through study tracking. There are plenty of study planning apps, but nothing available to measure, track and improve their learning.

The target is for schools to purchase seats for this product, not the students themselves. StudyMeter wants to bring education planning for students into the 21st Century.

Round 1 – Social Media

Each participant was encouraged to like, comment and share their pitch on social media. The purpose of this was to see which team was the most innovative when it came to attracting attention and to see which pitch was the most popular with the public. 

Round 2 – Internal Voting

The Exo Digital and Mandy Money team held an internal showcase and judging session of the entrants. They watched each pitch, discussed their thoughts and cast their vote for the idea that they thought was the most viable. Let’s take a look at the feedback that each team received at this stage in the competition.

Jobfish

Great pitching. Problem statement is defined though might be a bit of a grey area of an idea. Do we want to encourage businesses to expect free labour from young people?

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director at Exo Digital

Interesting concept – although no clear undertanding about how it is different to other job sites that allow you to advertise internships. Is there a market for this? How would it be sold to employers as unpaid interns are an investment in other ways.

Paris Goodwin – Marketing Manager at Exo Digital

Business model makes sense in terms of where the money comes from – would need to build out some costing structures.

Is it just a “free job” site or are we expecting to have differentiation for things on this site?

How do we make “unpaid labour” ethical and make sure young people aren’t exploited?

Maxy Lotherington – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Confident and engaging. Real problem with creative solution. No visuals. Maybe an associate program rather than “free” labour as the hook.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

Captured the market and sentiment really well. The model is around creating a marketplace for students. Worth having a look at competitive landscape. How to differentiate from Graconnection by Seek?

Robert Wijaya – Director & Founder at Exo Digital

It would be cool to see a model where employers can trial an applicant for free, but if they don’t end up hiring them, there is a compensation fee. However, very eloquently presented.

Barbara van der Merwe – Mandy Money

Could there be options for some other incentives other than experience and money?

Hugh Heys – Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Need to look into legal requirements of internships in Australia (from memory the company can’t benefit financially from a free intern)

Possibly frame it as training connections

Kellie Bailey – Mandy Money

Definitely resonates with fresh grads who are struggling to get an opportunity – even when they’re willing to work for free!

Z Tan – Visual Designer at Exo Digital
The Ideas Lounge

Love the team work! Clearly a lot of good collaboration. From an execution perspective, I like how the idea is within reach – they are experts in the concept arena, and the technical execution is within reach.

Barbara van der Merwe – Mandy Money

Research referenced. Clearly defined problem statement. Great use of visuals.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

Well structured pitch. Tackling it from the perspective of boredom may not be the best angle. Like the idea around encouraging innovation mindset in teenagers.

Robert Wijaya – Director & Founder at Exo Digital

Is the target audience/user teenagers or a wider range?

A lot of hobbies require some level of cost investment (ingredients for recipes, materials, etc) so how can we make this useable by people who are strapped for cash or don’t have the ability to pay? (If teenagers are the market, how can we generate money from them?)

Like that you’ve spent time on a mockup so that we can visualise it. I also like the inclusion of tips shared for managing stress.

Maxy Lotherington – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Relevant with covid (confusing restrictions) and mental health awarness

Potential to use network effects – friends join and recommend/plan ideas together

Kellie Bailey – Mandy Money

Would have liked to have heard more as to how this would be executed in a way that is better than just trawling the internet – how would it be made more engaging.

The pitch was visually quite text heavy and I would have liked to have seen the presenter or some more engaging visuals.

Steve Brown – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

I’m not sure why I would use this app compared to the ones that already exist

Alexis Pagnon – Experience Designer at Exo Digital

I’d be asking how this would be different to googling a recipe, activity or anything else? Is there something about your platform that keeps me coming back?

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director at Exo Digital

Great idea on suggesting engaging activities, relevant to today’s rising mental health issues.

I think it would help to find a competitor and compare it with them to get the idea across better.

Angel Nguyen – Multimedia Design Associate at Exo Digital

Great idea but probably a little too broad and could focus more on a specific interest

Emily Truong – Full-Stack Developer Associate at Exo Digital
Helping Hand

Great team work – not a particularly novel idea, would have liked to see how they plan on differentiating from existing products. Confident pitching style, a visual aid could have improved the quality of the pitch!

Barbara van der Merwe – Mandy Money

Nice mention of the statistics at the start. Really helps to position the solution.

Since social media and chat apps can be a big source of cyberbullying, how would you moderate chats to make sure that people aren’t trolling/making things worse?

Since teenagers are often cash-poor, how would you monetise this?

Maxy Lotherington – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

I really like this idea and the premise to demystify and destigmatise mental health. A well defined problem statement. Referenced research. A solid plan for launch and engagement.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

I wasn’t clear on exactly what the access problem for existing helplines was? Why would this be more accessible? Confident and colourful presentation was quite engaging.

Steve Brown – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

What brings people into your app and keeps them coming back?

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director at Exo Digital

Trend of young people bullet journalling and habit tracking

I like that it’s all in one place

Would have to be very user-friendly/incentives for me to keep it up

Kellie Bailey – Mandy Money
Step Up

My interpretation of the concept is cool – although not entirely sure I interpreted it correctly – the concept was a bit unclear. Great pitch, presentation & attention to execution. Would have liked to see how they plan on commercialising this idea.

Barbara van der Merwe – Mandy Money

Like the idea. Like rewarding shopping for sustainable brands. Donations to less developed countries might need more research as this can lead to landfill problems in those countries if not done right.

Steve Brown – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Is there a way that you can prove and validate the impact you’re having? Anyway to measure this? Good focus on social media as your primary marketing tool, that’d be it for sure!

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Directorat Exo Digital

Like the idea of bringing the online thrift shop to Australia since it’s not dominated by a particular company yet.

Fast fashion and sustainability is a large problem, but how will you offset the environmental impact from shipping and packaging?

Key partnership with places like World Vision is a great idea.

The rewards system sounds like it could take over a little, is the app primarily about buying/selling or about levelling up and competing? If the app rewards unsustainable actions, could that work against the values of the business? (eg. if I buy a lot of items from one sustainble business for points, more than I actually need, aren’t I effectively creating more waste?)

Maxy Lotherington – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Really good idea !!! Ethical stores are the future!

Alexis Pagnon – Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Relevant with young people’s interests – hard to find ethical rating of stores

Need to figure out logistics with pick up and delivery

Differntiate from existing comeptition like FB marektplace, ebay, etc

Kellie Bailey – Mandy Money

Love the idea of a reward system. Target market defined. Engagment model discussed.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

Well done on the design front – looks slick!

Z Tan – Visual Designer at Exo Digital

I see the most unique focus on packaging. I know a lot of issues with self dropship packaging and access to environmentally friendly packaging is an ongoing gap. Would love to see the specific feature/solution be nailed down to tackle.

Angel Nguyen – Multimedia Design Associate at Exo Digital

Really nice preso and well rounded pitch. Could have done with a bit more clarity on the problem. There were a lot of ideas, it would have been nice to see some more thought about what specific functions they want to launch with or whether they would like to do research to guide this. Great potential here.

Paris Goodwin – Marketing Manager at Exo Digital
StudyMeter

Love the visuals! Great idea – taking an existing concept of perfomance tracking and applying it to school students (could copy, paste & adjust an existing software). Great pitch, very clear. I love the demos presented + the validation work that has been conducted.

Barbara van der Merwe – Mandy Money

Really good presentation style ! Very pro. Love the finish and the conclusion.

Alexis Pagnon – Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Question, where’s the data coming from? Where are the course structures coming from? Do different schools have different curriculum? Is this for a set amount of students doing the same subjects or all students? I like your tag line 🙂

Pierce O’Brien – Associate Design Director at Exo Digital

Beautiful visuals for the presentation.

I question the conclusion that students are overwhelmed by work because they can’t effectively track which part of the pedagogical cycle that they’re in for each subject.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – wonderful quote, but also “what gets measured gets optimised,” and school is already very metrics-based which isn’t reflective of useful skills.

Love that you’ve conducted your own user testing, but the next step would be to test it with students in action to see whether they actually want it, or if it’s a teacher problem.

Since this is a digital product, have you considered how you would expand this to connect with tools that your school is already using?

Maxy Lotherington – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Would be great to see some data and which schools are interested to validate your idea with proof!

Hugh Heys – Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Would teachers set the timeline of study?

Facilitate different styles of learning? visual, audio, etc

Kellie Bailey – Mandy Money

Amazing idea – wish I had had that at school! Love that he has gauged interest and thought about monetisation.

Steve Brown – Senior Experience Designer at Exo Digital

Love the idea around digitising diaries and homework progression. Would definitely be a great productivity booster. Would love to see more solid data around the validation and some key insights highlighted.

Angel Nguyen – Multimedia Design Associate at Exo Digital

The most robust pitch in my opinion, very well presented, covered everything really well, clear problem, clear solution. Clear business model. Clear market validation.

Paris Goodwin – Marketing Manager at Exo Digital

Can we really transform education from purely online?

Cost of equipment could be a factor for schools not being able to financially cope

Z Tan – Visual Designer at Exo Digital

Round 3 – Experts Panel

Ultimately the finalist was decided by the panel of expert judges, taking into account the following:

  • Product uniqueness
  • Commercial viability
  • Identified market gaps
  • Strength of the proposed business model

Let’s see what happened during this last round to finally crown the winner of The Pitch Tank.

JobFish

The judging panel agreed the pitch was strong, the problem statement was very clear, the speaker was confident, had a persuasive style and the narrative was easy to understand. It’s a relatable problem.

Everyone commented that the idea of people, especially school-leavers, working for free didn’t sit well. The idea needs to be workshopped more and reframed to something that encourages partnership rather than free labour.

The reasons why employers don’t hire people without experience is because it takes a lot of effort and time to rain them up. If we can reduce the perceived risk of that, it would really help people. It’s also a good way to weed out the time wasters from the people that are actually serious about gaining lifeskills and experience. A 1-Stop-Shop platform reduces the risk that young people will get taken advantage of

Friska Wirya – Change Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska

Reframe the idea as a mentoring or networking opportunity, something where you’re in partnership with others.

Elle Marengo – Council of Small Business Organisations Australia

The subscription model for businesses is a good way to monetise and grow. Thinking about its broader applications, the target audience could be widened to include the elderly population looking for jobs as well.

With everyone talking about ‘The Great Resignation’ as a result of Covid, this is very topical and would be in high demand as everyone is searching for jobs. It would be a way to make yourself known and stand out.

The Idea’s Lounge

This team obviously worked well together. It was helpful that they identified the problems and challenges and they also considered income generation through advertising revenue.

All of the judges agreed that there was a lot of potential to reframe the idea to make it more appealing and expand the target market. There was also a lot of talk about pivoting away from Covid as the motivator of the app, especially as we move forward and lockdown becomes a thing of the past.

Is the problem really about boredom, or is it more of a need for connection and engagement with somebody?

Friska Wirya – Change Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska

How do we gameify learning to make it more engaging?

Robert Wijaya – Director & Founder at Exo Digital

Move away from the idea or connection to Covid. Branch out and expand the idea to include other activities to give it legs

Andrew Budiman – Co-founder and CPO at Detexian

As a founder of a start-up, you have to be willing to constantly change and pivot and develop new ideas and apps so that you can continue to grow and improve

Robert Wijaya – Director & Founder at Exo Digital

Getting people to connect with what’s meaningful to them might be a way of reframing. Look at expansion ideas – can you show people how it works? Can you set preferences and personalise it to your own interests to make it more meaningful and engage people?

Elle Marengo – Council of Small Business Organisations Australia

There is an opportunity to develop this idea further if it can be reframed and pivoted away from Covid being the main stressor.

Mental Health is very topical at the moment and there is definitely merit in the idea.

Helping Hand

There was evidently good teamwork and collaboration to put this presentation together.

The idea would enter into a very saturated market and go up against a well-established brand that has already been rolled out in schools across Victoria. So, the big question here would be, “What makes this app different?”

If this idea could pivot to become something that interacts in a fun way through social media and still tracks habits and has a leaning towards mental health, it could be something more unique and allow it to branch out into a market of its own.

Some reframing and repackaging would be needed as this is a very common idea around mindfulness and wellbeing

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

The idea of connecting with and using influential figures is a great idea; however, a bit more information about who and how would have driven the point home.

There is an opportunity to partner with or collaborate with someone already in this space and expand that way

Elle Marengo – Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
StepUp

Fast fashion is a global problem, with a big push for sustainable and eco-friendly fashion across the board. The packaging and presentation of this idea were great and resonated with the entire judging panel.

Looking at the problem from a global perspective, but highlighting that the app would start off small, just in Melbourne, and then expand as it gained traction shows a maturity in thinking that was unexpected and refreshing.

Overall, it was agreed that some visuals would strengthen the pitch, and perhaps a visual style more in line with the concept of fashion would have made it even more appealing and hard-hitting.

The problem of clothes going into landfills in developing nations was touched on a few times too.

A lot of clothes that are being sent to nations in need due to fast fashion are not suitable for the conditions on the other end, so they’re being discarded straight away.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

The idea of gaining points to redeem later is great, but perhaps we need to move away from the idea of redeeming points for clothes if the idea of this app is to be more sustainable.

Maybe a better use of points would be a system where you could redeem them for eco-friendly products and services. Incentives that still engage the user, but steer away from encouraging unsustainable habits or practices.

Another thing to think about is possibly expanding the age range of the target audience. There are a lot of older people who would be very interested in this idea and would be keen to get on board.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock would be that this idea is already implemented on a global scale in a major fashion house.

H&M are already doing a lot of this on a global scale. If they can’t donate the clothes they recycle them and use them in the production of their own products. Customers credits in exchange for donating their old or unwanted clothes.

Adrian
StudyMeter

This was, by far, the most polished pitch. Great visuals, relatable narrative, logical progression, included validation, and overall, a very mature presentation.

The problem and solution were clearly identified, and having focus groups and involving the school shows that it was well-thought-out.

I like the idea that income generation comes from the school. Students aren’t going to be disadvantaged if they don’t have the capacity to pay

Elle Marengo – Council of Small Business Organisations Australia

The overarching idea from every judge was the concept of collaboration. StudyMeter has the potential to include aspects and ideas from each of the other presentations and turn it into a one-stop student app for all things study, health, well-being and a natural progression to getting experience as students join the workforce.

It has the potential to be the gift that keeps on giving

Friska Wirya – Change Management Consultant at Fresh by Friska

One question remains:

If it’s bought and paid for by the school, will the kids who aren’t motivated to study feel more motivated just because the app is at their disposal? Would adding in a rewards system motivate and encourage those kids to use the app?

Adrien

Making the app a gameified expereince and linking the ideas from the other groups could give it a broader appeal.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

The Results

In a landslide vote, StudyMeter was by far the most popular pitch and came out on top. Congratulations, Eric!

That’s not to say that it’s the end of the road for the other entrants. There is always room for collaboration and networking, expanding your ideas and pivoting to something else. Don’t be afraid to question yourself, strive to continually improve and embrace change.

This is just the beginning for these young minds. We can’t wait to see what they go on to produce in the future.

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