Pearcey Awards, Oz entrepreneurship, and pitching comps

pearcey-awardsSo, I was at the NSW Pearcey Awards last night and it was great to see the depth of entrepreneurship in Australia be recognised. The Awards recognise outstanding tech entrepreneurs in NSW for “taking a risk”, “making a difference” and “being an inspiration”. The people on the stage last night, were certainly inspirational and it is great to see home-grown success stories giving the lie to the idea that you have to go overseas to make it.

Part of the evening was a pitching competition from university students from around the State. I have to say this once again drove home to me the horror of this format for getting your message across. The university students were visibly more nervous and less fluent than the primary and high school kids who had preceded them – perhaps because they had more at stake. Three minutes to get the essence of your idea across to a group of judges who might get the opportunity to ask one question to clarify things. The presentations ranged from the polished to the slightly unfortunate. The ideas were interesting but the tiny time to explain them made them leave as many questions hanging as answered.

One of the winners has an idea of a device that attaches to a motorbike helmet and notifies police and family if the rider is in an accident. The device is not ready for production because it needs not-yet-developed battery technology – begging the question, why not attach it to the bike instead of the helmet? Then there was the people who had developed an idea to tackle tunnel vision but defined their market as every single person in the World with a visual impairment. It’s a deeply unsatisfying experience watching these ideas flash by at light-speed and I can only think how tough it must be to be being judged in those circumstances.

Overall it was hard not to feel that many of the people involved in the pitching competition could have done with some mentoring. It was also hard not to think that the 40-60-year-olds winning prizes for entrepreneurship must have had very different start-up experiences than today’s young entrepreneurs.

All that said, the Pearcey Awards are entirely worthwhile. They are recognising the very people who make phrases like the ‘clever country’ and the ‘innovation nation’ real. These people are an inspiration to us all.

By the way, it’s also great to see the  founder of computing in Australia, Trevor Pearcey, continue to be recognised and honoured. (It would be nice if the computer he built was also looked after a bit better.)

Disclosure: My son was one of the high school presenters so my view of how fabulous they all were is admittedly biased!

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