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Innovation, Start-ups, Accelerators and Diversity



I had the privilege to attend the presentations of the final thirteen start-ups or scale up companies that were part of the Qantas sponsored innovation stream in the Slingshot programme.  It was an incredibly interesting evening with highly motivated individuals that want to “make it” with their product or service.  A little bit of background might be good before I get into some of my observations.

Slingshot is a Sydney based accelerator programme that provides a formula for corporations to get involved with start-up and scale-up ideas to potentially get some great products or services that might disrupt their industry (think Uber or Airbnb).  Their strapline is “we bring corporates and start-ups together”.  Qantas was the sponsor of one of the streams, called Avro, which was the name of the company that built the first plane that Qantas purchased.  Qantas had some specific themes for the type of innovation they wanted to see, and over 500 individuals/companies applied to be part of the programme which was then whittled down to the 13 that I had the honour of listening.   The business model of corporations helping start-ups is not new, but the Slingshot methodology and support model I feel has some advantages.   Have a look at their website and make up your mind on that particular point.

My take-aways from the evening

The Good

Very innovative and potentially disruptive ideas are ranging from matching pet sitters with people who want to make sure their “fur babies” are taken care of while they go on holiday through to yield optimising platforms to help make sure every plane goes out full with the best margin possible from the paying passengers.

Real-life demonstrations of the speed an organisation can go from being local to global.  For example, TravelShoot, an app that allows you to connect with a professional photographer in your holiday destination to take pictures that you will treasure for a lifetime.  This was an Australian based start-up coming into the programme (versus a scale-up) and is now can provide you with a photographer in Europe, Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

It amazing what can be accomplished in 12 weeks given money, environment and support.  One of the start-ups started day one of the 12 weeks and is about ready to sell to their first customer.  Aeroster is an app that allows families and friends of the flight crew to know which flights they have been rostered onto and where they are on any given day.

The Not So Good

The world of start-ups and accelerators is still very male-dominated.  Out of the 13 presentations, only two were given by women.  Not a great ratio considering that the primary buyer for travel (especially holidays) are female and of course they make up 50% of the customer base.

Diversity does matter (or at least it should) to potential future investors.  In addition to having a not great ratio on the female presenters, many of the men who presented showed pictures of their teams and boards.  In many cases all men, and white men.

CEO and Founder – this was a personal irritation of mine.  Each person introduced themselves as CEO and founder (or in a couple of cases Co-CEO).  I think if you are going to an innovation presentation, such as what Slingshot sponsored, you are going to be a founder and does it matter if you are the CEO?

Culture counts – a few of the “CEO and Founders” needed to have a training session on inclusion or they are never going to get past the “Founder” label.  When they were talking about the products or services the startup was doing, they used the term “I” too many times.  All of the start-ups and scale-ups have teams, and one person cannot create the next disruptor.

The evening was excellent, and whether you are a startup or a scale up, the Slingshot approach and team created 13 exciting new ideas for the market.

Mary Sue Rogers

PostScript - Slingshot just published the presentation from the evening event.  If you would like to look at some of them for yourself - click HERE 

And a short video of the highlights of the evening can be found HERE

 

Posted On : 19-09-17

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