Speech by Grant Grosser, Director, Business Development & Product Strategy, SEQTA at the 2015 WA Innovator of the Year launch
“It was around 2007 or 2008 when we first entered the WA Innovator of the Year Awards. We were a fledgling startup at the time, and were only just starting to develop our software – a great new concept in software for school teachers that would make their lives so much easier, bringing together all aspects of their work into a single, web-based interface that was designed around their workflows and preferences.
Our concept was strong, and we knew it would find market acceptance. We had pitched the product to a number of investors looking for financial backing but had no success. The problem was, while we had a great idea for a product, we had no experience in how to pitch. Further, we were totally focused on the product and lacked the ability to articulate the business idea.
The WA Innovator of the Year program gave us the opportunity to work with a range of skilled people to not only work on our pitch, but to begin work on thinking about our business. The intensive workshops included practical, hands-on sessions with people who had been there, done that and who were willing to give back by helping startups like ours. We also got to spend time with media experts, venture capitalists and business experts. The experience was invaluable.
I’ll never forget, after presenting what I thought was a great pitch, Charlie Gunningham, who as our assigned mentor, telling me that I had to cut it down. I explained to him that it was a complex product and it took time to explain. Charlie helped me cut the presentation down, trimming it to only what was necessary, helping me really crystallise the core ideas and pitch them in a way that would hit the mark with potential investors.
We didn’t win that year, but by the end of the process, we had a great foundation for getting our business up and running.
Fast forward to 2013, and we finally had our commercial product on the market and were experiencing great market response to it. We felt we were ready again to enter WA Innovator of the Year, this time in the Growth Category. Even though we had been through the program before, it was incredibly beneficial again the second time around. I’ll highlight three key aspects that were most worthwhile.
Firstly, the application process itself is amazingly rewarding – it is time consuming, but totally worth the effort. It makes you re-examine your business and re-think the way you express yourself. For example, even though we know our revenue model inside out, phrasing it succinctly in a way that connects with potential investors takes a lot of thought. Just that process of sitting down and addressing the criteria is a rewarding experience – in fact, we try to enter at least one award each year because addressing awards criteria really helps you stay focused as a business.
Secondly, the coaching you receive on your presentation during the program is invaluable. Your colleagues may get sick of hearing you bang out the same old stuff, but having a total stranger who has experience in assisting startups critique your presentation yields new insights, in terms of both your content and presentation skills.
Thirdly, IOTY brings together a very wide range of people from industry, government and the higher education community and you just never know who you are going to bump into or meet for the first time. These people are well connected and our experience is that they will go out of their way to help – some golden opportunities may present themselves.
Winning the 2013 Innovator of the Year award in the Growth Category was a fantastic experience. As a startup, it can be difficult to get onto people’s radar. IOTY has added substantially to our credibility in the market place and helped us cross the chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. Since winning the award SEQTA has more than doubled its revenue, doubled its client base and doubled its staff.
I cannot speak highly enough of the benefits of participation in the WA Innovator of the Year Award program. While there is substantial prize money up for grabs and that can be a real shot in the arm for a startup, the true value of the program will still be with your business well past when that money is spent!