Startup Tuneup: Pitches from 6 Australian Startups

E812: Startup Tuneup, Down Under! 6 Australian startups pitch me on VR therapy, food scrap collection, tree-planting robots, entrepreneurialism for kids, vets-pet owner platform, & homeowner all-in-one custom building

Receive these episodes in your inbox

Timestamps:

01:06 – Jason explains the Startup Tuneup: Six companies from Australia will pitch to Jason and he will provide honest feedback about their chances of raising money, the challenges they face, more.

Pitch: Neuromersive – VR-based brain rehabilitation

02:30 – Aims to reduce the boring and repetitive nature of brain rehabilitation programs through VR, with sensory feedback and electrical stimulation. Targets three-fold improvement in outcomes. Automated system measures and tracks progress. Hopes to capture 30 percent of the 300k US rehab centers.

06:06 – Jason compares the pitch to what investors look for: Founder is passionate about the idea but perhaps too understated. Work on monotonous speech. The persistent character is evident, strong team.

VR products are getting better, but are still too expensive. Plus side is that Neuromersive is targeting a niche market that buys high-ticket items. Customer acquisition cost is high at $1.5k. Jason requests clarification on neuroplasticity and how dopamine enhances it.  Also discusses its role in staying sharp and optimizing intellect.

12:24 – Cost to consumer is the same as more traditional treatments, but with much better results. Jason notes that citing huge, potentially addressable markets and working from the top down can make a startup seem less credible. Better to work from the bottom up: cite realistic numbers for an immediately addressable market.

14:10 – Jason asks about trials, medical device/service status, and regulatory concerns. He questions the flat rate model and the income per clinic.

16:20 – Jason asks about money invested to reach MVP ($75k, still working on MVP) and how much more is required to acquire paying customers ($950k).

16:54 – Jason thanks sponsor Walker Corporate Law, which specializes in startups.

Pitch: Kooda – Tech-enabled food scrap collection and composting

19:41 – Provides two apps: one for consumers, one for “Gatherers.” Provides homeowners, restaurateurs, etc with buckets for food scraps. Gatherers use their app for collections and are incentivized to perform quick, early pickups. Gatherers take the food to local composting centers, reducing the amount of methane generated by landfills. Produces soil conditioner.

23:36 – Jason asks about profitability, unit economics. Collectors get $1.50 per bucket base, $3 with speed incentives. The front-end collection service is break-even: customers cover collection. Subscription averages $20 per month. Revenue comes from product sales.

26:03 – Can the company reach venture scale or is it a boutique business? Response has been strong. People are asking about franchising. The company is working on numerous patents, is considering connected buckets, and is investigating blockchain integration.

28:52 – Jason likes that the idea is not obvious. The fact that people will question scalability means there’s an opportunity. People may be encouraging, but less likely to invest. Once the company figures out profitability, investors will come back looking to write checks. For now, the company has to prove there’s a real business. Jason also likes the positive impact on society.

Pitch: Sky Grow – Autonomous tree-planting robots

32:09 – Problem: Humans aren’t planting trees fast enough to compensate for deforestation. Solution: GrowBots plant trees 10 times faster than traditional methods and at 48 percent of the cost. Safer, easier. Can plant most tree species and add nutrients to the soil. Has contracted to serve its first customers, local governments, by the end of June.

34:44 – Jason asks for details on economics: The company charges $10-$15 per tree. Australian governments have targets for planting trees and isn’t meeting them. Sky Grow sells its services, not robots. Has considered growing trees and delivering and planting them.

38:06 – Jason says it’s exciting that the robots are out in the real world performing a job, but he isn’t sure how venture-fundable the company is in its early stages. Government grants might be a better starting point.

39:28 – Jason asks about the closest competition, which is a company using aerial drones to fire seeds into the ground.

40:58 – Jason thanks sponsor Athletic Greens, which makes superfood shakes. TWiST listeners get 20 free travel packs with first purchase.

Pitch: Kiddsbay – A platform enabling children to create and launch online businesses

43:42 – Provides a step-by-step wizard for creating a business, educational resources (including tutorials and quizzes), business templates, more. Kids can generate real money as well as virtual currency, which can be used for unlocking additional site features, adding features to their stores, more.

46:09 – Jason loves the idea of getting children involved with entrepreneurship. He asks about real-world sales, revenue, scalability. Notes the idea hasn’t really existed before in the world.

49:03 – Jason says there might be a bit too much going on. A sim system (no real-world sales) could be the best idea to pursue. Depends on early feedback. Jason says to stay open-minded about which features resonate and which should be abandoned.

Pitch: VetChat – Connects pet owners with vets for video consultations and chat

52:44 – Has served 2k pet owners. Not currently looking for funding but for introductions to marketplaces, pet-tech companies, etc, to learn about acquisition and growth strategies.

56:02 – Jason says the idea is brilliant: Nobody wants to take a pet to the vet when it isn’t necessary. Asks about pricing: $39 consultation works out to about $2 per minute. Cheaper than going to the vet, but gives vets the ability to earn at their convenience. Currently doesn’t support prescriptions and Jason says that’s key to everything – but the idea has legs.

Jason notes the pitch included specific numbers, the founder has passion, and she understands what investors want to know. She anticipated questions. This makes follow-ups more likely. Jason says to stay focused on metrics and margins until it’s time to raise.

Pitch: Udrew – DIY building plans and permit approvals

1:00:37 – Simplifies the process for home improvement projects: generating designs, ensuring compliance, listing materials, more. The system recognizes pipes, trees, etc. and enables the user to perfect a design before contracting. Piloting with fences will support more structures.

1:03:08 –  Jason says the idea is very innovative but it’s a complex area. He compares it to LegalZoom in that there are some legal difficulties when issuing permits. Udrew is a software company. The system recalculates strength, etc., as materials are changed to ensure everything is up to code. They have an in-house chief structural engineer. So far, the software has been more accurate than existing human-generated submissions.

1:07:44 – Cost: 70 percent cheaper than current standard price with an architect. Jason notes to be specific about numbers – it increases credibility. Regarding the product, Jason says mistakes could have a high cost, so it’s best to add support for new structures slowly and carefully. Jason says Udrew is super impressive.

Jason picks his Top Three:

  1. Udrew provides unbelievable value proposition and massive cost savings.

  2. Kooda is a wildcard that’s fascinating due to the concept and early traction.

  3. Neuromersive is interesting, has good timing. Efficacy is the question.

Jason speaks a bit about LAUNCH Festival Sydney