Digital Innovation Challenge 2016

DIC2016 finalists

The Telstra Business Centre Coffs Harbour Digital Innovation Challenge – the only startup conference on the Mid North Coast – delivered a very impressive lineup of speakers and pitchers on the 18 June.

What us, a startup epicentre from the comfort of our beachside abode or valley escape? That’s right, no longer is the Coffs Coast questioning if we can launch a global digital business from the region. The resounding message from the speakers and pitchers was about sharing exactly how they are doing it now, and the tips and tricks to taking advantage of being regional.

Brendan Yell from Softlayer expounded the virtues of being a regional startup and the top advantage from his perspective is (ironically) being isolated. Isolated from the hype, rhetoric and spin that you are prone to be caught up in if you are part of the startup scene in Silicon Valley, Melbourne or Sydney allows you to get on with it. Being away from the endless events and networking opportunities means you can knuckle down and focus on getting traction and outcomes without being constantly looking over your shoulder.

Brendan hit on the hot topic of affordability and keeping a happy family environment. With all the talk these days about work/life balance the stark reality is that being in a startup in the big smoke is tough. Highlighting the amazing affordability of doing business in a Coffs, from affordable housing, cheap coworking @ sixdegrees, free parking everywhere, NBN connectivity and a 5 minute commute to anywhere, it is only a matter time before the secret is out.

We loved the enthusiasm for regional startups that Simone Eyles from 365cups brought to the stage. Her “uncut” stories of her journey were refreshing and inspiring. Once again she had a key message for our local entrepreneurs to go global, think massive and then #startnow. After hearing Simone speak I think SixDegrees is now joined by the umbilical cord with Working Spaces HQ!

Our Q&A panel was awesome and a riot as we were drawn into the diverse range of challenges facing innovative startups. With Jason Errey showcasing the technolgy OEMG are using which is so darn innovative that they can’t put in complying tenders (so they had to push the boundaries). Ben Burton of Zeppee detailed the approach he has taken to win over investors and develop the tinder for pets. Nick Herford of Hello Claims showed just how far someone with industry knowledge and experience combined with a new idea on disrupting said industry (insurance) can go  – and some of the obstacles he has had to overcome to make it such a huge success.

What this year’s event showed us is that we have a solid foundation for innovation and startups. Now we should create our own cultural, economic and product storylines. The message is we must build Coffs Harbour to be a viable alternative with a unique value proposition to customers, entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Startup Alley DIC2016

Startup Alley was a new highlight of the day, providing fresh new businesses the opportunity to showcase their business plans to attendees and speakers. The diverse range of businesses we had setup included Martin & Fortuin with their financial literacy programs, the young guns of Your Tech Mate providing affordable in-home IT helpdesk services, through to Vertipot with a unique vertical growing system ideal for small space gardening and horticulture.
Pitching live to an audience of over 80 people and a panel of five industry experts, seven prospective winners battled it out to share in over $150,000 in prizes.

Each of our finalists had only 5 minutes to pitch followed by 5 minutes of questioning from our panel of expert judges. It was very impressive the way all our finalists rose to the moment and were not fazed by the stage, bright lights and audience. Kudos to all our pitchers for delivering quality presentations and putting their passion on the line, it is not easy and you delivered in spades.

Tracy Chapman of outlined her plans to disrupt the way we currently plan the end of our lives…that’s right, we don’t really, and this means there are many business opportunities for her to provide the one stop shop of death and dying.

Mark Henderson won the day for putting passion on the stage, with an outstanding delivery of the problem, a lack of grounded and authentic parental advice for fathers of teenage sons, and his solution, the BeDad App.

Brendan Yell of Softlayer with Jodie Curtis and Vrindy Benson co-founders of COLLAB. the App and Anthony Jephcott of Telstra Business Centre Coffs Harbour

Brendan Yell of Softlayer with Jodie Curtis and Vrindy Benson co-founders of COLLAB. the App and Anthony Jephcott of Telstra Business Centre Coffs Harbour

Jodie Curtis and Vrindy Benson of COLLAB. The App which connects entrepreneurs and creatives around the world to enable them to grow their business or their portfolio.

Kelly Tudhope, Tony Davis and Kirk Davis have their sights on assisting the Direct Selling Industry to change their reputation of illegality, dishonesty, and preying on vulnerable consumers thru their business Direct Sales Compliance.

Stephen Pratt and Chad Buckley brought to the stage their value-ad marketing tool for real estate agents – Look Through.

Leanne Taylor, Sam Chapman, Nanette Backhouse have teamed up to create MatchMyRide. Match My Ride is a platform that connects people who want to buy a car with dealers. Buyers fill out a wish list in terms of price point, make, model, kilometres and that instantly goes to a dealer network. You can put your feet up and the dealer network will do all the running around for you and come back with some options.

Aaron Wittman and Troy Brown of Risk Angel are taking aim on reducing business risk and saving money for SMEs. Risk Angel analyses patterns in your business data, and lets you know when things are great and when things are at risk – before it’s too late.


Anthony Jephcott, Telstra with Nanette Backhouse and Leanne Taylor of MatchMyRide and Brendan Yell, Softlayer

Anthony Jephcott, Telstra with Nanette Backhouse and Leanne Taylor of MatchMyRide and Brendan Yell, Softlayer

After all the energy on stage it was a tough call for our judges to award the prizes. In the end it was great to see the women dominate the podium this year, with Jodie Curtis and Vrindy Benson taking out the highly commended award for their COLLAB. the App.

The grand prize went to local business women Leanne Taylor, Nanette Backhouse and Sam Chapman for their business platform Match My Ride that connects people who want to buy a car with dealers.

Based on the success of the event on the weekend, 2017 is already shaping up to be bigger and bolder. #startupcoffs


An Initiative of City Prosperity

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