SmartCompany Plus Innovator Award winner: Pickstar


Taking home the SmartCompany Plus Innovator award is startup Pickstar, headed up by co-founders and former AFL pros James Begley and Matthew Pavlich.

Founded as a talent booking platform for sports stars, Pickstar has since expanded its offering to connect brands, event organisers and individuals with anyone from AFL legends to chefs to social media influencers.

Pre-pandemic, Pickstar largely facilitated appearances at in-person events. So when COVID-19 came along, Begley and Pavlich were forced to adapt to a new and fast-changing environment.

The pair saw a need in the market for something to improve efficiencies for talent managers and rights owners, while also supporting authentic talent engagements. Those rights owners were also doubling down on valuing their most valuable assets — the talent.

Pickstar’s VLAST talent management and activation platform is designed to give rights holders full control and visibility of the whole talent landscape.

The platform can reduce costs for activation administration by up to 70%, Begley says. At the same time, it supported Pickstar to pivot to a world of online events.

“VLAST was born at a time when the industry needed it most,” the founder says.

The platform now has more than 30 leading sports organisations on board, including the NFL, the AFL, Cricket Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee, as well as several UK Premier League soccer teams.

Our Smart50 judges noted how the founders were able to innovate to solve a clear problem in their industry.

One judge called the startup “a business with clear purpose, determined founders and lots of resilience — necessary ingredients for success in what can be a fickle market”.

One of the company’s values is to create ‘meaningful solutions’, and another judge said the VLAST platform is a prime example of this value in action.

The judges were also impressed with the way the founders have woven innovation into their leadership, building time and space for creativity into every role in the business.

View Award Information