Meet PractiFI, the Sydney startup crowned by Pip Marlow, Steve Baxter and Annie Parker at Salesforce’s World Tour

PractiFI founders pitching at Salesforce World Tour in Sydney

A Sydney startup combining finance, regulation and insurance technology has won the crown at Salesforce’s inaugural PitchComp Down Under this month.

PractiFI went head-to-head with communications service Zipline and fundraising platform Get Bennie in the competition, which was judged by former Microsoft managing director for Australia and New Zealand Pip Marlow, tech entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Steve Baxter and muru-D co-founder Annie Parker on March 21.

“PractiFI is a business management and customer engagement platform for wealth industry companies,” PractiFI co-founder Adrian Johnstone tells StartupSmart. 

PractiFI, which launched in 2014 and has raised $1.3 million in seed funding, recently hit $1 million in recurring revenue and has been growing 160% year-on-year.

“We have a very clear vision both domestically and internationally: to be the go-to choice for advice businesses looking to drive engagement,” he says.

What put PractiFI ahead of its PitchComp competitors boiled down to two key things, says Johnstone.

“We were able to draw a connection between our product and the value it delivers to our customer’s customer,” he says.

“[And] we’ve moved well beyond the idea and we’re generating significant traction now.”

Read more: Mark Cuban, Shahrzad Rafati and Chris Sacca on what they look for in a startup

According to Salesforce, competition finalists receive an investment opportunity of up to $US60,000 ($78,390) from Salesforce Ventures and support through its startups portfolio packages.

However, Johnstone says he’s not allowed to disclose any details of his startup’s prize.

“We’re working through what that looks like,” he says.

Over the next 12 months, Johnstone and his team will be focusing on a Series A funding round, while accelerating growth across Australia and potentially the UK.

“It’s nice to be a startup in a pretty exciting time in the Australian market,” he says.

Pitching in the spotlight

While Johnstone says the Salesforce competition was “fun”, it took serious preparation and practice to ensure he was well-equipped to tackle any question.

“It was pretty intense,” he says.

One difficult point raised by the judges, he says, was why all the co-founders competing were men.

“We didn’t get a chance to answer,” says Johnstone.

“Our team is already nearly 40 percent female [but] we can’t change who the co-founders are.”

Since winning the competition, Johnstone says PractiFI has benefited from a lot of attention including a “whirlwind of Twitter activity”.

“It’s the kind of exposure that’s very hard to buy when you’re a firm of our scale,” he says.

To startups interested in entering pitch contests, Johnstone says it’s critical that founders first ask themselves what exactly they do and why.

“Make sure you really understand your business before you go and pitch it to someone else,” he says.

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