Aussie startup Nexsis has been accepted into Mastercard’s Start Path accelerator program to propel its clean water, solar power and Internet-of-Things technology to the next level.
Nexsis was founded in 2014 by former AFL player Robert Pyman, who held positions at North Melbourne, Collingwood and Melbourne football clubs back in the 90s.
At its core, Nexsis creates technology that converts any water source into pure, drinkable water, using only the power of sunshine.
However, it also acts as a straight-up solar panel, giving off-grid users access to electricity.
Finally, the panels are IoT-enabled, meaning the panels can be connected to any network across the world.
“This enables us to take payments to operate the panels under a pay-and-go system,” Pyman explains.
Nexsis can collect data on users, and use that to build a credit history for people who may never have had access to financial services otherwise.
“That can lead to them pulling themselves out of the vicious poverty cycle,” Pyman says.
The product provides the basic necessities of water and electricity, while also acting as a “gateway for other services to be provided, such as financial services and banking”, he adds.
There are some two billion unbanked people, globally, and while financial inclusion could change their lives, they also present an opportunity for the likes of Mastercard, Pyman says.
The startup now has six people on its executive team, and is currently involved in projects in Uganda and Cambodia.
Although he doesn’t reveal any revenue figures, Pyman does reveal the company is “very close to being post-revenue”.
Now, it’s become the fifth Aussie startup ever to be accepted into Mastercard’s coveted Start Path accelerator program, designed to help startups achieve global scale by offering mentoring, resources and potential partnerships.
According to MasterCard, the program only accepts 2% of all applicants. And for Nexsis, the application process was intense.
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Following an online application and early discussions with Mastercard, the shortlisted applicants were flown to Barcelona to deliver a five-minute pitch, followed by 25 minutes of questions from Mastercard global executives.
“It’s not dissimilar to a Shark Tank situation … it’s quite an intense 30 minutes in total,” he says.
Once Nexsis had been accepted, Pyman was called upon to present at the Global Start Path Summit in Miami, in front of 500 corporate partners including “potential investors, partners and financial institutions that might want to enter our market”.
The program provides a “mass acceleration opportunity”, Pyman says.
“It gives us access to a global network and organisation, and also access to experienced mentors, particularly in the finance world and tech world,” he adds.
“We get access to everything Mastercard has.”
“Never give up”
The transition from professional Aussie-rules player to fintech and clean-water startup founder isn’t exactly a natural one. After his footy career, Pyman took on work that saw him travelling all over the world.
“The more I travelled, the more I saw there was an issue associated with water,” he says.
“I took it for granted that, in Australia, we can get clean water.”
And so, he took it upon himself to try and do something about it.
“I started developing technology that could potentially provide drinking water.”
It’s quite a departure from the oval, but Pyman says he’s always been business savvy — he’s previously dabbled in the winery, restaurant and property-development spaces.
“Any sportsperson, in essence, is an entrepreneur,” he says.
“They’re responsible for their own careers,” he adds.
“I suppose from day one I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit — but this is my passion.”
And there are some things from his sporting days that have helped him in his entrepreneurial endeavours, too.
“Never give up. Be completely resilient,” he advises.
“Resilience is number one.”
It’s also important to be able “accept feedback, but also believe in yourself and your company”, he says.
If someone is negative, it can help to take the feedback on board, “but don’t take it to heart”.
Finally, he advises entrepreneurs to “surround yourself with positive people — that’s critical.”
But, there are also things Pyman has learnt purely from the startup life. Mostly, that Aussie startups should shout a little louder about what they’re up to.
Having met startups from all over the world, Pyman says there is “just as good quality, intellect and IP here”.
But, when compared to the likes of the US, Israel and the UK, Australia isn’t necessarily on the map.
“There are some sensational startups in Australia,” he says.
“We need to be bolder and promote ourselves with more confidence.”