From breast pumps to booze-free beer: Meet the winners of Amazon’s $200,000 Launchpad Innovation prizes

Milkdrop founder Alex Sinickas. Source: supplied.

Five Australian startups have won Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grants, securing a package of cash, advertising support and mentorship worth some $200,000 each.

The grants initiative is intended to help support businesses looking to grow through Amazon’s platforms, highlighting “innovative, cutting-edge products from startups and entrepreneurs from around Australia”, Chadd Ciccarelli, head of Launchpad for Amazon Australia said in a statement.

“It’s been amazing to see so many strong businesses apply to take part in this year’s program,” he added.

“It is a timely reminder that the Australian entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, despite such a challenging year.”

The winners tapped into trends including the boom in alcohol-free drinks and the drive to tackle climate change, and also include a high-tech baby monitor and a product designed to improve the breast pumping experience for women.

The prize includes a $20,000 cash grant, plus an Amazon advertising support package, on-site marketing placements, a national advertising package with JCDecaux, industry mentorship and a boot-camp experience with Amazon experts.

In total, Amazon says this package amounts to a value of $200,000.

The winning brands will also see their products launched on Amazon ahead of the Prime Day 2021 sale.

The prize winners are:

Baresop: A business producing an eco-friendly waterless, powder hand wash, designed to be kind to skin and to the planet.

Goldilocks Suit: A baby monitor product built into a onesie, allowing parents to keep an eye on their child’s wellbeing through an app.

Patch: A natural, bamboo fibre alternative to regular bandages.

Upflow Brewing Co: A non-alcoholic beer brand headed up by craft brewing veteran Julian Sanders.

Milkdrop: A silicon breast pump cushion designed to improve the pumping experience for women.

Meet Milkdrop

Engineer Alex Sinickas founded Milkdrop after using a breastpump herself when her daughter was a baby.

“I found it quite painful and uncomfortable and frustrating,” she tells SmartCompany.

She had the skill set and the friendship group to tackle the challenge, and to try to change the way breast pumps are designed, “so that the experience of the woman is firmly at the centre”.

The product is designed to be soft, comfortable and supportive, ultimately leaving the woman using the product feeling good.

Milkdrop’s silicon breast pump cushion. Source: supplied.

Milkdrop took part in the Startmate accelerator program, and launched its product to market mid-way through, in April 2021.

Since then, sales have been increasing each week, she says.

But, at the moment, the focus for Sinickas and the team isn’t necessarily on sales. It’s on getting the word out there, and making sure they’re providing the best possible product, in order to build trust with their customer base.

What’s more indicative of success is the “amazing reviews” coming in from women using the cushion.

“Some women are saying it meant they could continue breastfeeding,” she explains.

“They really hated pumping that much they were going to give up.”

Others are saying that, because they’re not in any pain or discomfort they’re expressing more, meaning they spend less time pumping overall.

The Amazon effect

For the most part, this prize isn’t comprised of cash. The majority is in-kind services, with a focus on advertising.

“In my experience, it’s actually usually the non-cash elements that are the most valuable,” Sinickas notes.

And in this case, advertising is exactly what her business needs at this stage. Her team is made up of product designers and engineers, she explains.

“We’re learning marketing as fast as we possibly can.”

The prize gives them access not only to advertising space and resources, but to people who know what they’re doing and have expertise here.

Equally, Amazon has immense global scale. Sinickas is considering expanding to the US, and Milkdrop’s mission is to get its cushions into the hands — and onto the breasts — of as many women as possible.

When it comes to consumer businesses, having the funding to grow is an important part of the journey, at certain stages, she explains.

“But the bigger, more important part is your customers and how you’re finding them,” she adds.

“We need to be able to let the world know that we’re here.

“That’s the hardest part — to cut through everything and to be clear about what we’re trying to achieve, which is genuinely trying to improve women’s experience.”

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