Xplor, Flurosat among the winners of this year’s Tech23 showcase

Xplor Tech23

Xplor founder Mark Woodland. Source: Supplied.

Startups working with artificial intelligence, agtech and edutech solutions are among those to win top prizes as this year’s Tech23 showcase.

Now in its ninth year, Tech23 has showcased prominent Australian startups like CultureAmpKaggle and Upguard in its annual one-day event, with this year’s showcase focusing on startups working with AI, as well as automation and the ways it can influence our daily lives.

Melbourne startup Xplor was among the 23 startups selected to participate in the showcase, and has taken home five awards, including the People’s Choice award, the Most Promising Mobile App, the Most Awesomest Pitch, and the Market Changing Technologies award.

The Xplor platform provides an end-to-end technology solutions to cut down administration time and costs for schools and childcare centres. The startup raised $6 million in August 2016 in a round led by Airtree Ventures.

While the startup won a slew of awards on the day, its founder Mark Woodland says participating in the Tech23 showcase was about connecting with the startup community rather than winning prizes. 

“There’s this real community [at Tech23] and we’re focused on connecting with the community and going from there,” he tells StartupSmart.

“We made connections with a whole bunch of startups in different spaces … some of the parents that use the app were in the audience and they approached me afterwards. It’s really awesome, this community building process.”

Woodland presented his pitch to industry leaders like Tyro executive director Jost Stollman, Reinventure Group’s general partner Kara Frederick, and Square Peg Capital co-founder Tony Holt at the event held in Sydney earlier this week.

It was a pitch that clearly impressed the judges, with Woodland taking home the top pitch prize, and the founder says the key to his success lies in telling a great startup story.

Woodland says he runs through his pitch on a daily basis, constantly practicing and honing his presentation.

“I’ve done it so many times and it’s just constant practice; founders should understand who your customer is and the problem you’re solving, and then constantly run it through your head,” Woodland advises.

Practice makes pitch-perfect, and Woodland says he doesn’t rely on slides during his pitch, instead letting his passion do the talking.

“A lot of startup founders are super passionate, and they should know their topic and be able to speak without slides. You shouldn’t be talking to a screen,” he advises. 

“People get more excited about you telling your story than reading off a piece of paper; you probably don’t have slides when walking down the street and someone asks [about your startup], so you shouldn’t need them now [when pitching].” 

Xplor has won $6000 in prize money and a chance to work with Appbot, one of the Tech23 partners, to build out its app-based offerings.

Startmate Melmbourne cohort member Nucleotrace was the other startup to win a wave of awards at the showcase, taking out the Deep Technology Award, The Addisons Award, and the Tech23 Innovation Excellence Award on the day.

Innovating in Beijing

Among the other startup winners was Flurosat, a Sydney-based agtech startup that provides uses machine learning and satellite-guided fertiliser prescriptions to identify nutrient deficiencies in soil.

Flurosat co-founder Anastasia Volkova says the startup counts Landmark fertiliser among its big-name clients, and is working to close a funding round, which has already received a contribution from startup accelerator Muru-D.

Flurosat has taken home the China Australia Millennial Project (CAMP) award, which will see the startup embark on a five-day tour through Beijing’s startup and innovation ecosystem. Volkova says the trip will give her startup crucial insight into the applications of Flurosat’s technology in international markets.

“I’ve been many places and lived in many places but I’ve never been to China,” she says.

Without an organised program, a person from the western world could not navigate that startup environment without being guided.” 

Volkova is eager to see how the sensor technology Flurosat uses is implemented in China, and whether there are any similarities with how companies in Beijing approach the problems her startup aims to solve.

“We want to find out the key things we can learn in terms of embracing tech at the fast pace at which China is manufacturing, while also understanding a bit more about the agtech space in China,” she says. 

A full list of this year’s winners can be found here.

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