Leading names from Australia's start-up investment community such as Niki Scevak and Hamish Hawthorn were among the guests at last week's biggest pitching event in the region.
The 2013 iAccelerate Pitch grand final saw Mr Scevak, of StartMate and BlackBird Ventures, and Mr Hawthorn, of ATP Innovations, joined by other important players such as Jeremy Colless, of Artesian Capital, Tribeni Lodh, of MH Carnegie, and Rui Rodrigues, of Tank Stream Ventures, who travelled to Wollongong to see first-hand why the city had a start-up community punching well above its weight.
The judges awarded the grand final win to Selera Labs. The major prize came less than 18 months since managing director Michael Lawler and partner Jason Harris got their first taste of pitching.
"Our pitch was about enterprise data analytics and about saving large organisations millions of dollars each year," he said. "We use analytics to monitor data to prevent bad things like duplicate invoices from being paid twice. Selera Labs is a Wollongong company."
Mr Lawler said the best thing about winning was knowing the judges thought the idea had merit. That gave Selera more confidence and credentials to go out and attract more investment.
Shelston IP Prize was awarded to a pitch that had potential to bring a benefit to the community and went to Karen Pouye, who presented an online product support system called Just Show Me.
"We are now working with one of the biggest online retailers in Australia, DealsDirect," she said.
"We have certainly increased production and we are not far off being self funded."
Garry Pinch, of Accounting Professionals, announced Caitlin Marshall and Lizzie Rose, of Wild Rumpus, the winners of the audience prize. Their start-up is building a skill sharing social enterprise aimed at building a resourceful, sustainable and creative community by engaging people in affordable, fun recreation and learning experiences such as classes and events that provide a platform for local artists, practitioners, creators, designers and facilitators to develop their products or skills.
Mr Pinch encouraged more businesses to consider sponsoring and supporting iAccelerate.
Cunningham MP Sharon Bird said it was all very exciting.
UOW Innovation and Commercial Research director Elizabeth Eastland said the grand final was the culmination of the busiest year of pitching activity ever at iAccelerate.