Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Innovation ANU Elevator Pitches

Greetings from the Innovation ANU Elevator Pitches in Canberra. This is the culmination of a series of evening courses to educate university people in how to turn an idea into a product. Earlier each person with an idea presented and then formed teams. About a dozen of those teams now get two minutes each to present their idea. Two judges, from the venture capital industry, select the best for an award and then for development.

The presentations are entertaining. It is remarkably difficult present an idea in two minutes. One part I found surprising was that few of the teams used props for presentations. Most presentations were someone standing at a lectern talking. This makes me appreciate the quality of the presentations which the ANU software engineering present.

Topics of the presentations were aids for home finance, puzzles, teaching English, B2C, photo printing, fast food catering. At that point the next presenter, Felix Schill woke me up by pulling a miniature robot submarine out of their backpack and said these would cost $15,000 each. This is the Serafina, developed by ANU (sort of an underwater Aerosonde).

The next presentation was the EtherDVB", video over Ethernet product. That was followed by the BushLAN system for long distance broadband (might be useful for the last few percent of the population with the government's broadband system). This was followed by a proposal for electronic medical records. Then gold prospecting.

At that point the presentations changed outlook to one with a "non-profit" proposal. The first was about reconciliation and learning about indigenous culture.

When then flipped back to a proposal for keeping track of receipts. There was then a second food proposal. One of the few medical proposals was for a drug to reduce deaths due to heart disease. We then had a proposal for bio-gas for developing nations using cow manure for cooking. There was then a second proposal for e-health records. A less usual proposal was for a low cost harp to be sold online (bit like the OLPC, but for music). The last presentation was for asthma treatment: a counter for dispensers and a test kit to check the medicine is present. It was claimed that these are already protected by patents.

The one hour of elevation pitches went very quickly. The judges are now considering their decision.
... first round of judging and awards and will require teams to submit a two page executive summary and a 2 minute (maximum) elevator pitch. Details about both of these submissions are outlined below. Executive Summary submission will be by midday, Tuesday 22nd April (the day before the judging evening), to give the judges plenty of time to read the executive summaries. The elevator pitch will be conducted on the evening and the order of the teams will be selected randomly on the evening. Both the page and time limits are fixed and teams will be asked to strictly abide by these.

The elevator pitch is a two minute pitch to sell your vision/idea of a product, service or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride. The elevator pitch should be delivered without visual aids (pictures, powerpoint presentations, etc.) and within the required time limit, after which the team will be asked to stop immediately.

Investors will often judge the quality of an idea and team on the basis of the quality of a short pitch such as this as any weaknesses are often easily exposed in this process. An effective elevator pitch is designed to give the audience just enough information that they will have a sense of what you are talking about and want to know more. Second, and just as importantly, it is designed to not give the audience so much information so that they feel overwhelmed (and tune you out). There is an overview of the requirements for the elevator pitch on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website ( There is also a good overview of an elevator pitch at

An executive summary is similar to a written version of the elevator pitch and outlines many of the relevant elements of your concept and idea and why it will be a success. This should be a two page document without images or other visual elements. There is an overview of the requirements for the executive summary on the resources page of the Innovation ANU Website ( The executive summary should be submitted in word (.doc) or pdf formats by midday, Tuesday 22nd April. Late submission will rule participants ineligible for this award.

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