Pitchers ‘paint’ in nouns and verbs

22/05/2015 - 11:56

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Perth has hosted a UK-based incubator’s first pitch night for social entrepreneurs in Australia.

DOING GOOD: Katie Rose (right) explains how The Fabric Social works before pitching at the Mustard Seed event.

Perth has hosted a UK-based incubator’s first pitch night for social entrepreneurs in Australia.

In a move regarded as a boost for social enterprises in Western Australia, an overseas incubator fund chose Perth as the venue for its first Australian pitch night earlier this month.

Hosted by the UWA’s Centre for Social Impact and held at the UWA Business School, the Mustard Seed pitch event brought together 200 people, including a panel of 10 judges, to hear 12 social entrepreneurs pitch their proposals for equity investment.

Mustard Seed is a UK-based global network of investors that looks for, invests in, and incubates early stage companies with the potential to generate significant positive social and environmental outcomes.

Pitches ranged from renewable energy to biotechnology to ethical fashion, with the event being filmed so that Mustard Seed’s UK headquarters could judge which enterprises they would like to follow up with.

“It is small businesses, and particularly those with clear social and environmental outcomes, that will build a strong economy in cities around the world in the next decade,” said Lisa Barrett, Mustard Seed COO and partner, who flew in from Silicon Valley for the event.

“To build a strong pipeline of social enterprises, you need a strong local partner. Mustard Seed invests globally, supporting the creation of socially responsible and commercially viable startups.

“But it is a strong local ecosystem like the one that UWA has created that is the foundation for success.”

The pitch night followed successful Mustard Seed events at Oxford University, London Business School and INSEAD.

The judging panel included: Spacecubed managing director Brodie McCulloch; CCIWA president Tracey Horton; Linc Property director Ben Lisle; The Green Enterprise’s Jemma Green; and Geoff Pritchard from Go Capital and Innovation Bay.

“This event is the first ever impact investing event in Perth involving social purpose businesses that are operating for profit while striving to make positive social change,” UWA CSI director Paul Flatau told Business News.

“This new wave of impact investing brings together innovation, social purpose and scalability in a way we’ve not seen before. We are proud to be partnering with Mustard Seed to work with early stage entrepreneurs looking for a better way of doing business in Australia.”

On the night itself, an audience vote gave the nod to The Fabric Social, an ethical fashion business empowering women affected by conflict in the Assam region of north-east India. The women use their hand-looming skills to create durable fabrics that are woven into clothes for sale through an online shop. One of the founders, Katie Rose, is a human rights lawyer and spent over a year in Assam setting up the enterprise with her co-founders.

“I’ll be straight, we need money,” Ms Rose told Business News. “I believe in for-profit businesses doing good. We want (Mustard Seed) funding so we can be bigger and brighter – here’s hoping.”

Another popular pitch was Ben Sharp’s Mycovative, which has pioneered eco-friendly fungi-based alternatives to plastics and building materials.

Renewable energy featured prominently, with Bombora Wave Power and IMB’s Algae Process Simulator being presented.

Two educational ideas on the night were Chris Breidahl’s MyGuru (providing online support for students) and Natalie Martin’s PlayBiz (early education support for preschoolers).

Fadzai Matambanadzo, CEO of the African Dream Leadership, explained how her social enterprise developed new leadership in Africa, while other pitches on the night were from Rana Clothing, WASH for the World, Cruxcee and ProphetAble.

Previous Business News app/tech business of the week eKarma completed the pitches with its plea for everyone to ‘shop and do good’.

These dozen social enterprises will find out in a few months whether any of them have been successful with Mustard Seed funding.

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