Renowned angel investor Jason Calacanis is convinced that 12 unicorns are hiding inside the Sydney startup scene, waiting to be discovered. This is one reason he chose to hold his LAUNCH Festival outside of Silicon Valley for the first time in its 10-year history.
Republic partnered with LAUNCH for the crowdfunding category of the competition. Five startups raising on Republic participated, including Skin Allies, Paragon One, Balloonr, Access Network, and R3 Printing. Each had a chance to pitch in front of a panel of notable VCs, including Calacanis, former Australian NBA player and VC Matthew Dellavedova, US-based VC Stonly Baptiste, and Andrea Gardiner of the Australian Jelix Ventures.
LAUNCH Festival Sydney marked the first international crowdfunding competition for startups, and Calacanis walked away impressed by all five of Republic participants, mentioning that they were some of the best in the entire competition.
Founders of the startups raising on Republic walked away equally impressed, finding the event enlightening and engaging, full of opportunities to learn, connect with other founders, and garner encouragement.
“The LAUNCH festival was incredibly illuminating,” Daniel Downs, CEO and Co-Founder of R3 Printing said. “In addition to exposing Republic companies to a robust variety of angel investors, from both Sydney and abroad, we were also there to learn.”
As startup founders trudge onward to build their businesses, they can often get swallowed into a vacuum, which doesn’t lend itself well to receiving feedback from the public or interacting with other founders. The festival offered a much-needed break from this atomization.
“Oftentimes, when you’re in the process of building a company, you don’t talk to the public per se. You’re talking to customers, you’re talking to business partners. So, to see people react and give us feedback was actually incredibly helpful. I found this to be the most incredible thing about LAUNCH,” Nu Dao, CEO and Co-Founder of Skin Allies said.
Her startup, which has designed an interactive app that analyzes skin tones to create customized skin regimes designed by estheticians and dermatologists, won first place in the crowdfunding competition.
“Getting to know the other founders was super helpful, kind of building these bonds with other founders we pitched with,” Dao said.
Balloonr CEO and Co-Founder Amanda Greenberg also valued the feedback she received and the interaction that took place with other founders.
“As a founder, receiving support and feedback from investors, other founders, and potential customers is invaluable to our growth,” Greenberg said. “I also really enjoyed learning about the tech ecosystem in Sydney and meeting other founders building awesome companies solving challenging problems.”
Over 500 people attended LAUNCH Festival Sydney on June 18-21, with 30 startups vying for the $100,000 first prize. In addition to the competition, the festival hosted fireside chats with influential venture capitalists, angel investors, startup founders, and tech innovators.
Startup founders not participating in the competition were able to showcase their brands in demo pits and at an open mic where they could present a brief pitch in front of the audience and VC panel. Republic CEO and Co-Founder Kendrick Nguyen took to the stage to speak on "The Future of Angel Investing and Startup Funding" panel, alongside Dellavedova and Gardiner.
Always on the hunt for startups that are just getting off the ground, Calacanis is an evangelist of what he’s dubbed the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ — the period of fundraising succeeding bootstrapping and preceding series rounds. He wrote a book on angel investing called, appropriately, Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups, and he’s invested in over 125 early-stage startups, six of which went on to become unicorns. Uber was one of them.
The hunt for the next great idea interests Calacanis as much as bringing in the next buck, and that’s what inspired him to create LAUNCH Festival in the first place, one of the biggest startup competitions in the US and the biggest one that’s ever taken place in Australia. Republic is proud to have played a significant role in this year’s event.
“The programming for that event was incredibly pertinent to the founder,” Downs said. “Republic did a lot of work here, to help us grow as founders.”