RiverPitch Live returned to Brisbane last week with ten aspiring founders putting aside their Zoom pitches to take the stage in front of a live audience of 150 in Brisbane, with several hundred more watching the global livestream.

With more than 70 investors attending, all eyes were on River City Labs co-founder and notorious Shark, Steve Baxter. Pitches spanned IT management, cyber security, property services, fintech, drone fleet management, art and culture, and medtech.

The night’s pitches, the first since 2019 after last year’s RiverPitch was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, were seeking more than $25m in combined investment.

River City Lab’s General Manager Pauline Fetaui hosted the live event, supported by major partners BDO, Sharesource and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“RiverPitch aims to connect the Tech innovation ecosystem and support stellar start-ups and investors to connect – in person and online,” said Fetaui. “We are thrilled to be back.”

After a competitive application process, the short-listed founders then worked with RiverPitch mentor’s Peter Laurie and Pauline Fetaui to hone their presentations ahead of the live event.

Alisha Geary, whose digital assistant Doris helps artists secure their intellectual property and monetise their practice, came to RiverPitch by way of the Mindaroo Foundation GenOne Program.

“River City Labs dove deep into my business, helped me work out how much capital I need, what its valuation could be and how to make forward projections.” Geary said. “Pauline was a huge help, and no program has done that for me before – it’s quite deep.”

Founders shared universal praise for the RiverPitch mentors and said that they benefited from the one-on-one coaching and pitching in front of the diverse group.

Josh Marsden, from workplace health and wellbeing platform Active and Thriving, had only recently started to pitch to ‘real investors’ as opposed to practising in front of family and friends.

"The candour and directness of the feedback has helped us work out what audiences might like or dislike. It’s been particularly beneficial to get different perspectives from the room and lots of different industries. It's full-on," said Josh.

The mentoring prompted Josh and co-founder Louis Island, to completely flip their script.

"When we sat down with Peter and Pauline it became clear that our unique value proposition was the traction we already had. We front-loaded the pitch with our strengths rather than burying the lead for later," Josh explained. "Now we start with the awesome."

Other founders seeking investors at RiverPitch 2021 included Lucas Meadowcroft who was raising $2m for Tribu, which provides automated IT support using AI; and Chris Maycock and Paul Higgins of Coaxion, who were pitching for $1.5m to take to market their usage-based financing platform for users of heavy equipment/machinery.

Addressing the compliance and due diligence needs of the property builders and inspectors, Trish Mackie-Smith pitched Inndox digital property logbooks, co-founded with husband Andrew Mackie-Smith.

Liam Murray presented fast growing-solution and global expansion plans of his commercial real estate tech platform, Build-Apps.

Yodel founders Tyson Jennings, Simon Harris and Tom Stevenson, refocused their business in direct response to the pandemic, which resulted in a steep growth in customer adoption and partnership roadmap into the US, and David Cole took investors into the future with the FryFreely drone management platform.

Representing the start-up scene outside of Brisbane, Gold Coast-based, Detroit-native, Paul McCarty painted a picture of success that lies between Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast and Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City. Paul was seeking $4m to enable a bottom-up build on his DevSecOps platform Securestack. Despite more than 30 years in the business, the self-described "baby face" said RiverPitch was a great opportunity to talk to new audiences and meet new investors.

The importance to network with others is in line with Steve Baxter’s advice for founders. “I regard nights like RiverPitch as opportunities to network with investors – the start-ups should be optimising for a meeting with an investor. It is performative but it's also a foot in the door,” said Baxter.

Rounding out the presentations, Elliot Smith of Maxwell Plus took to the stage for the biggest funding pitch of the night. Elliot was seeking a $10m investment in his virtual care service, which aims to ensure no man dies from prostate cancer. When Elliot told the audience the service had already diagnosed more than 37 cases of prostate cancer, Steve Baxter asked how much investment he was seeking. Ten million, Elliot stated confidently, to which Steve responded, ‘I’m in for half a million.’

While Steve had already provided early seed funding of $150,000 for Maxwell Plus, the half million dollar top-up was a sign of confidence that garnered equally generous applause from the audience.