Perth’s Pitch@Palace winner is hoping for change

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OncoRes Medical

After a whirlwind three weeks, WA med-tech startup OncoRes hopes the impact of their Pitch@Palace Global win will be felt across the state.

Not even a month after first taking to the stage at Murdoch University for Perth’s first Pitch@Palace On Tour event, OncoRes managing director Kath Giles also wowed crowds in Brisbane to be selected to make the journey to the 16th century St James’s Palace in London.

There, she spoke to an influential audience, including the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, about how OncoRes is working on technology to more effectively remove cancerous tumours thereby reducing the need for follow-up surgeries, which are currently necessary in around 30 per cent of operations.

Last week’s global final was the culmination of 45 pitching events around the globe that, rather than offering any prizes, present unique networking opportunities for startups and their founders.

The 3 winning teams with the Duke of York (Source: Pitch@Palace website).

Kath shared the honours with Vietnamese startup Logivan, which is hoping to use a mobile app to improve the efficiency of freight transport, and Ugandan-based Matibabu, which claims to be the first smartphone-based malaria diagnosis tool.

The OncoRes team continue Australia’s strong history with Pitch@Palace, after NevHouse, a Queensland-based business that uses recycled plastic to build low-cost cyclone proof housing, also won at last year’s global final.

Speaking to Startup News not long after returning to Perth, Kath said she hopes the win can help shine a light on WA’s emerging med-tech industry.

“It’s great for OncoRes, but it’s also great for Western Australia,” she said.

“Often it’s hard to create a story about medical research in WA, so hopefully this has meant that, because of the involvement of the Royal Family, the OncoRes win has been noted by more of the general public in Western Australia and hopefully that then can be a start of telling more stories about how excellent our medical research here is.

“The biggest highlight, which hasn’t really sunk in yet, is that for many years I’ve been trying to raise the profile of medical research in WA, and the fact that we got to present a Western Australian company in a global setting, and then not only presented it, but were judged by audiences [as] the best pitch on the night – that was definitely the highlight.”

An investment banker and medical doctor, Kath said she hopes the win can help change perceptions of our states’ work in the med-tech field.

“Traditionally, whilst the medical innovation developed in Perth has been life changing globally for patients, … we don’t recognise ourselves as a place that does great medical research,” she said.

“It’s awesome that I got to go and take OncoRes to this global event, but I think it’s the flow on benefits I hope will come to the Perth community by putting the spotlight on Perth as a place that does produce incredible medical research.”

Dr Kath Giles

A different kind of prize

Founded by the Duke in 2014, Pitch@Palace places a strong emphasis on fostering new relationships, with startups encouraged to share their ‘ask’ as part of their pitch, and the audience called on to help with at least one ‘ask’ at each event.

Kath said this element of the series, as well as the support of the Duke, is what sets the pitching competition apart.

“Often in this journey, introductions can be more valuable than money, so to be able to have those introductions is absolutely invaluable,” she said.

“Having been on the investment side as well, I know that … as an investor you get a lot of people contacting you for investment, and I always encourage others to get a warm introduction to an investor because that really qualifies you.

“So something like this, where we’ve been qualified by the Duke of York and by getting through this event, … is absolutely incredible.”

Not always smooth sailing

The Duke frequently reminds pitchers of his fondness for pushing them outside of their comfort zones at Pitch@Palace events, and the global final wasn’t any different.

The Royal wasn’t the only one to blame though, with a lost suitcase adding to the adventure, and leaving OncoRes Chief Scientific Officer Dr Brendan Kennedy in pyjamas for the first day of the event’s bootcamp.

Even though the curveballs didn’t stop there, Kath said everything was worthwhile.

“I definitely think that my confidence has grown through the journey because there have been a lot of challenges through it,” she said.

“At the last minute, they changed it from a three-minute pitch to a two-minute pitch, and then literally 20 minutes before the pitches they took away the lectern.

“The Duke was having a giggle about [all of that].”

A lasting impact

Another defining characteristic of Pitch@Palace is the community it forms, both with event organisers and its participants.

“[We were] told that now we’re part of the network, that they will continue to assist us,” she said.

“So when we need something, we’re able to contact them and in any way they can, they’ll continue to assist us to grow.

“What [the Duke] talks about a lot is that he wants us to create an alumni community amongst ourselves, where we can also see where we can help each other out.

“He wants this to be akin to a pod of dolphins, that [because] being an entrepreneur is hard, let’s find a way to support each other and help grow opportunity for everyone.”

A big year ahead

After last year receiving $6 million from the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, Kath said the team is hoping to find another $15 million in 2019.

“We’ve already had a couple of people contact us interested in being part of investment, so I do hope [our win] will help spur interest in our next round,” she said.

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Header image: Kath Giles presenting at Pitch@Palace On Tour in Perth (Source: Keane Bourke).

Click here to learn more about OncoRes.

Click here to learn more about Pitch@Palace.