Tech23 offered a rich bounty for start-ups, including thousands of dollars in cash and an all-expenses paid networking trip to Silicon Valley. Props logistics company StageBitz managed to take out both.
The company has developed a system for arts organisations to invoice and manage their prop assets. Their product was awarded the catalyst prize ($25,000) for being likely to have the most disruptive effect on existing business models.
The company also won the Silicon Valley explorer award, flights, five nights' accommodation in Silicon Valley and a week of meetings and introductions, facilitated by ATP Innovations.
StageBitz CEO Catherine Prosser said that the latter was "not highly publicised, but highly coveted".
"I'm really thrilled, and hopefully get over there and start talking to people, in the tech and the arts space," she said.
The cash prize was also a boon, and she will attempt to leverage this to secure a matching grant from the ACT government.
The money will be used to develop a mobile version of the company's software.
StageBitz, developed by Canberra-based Agile Digital Engineering, was founded just over 12 months ago when Prosser was working on some other music industry-based projects and she realised the potential of the application.
It solves a huge problem for arts organisations that don't have the appropriate systems to manage props and make do with a range of disparate tools from spreadsheets to text messages or pieces of paper.
"From an industry point of view, about 90 per cent of props are wasted," she said. "There's no way for companies to get them in-house to store them — in a way where it's easy to find them — because they don't have systems in place to accurately inventory them.
"StageBitz solves that problem. It uses the information they've already captured when they're making the props to simply convert that into inventory information."
Prosser has teamed up with Opera Australia's head of props manufacturing, Mat Lawrence, and also Pollenizer founder Mick Liubinskas. The product was launched in July, but StageBitz has already signed up a number of high-profile customers, including Opera Australia, Bell Shakespeare, NIDA and several tertiary and secondary educational institutions (they're charged a monthly subscription to use the system to invoice their props).
It's early days, but once there are more props in the system, Prosser expects to create a marketplace where people can trade and buy old and used props.
She's aiming for a million props on the system within five years, but at the moment the focus is to acquire customers. She expects the software to reach profitability within 12 to 18 months.
StageBitz is also in the process of raising $250,000 capital to hire more development and sales staff.
The company has created a useful solution to an unsolved problem. It has also secured a strong partnership with Opera Australia, a huge endorsement of the product.
The business isn't profitable yet. There's no mobile version. The technology development isn't managed in-house, which may limit the ability to react customer problems and feedback, and may also create extra costs.
A huge opportunity exists if the company manages to become the world's number-one prop marketplace.
The company's success will depend on its product's ease of use for the non-tech-savvy arts industry. It could be fatal to the company if it can't secure the funding for the development costs and to scale the business as it would miss the first-mover advantage.
Although its potential is high, this company's success depends on a few factors which could jeopardise its future. The money and the trip, will however, boost its chances, and who could speak against the expert Tech23 panel judges?