Fresh from representing Australia at the Creative Business Cup in Copenhagen this week, Ruth Stephensen – the Chief Creative Officer of Brisbane-based startup Creatively Squared – revealed her approach to captivating judges at the international creative industries pitching competition.
Founded by Stephensen and her husband Scott Thomas, Creatively Squared is a digital marketing platform that matches brands with visual creatives. Asked how the startup came into existence, Stephensen explained: “I started an Instagram community as a creative outlet and was amazed by the quality of the content being produced after just a few months. Meanwhile, I had experience managing a brand’s social media account and knew how frustrating it was to create great content… the idea for Creatively squared emerged from these two contrasting experiences.
“While we’re still a very young company finding our way, we’ve had customers in multiple countries, repeat orders and fantastic feedback from our customers and a growing community of highly engaged creatives we’re excited to support.”
Stephensen and Thomas secured a place in the Creative Business Cup (CBC), which pitted them against startups from 59 countries, after winning Creative3 Pitch in September. A pitching competition for creative tech startups, Creative3 Pitch was hosted by the Queensland University of Technology’s Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA), which is the only organisation in Australia that can nominate a startup to represent the nation at the international competition.
According to Stephensen, the ‘starting point’ for the pitch that saw Creatively Squared win Creative3 Pitch was “focusing on the problem we’re solving, which is the challenge of creating great content. It was also important, she added, to highlight her startup’s wins (“traction beats everything”) and win hearts: “People remember stories, so if you can tell a great story and ideally make it something your audience can relate to the battle is half won”.
Commenting on the business value generated by Creative3, Stephensen said, “Being a B2B business, growing our network is crucial in creating awareness about our brand. Creative3 has played a fantastic role in this regard. Plus, the feedback we received from people with relevant market and startup experience has been invaluable.”
Stephensen said she and Thomas were “extremely fortunate and humbled” to have been able to represent Australia at the Creative Business Cup. Comparing their Creative3 pitch to the one they delivered at CBC, she said the core message (“what problem are we solving, how are we solving it and what our business model is”) was similar.
“What changed was the focus and delivery,” she said. We’re pretty confident that we have something with a lot of potential that solves a real pain point for brands, and this experience will help immensely with creating awareness about what we do.”
Although CellRobot, a robotics startup from China, was crowned the CBC winner, Stephensen said she hoped she and Thomas had inspired other Australians, who have an idea for a creative tech startup, to ‘give it a go’.
“I feel it’s important to highlight the key role creativity plays in startups,” she said. “At their core, every startup is creative, they all start with a new idea, so when we combine creative skills with technology amazing things can happen.”
Stephensen said the Creative Business Cup had helped her startup in ‘many ways’.
“We’ve had access to some inspiring experts and mentors who have given us a different perspective on our business,” she said. “We’ve met some incredible teams and developed friends in markets all over the world whose advice we can lean on, which of course we can hopefully offer to them as well. There’s also some partnership opportunities we’re looking forward to follow up on.”
Creatively Squared will now go on to London to participant in the exclusive Virgin StartUp accelerator StepUp. It was awarded a place in the program as part of the Creative3 Pitch prize.