“It was very intense”: Sydney start-up PractiFI crowned winner of 1st Salesforce PitchComp

Financial services platform PractiFI prevailed over two other cloud-driven start-ups to win the inaugural Salesforce PitchComp, yesterday.

The event was held at Sydney’s International Conference Centre as part of the Salesforce World Tour. It saw the co-founders of PractiFI – Glenn Elliott (CEO) and Adrian Johnstone (CCO) – pitch their start-up to Steve Baxter (investor, entrepreneur and Shark Tank star), Pip Marlow (CEO, strategic Innovation with Suncorp, formerly Microsoft Australia, MD) and Annie Parker (CEO of Lighthouse Sydney and co-founder of Telstra’s startup accelerator muru-D).

The expert judging panel also heard pitches from the founders of Get Bennie, a fundraising solution for not-for-profits and customer communication automation platform Zipline. The trio of start-ups, selected from a pool of applicants who use Salesforce, were vying for up to USD$60,000 in funding plus additional business support from Salesforce, including brand awareness opportunities.

After each start-ups had completed their five-minute pitch, they fielded questions from the panel. While the competition’s MC had earlier advised audience members that PitchComp was largely entertainment focused, Baxter was not one to neglect due diligence. Of the three judges, he served up the most pointed questions and the bluntest feedback. Zipline was told their initial customer base should be stronger, while Baxter questioned Get Bennie’s sales targets: “How do you pay yourself? You have to eat at some point.”  Both start-ups dealt remarkably well under pressure.

Baxter was receptive to the traction achieved by PractiFI; namely, it has generated $1 million in annual recurring revenue, achieved 160% year-on-year growth in 2016, counts Mercer amongst its clients and serves 500 daily users out of a total addressable market of 3 million globally. Nevertheless, not even the PitchComp victor escaped Baxter’s scrutiny. He told PractiFI’s co-founders, “You labored the problem description too long when you should have nailed that in thirty seconds…you got there in the end.”

Speaking to Dynamic Business following their victory, PractiFI’s co-founders admitted the experience was ‘intense’.

The Pitch

Elliott (CEO): “PractiFI is a B2B industry application for the wealth management sector. We’re here to solve a massive problem in the wealth management industry, which is that the customer experience falls way short of what it should be. Why? Because the different teams within a wealth management business – superannuation, insurance, financial advice, etc – are disconnected from each other. They don’t put the customer at the heart of what they do; at the heart of their technology. This means that when they communicate and interact with their customers, the whole experience is disconnected, frustrating and nowhere near as personal or as good as it should be. We’re addressing this silo approach to driving massive efficiency gains in wealth management businesses and so that they can seamlessly connect with their customers. From large-scale institutions to smaller financial advice type practices, we’ve got an offering for all of them.

The experience

Elliott: “It’s been an intense few weeks leading up to PitchComp. We’ve had to fit preparation around the day-to-day running of a fast-growing start-up. We were nervous about what [Baxter] was going to ask us, considering the questions he’d put to the other contestants. I loved his first question, which was basically ‘why are you here?’ His feedback was great. The important lesson for us was to make sure people are clear on the problem we are solving and what it is we are considering we’re a sophisticated application, not just a simple one point solution.”

Johnstone (CCO): “We came here to accelerate PractiFI, which has been around since 2014. The feedback around being clear on what our proposition is and being more concise upfront was great advice for us.”

Series A round

Elliott: “We’re raising Series A funding at the moment and we’re talking to a lot of investors. Our aim is to raise $3 million and we’re planning how we’ll use it very carefully – It’s all about new hires.

Johnstone: “The fact that PitchComp coincided with our Series A round was fantastic. We were part way through the process of Series A when this opportunity came along – we’ve been refining our message and PitchComp has helped us hone it even further.”