CONTRIBUTOR: Mary Sue Rogers


I had the privilege to attend the presentations of the final 13 start-ups or scale up companies that were part of the Qantas Arvo sponsored Slingshot program.   It was an incredibly interesting evening with highly motivated individuals that want to “make it” with their product or service. A little bit of background might be good before I get into some of my observations.


Slingshot is a Sydney based accelerator program that provides a formula for corporations to get involved with start-up and scale-up ideas to potentially get some great products or services that might disrupt their industry (think Uber or Airbnb). Their strapline is “we bring corporates and start-ups together”.

Qantas was the sponsor of one of the streams, called Avro, which was the name of the company that built the first plane that Qantas purchased.  Qantas had some specific themes for the type of innovation they wanted to see and over 500 individuals/companies applied to be part of the program – 50 were selected to pitch and this was whittled down to the 13 that I had the honour of listening too.

The business model of corporations helping start-ups is not new, but the Slingshot methodology and support model I feel has great advantages for corporates and startups.  Have a look at their website and make up your mind on that particular point.


The Good

  • Very innovative and potentially disruptive ideas range from matching pet sitters with people who want to make sure their “fur babies” are taken care of while they go on holiday through to yield optimising platforms to help make sure every plane goes out full with the best margin possible from the paying passengers.
  • Real-life demonstrations of the speed an organisation can go from being local to global. For example, TravelShoot, an app that allows you to connect with a professional photographer in your holiday destination to take pictures that you will treasure for a lifetime. This was an Australian based start-up coming into the program (versus a scale-up) and can provide you with a photographer in Europe, Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
  • It is amazing what can be accomplished in 12 weeks given investment, environment, coaching and support. One of the start-ups started day one of the 12 weeks and is about ready to sell to their first customer. Aeroster is an app that allows families and friends of flight crew to know which flights they have been rostered onto and where they are on any given day.

The Not So Good

  • The world of start-ups and accelerators is still very male-dominated. Out of the 13 presentations, only two were given by women. Not a great ratio considering that the primary buyer for travel (especially holidays) are female and of course they make up 50% of the customer base.
  • Diversity does matter (or at least it should) to potential future investors. In addition to not having a not great ratio of female presenters, many of the men who presented showed pictures of their teams and boards. In many cases all were men.
  • CEO and Founder – this was a personal irritation of mine. Each person introduced themselves as CEO and founder (or in a couple of cases Co-CEO). I think if you are going to an innovation presentation, such as what Slingshot sponsored, you are going to be a founder and does it matter if you are the CEO?
  • Culture counts – a few of the “CEO and Founders” needed to have a training session on inclusion or they are never going to get past the “Founder” label. When they were talking about the products or services the start-up was doing, they used the term “I” too many times. All of the start-ups and scale-ups have teams, and one person cannot create the next disruptor.


The evening was excellent, and whether you are a start-up or a scale up, the Slingshot approach and team created 13 exciting new businesses ready for the market.  And, importantly, I’m already looking forward to seeing this year’s pitches sometime soon.

Slingshot published the presentation from the evening event. If you would like to look at some of them for yourself – click HERE. 

Mary Sue Rogers

This article was originally published on SaveHR.


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