The Aussies come to Silicon Valley: Six companies compete for best start-up

Six Australian companies competed today for the best start-up at The Australian Innovation Shoot Out event this morning in Menlo Park, Calif. I was on hand to moderate and was impressed with the quality of the six finalists.

The event, sponsored by the Australian government, was the culmination of a filtering process by Australia’s six states, each of which offered the best start-up in tech from its region.

Impedimed, headed by chief executive Greg Brown from Queensland, walked away the winner. The company makes a medical device that tests whether breast cancer survivors are developing a condition known as lymphedema, which causes the a person’s limbs to gather fluid and swell. The company uses technology dubbed bioimpedance spectroscopy for use in non-invasive tests of body fluid levels.

Brown said in his short pitch that the company is focusing on creating devices that can test for the condition and offer warnings four to six months earlier than other methods. The FDA-cleared device has a potentially big market, since a quarter of the 2.3 million breast cancer survivors develop some form of lymphedema. The tests cost $25 to $45 each and patients have to come back repeatedly for tests over a period of time, giving the company predictable revenue. The tests can also be applied to those who suffer from pelvic cancer.

Here’s a look at the other finalists:

E Ball Games of Melbourne, Victoria sets up booths at festivals, malls or sporting events where fans can get the feeling for what it’s like to, say, kick a soccer ball on a professional field. It uses infrared detectors to measure the movements of the person and displays the results of kicks and strokes on a big screen. You can see the results in real time since there’s very little delay (just 27 millionths of a second) compared to systems from rivals such as Real Sports, Full Swing Golf or World Golf Tour. Justin Pascoe, chief executive, said the company is going after the $62 billion sports marketing market in the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. The company is targeting about $8.7 million in revenue this year and hopes to hit $25 million next year. It also hopes to be profitable in 2010. To date, it has raised $1.6 milion from Angels Capital and others and is seeking $1.1 million.

JadeLiquid Software of Tasmania makes a testing product called LiquidTest. It performs automated tests on applications designed to run in web browsers. It is targeting programmers who debug web applications. It has been making software testing products for the past seven years. LiquidTest can be used to test software in multiple programming languages and languages. Licenses for the software cost $995 per user. Market researcher Gartner estimates the market for software testing worldwide is $13 bilion. Customers include EDS, IBM, Cisco and Oracle, among others, said Duncan Thomas, vice president of sales.

m.Net of Adelaide in South Australia creates mobile marketing campaigns for big brands so they can easily roll out advertising and marketing programs across thousands of cell phones. The company makes it easy to run videos, create mobile coupons, and contact pages for mobile ads. It is seven years old and has 40 employees. It has signed up big brands such as Yahoo, Telstra, Fox Sports, Warner Bros. Australia, and American Express. The campaigns, such as one created for Telstra that ran during the Olympics, can run on 6,500 mobile handsets. It generated $8 million in Australian dollars in 2008 and is currently cash-flow positive, said Horden Wiltshire, CEO. He predicts it will be profitable in 2011.

Nuix of New South Wales has algorithms that let it search rapidly through a host of information. It has used that technology to create software that automatically searches through emails and other documents for legal discovery and investigation purposes. The company says it can cut the cost of invetsigations by more than 80 percent because it can quickly search through emails in any language, character set, or document type. Eddie Sheehy, CEO, claims it is 40 percent faster than other solutions on the market. It provides the software in unlimited numbers to law firms who pay a percentage of their billing fees to Nuix. Analyst Sacha Gelbmann estimates the e-discovery market was $2.8 billion in 2007.

Sensear of Western Australia has created technology that filters out noise and allows people talking on cell phones and two-way radios to hear each other in the noisiest environments. The company is zeroing on providing solutions for people working in mines, construction zones, and other noisy work places. It has revenues now and is seeking to raise about $5 million, said Justin Miller, CEO. Its competitors include Audible and Jawbone, but those companies don’t focus on Sensear’s markets. Other rivals include Bose, Steplab, and Nacre. For 2009, it’s forecasting $5 million in revenue. It has raised $5 million in funding from the Australian government and angel investors so far. It targets occupational safety experts in major corporations.

Judges of today’s Shootout were Deborah Magid, director of software strategy at the IBM Venture Capital Group, Harold Yu, a partner at the law firm Orrick, and Mark Fernandes, managing director of Sierra Ventures.

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  1. […] ImpediMed, an innovative medical device company with a product that can test whether breast cancer survivors are developing a condition known as lymphedema, bested five other Aussie state finalists at the G’Day USA Innovation Shoot Out in Silicon Valley today. Dean Takahashi, head writer for Venture Beat moderated the event. Read Dean’s report here. […]