Friday, February 28, 2014

Sydney Architecture Walks

Sydney Architecture Walks is no ordinary, run of the mill tour of Sydney. You will see Sydney through a different lens when you spend a day out with the guys at Sydney Architecture Walks by exploring ideas through architecture. The tour also covers stories about the once unfashionable rag trade inner-city suburbs that are undergoing gentrification and are now rebranded into the new 'hipsturbia'. It is designed for those who like to use their heads as much as their legs. Sydney Architecture Walks was established by a bunch of friends who are architects and designers by profession, who simply love cities and love unpacking a city bit by bit to tell stories about the concepts behind the concrete shells, glass skirts and sandstone façade on a piece of architecture or unfamiliar landscape that defines Sydney today.

Read my full Weekend Notes article for more information about going on a Sydney Architecture Walk tour.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Palomino Espresso | Sydney CBD

I have now changed the location of where I get my daily caffeine fix (sorry Taste). I've walked passed Palomino Espresso on York Street many times without noticing it. Whilst it's located at the heart of the city on a busy street, I never looked twice at the place before. The signage of the establishment is not obvious at all. The logo is almost translucent against the window. The only reason why I paid attention to it the other day was because there was a swarm of people, office workers, waiting outside the establishment waiting for their takeaway coffee.

Location and Ambience

Palomino Espresso is not the usual ‘hole in the wall’ laneway café, as it's on the main road but you can walk straight past it as it’s not obvious at all.
The establishment's tables and seats look like recycled wood. One table on the outside looks like an ironing board made of wood. American vintage photos are sparsely dispersed on the wall. The menu is written on a chalkboard. You will hear the buzz of office workers that are churned through this establishment, the up tempo music in the background and the English accents of the wait staff. Once you know what you want from the chalkboard menu, you order and pay at the counter and take a seat...if you can find one. Once you finish, you can just eat and run.

With all CBD establishments like this one, you need to know when to go. Forget about going at 1pm and forget about 10.30am. You won't get a seat. Also, during peak times, if you do find a seat, it can get a bit noisy, making it a little bit strained to have a good conversation. If you are by yourself then that's fine.

Food & Coffee

For breakfast, I was toying between Superfood breakkie with quinoa and egg and the Ranch Sambo with scrambled egg, avocado and mayonnaise and bacon (both $13). When I asked whether there was any meat in the superfood breakkie, the waitstaff said "No, its' vegetarian". I passed on that one and went for the 'Ranch Sambo' - exotic name for what is essentially Palomino Espresso's version of bacon and eggs on toast.

The 'Ranch Sambo' had bacon (not crispy but nicely done with little fat), scrambled eggs and avocado in between two pieces of freshly baked sour dough. The mayonnaise was served on the side, which was good as I like to control my own quantity of mayo. Quite filling and ensured I could skip lunch.

The latte was exceptional. It had it all - the right temperature, milk to coffee ratio, taste not bitter.

The chalkboard menu also does highlight daily specials: bacon and egg pie or spanakopita was on offer when I was there.


Service was good. I waited a little while for my latte only to realise sometime later the girl did not take my order because she had not heard me...probably because of the noise from talkative office workers and the background music. But when the wait staff realised my order wasn't taken, they served one straightaway.


A small rustic busy café situated inconspicuously on a main road in the heart of the Sydney CBD. It's just another great little place to get breakfast, lunch and a cup of coffee.  Palomino Espresso, you have a new regular!

Where? 61 York Street, Sydney

Phone? 0414 857 818

Opening? Mon to Fri 7:00 am - 4:00 pm

Palomino Espresso on Urbanspoon

Where are the best free Sydney talks?

You can get a lot of free talks online (TED Talks on is an excellent example) but where can you go to listen to the talks live, where you have the opportunity to mingle with the speakers and other liked minded people, ask questions and get feedback? Attending sessions live are always better than watching a talk online as not only can you listen to a presentation but you can also read a speaker’s body language and get the vibe of the audience. Not to mention, you will definitely have a heightened awareness of the current issues we face and will be better equipped to have an intelligent discussion within your social or business circles.

Over the past few months I have heard and even the opportunity to meet in person some of the most distinguished people and speakers this country and the world has to offer. I have met former Labor Foreign Minister and NSW Premier Bob Carr; listened to former
Justice Michael Kirby; Former Treasury Secretary, Dr Ken Henry; and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.

Where can you go for free talks?

1 ABC Q&A Live Studio Recording

You can be a part of ABC’s Q&A program which goes to air live on Monday evenings. The recordings are on at the ABC Studios in Ultimo and you can
register here if you want to be part of the studio audience and ask questions.

Q&A puts together politicians, egalitarians, larrikins, pundits and punters on a panel to thrash out current hot issues. As the ABC describes it, it’s all about ‘democracy in action’. It doesn't matter who you are, or where you're from. Everybody can have a go and take it up to our politicians and opinion makers. We are extremely lucky to be living in a country where this sort of opinionated discussion can occur.

I was fortunate to attend a special ABC live recording at the Seymour Theatre with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde who was thoughtful and constructive in her responses to some pretty clever questions. Madame Lagarde underscore many times the importance of investment in health and education, as these will lay the foundations to help economies grow. Without being derogatory to the current Australian politics around environmental policy, she was unequivocal that managing environmental degradation is a priority.

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who is in Sydney for the G20 Finance Ministers meeting

What makes Q&A work are the questions the audience asks, all live to air. Tony Jones, an Australian journalist, hosts Q&A and does an excellent job in moderating the show.

The advantages of seeing a live studio recording is you will get to see how the show is made from the very beginning, and the things that need to be done before a show goes to air. The Executive Producer comes out to talk to the audience before the recording and the discussions are quite candid and humorous.

The program is energetic, intellectual, opinionated and stimulating, and just something different.

The audience at the ABC Q&A special recording with Christine Lagarde at the Seymour Centre on 21 February 2014

#2 Sydney Talks

A website,, is regularly updated to inform you where and when talks are being held around Sydney. And these are no amateur talks – the talks have good quality speakers with interesting topics. The talks cover topics such as politics, science, history and the arts.

Personally, I’m interested in economics and world issues so through Sydney Talks I was made aware of talks delivered by:

a. Dr Ken Henry, a distinguished speaker and a great thinker, and former head of Australia’s Treasury. The session I went to was at the University of NSW where Dr Ken Henry was on a panel with other academics discussing ‘sustainable growth’. It was only after attending this session I really understood how the emissions trading system works through the New York apartment garbage bin quota analogy explained by Professor of Economics, Graciela Chichilnisky of Columbia University and fully appreciated the fact we currently don’t put a price on things like ruining the environment.

b. Foreign affairs issues in China and the US. This talk was delivered by the former Foreign Minister and NSW Premier, Bob Carr at the University of Sydney. I met him in person because he came up to me before the talk (I was in the second row) and he politely introduced himself to me. That’s not an experience that happens with online talks.

c. Former High Court of Australia Judge, Michael Kirby discussed his role as Chair of the United Nations’ Commission inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea at a lecture held at the University of Sydney. He discussed the methodology in gathering evidence for this inquiry given the closed nature of North Korea. Justice Kirby referred to the victims' testimonies which are all publicly available on the United Nations website. His talked was powerful and left me shocked, disgusted, angry, sad and curious. The shocking treatment of people in North Korea today is something not seen since the Nazi days. I actually did read and listened to the testimonies on the
United Nations website – it’s truly sickening. I won’t delve into the details as I understand it will be disturbing for some readers but I encourage you to peruse it. As Justice Kirby noted at the lecture, we must never assume something like that cannot happen in Australia. Germany was a more civilised country than Australia, and yet they had the Nazi regime. It does only take one psycho in the community to get these things started. The UN Commission’s report is out now for the world to see. History bends in the direction of justice, and we can only hope this will be the case for North Korea.

Final word

Whilst the sessions I attended appear to be dominated by baby boomers or the retired population in the audience, I would like to see the younger generation, the leaders of the future attend and listen to these events (and it was great to see a few high school kids at ABC’s Q&A). They aren’t boring, and indeed quite the contrary - the talks are very engaging. So get out there and spread the word about these talks. There are no shortage of ideas and great thinkers to help shape the minds of future leaders.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Marlowe's Way Cafe | Sydney CBD

Usually, the general rule in Sydney is if you can't see a café from the main road, it's bound to be a bit different, a good place to get coffee and a bite to eat. After all how many establishments situated on a main road do you know of that are memorably very good? Prove me wrong but very few come to mind. The other benchmark for good cafes is the smaller, the better.

Does Marlowe's Way fit these criteria?  Read my Weekend Notes article to find out.

Marlowe's Way: Hidden laneway café in Sydney CBD

TEDxSydney 2014 | Upcoming Event | Sydney Opera House

Why are TED events so incredibly popular that you need to apply to get a ticket allocated?

It's a pretty simple formula: incredible stories are told by some amazing people. When you listen to a TED talk, you are reliving the speaker's experience (that's my experience).

Well, here is your chance to see it live at a full day event to be held within the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on Saturday, 26 April 2014.

Here are some of my all time favourite TED talks (I never get tired watching them):

1. Julie Taymor: Spider-Man, The Lion King and life on the creative edge

2. Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit

Get ready to be inspired.

When? Saturday 26 April, 2014

Where? Sydney Opera House, NSW 2000

Cost? $250 per person and delivers a full day of talks and performances, food and beverages, a goodie bag and an invitation to the after party

Applications? Go to their website to apply for tickets (yes the event will be that popular!)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Brickfields Bakery and Café | Chippendale

Who likes the smell and taste of fresh bread? After a wet morning’s ride with the guys at Sydney Architecture Walks on Sunday, we stopped for a lunch break at Brickfields, a bakery and café located on the corner of Cleveland Street and a no-through road called Balfour Street in Chippendale.

It was crowded at lunchtime on a rainy Sunday and there was a bit of a wait for the food and coffee but it was worth it. The sight of windows full of freshly baked bread was a feast for the eyes and the smell of hot fresh bread once you walk in was tantalising. If you weren’t that hungry before, the smell will ensure your stomach grumbles once you step foot into this tiny but inviting establishment. The café was warm and rustic, decorated with an abundance of fresh loaves.


This is another place to get good coffee (they use Mecca Expresso), but the standout was their toasted sandwiches on sourdough. Although it was a little on the pricy end ($16), it is worth a try as it’s something different and tasty. I ordered for lunch the toasted sourdough, which seems to have some Middle Eastern influence, with soft boil egg, hommus, tomato and suquk (I think this is the chorizo like sausage) on sourdough. Maybe I was just feeling a bit peckish after a long morning's bike ride around Sydney, but the combination of these ingredients with freshly baked bread truly was delicious.

So if you are in area or nearby, drop by Brickfields for lunch (or breakfast). This is just another hidden café gem in Sydney that’s worth mentioning.

Where? 206 Cleveland St, Chippendale 2008

Opening?  Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm

Brickfields on Urbanspoon

Cuban Fury’s Nick Frost Red Carpet Press Night | Around Australia from 20 March

Have you ever felt the power and the energy in something you are passionate about? What are you waiting for?

Check out my latest review in Weekend Notes on Cuban Fury’s Nick Frost Red Carpet Press Night.

What I didn't tell in the Weekend Notes article was my experience of the whole night, which is a story in itself.

Who the hell is Nick Frost I hear you ask? He’s a big guy with a big heart in the new romantic dance comedy film launched in Australia, Cuban Fury. An English actor, comedian and screenwriter and best known for the popular movie in the UK, Shaun of the Dead, a 2004 British zombie romantic comedy film (which probably means he’s not that well known in Australia at all).

My expectation of the night was that I was to do a film review of Cuban Fury for Weekend Notes. When I got there, the media guys told me, “Oh no, you have 3 minutes to do a one on one interview with Nick Frost”. At that point, I had kittens as admittedly prior to the screening I had no idea who Nick Frost was and had not done any prior research. If you have ever watched the film Notting Hill, I felt like Hugh Grant in that film. Hugh Grant wanted to see Julia Roberts, who plays an A-list movie star, but Grant was mistaken for a journalist of a magazine called, ‘Horse and Hound’ and had to wing an interview with the actors of a science fiction movie he never watched. It was hilarious, but that’s how I felt. I winged that interview too and thank god for 10-15 minutes to spare and Google. I was on Google iPhone researching the film and the actors, and it struck me Nick Frost and I had one thing in common that I was sure the other media guys didn’t and that was the challenge of learning to dance and performing it for an audience. When Nick Frost arrived on the red carpet and met me, we started chatting about that. All in all, he's a nice gentleman and gave everybody his time. A funny guy too. Nick was joined by a few Australian celebrities on the red carpet. Check out some of the photos of the night below.

The media guys gave me box seats to the film in the end so the night turned into one of those unforgettable experiences.

Enjoy the review article and go and see the film. You’ll have a good laugh. The film will be showing in Australian cinemas from 20 March 2014.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Sydney Comedy Festival 2014 | Upcoming Event | Around Sydney

If there was only one event you could go to in next three months what would it be? I know where I would be and that’s the Sydney Comedy Festival 2014.

The Sydney Comedy Festival is Sydney's biggest annual comedy event and is celebrating it's 10th birthday in 2014. The Festival kicks with two lavish gala events: the Sydney Comedy Festival Gala at the Sydney Opera House and Cracker Night (Sydney's biggest night of comedy) at the Enmore Theatre, Metro Theatre, The Concourse Chatswood, Riverside Theatre and the Seymour Centre.

The bad news is that due to popular demand tickets to the Sydney Comedy Festival Gala at the Sydney Opera House are all SOLD OUT, but the GOOD NEWS is there are still tickets left for Cracker Night so hurry to get your tickets.

Cracker Night will be featuring an awesome line up of the biggest and best Australian legends, international stars and next big things of comedy.

In addition, the Sydney Comedy Festival has just announced on their website its second line up of stand-up comedians with their own shows so get ready to be absolutely spoilt for choice this year!

MIKE EPPS (USA) – After Dark Tour
Enmore Theatre: Fri 16 May 2014
More Info Click Here
American comedian and actor Mike Epps, who famously played the character of Black Doug in The Hangover and The Hangover Part III, will tour Australia for the first time in 2014 taking his stand up show, the After Dark Tour around the country.

Enmore Theatre: Sat 10 May 2014
More Info Click Here
Having frequently fronted Australian TV in shows like ‘The Project’, ‘Good News Week’ and ‘Thank God You’re Here’, Tom Gleeson is one of our biggest Aussie acts. He has performed at every major comedy festival in the world, been twice nominated for a Helpmann and the biggest stand up on the planet, Louis CK, chose Tom to be his support act for his Australian tour.

Factory Theatre: 29 April – 4 May 2014
More Info Click Here
There’s no greater fool to spend an hour with than Frank Woodley. Stand-up comedy at its most physical. Guaranteed to give you that tingly feeling you’re left with after you’ve laughed like a crazy person.

Factory Theatre: Tue 22 April 2014
More Info Click Here
Kevin Bridges is Scotland’s biggest export. Dubbed as ‘brilliant’ by Billy Connolly, Kevin first made his debut at The Edinburgh Playhouse on BBC1’s ‘Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’ in 2009. Overnight success followed with Kevin selling out his run at the Edinburgh Festival in just a day.

Comedy Store: Fri 16 2014
More Info Click Here
Following a sell-out debut season at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2013, multi award-winning South African-Kiwi comic, Urzila Carlson, makes her Sydney Comedy Festival debut with her show, ‘The Long Flight To Freedom’.

STEVE HUGHES – While It’s Still Legal
Enmore Theatre: 31 May 2014
More Info Click here
Steve Hughes returns to Australia & New Zealand in 2014 with a brand new show following sell-out shows in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in 2013. ‘While It’s Still Legal’ features more thoughtful, outspoken social commentary courtesy of a masterful, erudite and provocative performer.

Comedy Store: Thu 24 April 2014
More Info Click Here
Brooklyn born and raised, Wil Sylvince honed his act in New York’s most prestigious comedy clubs and has been handpicked by comedian heavyweights Damon Wayans, the Wayans Brothers, Chris Tucker and Katt Williams to tour the US.

MATT OKINE – Happiness Not Included
Factory Theatre: 30 April – 10 May 2014
More Info
Following a year of sold out shows around the world, winning “Best Show” at The Sydney Comedy Festival, being nominated for “Best Newcomer” at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, hosting a TV show and Triple J breakfast and receiving an invitation to the prestigious Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, you can expect Matt Okine to be awesome.

RONNY CHIENG – Chieng Reaction
Factory Theatre: 6-18 May 2014
More Info Click Here
The winner of the Best Newcomer Award at the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and nominated for Best Show at the Sydney Comedy Festival 2013, Ronny Chieng is the leader of a new generation of comics in Australia.

PETER BERNER – As Not Seen on TV
Harold Park Hotel: Tue 6- Sat 10 May 2014
More Info Click Here
Pete’s been on TV and radio for more than a decade, so you’ve no doubt seen or heard him – well this is nothing like that. Pete’s intelligent humour sets him apart as he comfortably straddles comedy styles from satire to observational and reactive comedy with ease.

Wild Oats Wine Bar: 6-17 May 2014
More Info Click Here
Winner of the Best Newcomer Award 2012 at the Sydney Comedy Festival and finalist of the Raw Comedy Award in 2009, Rhys Nicholson rears his sharp tongue for an unmissable show. He's become one of my favourite comedians - so much charisma, so much dirt!

STEEN RASKOPOULOS – I’m Wearing Two Suits, Because I Mean Business
Factory Theatre: 13-18 May 2014
More Info Click Here
You may recognise Steen Raskopoulos from his work on SlideShow (Ch 7) or performing with the Axis of Awesome. “Two Suits” is an unforgettable comedy extravaganza written and performed by a man frequently called ‘Steve’.

WIL ANDERSON – Wiluminati – Concourse Chatswood Show Added
Concourse Theatre: Sat 17 May 2014
More Info Click Here
As seen on Gruen Nation & Gruen Planet. Multi-award-winning comedian Wil Anderson is back with a brand-new show, with more show times just announced!

DAVE HUGHES – Pointless – Concourse Chatswood Show Added
Concourse Theatre: Sat 10 May 2014
More Info Click Here
As seen on ‘The Project’. Hughesy’s decided that his 2014 is all about stand up and he’s got a brand new show to prove it more shows just announced! For a night of comedy gold you can’t look past this laid back legend of Australian Comedy.

Get ready for fits of laughter and to be treated to many nights of comedic gold. Can't wait.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

One Fine Day Wedding Fair | Eveleigh

The choices available in planning your wedding day are just endless. Wedding invitations, wedding dresses, groomsmen suits, venues, décor and styling, entertainment, photography, bonbonnieres, jewellery, flowers - where do you start? Just looking at advertisements of the traditional run-of-the-mill bridal expos would start to give anyone a headache, and I think it is unfortunate the traditional expos have mixed talented designers of one off pieces with mass produce manufacturers.

One Fine Day Wedding Fair provides a solution to this by bringing together a selection of Sydney’s most creative designers together under one roof for a weekend. Haute couture, style, sometimes quirky, graceful, glamour, elegance and class are the words that come to mind when I attended this wedding fair last weekend, ensuring brides and grooms are inspired to come up with something that's just a bit different for their special day.


If I was planning my special day, these are the wedding boutiques that stood out for me as being just different:

1. Rosalynn Win Haute Couture

Young Miss Rosalynn exudes talent when it comes to creating one off designer wedding dresses. With creations of beautiful dresses in silk satin fabrics that simply flow, so soft and feminine, Rosalynn's 2015 collection modelled on the runway at the fair were simply stunning. You can get a glimpse of the runway here and Rosalynn's collection on her Facebook page.

2. D&d Letterpress

I love the look and feel of paper that is letter pressed. There is something vintage in the typography that is printed in this form. The letterpress breathes life and soul back into an otherwise static and two-dimensional medium you would get from normal digital printing. It's a labour intensive craft that requires great attention to detail and I appreciate the quality, detail and effort that goes into this form of print. D&d Letterpress is simply beautiful.

3. Whileaway Guides

Whileaway Guides provides a unique product catering for those destination weddings. They are essentially destination guides you can slot into a wedding invitation, and Whileaway Guides has done the hard work for you in the research of the things to see, explore, eat, drink and places to stay whilst you attend a destination wedding. They are 10 folded pocket-sized pages, written in itinerary style with a cute little illustrative map. Very easy to carry around. Very practical and a great idea.
4. Liana Raine Artisan Pops
For something different for wedding guests, Liana Raine Artisan Pops are makers of artisan gourmet ice popsicles in seasonal flavours. Each popsicle is made using only natural ingredients and the freshest, sweetest seasonal fruit and produce. This is perfect for those looking to avoid gluten, dairy, preservatives and other nasties.
These are just my picks but there were many more 'cream of the crop' talent at the One Fine Day Wedding Fair.

Whilst the fair for 2014 is over, it should be back next year so if you are planning a wedding and want it to look a little bit different, then check it out as your one stop shop for all your wedding and event planning needs.



Alimentari Cafe & Deli | Paddington

Some people know of Paddington Alimentari as an Italian deli stocked with meats, cheese, breads, olive oil, sauces, pasta and anything else that’s Italian. I know of Paddington Alimentari as a place to get great coffee and hazelnut biscotti. I saw this tiny establishment once I reached the end of William Street, Paddington after boutique shopping along that road last weekend. Paddington Alimentari is the bridge between the retail shops and residential terraces, situated on the corner of William Street and Hopetoun Street in Paddington. Usually, in my experience the best places to shop, eat or drink coffee in Sydney are places that you can’t see, well away from the main roads. This is just another one. The establishment has no website, so you will only know about if you stumble across it or someone else tells you about it.


Before a coffee stop at Paddington Alimentari, start walking down the road from the corner of Oxford Street and William Street, Paddington (from where Paddington Inn is located, which is another great establishment to get a bite to eat). There you will find beautiful tiny boutiques situated in the old Victorian terraces with the most unique selection of fashion, haute couture bridal and bridesmaid gowns, shoes and vintage gems. The little street reminds me of the little boutiques in Paris without the cobblestones. It truly is a delightful walk.

Paddington Alimentari is tiny. If you go just before lunchtime you can grab a seat either at the high bench top tables or outside and just chill out listening to the soul jazz music in the background. If you go during lunchtime around 1pm, then there are queues, a sure sign that there is something good going for it, but people seem to manage to squeeze together if you really want a seat.

Food + coffee

The latte here is pretty outstanding and leaves this creamy taste in your mouth. The hazelnut biscotti was not the hard crunchy biscuits that I expected. Instead it's soft. The inside of it is like soft cake mixture and biscuit on the outside. It has a nice texture and it’s not too sweet. Delicious.


Though the staff did look a little stressed due to the volume of customers and not as easy going and warm for a relaxing weekend, the service was quick so I really can’t complain.


With a toasty warm village like feel in location, this establishment is a must stop for great coffee for morning tea in Paddington.


2 Hopetoun St, Paddington, NSW, 2021

Paddington Alimentari on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So You Think You Can Start Up? | Pitching Event | Sydney CBD

So you have heard of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ but have you heard of ‘So You Think You Can Start Up’? One thing is certain and that is both competitions require competitors that are talented, hardworking, passionate and can generate results. There can only be one winner in the end.

What is ‘So You Think You Can Start Up’ all about?

For the first time in Australia, digital publication StartupSmart joined with major sponsor Servcorp, to deliver a live pitching event on Thursday 6 February 2014 in Sydney. The competition was designed to encourage start-up businesses to showcase their brilliant ideas in front of a panel of expert judges, leading entrepreneurs and investors to compete for a worthy prize to the value of $250,000 of Servcorp office space anywhere around the world to kick start their business, as well as six months public relations services with PR expert Sam Dybac and mentoring sessions with Sydney Seed Fund and StartupSmart’s publisher Private Media.

Servcorp also offered the two runner ups its virtual office package for six months for free. The other seven finalists received a two month virtual office package for free.

Talented start up founders who pitched to a panel of distinguished judges, including Ruslan Kogan, BRW Young Rich entrepreneur and pioneer of Kogan Technologies

About the pitch night

The night’s event held in Chifley Tower at Servcorp’s offices had a good attendance, ensuring an ideal environment for networking over a glass of wine and canapés. There was a mix of start-up founders themselves who were to deliver 3 minute pitches on the night, venture capitalists, investors, successful entrepreneurs, media, and consulting firms.

I met a venture capitalist looking for new businesses to invest in that evening and when I asked him what he looks for before investing in a start-up company, he said to me he follows the Warren Buffett principle, “What is your competitive advantage? Is what you do unique? Can someone else copy what you do?”

In essence, can you fill in these blanks in 30 seconds for your business? If so you may be a winner.

My company, __________, is best at ____________ because ___________.

The pitches then commenced with finalists including: Next for Sale (property), Crowd9 (marketing), Bocastle (accounting), Enarah (HR/professional development), Geepers (digital, search platform), Legal Vision (digital, legal), Seed the Change International (NFP/eCommerce), Energia Austraia (energy), WeTeachMe (education) and Crowd Burst(Audio).

As an observer in the audience to these 3 minute pitches, I noticed some were very good at their delivery and very clear on what their ideas and revenue stream were, more so than others. After I heard all pitches from the finalists, there were two that resonated with me for those reasons. These businesses include Bocastle and Legal Vision. I can explain Bocastle’s business after hearing the 3 minute pitch and it can be simply described by way of example: you know how you have taxi receipts and you would ordinarily keep them in your wallet, then you wait until you get back in the office, by which time you hope you haven’t thrown it out, you give it to your personal assistant to input into some bookkeeping system so there is a record of the expenditure? Well, rather than going through all of that, Bocastle has this advanced software where you can take photo of your taxi receipts and the data is automatically verified and goes directly into your bookkeeping system, coded, reconciled and all. That easy, and imagine the amount of red tape that can be reduced for small businesses. I can see government being interested in this product, given reducing red tape for businesses is big on the government's agenda.

Legal Vision is a pretty simple idea. I understand it and the need for it given I’ve worked for many years in a related field. Essentially, what Legal Vision does is bring together the small businesses and quality lawyers who use to work in the big end of town law firms but are now retired to do their own consulting work. There are a lot of them around and a lot of them are from the heart of the baby boomer generation, where I've witnessed single finger typing to be the norm and their eyes glaze over when you mention social media marketing. This is not ideal for a freelance consultant lawyer if they want to win clients in this new age. Legal Vision has a platform that brings the two together so that lawyers can just focus on what they do best - the legal work. The best thing for small businesses is that all services are at a fixed cost (a relief for those who have been in the profession (or the client side of it) and understand the pain of time cost fees). One of the judges on the panel asked how Legal Vision curates the quality of lawyers they use and the founder replied the lawyers must have a specialty and they must have worked in a top tier law firm. The judges were happy with this response.

In the end who won?

I wasn’t far off in picking the winner. The winner was Bocastle, with runners up Legal Vision and WeTeachMe.

Tim Stroh founder of Bocastle with Servcorp CEO, Marcus Moufarrige

It is worthwhile mentioning how the judges came to their decision and what they were looking for, all three meeting the judges criteria in varying degrees. One of the judges, Rose Powell mentioned she has seen over 900 pitches and what the judges look for are: whether the idea is clear, sizable (i.e. would a lot of people be interested in it? Is there are huge market for the product or service? Who are the target customers? Is your vision compelling enough and have you executed the idea and found a market that wants to purchase it? Was the delivery of your pitch good?

The judges gave good constructive feedback to the pitchers noting things like: not answering the judges questions, not presenting or discussing the core team’s competencies, or presenting irrelevant information.

WeTeachMe was announced as a runner up. WeTeachMe’s business is essentially a community marketplace to list, discover and book in-person education courses eg dance classes, cooking classes etc. The judges feedback was that there is a lot of competition in this space and for this reason, the business is not unique, but nevertheless the business did fit the judges criteria given the need.

Bocastle won the competition on the night. The judges mentioned no slides were used during the pitch presentation thereby making the presentation less compelling in comparison to other finalists. However, there is big problem that Bocastle solves and for this reason, the business will get traction.

Final word for start-up businesses…

It is worth sharing some tips and insights offered on the night from Ruslan Kogan, named BRW’s Young Rich for building his multi million dollar business, Kogan Technologies. Ruslan is a pioneer of online retailing, who has challenged the bricks or mortar retail business model. You can watch him on You Tube but to summarise, his 3 tips to run a successful business include:

1. What is your core competitive advantage? You need to be very clear on this and why your customers will choose you over someone else.

2. What is your value add?

3. Does everyone think you are crazy? i.e are you challenging the status quo?

And finally, Ruslan notes: it is easy to ‘talk the talk’ but not easy to ‘walk the walk’. Ideas need to be executed and as Ruslan says, Nike has given the best business advice over the years: Just Do It.

Further information

For further information on the start up finalists’ businesses go to the startupsmart website. Also, monitor the website if you are a start up business wishing to enter into next year's pitching competition.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Golf In The City | Sydney CBD

I used to play golf. That would be about 10 years ago. I remember travelling to parts of Australia to play a round of golf. One of the best Australian courses I had played at was Turtle Point at Laguna Quays at the foot of the Whitsundays passage, boasting beautiful lush greens, prolific wildlife and natural beauty, where the Coral Sea waters lapped a number of the fairways...

I started to hear rumours about a new golfing venue, Golf in the City, in the heart of the Sydney CBD. With a rush of nostalgia, I was curious and so went to see after work what it was all about.

Read my full article in Weekend Notes.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Summer Comedy Smackdown 2014 | The Comedy Store | Moore Park

I went to see The Comedy Store’s Summer Comedy Smackdown with a bunch of friends on Saturday night and yes, we did the front row for the maximum experience. Just in case you are not a regular, the front row experience entitles you to wear an invisible ‘pick me, make fun of me’ sticker on your forehead.

The Comedy Store has become an addictive drug. What is it that makes us laugh? There seems to be many theories for this and one in particular is what is known as the ‘incongruity theory’, which suggests that humour arises when logic and familiarity are replaced by things that don’t normally go together…or to put it simply, we are ‘surprised’ by the unexpected. 

There were no shortage of good humour last night. The usual suspects were there: Andrew Barnett as MC, with his down to earth funny style and musings on parenthood. He picked on my friends but I forgave him as I laughed at his rounding down the marriage years observation; Michael Hing, intelligent comedian (and that’s not stereotyping), and funny man Ray Badran…I never tire of that BUPA joke.

There were three comedians last night that excelled in the incongruity theory ensuring that I needed to take my glasses off to wipe away the tears of laughter. They were:
1. Bruce Griffiths – There is one word to describe this guy’s comedy style – succinct. He was on a roll with his one liners. Too brilliant. He would be excellent on Twitter.

2. Tien Tran – West Australian and rough around the edges, his comedy style covers many themes, including making you think why you have a front lawn.

3. Rhys Nicholson - After a night with Rhys, you will never look at a bow tie or a shower head the same way again. Impeccably groomed Buddy Holly style, this guy does not hold back. Highly intelligent and highly graphic (be warned). A very polished comedian.

The Comedy Store once again does not fail to entertain. The house was full, the crowd was engaged and the emotional climate was high. Dear Comedy Store. Thank you for an awesome night!

When? Thurs 30 Jan - Sat 8 Feb 8:30pm 
Where? The Comedy Store, Moore Park
Price? THU $10; FRI $25; SAT $30
Bookings: (02) 9357 1419 or online