2016 / 10 December

A Royal Flush

royal flush
(in poker) a straight flush including ace, king, queen, jack, and ten all in the same suit, which is the hand of the highest possible value when wild cards are not in use.

I am not a gambler. Somehow, of the many vices I have, gambling has never been one of them. Some may argue that by going down the path of trying to start this business, and the risks and choices required along the way, there is an element of gambling to it. However I believe in strategic risk and not relying entirely on luck (although a little bit helps).

In that regard, poker may have been more suited, although I have never been able to concentrate for long enough, nor am I really fond of sitting around a table for hours on end. What I have learned through my ill-fated attempts at this activity is that there is statistically a 0.000154% of receiving a Royal Flush. It is the ultimate hand to have and it makes it nearly impossible to lose.

Three months ago, I was nearly convinced that the foundations of our business were shaken to the core and actually thought (although remotely) that we may have been dealt a crushing blow. I underestimated the resolve of my team and thus realised that the hand we held was much greater than I had previously acknowledged.

Since that time, everything has felt very much like a surreal game of poker. It has happened both in slow motion and faster than I can keep up with. One conversation became a negotiation and a negotiation became an offer to pitch. That pitch then became an invitation to be flown to the UK, meet the Royals and attend Pitch@Palace Global. Twelve companies; three minutes; one slide. The offer and opportunity of a lifetime.

If someone had asked me at the beginning of the year the likelihood of being invited to Buckingham Palace or to stand on a stage and represent Australia at St James Palace, I would have quoted a number not dissimilar to the percentage listed above. And to get everything together in such a short space of time has been a mix of both strategic risk and a bit of luck.

However, where poker and starting a business differ is that you can actively influence and improve the hand you hold through sheer determination and intelligent choices. In poker, you often have to convince your opponents that the hand you have may be better than it really is. In business, every day is an opportunity to change a King to an Ace, or a straight to a straight flush.

The hand we actually had three months ago was our greatest bargaining chip. We had the team, the idea, and the pitch. Our ill fated investment deal was the catalyst to forcing our seat at the table because we had the determination. With this, we were able to negotiation a partnership with RMIT Activator and thus we had the opportunity.

Those five things were our Royal Flush. They were dealt perfectly, in the right order, at the right time. And in a matter of days, both Tanya and I boarded a plane to London.


having the status of a king or queen or a member of their family

a reddening of the face, skin, etc., typically caused by illness or strong emotion.

The Pitch@Palace week is nothing short of surreal. One morning having tea in Buckingham Palace, to boot camps on pitching taught by choreographers. The next moment, learning about international expansion, IP laws and tax concessions, to shaking the hand of Prince Andrew and being blown away by his active, genuine interest in seeing start ups succeed.

With a four day trip to the other side of the world, this is all balanced by a mix of jetlag and adrenaline. With every interaction, there is a considered effort to say the right words, find the right angle, and don’t cause an international incident with an inappropriate comment. It’s hard enough to engage in the real world with all of those thoughts in your head. But it’s hardest of all when you are directed by a 90 second mantra. The words you have to say on stage, in front of an audience who are cumulatively worth billions.

The pitch night itself is an intense whirlwind. You hold the stage for three minutes. You are anchored by the responsibility of representing your country, your idea and most importantly, the person you are on stage with. It’s one thing to screw up your pitch, but it’s worse to do the same when your co-founder holds the floor with you and delivers her part seamlessly. As an incredibly anxious person, the internal dialogue reminds you what would happen if you missed your chance. If your emotions win out in front of Royalty.

The difference between those three minutes and every other time I’ve presented our pitch is that the audience was made up of people who have been invited to help you succeed. They are genuine, friendly and seek you out. It’s the complete opposite of most pitch nights, where it is competitive and often hostile. Instead of having to convince someone you’re important, you are able to remind them why they came along and why the business is worth discussing.

While we tell ourselves that those three minutes are the full hand we have to play, the reality it’s just the Ace. It’s a high card, but it’s not the hand. What really matters is everything else that sits around that Ace. It’s the team, the idea, the determination and the opportunity that creates those discussions and validates why you’re in the room in the first place. Just by being on that stage, we had accomplished something few have. But that is a single moment created by months and months of hard work.

It’s hard to really remember everyone I met and everything we spoke about. Offers from investors, partnerships with leading cancer research and hospital networks, introductions to the NHS, UK and Australian governments all happened in a matter of minutes. All whilst trying to regain your composure and trying to make sense of everything that just happened.

Somehow, I have ended up part of an incredible family. One defined by its own success and thus driven to help us succeed. However, like holding a royal flush in a game of poker, the trick is to not give your hand away too soon. You have to remain cool and calculating.

No one in this world gives anything away for free but we are flush with possibilities and collaborations. It’s beyond anything I could have imagined and for one week we were made to feel like royalty.

I may never be a good poker player, nor do I want to learn. Thankfully, the game we’re playing is one that demands my full attention, and it’s a table I want to be seated at for the thousands of hours that will be required of me. We may have been dealt the ultimate hand but it’s one of many. Many to date and many more to come. What comes next is the most important and it’s also the most fun.

(We start at 1:05hr)

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