Six years of celebrating the Australian most ambitious innovators 

5 December, 2023
Six years of celebrating the Australian most ambitious innovators  | News | Pause Awards
George Hedon, founder and CEO, Pause Fest & Awards
George Hedon
5 December, 2023

The Australian tech industry witnessed a remarkable evening of celebration and recognition at the Pause Awards 2023, held in Melbourne. Now in its sixth year, the awards night shone a spotlight on the most ambitious and innovative companies in Australia, emphasising their dedication to not just financial success but also impactful innovation.

Hosted by Megan Flamer and George Hedon, the event was electrified by DJ Hijack’s performance, setting an exhilarating backdrop for an evening that celebrated the breakthroughs in technology and innovation across the country. The involvement of VicGov and sponsorship from Blackmagic Design further underlined the significance of this event in the Australian tech community. 

Quick stats:

  • X3 Triple Wins, X3 Double Wins and X3 Grand Prix
  • Out of 63 Finalists we have 32 Winners
  • Victoria’s entries increased by 20%, NSW by 2%, QLD dropped 40%
  • Average Founder age was 38 and funding $18M
  • Most entered under 100 people companies

This year’s Pause Awards was a testament to the indomitable spirit of innovation that drives the Australian tech industry. As George Hedon aptly put it, “Tonight we are celebrating 13 years of Pause Fest and 6 years of Pause Awards, thank you.” The event also featured the announcement of special prizes, including four tickets to the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix 2024, courtesy of Quad Lock. We’re not going to mention it here so head for socials for the first Walking-Dance death drop from Pretzel Australia.

Drawing 63 finalists across five Category Tracks – Growth, Excellence, Operators, Good, and Culture – the competition was fierce. Out of these, 32 victors emerged, predominantly from Victoria and New South Wales, showcasing a vibrant diversity in sectors like Health, Financial Services, Web/Internet, Marketing/Advertising, and Computer Technology.

Pause Awards Night 2023 Trophies
Pause Awards new trophy design at awards night

WeMoney led the accolades with three awards, underlining its excellence in the financial sector. Following closely were Kollektive and Origin Energy, with notable wins by Macro Mike, Upstock, and Quad Lock. These companies exemplify the spirit of the Pause Awards, valuing innovation and ambition above all.

The data revealed a 20% increase in Victorian entries in 2023, indicating a shift towards critical industries like Health and Financial Services. However, the gender disparity, with 63% male entries, highlighted an area for improvement.

Lee Tonitto, the departing Chair of the Judging Board, emphasised that the winning entries evoke admiration and envy, embodying true innovation. The new Co-Chairs for 2024, Sonia Clarke and Ben Fintech Ford, are set to continue this legacy.

The introduction of Champion winners and the Diamond award levels marked a new chapter in the Pause Awards. Kollektive’s win in the Small Team Culture and Brittany Garbutt’s triumph in Women in Business highlighted the commitment to diversity and empowerment. Origin Energy and InvestorHub were recognized for their environmental consciousness and adaptability, respectively. WeMoney, the Diamond winner, was lauded for its groundbreaking work in the Wildfire category.

The People’s Choice awards, with winners like Wevolt, AirTree Ventures, and Michelle Mannering, added a democratic element, reflecting public admiration for these innovators.

A new Investable Score™, assessing the investment potential of entrants, and the introduction of the Growth Mentors Board, featuring industry giants, signified a commitment to nurturing future innovators.

“Here’s to many more years of celebrating innovation, impact, and the relentless spirit of Australian entrepreneurs.”

George Hedon, Founder & CEO at Pause Awards

The Pause Awards 2023 was more than an event; it was a celebration of the relentless spirit of Australian entrepreneurs. With a focus on innovation, impact, and excellence, the Australian tech industry is poised for a bright and groundbreaking future. As George Hedon concluded, “Here’s to many more years of celebrating innovation, impact, and the relentless spirit of Australian entrepreneurs.”

Pause Awards Night 2023
Pause Awards Night & Afterparty – Winners since 2018 media wall
Pause Awards Night 2023 - Winners and Judges
Pause Awards Night & Afterparty – Winners and Judges

Here is the list of all winners:


GROWTH | Wildfire – WeMoney


CULTURE | Small team culture – Kollektive

EXCELLENCE | Women in business – Brittany Garbutt

GOOD | Going green – Origin Energy

GROWTH | Great pivot – InvestorHub

OPERATORS | TopCoder (new) – Mel Stubbings


Small team culture – Kollektive

Work sweet work – Quad Lock


Company of the Year – WeMoney

Defiant ones – Tixel

Defiant ones / Sponsored by Zoho / – WeMoney

Hammer – Birchal

Hammer – Macro Mike

I wish I’d done that / Sponsored by Give Grad a Go / – Macro Mike

On the rise – Tanck

Prodigy – Pretzel Australia

Women in business – Brittany Garbutt

Women in business – Chau Le

Women in business – Marcella Romero

Women in business – Melinda Farley


B-Good – Music Health

Circular Pioneer – ReSource

Going green – Origin Energy


Design first – inke packaging

Design first – Upstock

Great pivot – InvestorHub

Movement (new) – Quad Lock

New model (new) – Origin Energy

Out of the garage – Kollektive

Out of the garage – WithYouWithMe

Wildfire – WeMoney


Down under (new) – Upstock

Ecosystem star – Paz Pisarski

Future builder – Jasmine Batra

TopCoder (new) – Mel Stubbings


Angel – Michelle Mannering

Going green – Wevolt

Venture Cap – AirTree Ventures

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Category tracks

The Culture track seeks entries that exemplify the development of an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture, crucial for organisational success and growth. Submissions should illustrate transformative strategies implemented across core business functions, reflecting expertise, leadership, and a clear vision. These strategies should demonstrate a positive impact on the business, its employees, stakeholders, and customers, showcasing how a nurturing culture contributes to overall growth and innovation.

The Excellence track celebrates businesses that have demonstrated remarkable success and impact within their industry, regardless of their size. Entries for this category should illustrate how the business's strategic execution, guided by visionary leadership and exceptional expertise, has significantly influenced the industry. The focus will be on the tangible outcomes of these strategies, highlighting the company's ability to innovate, lead, and leave a lasting impression in its field.

The Good track is focused on recognising companies dedicated to their mission of creating a positive societal impact. Entries should highlight innovative solutions aimed at addressing global challenges such as environmental sustainability, social equity, and community well-being. Successful submissions will demonstrate how their initiatives contribute to significant changes, tackling issues like gender inequality, social imbalance, and injustice, thereby setting a precedent for responsible and impactful business practices.

Awarded to a single entry in a category, Grand Prix is the top accolade in that category. To win the Grand Prix, the entire Judging Board must unanimously agree that the entry deserves the accolade of being the best in that category.

The Growth track is about showcasing how businesses have enhanced productivity and execution to make a significant impact in their market. Entries should highlight innovative strategies that have optimised the customer journey, leading to increased engagement and commercial success. This track is for those who have effectively used their understanding of the market and customer needs to scale their business and achieve notable growth.

The Operators track seeks entries that showcase leadership in fostering innovation within their ecosystems. Ideal submissions will highlight how your initiatives have catalysed the creation of new products or services, bolstered by a culture that uplifts internal teams and the wider community. This track celebrates those who drive progress by empowering voices and forging transformative connections in their industry.


  • Always Evolving New

    Acknowledges a culture of continuous learning and improvement within a company, encourages employee development, and always looks for ways to optimise and innovate operations.

  • Big & Mighty Culture New

    Recognises companies (51-1000 employees) for their exceptional efforts in cultivating a culture that champions innovation.

  • Diverse Co.

    Celebrates workplaces dedicated to fostering innovation through a vibrant tapestry of diverse talents and perspectives.

  • Small & Mighty Culture New

    Applauds small teams of fewer than 50 employees for their remarkable ability to foster innovation and set new benchmarks in their domain.

  • Work Sweet Work

    Acknowledges companies that have achieved extraordinary employee engagement, satisfaction, and retention, creating an exemplary workplace culture.

  • Company of the Year

    Honours an outstanding company that not only showcases exemplary leadership and resilience but also demonstrates a clear, quantifiable impact over the past year.

  • Customer Obsessed New

    Applauds prioritisation, understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of their customers, including feedback, personalised services and ensuring high satisfaction.

  • Defiant Ones

    Recognises firms that lead technological innovation, setting new standards and defining the future of their industries.

  • Hammer

    Celebrates companies that have not only defined success on their own terms but have also concretely demonstrated their triumphs over the past year.

  • I Wish I'd Done That

    Applauds ingenious, simple solutions in niche markets that spark a universal sentiment of admiration.

  • On the Rise

    Celebrates early-stage startups, under 4 years, that have shown remarkable progress and success in their initial years.

  • Prodigy

    Recognises young visionaries under 30 with outstanding talents and achievements, setting them apart in their fields.

  • Singularity

    Highlights AI-driven companies that are pioneering new services or integrating AI to create innovative products.

  • Women in Business

    Celebrates female entrepreneurs and leaders who are forging paths for future generations by creating more equitable opportunities.

  • B-Good

    Recognises businesses that redefine commercial success by positively transforming our economic system for the benefit of all stakeholders.

  • Circular Pioneer

    Celebrates companies at the forefront of circular economy practices, making substantial and sustainable differences.

  • Ethical Leadership New

    Commends companies exemplifying leadership in environmental and social governance, setting standards in corporate responsibility and ethical practices.

  • Going Green

    Acknowledges companies leading large-scale sustainable initiatives, addressing critical areas like clean energy and environmental justice.

  • Collab New

    Honours strategic partnerships and alliances with other businesses to leverage complementary strengths, access new markets, and share resources for synergistic growth and innovation.

  • Design First

    Celebrates companies where design is the heartbeat of innovation, engaging the whole team in crafting groundbreaking products.

  • Going Global New

    Applauds companies that have expanded their reach globally, showcasing exceptional growth and international success.

  • Great Pivot

    Acknowledges companies that adeptly navigate change, leveraging insights to pivot towards delivering outstanding products.

  • Movement

    Recognises unforgettable event experiences that resonate emotionally, drive social change, or achieve viral status.

  • New Model

    Honours businesses revolutionising markets with elegant and disruptive business models.

  • Next Level New

    Applauds companies which had successful strategic acquisition and integration of another entity, staff or an asset that allowed them to further grow and scale their services.

  • Wildfire

    Celebrates companies that have rapidly and significantly impacted their marketplace, online and offline, setting new standards for success.

  • Angel

    Honours visionary angel investors who've significantly contributed to early-stage startups, guiding them toward success.

  • C-Suite

    Recognises exceptional leadership qualities in high-ranking executives, showcasing their management and interpersonal excellence.

  • Creative Maverick New

    Honours unconventional thinkers with exceptional abilities to execute typically unimaginable initiatives, expertly coordinate teams, secure funding or successfully launch multiple ventures.

  • Ecosystem Star

    Celebrates individuals who energise and nurture their communities, fostering engagement and advocacy.

  • Future Builder

    Recognises the determination and resilience of founders who've embarked on the challenging journey of starting their own ventures.

  • Quiet Achiever New

    Applauds the unsung heroes whose behind-the-scenes efforts have led to flawless project executions and exceeded expectations.

  • Splash Down Under New

    Acknowledges international companies making a noteworthy entrance into the Australian market, enriching the local business ecosystem.

  • TopCoder

    Recognises developers for their outstanding technical skills, clean code, and collaborative spirit.

  • Venture Cap

    Salutes venture capital firms with a track record of backing transformative businesses, contributing significantly to Australia's economic growth.

  • Visionary New

    Recognises effective leadership by setting a clear vision, motivating the team, and making strategic decisions that guide their business towards its goals.

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