‘It unlocks momentum’: Northern Australia pitching contest returns

A pitching contest that has helped attract global companies to Northern Australia and “unlock the momentum” of a number of young tech companies is returning in July.

Croc Pitch, now in its fifth year, is sponsored by Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund and the Darwin Innovation Hub and provides an opportunity for companies from around the world to pitch an innovation, product or technology to a panel of experts and a live audience, with a venture capital investment of $1 million on offer.

The competition is open to entrepreneurs and companies from around the country and across the globe who can provide a direct benefit to Northern Australia.

“We look internationally and nationally for companies that have technologies or innovations that are very relevant to the territory,” Paspalis CEO Harley Paroulakis said.

“We want to bring international companies here to undertake research and development, employment activity and productivity gains.”


The Atomionics team, last year’s Croc Pitch winners

For the last three winners of Croc Pitch, things have “snowballed” soon after the victory, and they have gone from strength to strength. Last year’s winner was Singapore-based quantum technology company Atomionics, which landed a USD$1 million investment from the competition.

Atomionics has created quantum sensors for navigation and resource exploration which measure gravity, acceleration and rotation in order to build an underground map. Soon after winning Croc Pitch, the company closed a substantial seed round, and has been working closely with a number of local mining companies to commercialise its technology.

Atomionics is now on a mission to build a complete model of the Earth’s crust using its Gravimeter technology, and has used funding to conduct trials in mine sites across the Northern Territory. The company wants to “do more with less” by minimising environmental externality and maximising resource efficiency.

“The companies that have won Croc Pitch have raised more money, gotten government funding and Accelerating Commercialisation grants,” Mr Paroulakis said.

“For all three winners it’s been a real springboard for their commercialisation.”

The 2021 Croc Pitch winner was Amphibian Aerospace Industries, which is aiming to be a world-leader in the development and production of amphibian aerospace capabilities. Since the victory, the company has opened a research and development centre at Darwin Airport and is set to become Australia’s only manufacturer of the Albatross G-111T aircraft, which can take off and touch down from land, snow, ice and water.

“Off the back of the credibility of having us as the lead investor, more money came in and they’ve now set up a hangar at Darwin Airport, and they’re well and truly down the road of engineering specs and contract development for modernising the aircraft,” Paroulakis said.

Corrosion Instruments took out the 2019 iteration of Croc Pitch for its underground sensing and surveying technology for oil and gas pipelines. Soon after this win, the company landed an Accelerating Commercialisation grant from the federal government.

“Their pot of capital got quite large — they were able to employ people and get an office — it all happened very quickly,” Mr Paroulakis said.

“It unlocks that momentum — it’s really positive.”

Corrosion Instruments provides cathodic protection monitoring and measurement equipment which can increase the lifespan of multi-billion-dollar buried pipeline assets.

Along with a financial investment, the competition offers companies the chance to vastly expand in the Northern Australian region, and access a useful network in the area, Paroulakis said

“We bring value through our strength, profile and networks in Northern Australia,” he said.

“We bring that value into a deal, and we can open doors. That’s where we sit.”

Croc Pitch 2023 will take place on 25 July in partnership with the 2023 Developing Northern Australia Conference. The event will be held in person and virtually, with entrepreneurs able to pitch from anywhere in the world.

Judges at last year’s competition included Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Chief Investment Officer Stephen Land, National Decommissioning Research Initiative program director Cassandra Schmidt and AusIndustry Accelerating Commercialisation facilitator Josh Garrett.

The competition is now on the hunt for entrepreneurs and companies looking to grow their companies in Northern Australia.

“If you feel that your business is a fit for Croc Pitch – go for it,” Mr Paroulakis said.

“Come and talk to us and register, hone your pitch doc and have a go.”

Source: Stuart Mason (InnovationAus)

This article was produced by InnovationAus.com in partnership with the Darwin Innovation Hub.