Hosted by the Darwin Innovation Hub on the 27th of October as part of the Spark Festival and October Business Month’s Innovation week, Croc Pitch 2021 was an incredible day for entrepreneurs, startups, SMEs and investors. This year the DIH opened its doors (and its screens) to global competitors, the criteria… the pitch must have a benefit back into the Northern Territory.

DIH’s Commercialisation Manager, Geoff Thomas, had the job of reviewing over 50 applications from the Territory, around Australia, and south-east Asia, selecting the best 17 for the semi-finals.  He says, “We had 58 applicants, which we managed to reduce to 17 semi-finalists, and in the end, three placegetters, and one winner. It was a tough job for the judges in selecting the winners.  The pitches were all excellent. The entrepreneurs put in a lot of work at CrocCamp (our training days for the pitches) reducing their pitches to three minutes.  It was hard for them to reduce their pitch to its core, but they did a fantastic job.”

Companies provided innovations across many areas, after a gruelling day of pitching, the judges narrowed down to 6 finalists for the final round, these companies came from industries including space, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies and renewable energy.

First place was Dan Webster from Amphibian Aerospace. A Victorian company who plan to manufacture and produce a modified amphibian aircraft from the Albatross family in Darwin. Amphibian Aerospace will use their Croc Pitch $1,000,000 investment from the Paspalis Innovation Investment Fund (PIIF) to fund the modification program to the aircraft.

Second place went to Darwin local Charley Feros from LifeH2o, an Advanced Manufacturing company that employs cutting edge, innovative design for the manufacture of military grade, fit for purpose water purification and desalination equipment. They were awarded a venture capital investment of $300,000 from PIIF.

Third place was given to Chan Hang from Transcelestial, a Singapore based Digital Technologies & ICT company that uses wireless laser beam technology to deliver the same internet speed as fibre. They were awarded an invitation to work with the DIH to explore demonstration site possibilities in the Territory.

Harley Paroulakis – CEO Paspalis says, “I was thrilled to see how much Croc Pitch has grown since we first began in 2017. There was such a high calibre of pitches from the NT, Australia and Asia Pacific. It was really hard to choose a single winner from the group of finalists, so we ended up choosing three! Congratulations to Amphibian Aerospace for winning first prize of $1 million in venture capital investment.”

In 2019 the $150,000 investment prize from Croc Pitch was the leg-up Sam Pattemore of Corrosion Instruments needed to turn his sole operator enterprise into a fully incorporated company with a staff of six. Sam Pattemore says “If you have an idea or a concept and you are passionate about it and believe it is worth pursuing, Croc Pitch is a great platform to make your dreams known to other people…”

DIH COO Emma Nesbitt says, “Croc Pitch is more than just money. The Darwin Innovation Hub will continue to work with all of the 17 contestants so that they can continue to grow and develop into world class Northern Territory companies. Through our business start-up and growth programs, we make companies investment ready so that they can attract funding from private capital. Congratulations to all finalists and winners of Croc Pitch 2021.”

Sponsored by the Northern Territory Government and supported by the Australian Government – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AusIndustry, the event was jammed packed with guest speakers who provided insights on what investors are looking for in a company, how to commercialise, and how to gain global business attraction.

Speakers include Peter Verwer AO – Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce, Andrew Cowan – Investment Commissioner for the Northern Territory Government, Grant Steinberg – Accelerating Commercialisation, and Shaun Drabsch, CEO of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.

At 10:30 Darwin middle school STEM Innovation Awards winners got the opportunity to practice pitching their Future Ocean Project pitch to the Croc Pitch audience and judges.

With 17 contestants, three pitching rounds and 11 judges in total, Croc Pitch was an exciting showcase of the best innovation and business ideas the Territory has to offer. Grand finale judges were, Harley Paroulakis – CEO of Paspalis; Kerstin Holata – Senior Commercialisation Facilitator, Accelerating Commercialisation, Peter Verwer AO – Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce; and Andrew Cowan – Investment Commissioner, Northern Territory Government.

(All investments are subject to due diligence)