KPMG's Energise is an accelerator program designed to connect some of Australia’s leading startups with a number of major resource companies including Woodside, Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertilisers, South32 and others.
We chat to Sarah Coleman, Director of Sandpit Innovation, one of the successful startups involved in the 2015 Energise accelerator, on their experience with the program.
What would you consider the highlights of the 2015 Energise program?
Sarah: Energise provided us with the opportunity to sit back, challenge and reassess our business model in a way that we would not have been able to on our own. But, just as importantly, we really valued the team spirit amongst the other startups, the international speakers who took the time to present and mentor us, and the ongoing connections we have formed with the corporates.
What value did you gain from the program?
Sarah: The program allowed us to really challenge our business model and determine our true ‘competitive advantage“. Having the KPMG team available to work alongside us and question why we do what we do has been significantly valuable. We came out of Energise with greater confidence as a team and organisation.
Did you gain any new customers as a result of the Energise program?
Sarah: We have had a lot of success with new (and existing) customers as a result of the Energise program. One of our most exciting projects from Energise is the work we are currently doing with South32 to develop a new product, PRS (Pulley Replacement System). PRS solves a 35-year safety problem they have on their overland pulley conveyor at Worsley Alumina. Currently a team of operators replace up to 700 pulleys per week by hand in summer, each weighing 17kg. Needless to say, the task is very onerous and has a high safety risk.
Sandpit were engaged by South32 during Energise to undertake an engineering study to see if we were able to find an innovative solution. Using our strong operational knowledge, problem solving capability and engineering know how, we were able to come up with a design that the operators loved! Ironically, the final concept came when one of our Directors, Aaron Carter was visiting the dentist and our design is based off the zero gravity arm a dentist uses to hold their tools. We are building the pilot product as we speak and look forward to seeing it fully operational by the end of the year.
We have also formed direct working relationships with a number of the other corporates that we met during the program. We also continue to build strong relationships with other corporates involved in the program 12 months on, such as Woodside. So we’re looking forward to the possibility of working with many of them in the future as well.
Have you had any new business development opportunities beyond the 12 week accelerator program?
Sarah: Absolutely! We have had ongoing work with a number of the corporates from the program and continued to build relationships with those we have not had any direct work with as yet.
What advice would you give to a startup considering applying for the Energise 2.0 program?
Sarah: First up, I would say to anyone considering applying to just ‘go for it’. In terms of the program, you will get out of Energise as much as you are willing to put into the program. It is an intensive 12 weeks and the KPMG team will go above and beyond to help if you put the effort in. I would encourage startups to view Energise 2.0 in the same way they would as the most important client engagement they’ve had and give it as much effort as they possibly can.
If you not sure about the ‘fit’ of your business with the program, just apply. We are an extremely diverse company with different lines of business – not your average startup. We were still able to draw out significant value and it actually challenged our business fundamentals in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.
Why do you think the energy and natural resources sector is a good industry for startups to be involved with?
Sarah: The energy and natural resources sector traditionally have not embraced technology and innovation very well. However, in the last few years, there is a strong imperative and appetite to implement new technology that will drive the cost of production down, improve safety and/or provide a platform to further optimise their business. It is a brilliant time to be working with this sector as they go through an exciting transformation.
Sandpit is an award-winning company with a variety of innovators, from operational experts to business professionals. Their team has the expertise and passion needed to investigate, assemble ideas and create customer-specific solutions. Their comprehensive, strategic, no-nonsense approach ensures they can deliver quickly and cost effectively.
KPMG’s Energise 2.0 program aims to foster greater collaboration between startups and top tier resource corporates, and help to bring new ideas and technology, and deliver much-needed improvements in cost, productivity, social, environmental and safety performance.
Energise 2.0 comes on the back of the successful 2015 Energise program which saw over A$650,000 of pilot projects and capital delivered to eight Australian startups.
Throughout the 12-week program, successful startups will also have access to up to 60 program mentors, industry advisers, and tech experts from across Australia and Silicon Valley.