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High Five! Unearthed mines for global startup gold

Charlie Gunningham
Charlie Gunningham

From its first Perth hackathon in 2014, Unearthed has become a hard working catalyst for the energy and resources tech sector…

Over the past five years, more than 4,000 people across Australia, South Africa, the US, Canada and South America have engaged with Unearthed to some degree.

The list of accomplishments is impressive: they have run 26 hackathons in 14 cities (8 international), 6 online competitions and 4 demo days; they’ve given away $250K+ in cash and $150K in credits and prizes; they’ve set 100+ industry challenges and seen 400+ prototypes developed.

The organisation has notched up some impressive achievements, and now has tentacles reaching out across the globe.

Mine the local resource

One might expect a mining town like Perth to spawn something like Unearthed – great name – because if we are to be the centre of anything, then we may as well be a centre of resources tech.

What was novel at the outset, was the Unearthed crew went out and got hold of corporate suit and tie folks in the resources industry, brought them down to Spacecubed and asked them to share their problems. It was always about connecting industry mentors with innovators and startups.

As winners of the inaugural Unearthed Perth 2014 hackathon, Newton Labs was fast-tracked into the first Unearthed Accelerator pilot program in 2015.

Those who were there, and for others who’ve heard the story afterwards, it was brilliant seeing cofounders Michael del Borrello and Simon Vincent improvise with a gym ball and toy truck to prototype their big rock detection system, which had won them first prize.

High Five! Unearthed mines for global startup gold
Newton Labs’ Michael del Borrello and Simon Vincent with their now famous prototype at the inaugural Unearthed Perth 2014

On graduating from the accelerator six months later, they won a Western Australian Innovator of the Year Award. Even more impressively, their novel IoT and analytics package is now being used on hard rock mine sites to report on particle size distribution and prevent oversize material from blocking the primary crushers, delivering significant savings to tier one mine operators.

Expansion nationally & abroad

During Unearthed Brisbane 2016, industry supporter Newcrest Mining came across data science startup PETRA Data Science. Following the event, they began working together to develop predictive models that could accurately forecast mill overload events at Lihir mine that were causing Newcrest considerable downtime, costing tens of thousands of dollars in lost productivity. PETRA Data Science continues to collaborate with Newcrest on multiple projects to seek customised data analytics and prediction solutions, and both parties still support Unearthed events.

Unearthed views hackathons, online competitions and accelerators as pressure cooker environments in which startups can develop their technical and entrepreneurial skills. But that’s not all.

Jobs, jobs jobs!

Above and beyond Unearthed events and programs, the team is driven to find ongoing opportunities for innovators by connecting talented individuals to jobs and careers.

For example, at the conclusion of the Digital Tribes Perth 2017 two-week hackathon, BHP successfully identified a number of candidates to join them. Three innovators – Nathan Glover, Nancy Zhong and Allen Simpson – were offered 6-month contracts with BHP’s Digital Hardware Tribe.

“I have 12 years’ experience in oil and gas and mining in electrical instrumentation and controls. I’m constantly thinking that I could improve on this or build that differently,” said Allen Simpson. “Now, in this fortunate position with BHP, I feel like I will have the freedom to look at problems and actually try to solve them.”

The Unearthed Accelerator program supports founders to develop and achieve their vision.

“We believe sustainable companies start with resilient founders,” Unearthed Director Justin Strharsky told Startup News. “We are focused on the people behind the business as much as the business itself”.

High Five! Unearthed mines for global startup gold
First Prize Winners at Unearthed Argentina 2017 – Federal Group

Show me the Money

Another important part of fostering entrepreneurial ventures is providing access to early stage capital. If you need funding to start or scale your business, the Unearthed team will work to connect you to aligned investors, including Unearthed Ventures.

“The Unearthed Accelerator was pivotal in our early steps. The funding allowed us to focus entirely on this project, which was at that stage,” Simon Vincent Commercial Director and cofounder of Newton Labs said. “It allowed us to obtain some off-the-shelf, cheap components that we took out to quarries, which gave us our initial confidence in the data. It also allowed us to spend time and energy focused on doing more of the business case and talking to customers in our own time.”

Connection to customers is paramount in supporting entrepreneurial endeavours.

As a foundation member of CORE Innovation Hub and NASA Space Apps, as well as a supporting member of WebGirls Australia, the Unearthed team enjoy supporting aligned community initiatives. Its directors serve on multiple startup community boards in Perth.

“We are constantly impressed by the changemakers and the community that we get to work with,” Zane Prickett, Director Unearthed told Startup News. “We look forward to seeing the talent that emerges from our upcoming events, competitions and the 2018 Accelerator program and being witness to future successes of the community.”

To celebrate their fifth birthday, Unearthed are presenting several events, as noted below, and on the Startup News events calendar.

  • 23 March – Community Night
  • 26 March – UWA + Unearthed Breakfast
  • 4 April – Bootcamp 1: Upskill yourself! Attend the workshop run by AWS to prepare yourself for the hackathon.
  • 5 April – Bootcamp 2: Prototype to Implementation. Maximise success!

You can register for any or all of these community events here.

They are holding their 2018 hackathon next month:

  • 13-15 April – Unearthed Perth 2018 (Hackathon) – register now


For more information about Unearthed and its global open innovation program, visit their website.

MAIN PHOTO: Graduates of the Unearthed Accelerator 2017 – Modulr Tech, SiteSee, Flowpay and Canaria with Unearthed team members.

Read more of the latest news from the startup ecosystem here

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Charlie Gunningham

Charlie Gunningham

Former co-founder, GM, CEO Business News and Accelerating Commercialisation adviser. Charlie has spent 20+ years in Perth's startup scene, as founder, mentor, adviser, writer and investor. There's nothing he likes more than helping early stage tech startups ... and drinking coffee, shiraz or playing in a blues band. Email Charlie here.
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