As the CEO of a leading wharf logistics business for 13 years, Carl Marchese was frustrated by how much money the company spent moving shipping containers in and out of empty-container depots. He saw an opportunity to innovate and in 2016 founded MATCHBOX Exchange Pty Ltd, which allows wharf carriers to directly exchange empty containers.

Through an open-market cloud-based platform, a company that needs an empty container is matched with a company that has one, and they can collaborate to arrange an exchange. It’s world-first technology, and it’s helping customers cut costs and reduce transport needs. So far, MATCHBOX Exchange has eliminated more than 50,000 tons of carbon emissions.

Thanks to an Accelerating Commercialisation Grant secured in January 2017, MATCHBOX Exchange further developed its software and undertook commercial trials throughout Australia. Marchese was also able to hire a chief technology officer and a business analyst.

“Being awarded the grant is good validation,” says Marchese. “It means you’ve demonstrated that there is a unique problem you’re solving and that it’s a project worth backing.”

At the end of the commercialisation project period, in June 2018, MATCHBOX Exchange had a commercially viable business. The company’s customer base grew from five Queensland-based trucking companies to 250 companies across Australia and New Zealand. It’s also now partnered with eight of the world’s top shipping lines.

When MATCHBOX Exchange was ready to expand overseas, Austrade’s Landing Pads program was there to help. From September to November 2018, the business was based at the Singapore Landing Pad – a WeWork collaborative workspace in vibrant Tanjong Pagar, near the central business district.

The Landing Pad helped MATCHBOX Exchange assess potential markets, opportunities and competitors in Southeast Asia, and to understand the regulatory and cultural environment.

“We found the Landing Pad very valuable, particularly because we were able to establish some really great networks with Austrade and their partners,” says Marchese.

“We also attended a couple of exhibitions that Austrade arranged, which led to some really good introductions. This resulted in new business and contracts.”

Through the Landing Pads program, MATCHBOX Exchange validated its target Southeast Asian markets – Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore – and aims to be active in at least one of these by mid-2020. The business has secured at least three shipping lines as partners to support trials in those markets.

The program also helped MATCHBOX Exchange define its capital-raising strategy, and the business raised capital in Australia during its time at the Landing Pad. The focus is now on cementing the company’s position in Australia and New Zealand, and then expanding into Southeast Asia before launching its next round of fundraising.

Since January 2017, when the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant was awarded, the MATCHBOX Exchange team has grown from three to six employees, and will reach 10 in 2019. Two new employees will be based in Singapore and focus on global growth.

“You come out of the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant with a really clear focus,” says Marchese. “We always planned to expand internationally and the Landing Pad was a great vehicle for us to take the next step. The two programs complement each other well.”

To learn more about MATCHBOX Exchange visit their website https://www.matchboxexchange.com/