Lockheed Martin made its debut at South By Southwest this year, with a big presence on the convention center floor, replete with a robotic exoskeleton controlled by a Lockheed engineer, and giant backdrop showing the red surface of Mars.
But it was Lockheed's venture capital arm that took its presence at the annual gathering of entrepreneurs to new heights — literally. To 1,000 feet in the sky above Austin. The aerospace and defense company invested in a costly, high-flying pitch competition to stand out from the crowd and draw the best startups as it looks to invest in more emerging companies.
Lockheed Martin Ventures hosted what it called the "HeloPitch," inviting applications from start-ups in fields ranging from aviation and cybersecurity, to space technology and virtual reality. The company received 45 applications, fielded a second round of pitches at its booth in the Austin convention center, then invited nine companies into the sky. The final round consisted of a pitch to Lockheed's VC fund and two of its partners, in a state-of-the-art Sikorsky S-76D helicopter.
"We're looking outside [Lockheed] because in the commercial space things evolve at a high rate of speed and we want to make sure that whatever products we're creating for Lockheed Martin and for our customers have those advanced technologies in them," said Lockheed Martin Ventures VP Chris Moran.