Steve Baxter is getting out of the accelerator business, selling River City Labs and its associated startup programs to – of all people – the Australian Computer Society.
The Shark Tank judge and current Queensland government Chief Entrepreneur founded the not-for-profit in 2012. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Mr Baxter has previously said the plan to divest was not a commercially driven decision.
The acquisition takes effect immediately and will be formally announced at a function in Brisbane this morning. The ACS and River City Labs Group said in a statement that all staff at the organisations would remain.
Mr Baxter had issued a call for expressions of interest to acquire the RCL business in May and is understood to have received 20 proposals.
The ACS is understood to have committed to spending an additional $7.5 million in ramping up its “mission to support tech entrepreneurs” although it is not clear whether this is directed at the RCL operation or its national activities.
“We’re tremendously excited by being afforded the opportunity to grow River City Labs. ACS’ vision is for Australia to be a world leader in technology talent, that fosters innovation and creates new forms of value said ACS President Yohan Ramasundara.
“We understand that new jobs growth in a digital economy comes from tech startups, and we are pleased to be in a situation where we can contribute to growing the tech ecosystem both in Queensland and more broadly across the country,” he said.
For existing tenants and partners of the RCL Group, services would continue unchanged, the organisations said. They said the team would remain the same and that Mr Baxter would still involved as an advisor and major influence.
“After six amazing years, I’m truly excited to see RCL evolve. When we launched this process it was about finding the right custodian for RCL, not just to maintain business as usual but to take it to the next level,” Mr Baxter said.
“ACS came to the table with fresh new ideas, a compelling vision for supporting tech entrepreneurship in QLD and beyond, and a willingness to invest. There are so many people who’ve contributed so much to this journey, thanks to all of you. But don’t go anywhere – the job has only just begun,” he said.
Since its launch more than 700 start-up founders have set up office at River City Labs. Just under 29,000 people have passed through the doors, attending more than 1,000 start-up and community events.
It has run programs in partnership with some of Australia’s biggest companies, including BOQ, CUA, Suncorp and Telstra.
RCL is a leading provider of start-up related programs in Australia, including: River Pitch, a quarterly event bringing together pre-screened startups and investors; the RCL Accelerator, and Startup Catalyst. The RCL Accelerator, powered by muru-D, has graduated 28 Queensland startups including Travello, Maxwell MRI and Punta.