South Australia will pay the Sydney-headquartered FinTech incubator and co-working space Stone and Chalk nearly $8 million over three years to manage a space industry-focused incubator at Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen innovation precinct.
Premier Steven Marshall said Stone and Chalk had been appointed as a key anchor tenant and manager of the startup under the $7.9 million contract, nominating the company a strategic innovation partner for the state.
Stone and Chalk will oversee the running and development of the startup program, and will also advise the Marshall government on startups and innovation policy, particularly in relation to the state’s nascent space industry.
The company expected to work towards filling Lot Fourteen’s 650 workspaces with startup businesses and manage access to conference rooms, event facilities and meeting spaces.
“Securing Stone and Chalk as the strategic innovation partner is a huge coup for our state as we forge ahead with our ambition to build the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and further develop the culture of entrepreneurship in South Australia,” Premier Marshall said.
“Our goal for South Australia is to lead the nation in designing, manufacturing, and exporting world-leading defence, SpaceTech, and smart city innovation, creating a real capability that lasts beyond government-funded projects, and which attracts investment and customers from around the world,” he said.
“Partnering with Stone and Chalk will put South Australia in the best possible position to achieve this goal – it will help increase entrepreneurial activity, jobs and economic growth, and keep our state at the forefront of global innovation and enterprise.
The announcement of Stone and Chalk’s participation has come as a surprise to some in the national startup ecosystem. As a FinTech leader, Stone and Chalk has become a dominant player.
While its work on high-tech programs, defence or with space-focused startups has been limited, Stone and Chalk chief executive Alex Scandurra is confident that the company’s cross-vertical expertise would be an advantage.
“Our track record is transportable to multiple industries, and even though we are better known for FinTech which is where we started, for two years now we’ve been involved in multiple industries,” Mr Scandurra told InnovationAus.com.
“This for us would just be an extension of the same methodology that we’ve already been successful in applying across verticals.”
Stone and Chalk’s growth and geographic expansion has been a core part of their strategy in recent years. It successfully launched in Melbourne in 2017 in conjunction with the SproutX national AgTech hub, and is a key tenant in the NSW government-backed Sydney Startup Hub.
With no track record in South Australia, Lot Fourteen will be their first major project in the state.
Mr Scandurra highlighted their fresh approach as a strength.
“It’s about the capability that we bring, irrespective of the geography that we play in. Obviously having relationships in the local ecosystem is really important but the ecosystem here is quite small,” he said.
“The key advantage for us and for Adelaide is that we can help connect them to the action that is happening in Australia and globally.
“From our perspective, we think it’s great that clusters are starting to form not just around cities but between cities.”
The Stone and Chalk Adelaide expansion will launch in the third quarter of 2019. It is encouraging applications and expressions of interest from startups and potential partners now.
Lot Fourteen is one of several projects aimed at fostering the state’s startup and technology community. Other projects include the Future Industries eXchange for Entrepreneurship (FIXE) strategy and the Supporting Innovation in South Australia (SISA) visa pilot.
The state’s ongoing investment and support from the research and defence industries and their role as the hosts of the National Space Agency are additional boosts to their startup infrastructure.