The Victorian government is at pains to prove that it is backing the local tech and startup community along with its programs to attract large international players, following an ecosystem backlash.
For the last 18 months the state government, led by Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis, has made a series of strategic investments focused on providing funding and support to large global tech players to convince them to set up a local headquarters in Melbourne. This has worked with the likes of Slack, Square and Zendesk.
Through the $60 million LaunchVic grants program, the government has also funded programs aiming to grow the wider ecosystem.
But a lot of these efforts have provided taxpayer funding to large international tech companies and programs, something that has riled some local players.
Now Mr Dalidakis is out to prove to the community that he is supporting local startups, with the Victorian government announcing a investment to enable Melbourne fintech Assembly Payments to expand its global headquarters in Victoria.
The company, formerly known as PromisePay, was already based in Melbourne, but has now moved into a larger space in Collingwood thanks to the funding, and is aiming to hire a further 60 team members in the coming year.
For Mr Dalidakis and the Victorian government, it’s proof that the local tech community will always come first.
“We started speaking with Assembly a little while ago, and we were keen to reinforce to the local community that we do want to support local businesses and we do want to see growth in our sector at home,” Mr Dalidakis told InnovationAus.com.
“We had an opportunity to directly invest in an employer that saw them commit to a greater presence here in Melbourne. That can only be a good thing for the whole of the Australian technology sector,” he said.
Assembly Payments is an online payments platform that allows these payments to be held in escrow until a certain service is completed. The company recently secured a lucrative deal with the eBay-owned Gumtree. It closed a $14 million Series A round last year.
As with the government’s other deals with international companies, the amount of money provided to Assembly Payments has not been disclosed.
“We won’t disclose that because some of our brother and sister states may at some stage want to compete with us. Competition is good, but competition without disclosure is even better,” Mr Dalidakis said.
The Victorian government’s funding of venture-backed international tech firms has attracted some criticism locally.
Most recently, it provided nearly $3 million to Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups for it to bring the program to Melbourne, leading some local programs to question why the money wasn’t provided to Australian companies.
“There has been one or two comments from time to time. We were wanting to demonstrate that the government strategy is all about the growth of our sector at home, supporting our local home grown champions and attracting the best and brightest from overseas,” Mr Dalidakis said.
“Through the announcement we’ve demonstrated our commitment across the whole of the sector. We have a clearly identifiable strategy to actually grow our sector as a whole at home.”
And this strategy won’t be changing anytime soon, with Mr Dalidakis saying that this is “still just the beginning”.
“You can see our strategy and actions in play, and we look forward to further announcements over the coming months,” he said.