Tech sector calls for targeted assistance as innovation hub waives membership fees

Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra
Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra

Technology innovation hub Stone & Chalk has waived three months’ membership fees for startup members forced to work remotely and virtualised its services to continue to support the technology sector during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The industry-first move comes as the Australian Innovation Collective, of which Stone & Chalk is a founding member, made a snap submission to the Federal Government urging immediate action to support the sector during the COVID-19 crisis in order to position the technology industry and the country well for accelerated economic recovery.

Why we need to protect our tech startups

“It is vital to ensure the sector is able to weather the COVID-19 storm. As this crisis dissipates, Australia will rely heavily on the vital role high-growth technology startups and scaleups will play in accelerating demand for skilled jobs,” Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra said.

“Now more than ever before is the time for corporates and governments from around the country to procure services from local startups and scaleups. Whilst small businesses are the engine room of the economy, startups and scaleups are the drivers of jobs growth. This sector will also prove vital to unlocking private sector investment back into the economy.”

“To do our part, we have waived the next three months membership fees for all Stone & Chalk residents nationally and we have already commenced delivery of some of our existing support services digitally, for everyone to use, so we can continue to support emerging technology companies from anywhere in Australia.” 

“We will be offering our members a full range of remote and crisis-related services including tailored mentorship, community support, access to corporate and government partners, advocacy, growth advisory and business planning assistance.”

Stone & Chalk has provided invaluable assistance to some of the nation’s most successful startups in the fintech, proptech, insuretech, regtech, cybersecurity and data sectors, helping 140 companies raise more than $520 million over the last five years.

Members include distributed energy generation company Brighte, personal finance manager Moneytree, business finance outfit Moula, cloud-based commodity management platform AgriDigital, leading governance platform for data sharing Data Republic and personal lender Moneyplace.

Founded in Fintech in 2015, Stone & Chalk has established its reputation as Australia’s leading Impact Network which has expanded its reach to support high growth technology companies in all emerging industries, with collaborative workspace locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Australia can’t afford to let its tech sector fail

“We see it as our joint responsibility to ensure all the investment and hard work of the last 10 years in building the New Economy isn’t lost. This is why we have come together to be a part of an industry-wide national alliance calling on the Federal and State Governments for immediate and decisive action to support the viability of this vital asset and ensure it is able to be the growth engine for the Australian economy in the recovery that follows COVID-19,” Mr Scandurra said.

“The Australian startup ecosystem has proven repeatedly that it can produce profitable, globally competitive companies that drive employment and economic growth in Australia,” Mr Scandurra said.

“For the health of the sector and the recovery of our economy post-COVID it is important that the Federal Government apply targeted assistance to ensure that we are in the best possible position to continue to help drive our nation’s growth in the future.”

The submission by the Australian Innovation Collective voices the industry’s support for the first two rounds of stimulus and requests urgent and targeted assistance for the startup and technology sectors including:

  • urgently enhancing and expanding the Research Development Tax Incentive (RDTI) program
  • providing funding lifelines in the form of targeted tax rebates and grants
  • 20 per cent wage subsidies for startup employees up to $20,000
  • employee retention and retraining measures
  • fast track government procurement

The submission also recommends longer-term structural changes around innovation-enabling procurement policies, greater alignment of startup development with government policy-making, smarter investment incentives and greater global connectedness for Australian startups.

The important contribution startups and scaleups make to jobs growth is clearly understood globally. On Thursday France announced refinancing and liquidity measures specifically for their startup and scaleup sector in the order of €4 billion. This includes bridging rounds to raise capital, loans up to two years’ of employee salary or 25 percent of annual revenue, and accelerated tax rebates.