With a smaller population and a Venture Capitalist community which is fairly risk averse, it can be difficult to start up a new company here in Australia. The Stone & Chalk Group is a not-for-profit which aims to drive emerging tech innovation and build an entrepreneurial pathway for startups.
We interviewed Stone & Chalk’s Group CEO, Michael Bromley, asking him to tell us more about the organisation and the goals it has achieved. He told us: “We like to think of ourselves as an ecosystem for startups and we have the whole range – from pre-startup all the way through to enterprise. We’ll support companies all the way through because we can give them access to capital, infrastructure and guidance.”
“If you’re a doctor or a lawyer – even a truck driver – you know what to do. There’s a career path for you. But if you’re an entrepreneur, there isn’t a career path. So at Stone & Chalk, we want to help create that entrepreneurial career path – right from school,” he adds.
“So, if you’re a pre-startup , we could be helping you become a resident – we have 6000 residents and some are virtual and some are physical – about half and half. That’s about 6000 people representing about 20,000 jobs in an ecosystem so we have a fairly large impact. We’re expanding right now so we’re going to double that,” he adds.
How long have you been going?
“Seven years – we started off in FinTech alone here in Sydney and we’re now fully engrossed in emerging tech – so about 10 or 12 different industries. FinTech is still a big part of what we’re now in SureTech, RecTech, Defence, SpaceTech, Climate, Web 3, AI, PropTech and Quantum as well.
“We’re really trying to create the underpinnings so that the companies we’re working with can just focus on building their businesses and we provide the guard rails so they can keep moving up,” says Michael.
Why did you think there was a need for this?
“Well, there is a huge need for it because unlike the US where it’s an organic ecosystem – with 320 million people new companies just happen – and there’s a huge market to sell to. So, in Australia, new startups just need that little bit of cradling. The proof is in the pudding – we’ve raised over a billion dollars in seven years with the companies in our program and they wouldn’t have got to that point if they weren’t part of our program,” says Michael.
“The VC (Venture Capitalist) community is so small and so risk averse in Australia, it can be really difficult here. So, if you’re not late stage or you don’t have your market fit etc – and maybe even some revenue – then Australia VC is not going to touch you. So, we’ve got to help people get there so they can be eligible for that later round funding,” he adds.
“There are programs here but none of them are connected. So, you can go and do an accelerator program and some of them are as short as three weeks, some of them are six months – but then what? With us, it’s the whole thing. You can go from an accelerator program into a startup hub into a scale-up hub – and then into our corporate programs – all the way through to enterprise.
“We’ve got an advisory business that works with large enterprise to help them work with the innovation communities. For the startups, we do advisory work to help them innovate and spin out companies from their ecosystems – and so it all comes full circle. The whole idea is to create that entrepreneurial career pathway,” adds Michael.
You’re a not-for-profit so do you channel any profit made back into the business?
“Yes, that’s why we started with one office in Sydney seven years ago and now we have two in Sydney, an office in Adelaide and Melbourne – and we have small regional offices in Perth, Launceston, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. We’re expanding to other places as well,” he says.
Do you keep an eye out for women starting up their own businesses?
“We do support women in startups – especially in tech. We house a lot of the associations as well – so FinTech and Prop Tech are members. We’ve worked with a number of these groups on Women in Tech. As far as our organisation goes – we’re 50% female at the leadership level and about 50% in our full staff as well. We’re about 75 people in total now,” Michael says.
What are some of your success stories?
“We have a lot – Hyper Anna is an AI software company – and Workpay is another one which does payroll software. As well we have Lateral Vision, Bobbob, BankiFi, Splose, Bluesheets, Inaam, Arcanite and DLP Manager – we’ve got a list of companies we’ve helped get through. The list is longer than I can count and there’s a whole bunch of cybers in there as well because that’s a big focus for us,” he says.
“We’re also running courses and we’ve just started one on Cybersecurity and Bunnings is participating in it. We’re training up a bunch of trainers and then Bunnings has agreed to take them on as interns within the business and 90% of them are likely to land jobs within the company they work in. We’re working with some big companies like Microsoft and half a dozen other in this, to develop the curriculum,” Michael adds.
“We need to start earlier – say with Year 3 students, teaching them about Cybersecurity and safety on the web. The same is true with technology, training needs to be all the way through school. And then we can provide that career path for them as well,” he adds.
For more information about Stone & Chalk, visit here.
For more from Women Love Tech on career paths, visit here.