Stone & Chalk partners with SproutX for Melbourne “agri-fintech” startup hub

Stone & Chalk Alan Tsen

Stone & Chalk general manager Alan Tsen. Source: Supplied

Victorian fintech and agritech startups are getting a dedicated coworking hub next month, with Sydney-based co-working space Stone & Chalk partnering with accelerator SproutX to expand its reach into Melbourne.

Alan Tsen, founding chief executive of Fintech Victoria, will head up Stone & Chalk’s new Melbourne-based operations, which he believes will “establish a centre of gravity around fintech” in Victoria.

The news comes a month after the Victorian government announced a future fintech hub will be established at the Goods Shed North location in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct, which Tsen said at the time would “send a strong signal for the rest of the world” that Victoria was a key player on the global fintech scene.

Tsen now maintains the Stone and Chalk hub — set to open mid-August — will be “the premiere [fintech] hub in Victoria” and will “accelerate and amplify” the local fintech ecosystem. 

“This is really for us our phase one — our plan is to set up some presence in Victoria and from there grow bigger and replicate what [Stone & Chalk] have built in Sydney,” Tsen tells StartupSmart. 

Located at 459 Collins Street, the space will be the first Stone & Chalk base in the city after it announced plans for expansion last year, and will offers 60 desks for startups before later expanding into a larger hub.

Stone & Chalk Melbourne will initially be housed alongside agritech innovation hub and accelerator SproutX, in what Tsen dubs an “agri-fintech” hybrid that builds on Victoria’s ability to “intersect different verticals really well”.

“One thing we do well in Australia is innovate. We’ve seen a lot of innovation around agriculture in Australia; fintech brings further innovation in to the [agritech] supply chain,” Tsen tells StartupSmart.  

SproutX accelerator director Andrew Lai echoed Tsen’s enthusiasm for the agri-fintech collaboration, saying in a statement that there is a “huge but often overlooked connection between agriculture and financial services, and savvy startups are starting to take notice”.

“The partnership between SproutX and Stone & Chalk is a fantastic opportunity for both organisations to leverage their respective areas of competitive advantage to create a world-first initiative specialised in Agri-Fintech,” said Lai.

Fintech on the rise

Australian consumers have been eager to adopt fintech, ranking fifth in the world for fintech adoption, with one in three digital consumers using fintech technologies.

Government bodies have also identified the fintech sector as a key opportunity for growth, with the Victorian Government recently announcing a future fintech hub and festival to position Melbourne as a key part of the ecosystem. Last month the Australian Securities and Investments Commission entered a cooperation agreement with the Malaysian Securities Commission as part of its plan to open new avenues for Australian fintech startups to expand, following similar agreements with Japan and Hong Kong in recent months.

Tsen believes this activity in the fintech space is occurring because “incumbent financial services providers haven’t been disrupted for a long time” but now “startups pushing the envelope are forcing incumbents to lift their game”.

“The technology has gotten cheaper, marketing channels have improved and increased … on the supply side it’s now cheaper and easier, and on the demand side there are people wanting those products,” Tsen says.

He hopes the Victorian Stone & Chalk hub will “help local fintech startups feel part of a bigger fintech movement, connecting them with potential investors, and customers nationally, and globally”, to build on Melbourne’s current industry presence in blockchain technology and cyber security.

“We’re emerging as a real centre of excellence in a number of fintech verticals like wealth, blockchain technology, and cyber security,” he says.

“This is a big opportunity in Victoria…and one we [Stone and Chalk] will be attacking more.” 

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