Here's How An Adelaide Accelerator Got One Of Australia's Biggest, Most Conservative Banks To Help Fund Start-Ups For Free

Adelaide / Shutterstock

Harvard-educated entrepreneurship guru Dr Jana Matthews travelled from Colorado to Australia twice in 2011 to ask some of the country’s largest public and private sector organisations to help her set up a new start-up accelerator in the country.

The likes of Minter Ellison, KPMG and government bodies were keen to be involved, she said, but none saw how she’d be able to raise the total amount of cash she needed to get the program off the ground.

It was Nick Reade, general manager of ANZ’s small business banking division, who eventually made it all happen. The ANZ Innovyz Start program launched in February last year; 26 businesses have graduated in three rounds of the intensive, three-month program as of today.

“There’s no question that we have a major competitive advantage with ANZ as a partner,” Matthews told Business Insider.

“When ANZ agreed that they would sponsor the program and provide some funding, it not only helped give more credibility to them with our SMEs but it also gave credibility to us, as a relatively unknown new program in Australia.”

ANZ Innovyz Start is part of a wider business named Innovyz (pronounced Inno-vise) and is modelled on the TechStars program in the US. Matthews has a 25% stake in the program.

Despite her credentials and trips to Australia, the partnership with ANZ came from completely independent discussions between Reade and Adelaide-based Innovyz Start chairman Philip Vafiadis.

Reade was a fan of TechStars and sought to get ANZ involved in a similar program onshore. He and Vafiadis connected and Matthews, who was based in Colorado at the time, “got a text message on New Year’s Eve saying I should pack my bags because I was moving to Australia”.

Photo of Jana Matthews by Sarah Merians /
Jana Matthews Group

According to Matthews, Innovyz Start is a costly program to run: each start-up receives “well over $100,000 worth of stuff” like office space in Adelaide and a $20,000 stipend, on top of in-kind support from KPMG, Minter Ellison and technology providers including Azure, Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.

Innovyz gets an 8% equity stake in each of its start-ups. Those who fund the program – the SA State Government, Adelaide City Council and ANZ – do not.

Matthews said ANZ provided a “substantial portion” of the funds. The bank also offers Innovyz start-ups loans of up to $20,000 upon graduation; about half of the graduates are understood to have taken up the offer to date.

“As far as ANZ is concerned, we are a showcase of what can happen when small start-up companies get the right support they need to grow,” Matthews said.

“They want start-ups to succeed, because from a macro sense, if we don’t have enough new SMEs being established, the economy grinds to a halt.”

Although Matthews said there was no formal expiry date on Innovyz’s partnership with ANZ, she was under no illusions that it would last forever.

“I spend a lot of time talking to my counterpart at ANZ,” she said of keeping the bank engaged. “They don’t select the Innovyz Start start-ups but they sit on the selection committee.

“We also give the partner a lot of visibility – I want to give them the maximum benefit for taking the risk that they took.”

ANZ Innovyz Start announced earlier this month that 60% of the 20 businesses to graduate from its first two classes had raised almost $2 million in seed and angel investment and secured contracts worth over $2 million.

Matthews told Business Insider that its success had sparked some interest from ANZ’s big four competitors and other entities, but “I have lots of reasons to stay” with Innovyz, she said.

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