Welcome to another Fintech Shot brought to you by Fintech Chatter, the show for all things Fintech Down under. In this episode, we are joined by Toby Norton-Smith of x15ventures to discuss the Xccelerate program and its focus on advancing Australia's transition to net zero. x15ventures is the venture arm of Commonwealth Bank, and their mission is to build, buy, and invest in ventures that can scale through access to the assets of CommBank. With a portfolio of eleven companies, x15ventures is making significant progress in the fintech space.
The Xccelerate program, which has been running since the launch of x15ventures, is designed for earlier stage ventures that are not yet ready for the heavy handling involved in plugging into ComBank's distribution network. The program helps these startups explore the potential for enterprise partnerships and provides guidance on becoming enterprise-ready.
The Opportunities and Challenges of Partnership with Banks
Partnerships with major banks are often seen as the holy grail for fintech startups, offering access to a large customer base and potential scale. However, Toby Norton-Smith cautions that there are trade-offs involved in such partnerships. He emphasises the need to set realistic expectations and highlights the regulatory scrutiny that banks face, which startups must also adhere to when working with them. Norton Smith explains, "You effectively sign up to the same standards of risk management and compliance that banks face."
He also acknowledges that not all startups are ready for or interested in corporate partnerships, as some founders prefer to build their ventures independently. However, for those who see the value in such partnerships, Norton-Smith believes there are significant benefits to be gained. He notes that corporates, including banks, have an appetite to do more in the climate tech space but often need help with measurement, traceability, and finding the right solutions for their specific industries. This presents an opportunity for startups to provide the expertise and tools that corporates require.
Accelerating Australia's Transition to Net Zero
This year, the Xccelerate program has a specific focus on climate tech and aims to help advance Australia's transition to net zero. Norton-Smith highlights the nascent nature of the climate tech market in Australia, with over 200 startups established since 2020, the majority of which are still at the seed or Series A funding level. He sees a significant need for investment and customers in this space, which corporates, including banks, can help address.
Norton-Smith explains, "There's a huge requirement for capital to be deployed into the economy to help in a shift towards net zero. Banks obviously have an interest in doing that well, but they can't do it if they don't have partnerships with players who can help with measurement, generation of credits, traceability, and all the things that are needed to ensure that capital is deployed effectively."
Profiles of Startups and Founders for the Xccelerate Program
The Xccelerate program is open to pre-Series A startups that are looking for more than just investment and are open to the possibility of working closely with corporates. Norton Smith suggests that startups in the climate tech space, particularly those with a focus on measurement, traceability, and industry-specific solutions, would be a good fit for the program. He encourages founders to apply and emphasises the value of the application process in sharpening their own propositions.
Success Stories and the Commitment to Fintech Innovation
Last year's Accelerate program saw the success of Paytron, a fintech startup that was later acquired by OFX. While Norton Smith acknowledges that x15ventures cannot take credit for Paytron's success, he believes that the program played a role in preparing the startup for corporate partnerships. He shares that success does not always mean plugging into ComBank's customer base but can come in various forms.
Norton-Smith reiterates x15ventures' commitment to the fintech community in Australia. He highlights their role in providing over 200 jobs for talent and partnering with fintech companies, both consumer-focused and B2B2C. He also mentions the increasing investment from Commonwealth Bank, which demonstrates the alignment of interests and the long-term vision for x15ventures.
Apply to the Xccelerate Program
The Xccelerate program by x15ventures continues to support early-stage startups in exploring enterprise partnerships and becoming enterprise-ready. This year's focus on climate tech aligns with the growing need for capital and solutions to advance Australia's transition to net zero. It also aligns with our own research indicating ESG is a huge opportunity for Fintech startups.
With increasing investment and strategic alignment with Commonwealth Bank, the future looks promising for x15ventures and the startups they work with. With their commitment to the fintech community and increasing investment, x15ventures is well-positioned to continue to drive and support fintech innovation in Australia.
You can find out more about the program https://www.x15ventures.com.au/xccelerate