Square and Afterpay owner Block Inc (NYSE: SQ) has announced a $3 million investment in a fund run by First Australians Capital (FAC), which since its founding in 2016 has supported more than 800 entrepreneurs with $80 million in leveraged capital since inception.
FAC has made 94 investments since 2020 as part of its mission to empower Indigenous-led businesses, which have historically had to rely on unsuitable financial products from traditional banks, to grow and scale.
Block head Jack Dorsey, who is a founder of Square and Twitter before the latter was acquired by Elon Musk last year with its name changed to X, travelled to Melbourne to meet with the FAC team and finalise the group's commitment to the FAC Catalytic Impact Fund.
"I’m thrilled that we can make our first social impact investment here with First Australians Capital, an organisation dedicated to helping Indigenous-led businesses find better solutions to thrive," says Dorsey.
"We know first-hand that many people are left out of the economy by mainstream services, that’s why our business exists, so it’s great to find a partner equally aligned to financial inclusion."
The $3 million comes from US$100 million ($157 million) social impact investment fund established in 2020, of which US$10 million ($15.7 million) is allocated for markets outside the US.
"The Indigenous business sector can be a powerful economic contributor to community and inter-generational wealth creation for First Australians," says FAC managing partner Brian Wyborn.
"We are delighted to have Block onboard as an investment partner for our new fund that will help us expand critical scale-up support services to even more Indigenous-led businesses across Australia."
Dr Clinton Shultz, founder of popular non-alcohol beverage brand Sobah, knows first-hand the success that can be achieved with the right support. FAC has been working with Sobah since Schultz and his wife Lozen were selling the beer out of a food truck brewing at home in 2019, assisting them to scale the business from $150,000 to $1 million in revenue annually, as well as partially financing their recently opened Burleigh Heads brewery and café.
"The capital and services we have been able to access through our partnership with FAC has been a game-changer for our business, with our products now sold at hundreds of retailers across the country," says Schultz.
"Accessing capital remains a huge challenge for Indigenous entrepreneurs who want to grow, so this investment is a huge vote of confidence for our business sector, and our broader community, at a time when we need it most."
Other companies supported include Brisbane-based non-alcoholic drinks company Yaala Sparkling, and Perth-headquartered electrical and instrumentation contractor Boodjara, whose co-founder Koen Matera is a finalist in the 2023 Australian Young Entrepreneur Awards due to take place on the Gold Coast on 25 November.
In 2020 FAC received $30 million in debt finance in partnership with Westpac (ASX: WBC), while in 2021-22 the organisation secured $13 million worth of investments to pilot the Impact Enterprise Concept Fund. Of that $13 million, $9.1 million was deployed across 51 finance facilities as at 30 June 2023.
In 2023 FAC seeded the FAC Catalytic Impact Fund, and in September received a $9 million grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to strengthen its organisational resilience and sustainability - an announcement that coincided with the appointment of Benson Saulo, a former Australian Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, as a managing partner.
"After nearly three years in the US, it is exciting to reconnect with community and reengage the vibrant Indigenous business ecosystem in Australia," Saulo said at the time.
"First Australians Capital has been an established and trusted name across the impact investing landscape for over a decade, and I hope to build on its success and continue the important work to support Indigenous businesses to drive commercial and social impact."
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