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A small business startup building relationships with corporates has won the $300,000 prize from CBA’s new accelerator program

- July 24, 2020 3 MIN READ
givvable co-founders Frances Atkins and Naomi Vowels Photo: supplied
Two sisters connecting small companies with corporate buyers have won the inaugural Xccelerate2020 venture program hosted by the Commonwealth Bank’s X15 Ventures, landing a prize worth more than $300,000 from CBA and Microsoft.

Frances Atkins and Naomi Vowel co-founded givvable, a platform that helps companies find and source sustainable suppliers. On top of $150,000 in funding from CBA and $150,000 worth in technology, equipment and software from Microsoft, they’ll also join Microsoft’s Social Entrepreneurship Program.

The idea for givvable came out of their passion for promoting sustainable practices. CEO Frances Atkins said many sustainable suppliers are small and micro businesses who often struggle to establish relationships with corporate buyers due to lack of access, resources and understanding of corporate due diligence processes. givvable’s aim is to remove these barriers.

“With changing investor and consumer expectations, companies are looking to procure in an environmentally sustainable and socially impactful way,” she said.

“There are a growing number of wonderful small businesses out there going to great lengths to embed sustainable and ethical practices into their business. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, they are faced with a whole range of other challenges.”

Atkins said the backing from X15 and CommBank will help givvable develop its sustainability-tech and make it easier for businesses to source more sustainably, and track the impact of that spending.

“More valuable than the cash contribution, we’re excited by the role X15 can play helping us to experiment and test with CBA as both a potential strategic customer and distribution channel. From that perspective, this is a really unique program, and we can’t wait to get going,” she said.

givvable was one of four finalists coming out of the Xccelerate2020 program. The other three were:

SpendAble: a digital wallet for people with disabilities that reduces the risk of financial abuse, allows and empowers them to spend the money safely at retailers, and provides an easy way to spend NDIS funds.

Link4: a service that automates invoice processing for small businesses using their current cloud accounting systems, allowing them to experience the benefits of EDI (electronic data interchange) that wasn’t previously available to them.

SenseIQ: a platform that provides tailored data-driven insights using machine learning and data analytics to help small businesses make informed strategic decisions in a rapidly changing environment. It provides a combined demographic, ecosystem and foot traffic analysis as well as tailored predictions.

The theme of this year’s Xccelerate program was improving the financial wellbeing of small businesses. Innovation Bay, Microsoft and KPMG High Growth Ventures were also part of the four-week program, delivered remotely in the current climate

X15 Ventures Managing Director Toby Norton-Smith said Atkins and Vowel impressed with the quality of their thinking, the progress of their business and their passion for this space.

“We think Xccelerate is a unique program – above the cash contribution, we want the bigger benefit for givvable to be the experimentation, learning and ultimately commercial benefit of accessing CBA as both a customer and potential distribution channel to 800,000-plus small business customers,” he said.

“We know the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted small businesses, but we also know it has forced Governments, institutions and corporates to think more acutely about how they source and manage their supply chains – and from that perspective, I think givvable is creating new opportunity for Australian small businesses to streamline and scale their vendor relationships. When we kicked off Xccelerate we wanted to make some contribution to allowing small businesses to givvable bounce back, and I think givvable will help do that.”

Xccelerate is a fast-tracked program for experienced entrepreneurs and startup teams to achieve rapid growth through X15 Ventures. The program invited applicants to pitch ideas that would improve the financial wellbeing of small businesses. Out of a shortlist of nine ideas, four were invited to pitch in front of a panel of judges, with X15 Ventures and Microsoft independently choosing a winner for their respective grants.

More on the program here.