Indigenous-led impact fund First Australians Capital lands $3 milllion from US fintech Block

- November 13, 2023 2 MIN READ
First Australians Capital Brian Wyborn
First Australians Capital managing partner Brian Wyborn
Square founder Jack Dorsey has backed Indigenous impact fund First Australians Capital (FAC) with $3 million from its ASX-listed parent company Block.

It’s the first time the global payments fintech, which in 2022, paid $39 billion to acquire BNPL Afterpay, has made a social impact investment in Australia. The former Twitter CEO and founder, now solely focused on running Block, visited Melbourne to finalise the support for FAC’s Catalytic Impact Fund, which offers debt finance of between $100,000 and $2 million for Indigenous-led businesses creating social and environmental impact.

FAC has now secured more than $12 million in funding in the last two months.

In July, First Australians Capital announced it had raised $15 million of a $30m target to back Aboriginal and TSI entrepreneurs through its new impact fund, backed by long-term supporter the CAGES Foundation.

FAC was launched in 2016 and since then has been supported by the AMP Foundation, the Paul Ramsay Foundation and the William Buckland Foundation. It’s worked with more 800 Indigenous businesses, and leveraged more than $70 milion in capital to help them scale sustainably.

In September, the Paul Ramsay Foundation tipped in another $9 million in grant funding to strengthen FAC’s organisational resilience and sustainability.

Benson Saulo, a proud descendant of the Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara people of Western Victoria, also joined FAC as managing partner alongside Brian Wyborn. Saulo was the first Indigenous person to be appointed an Australian Consul-General with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, and was based in the US.

Wyborn, a proud Torres Strait Islander and PNG man, said the support from Block will deliver a major boost for Indigenous enterprises.

“The Indigenous business sector can be a powerful economic contributor to community and intergenerational wealth creation for First Australians,” he said.

“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.”

FAC has been operating a $13 million concept fund since 2021 and deployed $9.1 million in funding by the end of the FY23 across 51 finance facilities.

In the previous financial year, the organisation delivered more than 8,000 hours of support to more than 200 Indigenous businesses, with 45% female-led and 42% in regional and rural locations. The companies involved span construction, the arts and recreation, retail and professional services.

Among the companies supported was non-alcohol beverage brand Sobah, founded by Dr Clinton Schultz.

“The capital and services we have been able to access through our partnership with FAC have been a game-changer for our business, with our products now sold at hundreds of retailers across the country and expansion into South East Asia, the US and the UK,” he said.

“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.”