Mike Smith’s York Butter Factory and Mirvac to build startup hubs nationwide

Former ANZ bank boss Mike Smith will be moving next door to the Commonwealth Bank when a co-working provider he chairs opens an ‘innovation precinct’ at Sydney’s Australian Technology Park (ATP) in August.

York Butter Factory, whose Melbourne headquarters regularly hosted ANZ staff during Mr Smith’s last couple of years at the bank, and took him on as chair last December, has formed a joint venture company with ATP owners Mirvac to develop innovation precincts at Mirvac sites around Australia.

The first development of the joint venture, dubbed Hoist, will be at ATP’s heritage-listed Locomotive Workshops. An initial 1000 square metres big enough for 50 members is planned to grow alongside the rejuvenation of the 28,000 square metre sheds, which will neighbour Commonwealth Bank’s core tenancy of 93,000 square metres at ATP.

Having corporates like CBA embedded with or neighbouring Hoist’s start-up and scale-up members would be a win for both parties, Mr Smith told The Australian Financial Review.

“A start-up that helps an incumbent to change helps themselves, because trust me, the incumbent probably hadn’t thought about buying what you’re selling before you showed it to them.”

Large corporates were waking up to the fact that an innovative culture could not be retro-fitted from within, Mr Smith added, which he learnt when he set up an innovation area inside ANZ upon his arrival at the bank in 2007.

“It did some good stuff but it was constrained by the norms, which at any large business are very hard to break down internally,” he said.

“Anyone who hasn’t had the edges taken off them gets called a maverick. It can take sitting down with somebody outside the business, who’s built something faster and cheaper and better than you could, to realise sometimes that’s a good thing.”

York Butter Factory founder Stuart Richardson said the Hoist site at ATP would complement the Sydney Startup Hub, unveiled last week by the NSW Government which will subsidise CBD rents for up to 2500 entrepreneurs to the tune of $35 million over five years.

Mr Hoist envisaged Hoist could become a home for scale-ups that outgrew the Startup Hub, and would also suit spin-outs from universities given the Redfern site’s proximity to the University of Sydney, university-owned co-working space Cicada Innovations, and data scientist cluster Data61.

Hoist will include co-working desks, separate team areas, an events space and a workshop for gear like 3D printers, according…

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