Expressions of Interest for RCL

Message from Steve via LinkedIn Post. Why I'm looking for new owners for RCL.

The time has come for me to pass the baton for River City Labs. Today, I’ve launched a process to find a new owner. Here’s why…

About seven years ago. I had this crazy idea that I just couldn’t let go of.  At that time, startups were not exactly a hot topic. And there was pretty much zero effective support for Queensland’s startup community. But I thought that, with a little bit of a kick up the ass, Brisbane had the potential to become a leading hub for tech startups.

So, with a little cash and a ton of hard work, River City Labs was born, officially launching in March 2012. The goal was simple. As I told tech blog Delimiter at the time, in River City Labs, “QLD and the Brisbane tech community, in general, will have a centralised location to anchor start-up and early-stage ventures”.

In the years since what River City Labs has achieved has surpassed every one of my expectations:

  • More than 700 startup founders have set up office at RCL
  • Just under 29,000 people have passed through our doors attending more than 1000 startup and community events
  • We’ve run programs in partnership with some of Australia’s biggest companies, including BOQ, CUA, Suncorp and Telstra.

But beyond the headline figures, it’s the individual success stories of our startups that really show how far we’ve come. For example, Cohort Go, which started with one founder on our first day of operation, today runs a global team of over 30 people from their Brisbane HQ. 

In the process, we’ve built a stellar team at RCL who have helped build Queensland into one of Australia’s leading startup ecosystems. Following our successful move to The Precinct (hat tip to QLD Gov) – we’re doing more today than we’ve ever done before – this month alone we held over 40 events. We’re gearing up to launch the next cohort for the RCL Accelerator, and the next River Pitch is coming up on 17 May.

RCL has reached a tipping point, and this journey has taught me two really important things:

Firstly, like any startup, RCL has taken a lot of my time over the past seven years. Since we launched, I’ve had three beautiful kids, joined the cast of a national TV show, and invested in over 20 startups. After seven years, I’ve realised I need to make a change.

Secondly, as the sole director/owner of RCL, I’ve allowed myself to remain the “go-to” guy for major decisions. While RCL’s rock star CEO Peta Ellis has day-to-day operational control, I’m still the board, chairperson, and bankroller for RCL. While this has helped us get to this point, if RCL is to really take advantage of its position, and the opportunity of being a leading platform for tech entrepreneurship in Australia – the buck can’t stop with just me. 

That’s why today I’ve launched a process to find a new owner for RCL.

I’m sure lots of people will have questions, so here are a few answers just in case:

  • It will remain business-as-usual for the RCL team, our residents, our partners and our community members during and after this process. If anything, expect the speed of activity to increase – we can’t afford to wait around while other cities and countries invest in their startup communities.
  • This is not a commercially-driven decision (RCL is a not-for-profit entity). It’s about what’s best for the QLD startup community, for RCL, our members, and our team.
  • I’m going to keep the process as transparent as possible. The EOI document will be available on the RCL website. 
  • The criteria we are looking for in a new RCL owner is the vision, the capability and the passion to take River City Labs to the next level. Whether it’s a corporation, an individual, or an international startup organisation – the key question is: can they continue to move the bar for Queensland’s startup ecosystem.
  • Finally, I’m not disappearing from the Queensland startup ecosystem. I’ll continue to be Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur, actively invest in and mentor startups, and attend RCL events whenever I can.

Establishing River City Labs has been one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible people who’ve contributed their time and efforts to make it a reality. RCL has always been there to support and empower the startup community, and I’m excited to see it evolve to the next stage and do even more for Queensland. Keep watching this space. 


Steve Baxter.

Download PDF Version of Expressions of Interest