Tech unicorn Zeller sets its sights on regions

As banks close their branches across country Australia, small businesses are looking inside the box.

Fintech company Zeller, Australia’s latest tech “unicorn”, having recently cracked a $1 billion valuation, says regional small businesses are rapidly taking up its EFTPOS technology, which comes in a compact cardboard box.

Zeller’s director of growth Joshua McNicol said regional small business owners make up nearly half their customer base as they turn their backs on major banks.

“It’s dissatisfaction with the incumbents,” Mr McNicol told AAP.

“We’re seeing one in three ATMs being shut down and hundreds of bank branches closing since the onset of the pandemic.”

Zeller surveyed 420 of its regional customers and found 81 per cent experienced worse customer service from major banks after a local branch closed.

The federal government has set up the Regional Banking Taskforce to investigate how closures affect rural economies.

Communities say losing a bank can be the death of a small town, as people spend their money in larger regional centres when they travel to do their banking.

But Mr McNicol said there was optimism in regional business.

“This appetite for adoption of new technology is keeping that money within towns.”

He said this sentiment was strengthened by a partnership with Why Leave Town, a rural gift card organisation that encouraged local spending.

Founded rural NSW after the millennium drought, Why Leave Town says it has added $12 million to economies across 70 country communities.

Zeller’s broader research found 67 per cent of its merchants don’t want to use major banks.

Geelong caterer Tolga Biyik said dealing with a bank while trying to start his own business was messy and slow.

He set up a Zeller payment system two days before catering his first local market.

Instagram and social media videos are an essential part of marketing in regional areas, so much so that he’s got a dedicated fanbase.

“A woman came up to me and asked if she could get a photo with me and she said, ‘My sister will be so jealous,’” Mr Biyik said.

“Then her sister messaged me on Instagram saying, ‘I’m shattered I wasn’t there’.

“I loved it. It was a big head moment, but I loved it because it was that Geelong vibe.”