StartupAUS refreshes its leadership team


StartupAUS new board members (L-R) Rachael Neumann, Attila Brungs, Elaine Stead and Aaron Birkby.

Australia’s peak advocacy group for startups, StartupAUS, has welcomed four new board members: Elaine Stead (MD, Blue Sky Venture Capital), Rachael Neumann (investment advisor and strategist), Attila Brungs (Vice Chancellor and President, UTS) and Aaron Birkby (CEO, Startup Catalyst).

The newcomers join current board members Alex McCauley (CEO, StartupAUS), Teresa Engelhard (company director and investor), Alan Noble (Engineering Director, Google ANZ), Peter Bradd (Co-founder and CEO, The Beanstalk Factory), Bill Bartee (General Partner, Main Sequence Ventures – CSIRO Innovation Fund) and Topaz Conway (Chair of the Board, StartupAUS and Chair of SBE Australia)

According to McCauley, the chief executive of StartupAUS, the combination of the advocacy group’s new and existing board members means it has “one of the most diverse and influential boards in the country”.

“We are excited to welcome our new board members to help us build a world-class startup sector here in Australia,” he said. “Each member brings complementary expertise, knowledge and credentials. We’ve got representation from leading founders, investors, multinationals and universities. We’ve got a wealth of experience from around the country and overseas, and from an array of different backgrounds. That breadth of experience is really important to us, because what we are trying to do is for the economic benefit of the country as a whole.

“We think startups deserve world-class representation, so we’ve put together a world-class board. The talent sitting at our board table represents one of the strongest leadership teams in the country,” he said.

McCauley called on corporate Australia to follow the lead of the newly-appointed board members in supporting Australian startups.

“Of course, I’d still love to find an iconic Australian corporate that is prepared to step up and take on a leadership role in helping to build Australia’s new digital economy. That’s the only piece of the puzzle that’s still missing as far as I am concerned,” he said.

Conway, the chair of the StartupAUS board added, “This board refresh has come at a really important time. On the 1st of December, we’ll be launching our 2017 Crossroads Report, looking at the state of play of the startup sector across the country. We know from the work we’ve done to put that report together that this is a critical time for Australia’s emerging tech industry. The most pressing issue facing Australian startups is access to a global pool of talent, and it’s something that needs urgent attention. We’ve brought high-quality people onto the team who understand how important it is to think globally, while at the same time building a world-class talent pool here at home.”

StartupAus provided the following biographies for its new board members

Elaine Stead is a venture capitalist who has spent the last decade focused on the innovation investment spectrum. In 2012, she established the Blue Sky Venture Capital Fund, which has expanded to include over $200 million in assets under her management. Elaine is a member of AVCAL’s venture capital stakeholder committee, the investment committee of ANUConnect, and the Australian National University’s (ANU) venture capital fund.

Rachael Neumann is a prominent contributor to the startup ecosystem in Melbourne and Silicon Valley.  Rachael is an investor in Startmate, where she is also a mentor, and was a founding board member of LaunchVIC, a $60 million venture that seeks to solidify Victoria as a global destination of choice for entrepreneurs. She is a mentor, advisor, and board director to early-stage startup founders. Rachael was previously Managing Director of Eventbrite Australia.

Professor Attila Brungs is a key figure supporting the next generation of Australia’s startup leaders. Currently Vice-Chancellor and President of UTS, Professor Brungs has held many distinguished senior positions, board appointments and committee memberships throughout his career, spanning not-for-profit, federal government, and institutional organisations, including the CSIRO. He is a Rhodes Scholar, and a passionate and thoughtful advocate for innovation policy.

Aaron Birkby is a serial tech entrepreneur.  He learned to code at eight years old and has started more than 10 businesses. As CEO of Startup Catalyst, Aaron leads missions to Silicon Valley, Europe, Israel and Asia for youths, founders, investors and innovators. He is  a member of the Queensland Government Startup Working Group, a Director of the River City Labs Accelerator, and has served as entrepreneur in-residence at River City Labs. In 2016 Aaron was awarded the national Benson Award for Entrepreneurship, and the Pearcey Award for Queensland.