New Fishburners chief to bring diversity and social enterprise to startup community


Fishburners chief Nicole O'Brien. Source: supplied.

Startup community and co-working space Fishburners has appointed social enterprise guru Nicole O’Brien as its new chief executive to replace its first employee Pandora Shelley, who announced last month she was stepping down.

O’Brien will join from LGBTI health organisation ACON, and previously worked at not-for-profit YWCA NSW, as well as being involved in establishing not-for-profit startups.

Now, she plans to bring a sharp focus on social enterprise to Fishburners, she tells StartupSmart.

O’Brien is hoping to have an impact on the whole startup community, she says, “looking at the multiplier effect of that in society in general”.

There are more and more profit-for-purpose startups emerging, and “I would hope that would be something I could contribute to”.

O’Brien is also a passionate advocate for equality, diversity and inclusiveness, and “will definitely be bringing that lens to the role”, she says.

In startups, as in more areas, there is likely more to be done here, she adds.

“Certainly promoting and celebrating an inclusive startup culture is so critical to the richness and the value of our society more generally.”

Further, the new chief plans to work on making Fishburners as inclusive as possible, encouraging both diverse startup founders and social enterprise startups “to be part of the Fishburners community”, O’Brien says.

“I will be looking at internal policies and procedures around how we engage with diverse communities and how we’re promoting the Fishburners community to diverse communities as well,” she explains.

Being relatively fresh to startupland, O’Brien sees the sector as one that is growing fast, and thriving.

“It’s a very competitive space now,” she observes.

“A lot of infrastructure has been established to support the startup market.”

She also notes there’s an opportunity to continue to grow the space, and to support a “culture of entrepreneurialism in Australia”.

This is something “we haven’t been that great at doing here”, she adds, saying we can learn from other parts of the world who value innovation a little more.

“It’s so important to the economy and to our global competitiveness that I would really hope to be singing from the startup songbook,” she says.

“That will involve really continuing to support other entrepreneurs who have been successful, as well as government and our big corporates.”

Startups create new jobs, breed innovation, tech development, ideas and inspiration, she says, and there is a lot to be gained from supporting them.

“I would hope to be garnering that level of support and commitment to the sector,” she adds.

NOW READ: Ditching ‘culture fit’: Inclusive culture starts with inclusive hiring, says Atlassian’s Aubrey Blanche

NOW READ: Beyond CSR: Five interesting social enterprise startups joining Impact Academy’s 10th accelerator cohort


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