LaunchVic has appointed company director, philanthropist and businesswoman Laura Anderson as its chair, filling the role vacated by ex-Australia Post chief Ahmed Fahour earlier this year.
Anderson stepped into the role on Monday, and hopes to bring her years of experience as a corporate advisor and international company director to the role.
In addition to her role as LaunchVic chair, she is also chair of SVI Global, Melbourne Fashion Festival, The Good Foundation, OneGlobalVenture, LKG Advisory Boards and the Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Technology in Schools. Anderson is also board member of companies such as the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, Fed Square Pty Ltd, and the Defence Council Victoria.
The appointment of a new chair comes after a challenging few months for the government-backed body, which culminated in the termination of the 500 Startups-run 500 Melbourne accelerator program in August.
LaunchVic had announced in July that it would be putting the 500 Melbourne project on hold while it waited for 500 Startups to address cultural issues within the organisation by successfully implementing a “remedial plan”.
This plan was to address concerns about diversity and inclusion in the company’s culture after sexual harassment allegations were levelled at its then-chief executive Dave McClure.
LaunchVic subsequently terminated the 500 Melbourne project and is now using its fourth round of funding to attract Australian and international accelerator programs to fill the project’s place.
Finding her way to startups
Originally hailing from the US, Anderson tells StartupSmart she came to take the LaunchVic role after experiencing “three Sliding Doors moments” that set her on the path to join Australia’s startup ecosystem.
After studying a degree in applied mathematics, Anderson left university with the ambitious goal of finding the cure for cancer, but instead found herself immersed in the tech ecosystem in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Fast forwarding 17 years, Anderson met her husband and moved to Australia, where she was now focused on “driving value locally and making a contribution to society”. This led her to support philanthropic causes across health, education and economic development. She has served as an Australia Day Ambassador since 2010, and was named an Ambassador of International Women’s Day on its 100th anniversary in 2011.
It was after Anderson’s father passed away a year-and-a-half ago that she says her third moment of realisation happened. After browsing YouTube with her nephew, Anderson says they were both drawn to a video about mankind’s mission to Mars, and she became inspired by this audacity to dream big and reach for the stars.
“It gave me a commitment to doing what I can with the resources I have at my disposal and my talents and wisdom I’ve gained over the years. Hopefully now I can learn from that and help support [building] sustainable ecosystems,” she tells StartupSmart.
Australia’s tall poppy syndrome
While Anderson says that as a society Australia is “very aspirational” she believes tall poppy syndrome is still impeding the Australian startup ecosystem’s growth.
In her role at LaunchVic, Anderson says she wants to eliminate tall poppy syndrome in Australia’s startup ecosystem and focus on what she calls “the E-factor”, or entrepreneur-factor.
“One of my goals is being a proponent for and supporting others and trying to lead by example to eradicate tall poppy syndrome,” she says.
“Lets maximise our potential as a community and then constantly raise the bar”.
In her role as chair, Anderson says she wants to explore the possibilities presented by edutech and healthtech in the future, and drive economic development through collaboration between startups and the corporate sector.
“It’s about fusing together our best and brightest entrepreneurs with industries who are requiring innovation and may have capital for mutual benefit,” she says.
“LaunchVic can work at bringing everyone together and creating this fertile ecosystem.”