Impact Leaders


Ralph Ashton

Co-founder, Australian Futures Project

Ralph Ashton co-founded the Australian Futures Project in 2012 to improve how Australia creates its future. He has a track record of conceiving, building, and leading non-partisan initiatives to tackle cross-sectoral challenges.
Previously, Ralph spent a decade leading international public policy initiatives, working closely on every continent with governments, the United Nations, World Bank, business, academia, and non-profits. This included coordinating WWF’s global response to the Indian Ocean earthquakes and tsunami, and convening and chairing the multi-disciplinary international Terrestrial Carbon Group. Ralph has held visiting positions at Columbia University and the Australian National University and is well versed in providing advice on mergers and acquisitions as both a lawyer and an investment banker.

Jane Burns

Mental Health and Wellbeing Innovator, Bupa

Deeply dedicated to the wellbeing of young people, the Veteran community and people living with a disability; Jane Burns is an accomplished mental health innovator known for her bold and creative impact in the care industry.

Jane joined beyondblue (the national depression initiative) in its startup phase, establishing and managing the youth agenda before moving on as a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow at the University of California. She held a VicHealth fellowship at the University of Melbourne and completed her PhD in Medicine as a National Health and Medical Research Council Scholar at the University of Adelaide. In 2017, her passion for people led to her founding InnoWell, a collaborative venture between PwC, the world’s leading professional services firm, and the University of Sydney. Jane was a winner in the category of Social Enterprise for 2015’s Australian Financial Review and Westpac Group 100 Women of Influence. Jane also serves as Chair for youth-focused social enterprise StrEAT and Veterans and Family Counselling services Open Arms, founded by Vietnam Veterans.

Simon Goodrich

Co-founder & Senior Partner & MD, Portable

Simon Goodrich is one of the Co-founders of Portable. Over the past 10 years, Simon has been committed to solving complex problems across the finance, legal, community and health sectors both here in Australia and the US. Simon serves as the Australian Ambassador for the New York-based Webby Awards (the Oscars for online) sits on the board of HISA, the digital health peak body, leading their innovation portfolio. He is an active mentor in the Melbourne University Accelerator Program, supporting innovative startups and is an Adjunct Fellow at the Sir Zelman Cowan Centre at Victoria University, supporting innovation in the justice space. He is past National President of AIMIA, at the time the peak digital body in Australia.

Nicholas Gruen

CEO, Lateral Economics

Lateral Economics’ CEO, Nicholas Gruen, is a widely published policy economist, entrepreneur commentator. He has advised Cabinet Ministers, sat on Australia’s Productivity Commission and founded Lateral Economics and Peach Financial. He is Visiting Professor at Kings College London and Adjunct Professor at UTS. He chairs the Open Knowledge Foundation (Australian Chapter) and is Patron of the Australian Digital Alliance, which brings together Australia’s libraries, universities, and major providers of digital infrastructure such as Google and Yahoo and a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia. Nicholas was Chair of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation until 2016 and Chair of the Australian Government’s principal innovation advisory body Innovation Australia until 2014. He was second shareholder and Chairman of successful San Francisco based startup data analytics crowdsourcing platform Kaggle, recently acquired by Google. He is an Angel investor in various other Australian and international startups including Breezedocs,, HealthKit and Lendable. He was a member of a review of Pharmaceutical patent extensions in 2013. In 2009 he chaired Australia’s internationally acclaimed Government 2.0 Taskforce. In 2008 he was a member of a major review into Australia’s Innovation System. He has a BA (Hons – First Class) in History (1981) and a PhD in Public Policy from the ANU (1998), and an LLB (Hons) from the University of Melbourne (1982).

Georgina Imberger

Director, Piano Project – Tempo Rubato

Georgina Imberger is the president of Piano Project and director of Tempo Rubato. Piano Project is a Melbourne charity that provides piano lessons for children who have recently immigrated to Australia, many of whom come from refugee backgrounds. Tempo Rubato is Piano Project’s live classical music venue. All profits from Tempo Rubato go to Piano Project.
Georgina is also a Specialist Anaesthetist working at Western Health and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Centre for Critical Care. She has a PhD in research methods from Copenhagen University and a research interest in Meta-Research.

Elena Kelareva

Founder & CEO, GippsTech

Dr Elena Kelareva is the Founder of GippsTech, an award-winning digital innovation consultancy with the mission of growing regional startup and tech ecosystems. Elena has a PhD in Computer Science from ANU and 15 years’ experience in innovation, startups and technology, including at Google where she was the Product Manager for the Google Maps Web APIs.

Since moving to regional Gippsland in 2017, Elena cofounded Binary Shift, one of Australia’s top regional innovation conferences, and worked with four local councils to create Startup Gippsland, the largest regional startup program ever to be run in Australia, with 46 startups going through one pre-accelerator program simultaneously. She has been recognised for her work on building regional startup and tech communities by being selected as one of three finalists for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership & Innovation Award 2018, and with being invited to present at conferences in other regional areas, including the Bendigo Invention & Innovation Festival and the Australian Regional Development Conference in Tweed Heads, NSW.

Elena has also been a mentor at the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), for the past 5 years. In her work at Google, MAP and GippsTech, she has personally mentored and supported over 100 startups, including the Telstra Business Awards 2019 Emerging and Energised category winner Sonder.

Leong Mar

Commercialisation Manager, CSIRO

Leong Mar is Commercialisation Manager at CSIRO and manages the commercialisation of a portfolio of technologies developed by the business units including Data61, Minerals and Manufacturing. Leong also sits on the Technology Investment Committee of Uniseed Investments, the sub-committee for the NSW Physical Sciences Fund and on the board of CSIRO spin-outs. When not doing deals, he is active in advising and mentoring startups on their entrepreneurial journey.

Leong has spent over 20 years in the technology innovation space, with a track record in identifying, developing and commercialising products and services in different industries. He has a unique combination of technical and commercial experience from across the innovation spectrum as research scientist, inventor, entrepreneur/founder, technology and business leader and investor, from roles in tech startups, small business, research organisations to a global science corporation. Leong has led the successful development and commercialisation of different technologies including multi award winning product and service solutions in the Mining Industry.

Michael Molinari

Managing Director, IP Group Australia

Mike Molinari is Managing Director of IP Group Australia. IP Group works closely with >30 partner universities globally, including the Group of Eight and the University of Auckland in Australasia, to identify and develop great ideas into world-changing businesses. IP Group has committed to invest a minimum of A$200M in projects from Australasian university partners. Mike has a wealth of experience in building early-stage technology companies, having previously worked with IP Group in the UK, with Brandon Capital in Australia, in strategy roles with McKinsey and Company and Cricket Australia, and at the Centre for Vision in the Developing World. Mike has a DPhil and MSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Oxford, and undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Science from the University of Melbourne.

Natalie Molino

Executive Director, Sandro Demaio Foundation

Natalie Molino from the Sandro Demaio Foundation is an entrepreneur, public health strategist and advocate for social impact. Natalie believes we can create a more inclusive, sustainable and healthier future through food. Natalie has worked with the likes of National Geographic, UberEats, and the World Health Organisation to partner on disruptive and innovative food systems reform. Natalie was previously the Policy Projects Coordinator at the EAT Foundation – a Norwegian start-up dedicated to sound science, impatient disruption and novel partnerships. She holds a Masters of Public Health and a Bachelor of Biomedicine from the University of Melbourne.

Matthew Pryor

Co-founder, Tenacious Ventures and Partner, AgThentic

Matthew Pryor is Co-founder of Tenacious Ventures and a Partner at AgThentic. He was previously Co-founder of Observant, an Australian agtech pioneer acquired by Jain Irrigation in February 2017. He was the founding chair of Rocket Seeder, a food and agriculture innovation accelerator, and of the Australian Government Agriculture 4.0 Task Force. He is passionate about promoting Australian agri-food innovation globally.

Brigitte Smith

Managing Director, GBS Venture Partners

Brigitte Smith has twenty years’ experience in venture capital, business strategy and startup company operations. Brigitte has been investing and managing investments for GBS’s $450m of life science specialised venture capital funds since 1998. Brigitte is on the board of GBS portfolio companies AirXpanders, Endoluminal Sciences, Neuromonics, Proacta, and Vivive. Brigitte was the founding investor and chair of Pharmaxis. Prior to founding GBS Brigitte worked in the US and Australia in operating roles with early stage technology based companies, and at Bain & Company as a strategic management consultant.

Cyan Ta’eed

Founder, Envato & Hey Tiger & Milkshake App

Cyan Ta’eed, is an Australian entrepreneur, designer and avid chocolate-loving, experience-making creator. Cyan Co-founded Envato in 2006, a fiercely values-driven Australian tech giant with a mission to help creatives earn a living online. In 2017, Cyan founded Hey Tiger, a speciality chocolate company based in Melbourne. Each chocolate bar is handmade from quality and ethically sourced ingredients combining surprising and delicious flavours. A passionate social enterprise, Hey Tiger benefits cocoa farming communities in West Africa, where 60% of the world’s cocoa is grown. More recently, Cyan has Founded a creative and digital startup Milkshake, an app that allows you to create an Insta website for your Instagram profile on your phone. Cyan is passionate about businesses making an impact beyond the bottom line.

Rachel Yang

Investment Manager, Impact Investment Group

Rachel Yang is the Investment Manager at Giant Leap, a venture capital fund backing founders using business to drive positive social and environmental change across three themes: health and wellbeing, sustainable living and empowering people. The fund is backed by the Impact Investment Group, a leading Australian funds manager whose mission is to shift capital towards impact investments.
Rachel’s background is in management consulting and corporate finance and she is also on the Board of Startup Victoria, a not-for-profit organisation that exists to create more founders and better founders.

Mike Zimmerman

Partner, Main Sequence Ventures

Mike Zimmerman is a Partner with Main Sequence Ventures, a new venture capital firm backed by the Federal Government, CSIRO, and other investors to support deeptech companies commercialising world-leading research. With over 20 years of startup and investing experience in both Australia and the US, Mike has worked with companies as an advisor, director, and investor, and has also been a founder or executive in a number of venture-backed companies, including BuildingIQ and Propeller Aero. A committed supporter of the Australian startup ecosystem, Mike works with the Queensland State Co-Investment Fund, CSIRO’s ON Accelerator, Telstra’s Muru-D, Sydney University’s INCUBATE, and H2 Ventures Accelerators. Mike has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and an MBA from Stanford University.

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Past years:

2018 | 2017