Chief Executive Officer
Maria has specialist expertise in policy, politics, professional services and digital transformation. She spent over 25 years working in the professional services sector leading marketing and business development teams in Australia and New Zealand. Maria has also been an adviser to the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO, Australia’s Ambassador to the USA when he held the position as Senator for NSW, and was the head of Strategy and Engagement at the Digital Transformation Agency within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Maria was also head of Strategy and Policy at WIRO in the Department of Customer Services in the NSW Government.
She is an active participant in and supporter of the Australian innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. Maria sits on the board of the Spark Festival, and the International Women’s Forum (Australia), the Board of Advisors for Idea Spies, and an Advisory Council for the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. Maria is also the inaugural Convenor of the Australian Innovation Council. She was recognised in the 2018 International Women’s Day Showcase, was a nominee in the 2018 Women of Influence Awards and is the winner of the Startcon Australasian Community Most Valuable Person Award in 2018.
Senior Adviser and Head of Insights
Johanna Pitman is a recognised authority on the changing workforce, and the implications for cities and communities. She pioneered BlueChilli’s CityConnect accelerator for startups solving urban challenges. She has 20 years experience working across economic development, international trade and public policy through senior roles in Federal and State agencies and organisations in Australia, the UK and the US. Johanna was the Deputy CEO for the Committee for Sydney where she led advocacy for Sydney as a global talent hub and the development of Sydney’s fintech industry. She holds a Masters in Regional Studies (East Asia) from Harvard University, and speaks Japanese and Korean. She is a long time Advance.org member, having attended its launch in 2004 in New York, by then Consul General, Ken Allen AM.
Chief Technology Officer
Michael Kedzierski has experience across the entire pipeline of delivering a tech project, from initial scoping and analysis, to design and implementation, to support and maintenance. Michael helped launch New Economy Media this year, a new media organisation dedicated to explaining emerging trends and technologies to everyday Australians. Prior to this, he implemented a robust web-based survey and data analysis platform for Startup Muster which is the most comprehensive data on the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Australia since 2013. Over the past 14 years of working in tech he has helped deliver projects both large and small, ranging across a wide range of industries including freight/logistics, mining, trading, travel booking, insurance and cattle farming. While Michael studied at TAFE, he considers himself mostly self-taught, and has relied on his experience and knowledge to propel him through his career. Above all, Michael simply enjoys the process of figuring out solutions to problems.
Chief Financial Officer
Michelle Gibbs has deep finance and accounting experience gained over the last 25 years from working in KPMG’s CFO advisory practice, Commonwealth Bank Australia, Merrill Lynch London and Deutsche Bank London. In these roles Michelle has worked with or within finance functions across various sectors, with a specialisation in deal structuring, leasing and technical accounting under IFRS. She has published articles globally and regularly presented or hosted numerous events. She now currently provides CFO and accounting services to various clients in her own consulting company and is a partner at Nuwaru, a new and unique virtual accounting and tax firm.
Head of Community
Ivani Torales has delivered projects and events to the highest standard for industry, government and global organisations – globally. Ivani managed the 2019 program of Spark Festival – Australia’s largest festival for innovators, startups, investors and entrepreneurs, with over 130 events across NSW. Previously, she has organised global and regional meetings in Paraguay alongside international organisations such as FAO and WHO, supporting policy and standards development for industry, trade and public health. She holds a Diploma in Didactics for University Teaching and a Bachelor of Science (Hons) from the Universidad Nacional de Asunción. Ivani also holds a Master of Food Safety and Quality from the University of NSW. She undertook an Associate Program in chemical safety management at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Ivani speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Guaraní.