Our Team

Vicki Stirling


Vicki is the  CEO of Startup Victoria, Australia’s largest network for founders and entrepreneurs, and is driven by providing the community with world-class founder events and membership programs.

Vicki loves to create connections and believes that amazing things can happen when you have the right people by your side. She has spent the last decade leading teams and setting strategy for Melbourne based startups, entrepreneurs and founders in the tech and e-commerce space. Outside of work you can find her in the yoga studio, heading out for a weekend hike, or strolling in the park with her dog Stan!

Poppy Trewhella

Director of Programs and Partnerships

Poppy has spent thousands of hours in conversation with world-leading entrepreneurs, exited founders and tech executives. She leads Startup Vic’s industry partner network which includes Australia’s top investors, educators and service providers and Growth Club, an invite-only program for Victoria’s most successful scale up founders.

Before Startup Victoria, Poppy led on growth at  PwC’s flagship social enterprise, Beyond Food. From there, she took her talents to consultancy firm businessthreezero, helping the executive teams of the UK’s biggest businesses to align around their strategy. Outside of her 9-5, you can find Poppy reading books, doing hiphop yoga and exploring the far corners of Australia.

Paz Pisarski

Community Manager

Paz is a passionate community builder on a mission to support founders to succeed. As the Community Manager of Startup Victoria, Australia’s largest network for entrepreneurs, Paz is the go-to community contact for all that Startup Vic has to offer.

Paz has deep community building experience, having grown RMIT Activator’s founder community from 500 to 5000 over 3+ years and being the Co-Founder of The Community Collective, a community for community builders in Australia. When not being community-obsessed, you can find her composing relaxation music as Paz Sounds or drinking chamomile tea.

Alex Orr

Community Engagement and Content Manager

Passionate about social media and content writing, Alex manages Startup Vic’s social media, website content and writes the weekly newsletter remotely.

He has 5+ years experience across social media and digital, writing for not-for-profits, music publications and websites and 8+ years experience working in the live music and events industry in the UK and Europe, specialising in live music and festival production. He’s also the Content Coordinator at CYOA, a social media and design agency.


Events and Community Assistant

Sam is the Events and Community Assistant at Startup Vic and is passionate about facilitating meaningful social connection, community development and positive impact/change through events.   

Sam is a creative all rounder with experience in Events Management, Community Development, Facilitation and Digital Marketing working for nonprofits, social enterprises and local government. Sam is the Founder & Director of Mossfolk, a community organisation that provides creative events, programs and resources to young people with mental illness. When not working you can find her doing crafts, watching True Crime documentaries or snuggling one of her three cats.

Being a Founder herself, Sam is passionate about providing support and community for start up and small business founders and is beyond excited for the opportunity to contribute to and help grow Startup Vic’s events.

Our Board

Rachel Yang

Independent Non-Executive Director, Co-Chairperson since December 2020

Rachel is a Partner at Giant Leap, Australia’s first 100% impact venture capital fund. Giant Leap invests in exceptional, rapidly scalable businesses that blend financial returns with deep social and environmental impact across three impact themes: health and wellbeing, sustainable living and empowering people. Rachel’s background is in management consulting and corporate finance, and she previously co-founded a non-profit organisation to raise funds and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease.

A headshot of Morgan Ranieri.

Morgan Ranieri

Independent Non-Executive Director, Co-Chairperson since December 2020

Morgan is currently the co-founder and CEO of YourGrocer and was previously a co-founder at Thankyou Water (now Thankyou Group). He has received a lot of value from the Startup Vic ecosystem, having met his co-founder at a pitch night. Morgan is extremely passionate about helping existing founders become better founders.

A headshot of Gus Balbontin.

Gus Balbontin

Independent Non-Executive Director

Born and bred in Wild Patagonia, Gus never allowed his small town and humble beginnings to get in the way of his big dreams. By the age of 22, he had dropped out of uni, hitchhiked South America, set up his first business and landed his dream job at Lonely Planet.

Fast forward a few years and he was leading the company globally working with companies such as Google X, Nokia, and Amazon on the latest technology, creative cultures, and high performing teams. Seeking a change from corporate life, he hung up his boots as Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet and decided to move back to his entrepreneurial roots, becoming an investor, founder and mentor across the start-up ecosystem in Melbourne.

A headshot of Nic Hodges.

Nic Hodges

Independent Non-Executive Director

Nic works at the intersection of technology, creativity, and culture. He has led digital and innovation for some of Australia’s leading creative and media agencies and media companies, and currently runs Blonde3 – a boutique consultancy advising startups and media companies on strategic growth. Nic previously founded Robot Deputy, a media technology startup.

A headshot of Daniel Ross.

Daniel Ross

Independent Non-Executive Director, Treasurer

Dan is the CFO and Head of Accounting at LUNA, a startup studio that exists to help founders launch and grow businesses through providing legal, accounting, education and investment services. Prior to joining LUNA, Dan spent 5+ years at PwC working with large domestic and international organisations across a variety of disciplines.

Dan’s passion for grassroots, early-stage businesses led him out of the corporate world so that he could leave his mark on Victoria’s startup ecosystem. He loves disruptors, dreamers and people who see the world differently. Nothing excites him more than a growth story.

Kirstin McIntosh

Independent Non-Executive Director

Kirstin McIntosh is the Head of Partnerships for CyRise, Asia-Pacific’s leading cyber security venture accelerator. At CyRise, she works with some of most technically adept and ambitious minds of the cyber security community. She also previously worked in a Melbourne healthy food startup, Purple Broccoli. 

Before this, Kirstin worked in Europe and Asia in business development in the private sector, and corporate partnership roles in the public sector for over 23 years. Kirstin holds an MBA from IMD in Switzerland, and a B.Comm from University of Melbourne. She is a mentor at BSides Melbourne and Spark Deakin and has held NFP roles in education, ethical fashion, construction and a children’s environmental charity.

Programs Steering Committee

Luke Henningsen

Programs Steering Committee Member

Luke is the Founder of startup/scaleup specialist executive search firm Scale & Swing and Co-Founder of the online startup community Ucities.com. Before founding Scale & Swing, Luke’s career in executive search spanned nearly two decades during which he ran a $90m recruitment business as EGM of an ASX listed recruiter, led internal recruitment for KPMG and co-founded, built and exited his own high profile search firm (SHK Asia Pacific). 

Luke’s startup sector experience is extensive and he is an enthusiastic participant in the Australian startup community – taking an active personal interest as an Angel Investor and Advisor to startups and early stage businesses particularly around Executive Talent, building a Board and scaling up. 

John Sherwood

Programs Steering Committee Member

John is a developer and entrepreneur based near Melbourne, Australia. He is co-founder and CTO of Gleam.io, writing the first line of code and setting up the first servers. Now Gleam has grown to a team of 16, tens of thousands of customers, and reached over 100 million users.

Still hands-on tools for development, architecture, and infrastructure. Never taken any funding – bootstrapped and profitable the whole way. John enjoys metal and chiptune music, building things, and spending time with his family. He’s been working with his co-founder Stuart on various projects and ideas since 2009, and spent years as a front-end and Java developer