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News & Analysis

Startmate bolsters its female leadership with Lauren Capelin as Principal and Blackbird’s Samantha Wong joining the board

- August 24, 2020 2 MIN READ
The Startmate team (clockwise from front left Michael Batko, CEO, Sophia Witherington, Community; Sascha Kerbert, Operations, and Yan Zhai, Intern
Startmate has announced two key appointments that increase diversity in senior roles.

Reinventure’s Partner of Platform, Lauren Capelin, has moved to Startmate as Principal, while New Zealand-based Blackbird partner and Startmate alumnus Samantha Wong will join the board, replacing her Blackbird colleague Nick Crocker, who is stepping down after three years.

Startmate’s new Principal, Lauren Capelin

Capelin, who is also Deputy Chair at FinTech Australia, has been part of the extended Startmate mentor community for several years. Her new remit will see her broaden her investment lens beyond fintech and expand Startmate’s outreach capability.

Wong joins the board as Startmate launches its inaugural New Zealand cohort, and will sit alongside Startmate founder Niki Scevak and CEO Michael Batko.

Batko praised Wong’s knowledge of the NZ startup landscape as invaluable to its next phase of growth, and Capelin as the organisation’s first principal.

“Lauren brings a unique investment lens to Startmate that will enable us to scout founders beyond our existing networks. Both bring a huge wealth of insight and energy to the organisation,” he said.

In a Medium post reflecting on her five years at Reinventure, Capelin said she “had the honour of wearing the mantle of the first Head of Community at an Australian venture fund” and was grateful to have been part of shaping an evolution that has seen the broader community thrive.

Nick Crocker, Startmate’s former CEO, who brought the organisation to Melbourne, said he was proud of being part part of its development over the last three years, which includes the female-focused Fellowship program now sitting alongside the Australian and Kiwi accelerator programs

“This is a team of the most ambitious and passionate people, and I can’t think of a better custodian than Sam to advise and help steer the organisation as it continues to achieve massive goals,” he said.

The board is also introducing a rotating observer role, reserved for Startmate alumni, mentors and advisors. Batko said the move reflected the importance Startmate places on community.

“We’re very keen to involve the Startmate community in high-level strategy—this is part of an ongoing effort to include a diverse set of voices at the point decisions are made,” he said.

Over 40% of applications for Startmate’s Melbourne 2020 and New Zealand’s 2020 cohorts come from companies co-founded by women, with five out of 11 startups in the upcoming MEL20 cohort, and four out of five in the upcoming NZ20 cohort, co-founded by women.

The organisation has invested in over 120 startups since its inception in 2011, worth more than $1 billion.

The updated core Startmate team is:
● Michael Batko – CEO
● Lauren Capelin – Principal
● Sascha Kerbert – Head of Accelerator
● Sophia Witherington – Head of Fellowship

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