Startup sector leaders reveal their personal highlights for 2019

- December 30, 2019 6 MIN READ
Super woman
As part of Startup Daily’s summer series, we asked a range of people in the startup ecosystem about the year that’s been and what they see for 2020.

One of the questions we asked was for the personal highlight of 2019. Here’s what they said.


Canva co-founder Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams

Chief Product Officer, Canva

Canva’s going from strength to strength with lots of product announcements this year and a big new valuation, which is great recognition of all the amazing work that our team is doing.

I’ve been particularly focusing on our video product this year so it was great to launch that at our big public event a couple of weeks ago.

Silvia Pfeiffer, Coviu CEO

Dr Silvia Pfeiffer

CEO, Coviu

My biggest highlight was forging Coviu’s partnership with Healthdirect Australia. This partnership is helping to make quality healthcare more accessible to all Australians and is helping to bridge some of the barriers that exist when it comes to equal access.

Already consumers are starting to ask more questions about telehealth services and how this can help their situation. I’m hoping that the partnership will continue to educate consumers on the benefits that telehealth can bring and encourage them to keep asking their healthcare professionals about how it applies to them.

I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved through this partnership and look forward to seeing how it progresses over the years to come.


Opyl CEO Michelle Gallaher

Michelle Gallaher

Chief Executive Officer, Opyl

I finished a Global Executive MBA this year, majoring in lifesciences and digital transformation spread across five countries and four of the world’s leading business schools. I could not have imagined the enormous direct and revenue-generating benefits that would flow from this into the business, module by module.

I knew it would deliver benefits but didn’t anticipate just how quickly I’d be able to convert new thinking into actionable value and how significant that value would be. My learning through the MBA inspired new product and service ideas that now form the core of our offering in artificial intelligence and health data analysis.

What I didn’t expect was the personal disruption the Masters inspired. I found incredible value in exploring new thinking around leadership in a digital economy and understanding the critical role of sustainability, not just through the lens of environment but also of people, work, community and culture.

It was a massive commitment to undertake at a time of considerable change in the business, but I frankly could not have achieved anywhere near what I have without the learning environment and support of the MBA program.

Giant Leap Fund investment manager Rachel Young. Photo: supplied

Rachel Yang

Investment Manager, Giant Leap Fund

Designing and launching a new impact investing tool called the Beneficial Outcomes Linked Debt (BOLD) contract to support Xceptional, an organisation supporting people on the autism spectrum to get skill-based roles in software testing.

The BOLD contract incentivises impact, because the loan balance decreases if the borrower’s impact increases.

Dave Stein, Head of Corporate Development, Airwallex

Dave Stein

Head of Corporate Development, Airwallex 

Personally, 2019 has been my best year yet! I had the tremendous honour of becoming an Australian citizen – it was a very special moment for me that I will always remember.


Sam Bashiry

Director and founder, Broadband Solutions

The growth of Broadband Solutions has been amazing to see continue, as a company that was one of the first real startups in Australia, our strength in becoming a scaleup has been amazing, and for me personally it just showed the strength of the team I have around me, and how much we have the capacity to build and achieve together. Our business is constantly evolving in order to survive disruption and changes to the telecommunications space and I am proud that we’re doing that.

I also took on the CEO Dare to Cure challenge for the Children’s Cancer Institute this year and did two challenges: the ice bath and the bath with snakes. These were both terrifying for me but I was inspired by how many people in my network got behind me and supported with donations. Having had a personal experience in my family with childhood cancer this was important for me to take part in and I am looking to do what I can to continue supporting charities like this in the new year.


Liven co-founder Grace Wong

Grace Wong

CMO and co-founder of Liven

I’ve had many highlights in 2019, but the most memorable moments have been the experiences I’ve ticked off my bucket list. I’m committed to squeezing the most out of life so I regularly push myself out of my comfort zone to try new things and meet new people.

This year, I went bungee jumping in New Zealand, met my hero Richard Branson on Necker Island and even had a meeting with the President of Malta. These are the moments that will define 2019 for me when looking back. 



LiveTiles CEO & co-founder Karl Redenbach. Photo: Supplied

Karl Redenbach

Co-founder and CEO, LiveTiles

My biggest highlight in 2019 was the launch of our LiveSmiles employee wellbeing solution which we offer free to organisations around the world. It has connected us with some of the world’s leading experts on the subject as well as a number of health and wellbeing organisations who share the same mission. I am a big believer that innovation is rarely achieved in isolation – the magic is more likely to happen when like minded people with diverse talents collide.

My biggest learning in 2019 was the realisation that transformation is not a project. It is an ongoing journey – a constant cycle of growth, conservation, release, reorganisation (or regeneration). Adaptability and action has never been more important than in this time of exponential disruption, where technology is in a race against time, not just for business productivity, but, more importantly, for sustainable business productivity that both nurtures people and our environment.


Australian Computer Society (ACS) President Yohan Ramasundara.

Yohan Ramasundara

ACS President

I’m very proud of what I was able to achieve with the ACS to lead and shape the technology ecosystem in Australia with the help of an amazing team of staff, partners, supporters, volunteers, committed members and tech professionals.

I enjoyed seeing many of my mentees being promoted, being recognised for their excellent work and setting up their businesses and in 3 instances scaling up rapidly. I must say I continue to learn a lot from them too!

I had many personal growth opportunities, learnings and moments, made new connections that defined my life to be a better person.

Playing Cricket with my son and daughter in the backyard is certainly a key highlight.


Elsight managing director Nir Gabay

Nir Gabay

Founder and CEO, Elsight

The launch of a new and improved model of our flagship offering Halo 1.1, which came after a cumulative series of milestones, ongoing customer feedback, testing and important product development and research goals over the last 12 months that brings us to where we are now and the exciting path that awaits us ahead.


Jurie Rossouw, CEO, Driven

Jurie Rossouw

CEO, Driven

This was a massive year for me. My personal highlight was that just before Christmas I successfully closed a $700,000 seed round with my company Driven.

With this investment, we’ll be able to expand our program to create more tailored content for specialists such as nurses, firefighters, teachers and to improve our AI algorithms for more meaningful interactions.


Sonya Stephen and Shane Thatcher, co-founders of Choovie

Sonya Stephen

Co-founder and CEO, Choovie

Finishing off the reno of my 1961 caravan and taking it on our first holiday in 3 years with all the kids to Merimbula. Dora (name of the caravan) made it all the way there and back in one piece!

Given Choovie is so personal to us it was also launching our B2B offering and in the last 2 months signing up 4 of the largest loyalty programs which will launch in early 2020.


Giorgio Baracchi, co-founder and CEO, RecycleSmart

Giorgio Baracchi
Co-founder and CEO, RecycleSmart

Starting the third interaction of RecycleSmart while being part of the Antler program with my co-founder. Hopefully this time we got the right way to fix recycling.



That Startup Show co-founder Anna Reeves

Anna Reeves

Co-founder, That Startup Show

That Startup Show was nominated for 6 awards this year. Both Rae Johnston our host and I were nominated by BT Women in Media Awards for Best Journalist and Best Creative Producer, respectively. When you are trying to create something new in the media landscape, it isn’t easy, so receiving recognition for our team in this way, was a huge vote of confidence.

We also attended SXSW for the first time as part of an Australian delegation and being in a room with Jodie Foster, a multiple Oscar winner, talking about her Director’s journey and dealing with imposter syndrome was inspiring.


Michelle Mannering, co-founder, Raine Scooters

Michelle Mannering

Co-founder, Raine Scooters

We designed this scooter for the customer from day one. We did a look of work looking into the limitation of the current scooters on the market, as well as the frustrations people experienced while commuting.

We wanted to build something that was super convenient, yet really fun. And we landed on the epic scooter featured in our launch.  Highlights have been kicking off with our company public launch, and exceeding our Kickstarter goals in 43 minutes from launch and taking orders for global customers already. 


Micheal Tutek

Founder and CEO, Preezie

Preezie was one of the nine startups accepted into the Skalata Ventures program, hence successfully completing their program over the last 6 months was certainly our biggest highlight.


Adrian Przelozny, founder and CEO, Independent Reserve

Adrian Przelozny

CEO and Founder, Independent Reserve

2019 has been an awesome year! Highlights include all the awards we’ve received, including Cryptocurrency Exchange of the Year, being on the list of The AFR’s Most Innovative companies, and finishing number 13 in Deloitte’s Tech Fast 50. 

The awards and recognition we’ve received is closely tied to our constant drive to roll out new and innovative features, our strategic partnerships, green initiatives and thought leadership. All these things and much more have helped us to have a great year.


Sunil Vohra

Co-founder, The Workability Index

Launching The Workability Index to market at the start of December after a long period of building and development.


Gaurav Kawar

Founder, Book An Artist

Netflix came to our platform and hired 2 of our artists to paint their offices in London.

We painted a canvas of a couple and the guy used that as a backdrop when he proposed to her. We painted our first Augmented reality mural, which means who you look at the mural through your phone you see elements in the mural come to life in 3D like Pokemon Go. 


Mark Trowell

Co-founder and CEO, Yabonza

Transitioning Yabonza from our foundation phase into our growth phase and watching the business shift from what we had built into strong growth.

Jane Kou Founder, BringMeHome

Jane Kou

Founder, Bring Me Home

Bring Me Home raised a total of $725,000 seed funding and we also turned 1.