Dr. Elena Kelareva wins Pause Award’s 2020 Super Connector Award

We’re very pleased to announce that, in recognition of her tireless efforts to improve regional innovation and the access to support and resources for entrepreneurs, Dr. Elena Kelareva has been awarded the Super Connector Award, as part of the 2020 Pause Awards by Pause Fest. 

Now in its third year, Elena has built Startup Gippsland into one of the biggest regional startup programs in Australia. The program has supported over 100 entrepreneurs to build and grow their businesses, with the help of the program team, mentors, and facilitators.

In 2020, digital & innovation conference Pause Fest opened nominations for their third edition of Pause Awards — an exclusive competition that honours future builders through their impact in business and society. These awards were all about showcasing the many businesses and individuals that focussed on adapting and harnessing their innovation visions during such unprecedented times, to make an impact on the industry, community, society, and the ecosystem as a whole.

They received entries across 12 different categories, and after deliberation from their panel of leading judges from across the globe, our program director, Dr. Elena Kelareva was awarded the Super Connector Award.

The Super Connector award recognises the significant contribution that Elena has made to our program participants and the community. 



We sat down with Elena to hear more about the awards, and what they mean to her: 

How does it feel to win the Super Connector award? 

Honestly, I am stunned! Pause Fest is one of Australia’s top innovation and startup conferences, and the list of finalists were some of the most well known and highly regarded people from within the startup ecosystem. This award, in particular, goes to people who’ve made a significant impact on their community. I was honoured just to be recognised and selected as a finalist, so I am thrilled to have won!

What does being a super connector mean to you? 

To me, being a super connector is about bringing people together to create something that’s bigger than any one of us. As a founder, I’ve been able to connect six local government areas, mentors and business owners, and startup organisations, such as Startup Onramp, to collaborate, create, and deliver one of the biggest startup programs in Regional Australia. I love working together with a diverse range of people to make such a significant impact on our community.

Why are you so passionate about connecting our Gippsland entrepreneur and startup community? 

One of the things I love about the startup community is how willing everyone is to collaborate and help each other out. I want to continue to share this set of values with our wider business and startup community in the region, because building connections, learning from one another, and supporting one another, helps us all to succeed.

What initiatives are you currently working on to continue to connect and support the community? 

One of the things I’m particularly excited about this year is our new Startup Gippsland program, Tech Startup Skills. Over the past two years, we have supported over 100 people through our pre-accelerator programs, but now we are launching new programs which can take startups to the next level.

A problem we see in many regional areas is the lack of technology-based skills or resources within the community. Our new Tech Startup Skills Program will not only teach non-technical founders the basics of how they can use technology to grow and scale their business, but it will help to bridge the gap between people with technical skills, and our founders, so they will have access to a wider variety of resources and people who can help them build their businesses.

What advice or recommendations would you give to founders and business owners in our community? 

My advice is to work and connect with others in the community. What you can achieve as one person is tiny compared to what you can achieve with a tribe of people together. So, look to work with others and collaborate as part of solving the problem that you’re trying to solve in your business.


Pause Fest is an independent innovation conference, focussed on bringing diverse intelligence together to fuel the next generation. In 2020, they welcomed 9,000 attendees and 10,000 viewers with over 80 media outlets from across the world. Over the course of 10 years, Pause Fest has seen over 80,000 change-makers come through it’s doors.

If you’d like to learn more about the 2020 Pause Award finalists and winners, follow the link here.

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