Program Team

Our passionate and diverse team combines both local and international perspectives, to lead and facilitate delivery of Startup Gippsland Program.

Dr Elena Kelareva, Founder and CEO, Gippstech and Stephanie Thoo, Program Manager, Startup Gippsland

Meet Elena

Dr Elena Kelareva

Program Director


Startup ecosystem builder, tech industry thought leader, ex-Googler. Elena holds a PhD in Computer Science from Australian National University and has worked for over ten years in digital product development, including as a software developer on multiple 6-figure contracts for government organisations. Prior to starting GippsTech, she spent 3.5 years at Google as a Product Manager for the Google Maps Web APIs. She is a mentor at the Melbourne Accelerator Program and has helped many startups and small businesses develop and execute their ideas for digital products.

Wide range of experience across startup ecosystem development, technology and data policy consulting, growth and scalability strategy, software product strategy for startups, social enterprises, corporates and government. Areas of special expertise: regional tech and startup ecosystems, APIs and platforms, B2B products, software products with a geo/local component, products for software developers.


Meet Steph

Stephanie Thoo

Program Manager


Since October 2018, Steph has been leading the creation and rollout of the Startup Gippsland program, Australia’s largest regional startup program. Working from scratch, she has lead a small team of 4 on end-to-end program delivery including brand and marketing strategy, assessing and selecting participants, mentor recruitment and onboarding, and masterclass content creation and delivery.

Through Stephanie’s Masters in Business Administration from the University of Melbourne, innovation consulting experience and time leading RMIT’s pre-accelerator programs, she has built deep expertise in understanding diverse entrepreneur needs and translating these into personal and effective support initiatives.

Stephanie has personally coached over 60 ventures and 120 individuals of all ages, backgrounds and experience, and is passionate about bringing best-practice startup support to her local region. Stephanie is the Startup Gippsland program’s manager responsible for designing, operationalising and monitoring all aspects of the Startup Gippsland program. Together with Elena, she has recently cofounded Herd Coworking in central Warragul.

Meet Aldona

Aldona Kmieć

Marketing Manager, Content Producer


Aldona holds a Higher National Diploma in Photography from London Metropolitan University, Cert IV in Small Business Management and Diploma in Hospitality & Tourism. As an accomplished photographic artist and arts facilitator, she has been creating digital content for over ten years, including running a coworking space in Ballarat. Aldona creates and manages digital content including marketing collateral, social media management, photography + video production for Startup Gippsland.

In addition to working on the program, she is an exhibiting artist and runs a successful artistic practice, which she founded in 2009 after relocating to Australia from the UK and her native Poland. Her artworks have recently appeared in Jesse & Mel's apartment on Channel's Nine's The Block renovation show.

Want to learn more?

Read our News blog or find out about our 12 Week Program.

Contact Startup Gippsland


03 5644 3321



PO Box 1412, Warragul VIC 3820