DR ELENA KELAREVA
In 2017, Elena traded in a decade-long technology career in Melbourne for a fresh start in Warragul, to pursue her passion for bringing digital innovation to regional communities. It was here that GippsTech, Startup Gippsland’s delivery partner, was born.
In the years since, she has been the instigator and driving force behind Startup Gippsland, with a desire to not only help local entrepreneurs and founders, but to develop Gippsland’s startup community and contribute toward the economic development of the region.
Elena holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Australian National University and has worked for over ten years in large-scale digital product and software development. Prior to starting GippsTech, she spent 3.5 years at Google as a Product Manager for the Google Maps Web APIs. In 2018 she was selected as one of 3 finalists for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership Innovation Award. Elena is also a mentor at the Melbourne Accelerator Program and has helped many startups and small businesses develop and execute their digital product concepts.
“Startups are the engine of economic growth and job creation in today's economy, so having an active local startup community is crucial to Gippsland's success as a region. Startup Gippsland is not just about growing businesses, it's about growing business leaders, and creating a local supportive community of entrepreneurs for years to come.”
Stephen was born and raised in Gippsland, growing up on a farm near Omeo. As the Head of Programs, his role is to design, develop, and deliver the Startup Gippsland Program.
Stephen is a passionate consultant and entrepreneur with an impressive resume. His career has been diverse, from partnering in a restaurant business, to playing in a band, to working as an executive for AirServices Australia, where he managed a team of 2,500 individuals.
Stephen’s real excitement for innovation and startups began when he became involved with Canberra Innovation, where he mentored and invested in startups for 4 years. Since then, he founded Snowy Advisory, a consultancy business he shares with his wife. After facilitating for the Startup Gippsland Program in 2020, he is excited to be a part of the team.
“Gippsland’s startup ecosystem breathes life and energy into new business ideas. Each startup’s zest for innovation, their zeal for trying new things, and their ambition to make Gippsland a better place is the driving force for the positive culture of our community.”
STARTUP PROGRAM MANAGER
Natasha is the glue that holds Startup Gippsland together. From administration, to event and program coordination, to marketing support, she’s always behind the scenes ready to help her team and the program participants.
Working for companies such as Hallmark, Simplot Australia, and Allans Billy Hyde, Natasha has over 10 years’ experience in administration and customer service. She excels at helping clients and the people around her achieve outcomes, and she has a passion for using these skills to help local businesses and communities.
“The entrepreneurs of Gippsland have so much to offer the world, and we've barely scratched the surface. It's massively fulfilling to contribute to initiatives that help people realise their dreams, and develop the growth and success of the region that I now call home. Gippsland entrepreneurs have so much passion and talent for what they do, and I feel extremely proud and grateful to be a part of their journey.”
STARTUP BUSINESS COACH
James has been starting businesses and side hustles since he was six years old -- he’s an entrepreneurship specialist with a passion for startups and small business. His core role within the Startup Gippsland team is to assist the development of program content, and to facilitate in the learning and education of program participants.
After completing his business degree at Deakin, James has built a diverse innovation career, from launching his own startup, Trainer, that has gone through several accelerator programs, to working in adult education at TAFE, and most recently, being involved as a NEIS Consultant and Mentor to hundreds of business across Gippsland and North Eastern Melbourne. James is an outcome-focussed coach, and is excited to assist even more budding entrepreneurs to build and grow their businesses across the region.
“Having been a founder based in Gippsland, and having to travel to Melbourne for regular programs, and meetings with investors and partners, I understand the importance of having a Gippsland focused ecosystem. Our startups should be provided with the same opportunities that exist in Melbourne, and that’s why our work is so important.”
Luke works as a marketing consultant to help teams and individuals achieve big results in their business. His core role within the Startup Gippsland team is to assist the development of program content, and to facilitate in the learning and education of program participants.
Luke has over 14 years of experience in digital marketing, and has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, such as L’Oreal, BMW, Unilever, Qantas, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. His expertise covers all aspects of digital marketing, data, communications, advertising, sales, and business strategy.
“If you have an appetite for learning, growth, and are willing to heed the words of those trying to help you – you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. The best part is you don’t have to leave Gippsland to do it either. My favourite thing about working with local founders is seeing them start to realise their own potential - they’ve got runs on the board, determination, and a desire to forge their own destiny.”
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Zoe brings her background of running a successful training studio and personal development coaching business into her work in marketing. As Startup Gippsland’s Marketing and Communications Specialist, she is responsible for creating and managing all facets of the brand’s content and digital presence, and securing press and media opportunities for both the program and its founders.
In 2019 she published her book, “Uncage the Lion Within”, and over the past 5 years, she has developed her skills in marketing, communications, and delivering better, more authentic messages and content online. Zoe is a “big picture” thinker, and is excited for the potential of Startup Gippsland, and helping it to become the best regional startup program in the country.
“My desire is to see Gippsland’s startup community inspire more future change makers and thought leaders to see the potential that exists for following your passion and taking the path less travelled. My favourite thing about working with local founders is seeing their confidence, courage, and resilience grow as they take steps in their business and develop their skills.”
Sarah is responsible for planning and managing all events, large and small, for Startup Gippsland, and to ensure they go off without a hitch. She is a people person at heart, and is passionate about creating an inclusive and thriving startup community.
Sarah has a Diploma of Screen and Media at SAE Institute, and 4 years’ experience in radio sales and production, marketing, media, and advertising. She uses her industry experience to coordinate social and networking events, and help program participants to grow in their work and businesses.
“Gippsland is an incredible place filled with incredible people who have a wealth of ideas on offer. While being a Startup is nothing new, Gippsland founders definitely have a special sauce that makes them unique, hard workers, and big thinkers! The more opportunities that are created in Gippsland, the more we will see these amazing people come forward and shine.”