Introducing the Innovation Centre Mentor Panel

Howard Aron

Howard Aron

Howard Aron cofounded Youi Insurance and OUTsurance.  Howard is a successful start-up entrepreneur with a strong background in technology and a solid track record in establishing and scaling successful global businesses . Howard started his first business at 20 years old when he saw an opportunity to start a mail order company in South Africa using his software and technology skills. At 29 he was the CEO of the largest motor warranty company in South Africa with over 1 million motor vehicles under its management, employing over 300 staff.  Howard then cofounded OUTsurance which was launched in 1998 and became one of the most successful insurance companies in South Africa.  As part of its growth strategy, OUTsurance established Youi Insurance in Australia in 2008 and today employs over a 1000 people right here on the Sunshine Coast. 

Howard is a visionary thinker with over 30 years of entrepreneurial experience. With a strong focus on technology, he has established a venture capital fund Fintech Investments which looks at investing in startup  businesses. Howard is also a Director of the Sunshine Coast Economic futures board.




Greg Beaver Portrait

Greg Beaver

Greg uses his experience as co-founder of a number of start-ups to mentor and support other early stage enterprises. He is currently the Principal of 20 20 Innovations and Investments, an advisory service dedicated to sponsoring the successful commercialising Australian innovation, and the founder and executive director of The Pioneer Development Fund, a Federal Government registered Pooled Development Fund, specialising in investing and supporting seed, start-up and early-expansion companies.

He is also a recently retired senior partner of Altezza Partners, a specialist accounting and advisory firm. Greg is an active angel investor and mentor to a number of start-up companies and has seen the full gambit of what works and what doesn’t. He has a track record of bringing together the expertise, networks and capital to commercialise innovation and how to position them for international success.

Scott Betterridge Portrait

Scott Betterridge

Scott Joined the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 17 years as an Avionics Technician. Scott received an Air Commander Australia Commendation for outstanding Leadership in the field of maintenance safety. Scott completed his Diploma in Financial Markets whilst in the RAAF with the view to becoming a Financial Adviser. After completing 20 years of service Scott was employed by Honeywell Defence Systems as an Associate Engineer for F-111 Systems.

In 2002 Scott moved to the Sunshine Coast and began his career as a Financial Adviser. Scott is a qualified Stockbroker and Financial Planner with 13 years of experience in strategic advice and portfolio management.
Scott has a broad knowledge of regulatory environments, corporate governance and a keen interest in risk management solutions.

Tomi Hamalainen

A seasoned professional with over thirty years experience in the telecoms, internet and small business industries with major strengths in sales, marketing, technical, innovation and business development across 40 countries. In the last sixteen years, has developed small business management and ownership skills with several businesses and corporate clients.

As a dual Australian – Finnish citizen, Tomi has successfully promoted Telstra’s innovative voice technologies, Telecom Finland International’s new business and managed Sprint International’s Finland office.

He successfully developed, and executed, Cisco’s Finland and Baltic Multiservice (Data/Voice/Video) go-to-market strategy and Cisco’s Asia Pacific service provider Voice over IP and packet telephony strategy.

Today, he manages and develops software catering solutions for corporate clients such as aged care, childcare, hospitals and mining to track costs and nutrition. Previously, has owned and managed a Registered Training Organization and a child care centre.

He also has a strong interest in assisting other startups particularly in food and agribusiness and health and well-being sectors.

Tomi has completed a Bachelor of Engineering  (Electrical), at James Cook University, Queensland and has studied for Masters of Engineering Science at the University of Queensland.

Jimmi Bradbury Portrait

Jimmi Bradbury

Jimmi has extensive experience in the strategic management of businesses. He has managed the international business of Cyril Sweett Group Plc, growing the international arm from 4 to 1,200 staff over ten years. Under Jimmi’s leadership, Cyril Sweett Group Plc now has 44 offices in 18 countries across Europe, Middle East, North Africa, India, Sri Lanka, North and South East Asia and Australia.

In addition the company has a further 1,600 people in 26 countries through alliances formed during this same period in Europe, Asia and North America. Much of this growth was achieved through a combination of Mergers & Acquisitions, Joint Ventures, Alliances and Organic growth, all of which was actively managed by Jimmi.

Tim Eldridge Portrait

Tim Eldridge

Tim works directly with the CEO’s of established companies, as well as start-up entrepreneurs, to assist them with business development goal setting, strategy development and stakeholder engagement.

He has had over 20 years’ experience in working with famous global brands and Fortune 1000 clients at senior levels, and has developed supremely customer-orientated view of their business. Tim helps these companies review their strategic marketing choices, and advises them how to put winning strategies into motion.

Sally Ernst

Dr Sally Ernst, founder of the UK and Australian Cyber Security Networks, has over 10 years corporate venturing, internationalisation and governance experience in tech companies, including as part of the start up team of Australia’s largest webhosting service at the time. This experience spans Australia, the UK, China, the Philippines, and the US. Sally has held a number of Board positions, contributed to a number of Government-led forums and roundtables, and is part of an angel investor group.

Both Sally’s MBA and Doctorate specialise in corporate and tech entrepreneurship in a radical innovation context. She has spoken regularly these on topics, more recently with a business perspective on cyber security risk, for world leading Universities, medical schools, industry bodies; and, VC, banking, corporate finance and accounting firms.

Michelle Evans Portrait

Michelle Evans

Global Digital Media and Business Development Manager for 4 Ingredients & Director Of Business for the Australian Golf Performance Centre.

Based on the Sunshine Cost for the last 11 years, Michelle has used her extensive experience in the strategic management of business & sales creating effective digital strategies for 4 Ingredients that has delivered robust sales and a large following in 24 countries.

Michelle mentors a number of successful small businesses on effective digital media strategies that power profitability, monetises content and builds large engaged audiences.

With a reputation for turning ‘likes into loves’ Michelle has been a guest speaker on behalf of Ad-Tech in New York joining Facebook, Sony, Dos Equis & Dan Brogan on stage to discuss the best practices for marketing online. Michelle is a regular guest speaker on the subject of building successful business online using ‘earned’ strategies, effective brand management and the art of serving in order to sell.

Mark Ferris Portrait

Mark Ferris

After practicing commercial law in South Africa, Mark spent the bulk of his career in Tokyo, Japan. Over an 18 year period, he founded or co-founded ventures offering services and solutions in Information Technology, Business Process Outsourcing, Market Research and Marketing Solutions. He is experienced in business development, corporate strategy, fund raising and team building and, on three occasions, he completed trade sales to third party investors resident in USA, Hong Kong and Japan.

After relocating to Australia in 2012, Mark is active as an angel investor, business mentor and board member of for profit and not-for-profit entities.

Matt Foreman Portrait

Matt Forman

Matt is an entrepreneur and senior Internet executive with over 17 years leadership experience. Matt has been the founder and lead entrepreneur with 5 digital start-ups with experience in capital raising, leadership, technology, sales, marketing, product development and business modelling.

Currently he is the Managing Director at Traffika, a highly respected Queensland company specialising in Digital Business Generation for high growth, medium and large enterprise. Matt is also the co-founder and non-executive director of HEARIS, a social media management and analytics SaaS platform for large brands.

David Foster

David Foster

David Foster has had an extensive career in Financial Services spanning over 25 years. This time was spent in a variety of strategic and functional areas and covered a number of geographies in Australia and offshore. His most recent role until December 2013 was CEO of Suncorp Bank, a role he commenced in September 2008 at the height of the financial crisis and involved rebuilding the organization, working out problem assets and regaining momentum and profitability in the business operations whilst achieving leading customer and staff results.

David has extensive experience in most areas of Business and Financial management including Distribution, Marketing, Risk, Governance, Financial and Capital Markets.

Mel Messina

Advanced Manufacturing
Mel Messina has over 30 years Advanced Manufacturing and high-growth family business experience, from start up to successful exit to a ASX listed corporate.
Mel’s specialisations include polymers, processing; design, troubleshooting and QMS; strategy and strategic initiatives; international supply chains and contracts; HR, workplace relations and safety, including cybersecurity considerations.

Peter Grant Portrait

Peter Grant

Peter has over ten years experience running start-ups as well as a long (20 year plus) history in executive roles across corporate and government. He has worked in various Chief Information Officer positions, as a State Director for Microsoft and as Vice president of Gartner Consulting. Currently Peter is working as an executive coach on ‘interesting’ consulting assignments. He also provides advice to a number of advisory boards in the university and government sector.

Peter is a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society. He is an Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland. He holds a Bachelor of Business and a Research Masters Degree in Information Systems.

Nigel Hall Portrait

Nigel Hall

Nigel has an extensive international business background in biotechnology, telecommunications and finance and has lived and worked in the UK, Germany, USA and South Africa before relocating to Australia in 2006. His first degree was in business and economics and he has a MBA from Clemson University in South Carolina.

He was CEO of Highway One, a German Telecommunications business that sold to Telefonica. He has a been involved in raising over $200m finance for fast growing businesses, previously ran a seed capital fund in South Africa and is currently on the advisory board for Terra Rossa Capital, an Adelaide based venture capital fund.

Steve Huff Portrait

Steve Huff

Steve is a respected entrepreneur and start-up specialist with over a dozen successful start-ups to his credit including Typefi Systems and Sixty Second Parent. He has significant experience growing companies in both Australia and the US, and was named one of America’s most Innovative CEO’s by Forbes Radio in 2008.

Steve sits on the board of various organizations, including Typefi Systems, Sixty Second Parent, Online Medical and Xcorio. He holds a Masters Degree in Business and Organizational Development from Western Carolina University and a B.A. in History from Greensboro College.

Luke Humble Portrait

Luke Humble

A pioneer in his field, Luke Humble is the Managing Director of Italic Creative, an award winning creative agency which offers innovative design and commercial solutions to its international client base across Australia, the UK, the USA, Dubai and Europe.

With over sixteen years in the industry, Luke specialises in the digital marketing arena, implementing strategic initiatives across technology streams in order to drive business success. Luke is also experienced in diagnosing business management vulnerabilities and in recognising untapped sources of commercial growth, advising on the enhancement and streamlining of business models in order to take a larger, more profitable slice of the relevant market.

Alan Johnson

Alan is an executive and company director with 30 years experience applying technology to complex business challenges often in safety critical environments. Alan’s key strengths include leadership, executive management, strategic planning, complex procurements, public and private sector markets, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, Government relations and international business.

Alan has been involved with a number of acquisitions where a larger organisation purchased small enterprises.

Gavin Keeley

Gavin Keeley

Gavin Keeley is an experienced technologist and business leader with a career spanning 30 years in international consultancy and executive corporate roles across a diverse range of industry sectors, working in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. In the 80’s Gavin founded and established a successful IT Consulting company and led the wave of new technologies such as Decision Support and Executive Information and throughout the ‘90’s he again led the way with internet and advanced networking technologies – including a number of ‘world first’ client implementations for, amongst others, Oracle and Microsoft.  As the first CTO for one of the world’s largest insurers, Aviva, leading 6,000 IT staff and $1B IT budget, and as Executive General Manager for Business Technology Solutions at Suncorp, he was responsible for leading business innovation through technology. Gavin was also CTO at Hollard Insurance, where he pioneered the first Australian cloud technology strategy with APRA regulatory approval. For the last 5 years Gavin has been directly involved in the creation of several technology start-up companies in Australia, including CloudDC. Involved in all aspects of the business from formation, to product development, investment, and global growth, he also mentors other start-up companies.

Brook Kitson Portrait

Brook Kitson

Brook Kitson is a civil engineer by profession and currently runs Cardno Sunshine Coast. Brook has served for 12 years on the Urban Development Institute of Australia committee, 3 years as Vice president and chair of the economic development subcommittee.

He is Chair and co-founder of The Core and cofounding partner of CoreEd. The Core being a disruptive start-up to improve online engagement and education through coordinating and establishing collaborative partnerships.

Brook continues to focus on expanding his network and furthering the above objectives through his recent appointment to the board of Regional Development Australia Inc (Sunshine Coast) and can be contacted on Twitter @BrookKitson.

Paul L'Estrange Portrait

Paul L’Estrange

Paul has a long history of implementing strategies and developing IT organisations for Fortune 500 Companies. He has been Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer for Bacardi Limited, and Director IT, Global Strategy Development for Philip Morris International Management and is currently the Marketing Director and CIO at Mars Group in New York.

Paul is a specialist in delivering IT solutions for business transformation, organisational redesign on an international level and running organizations in a culturally diverse environment. He has a proven track record of implementing business models to support growth and cost control strategies.

David Lumb Portrait

David Lumb

David works with the owners, boards and CEOs, of medium sized and high growth companies to improve the performance and value of their businesses.

After completing a degree in Mechanical Engineering (USYD) David held several roles in automotive research and development in Australia, Italy and South Korea. Following his engineering career David completed an MBA (AGSM) and moved into strategy and operations consulting with Deloitte consulting. During this time he worked with businesses in the banking, telecommunications, FMCG and pharmaceuticals industries.

Since then David has held a variety of consulting and leadership roles in industries including consumer goods, marine, and water treatment. He has also represented Queensland on the Reserve Bank of Australia Small Business Advisory Panel.

David has bought, built and sold businesses during that time and has been awarded the E&Y Cleantech Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Telstra Regional Business of the Year.

Mick Millington Portrait

Mick Millington

Mick has worked with large multinational companies including Boeing, Rockwell Collins, and Computer Sciences and has experience working in around 30 countries in high technology and regulatory areas such as the International Telecommunications Union as part of the United Nations.

Despite Mick’s technology background he has developed and operates a property on the Sunshine Coast with forestry, bamboo, aquaculture and eco Bed and Breakfast cabins. He is active in local community groups.

Mick’s qualifications include a PhD in high bandwidth optical communications, a master’s in business administration, and commercial law, diplomas in aquaculture and business and is a qualified electronics technician and tradesman. In 2015 Mick will complete Juris Doctor studies and education qualifications as a lawyer.

Macushla Montell Portrait

Macushla Montell

Macushla has a successful track-record of building and running businesses, including property portfolios, restaurants, dance studios and fashion labels. Macushla began her first business at 16 years of age and became a property millionaire in her 20s.

She is a determined and driven individual with entrepreneurial flair and the skills and passion to make a real difference. Most recently, Macushla has been coaching and training individuals, business owners, entrepreneurs and managers to motivate, inspire and empower.

Mark Paddenburg

Mark has a demonstrated track record in creating value by connecting ideas, people and capital. His focus is on entrepreneurship, business development and improving innovation capability for startup and high growth companies.

Mark was appointed CEO of the Innovation Centre in 2012 and in previous roles he cofounded two companies and assisted a range startup ventures including Dascom (now owned by IBM), (now owned by Flight Centre), Firewire, Tracknology, BridgeClimb Australia TradeCoast and the first OurBrisbane city portal. Mark is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a member of the Sunshine Coast Business Council and was President of the Brisbane Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1995. Mark has completed a Bachelor of Commerce Degree at Griffith University and Graduate Certificate in Management at the University of Queensland.

Mark Phillips Portrait

Mark Phillips

Mark is an entrepreneur, investor and mentor who has launched 4 startups and is a firm believer that innovation is the key success factor for high growth businesses. As a qualified Chartered Accountant Mark has had a successful career as an international gymnast, IT consultant, salesperson & manager with KPMG, Apple and Microsoft as well as an entrepreneur in his own startups.

His first startup went global within 2 years and opened a Silicon Valley office in 1995. Another received a $7.5m buyout offer on Launch Day. Mark has been responsible for over $250m in sales and has worked with a number of Global Leaders and Heads of State around the world. Known for his business creativity, IT aptitude and relaxed style (and hence his brand ‘business in bare feet’) Mark operates from Australia’s Sunshine Coast where he mentors innovative Executives, Founders & NGOs around the globe.

Rod Richards

Rod is an inventor, entrepreneur and innovator with 30 years’ company ownership.

He has extensive experience in engineering and manufacturing, patented sawmill equipment, designing automated nursery transplanting equipment and R&D development of Australia’s first hydrostatic skid-steer tractor.

At age 21, Rod founded his first engineering business specialising in motorcycle race-engine development. He later founded a marine engineering business providing design consultancy for underwater research equipment to Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University.

Rod became a Queensland Government Accredited Ship Builder and provided marine services to establish an outer reef tourism operation. Offshore sailing success includes winning 2 Brisbane to Gladstone Line Honours and holding 27 race records.

Post Global Financial Crisis, Rod founded 2 non-profit Business Enterprise Centres assisting enterprising people and new startups. Rod worked directly with 160 businesses following the 2011-12 Brisbane Floods, providing planning and implementation strategies to get business back on track. Rod has 10 years’ experience as a business educator and mentor.

Gideon Shalwick Portrait

Gideon Shalwick

Gideon is an expert in developing revenue-generating customers through online media, particularly blogs and video content. He is empathetic to the challenges facing emerging entrepreneurs, having bootstrapped five start-ups of his own.

Gideon currently runs one of the top blogging training brands in the world and is working on a new business that will assist main stream video content producers create better videos and reach bigger audiences.

Keith Steele Portrait

Keith Steele

Keith is the Managing Director of Steele Business Solutions Pty Ltd, a Commercilisation Advisor for Accelerating Commercialisation, and a Director of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. He has over 30 years experience in the discovery, development and commercialisation of new technologies and products in Life Sciences, AgBiotech and Agribusiness. He has been Founder, Chairman, Director or Business Advisor for more than 100 start-up companies in a diverse range of sectors and a non-executive director or chair of thirteen companies and four Co-operative Research Centres. He has raised significant capital and established a Venture Capital Fund.

He has been Chief Executive Officer of AgResearch Ltd.; Chief Scientist and Executive Director of Primary Industries for the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment; Group Director MAF Technology; and a technical expert for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Robyn Simpson

Robyn Simpson

Robyn is the Managing Director of Market Smartly and Consult Me Group, and has almost 20 years in marketing consultancy. Over that time Robyn has accumulated a unique combination of experience as a strategic marketer and educator.  Her clients range from large international corporations to SME’s. Having launched four start-ups, been through the process of franchising and grown her own team from one to 23 in a little over 18 months, Robyn knows the benefits of systemising a business and using affordable and effective online solutions to manage growth efficiently. She focuses on looking for leverage and creating long-term sustainable businesses that run smartly and efficiently.

Her professional career stemmed from her position in the Senior Management Team of one of New Zealand’s largest corporations, as Brand & Marketing Manager for the Retail Division of Fonterra. Specialist areas include Retail, Professional Services, Franchising, Agribusiness and Consulting.

As a Lead Facilitator for Networx Brisbane, Robyn has a passion for marketing and business development, and is well versed in the ever-changing marketing medias and platforms available in today’s fast paced marketing world and how to apply them to grow businesses.

Steph Moroz

Stephanie Moroz

Stephanie is a chartered mechanical engineer with over 20 years of experience developing innovative products for global markets, both within large multinational companies and venture capital backed startups. She has particular expertise in energy-related technologies, having worked on hydrogen fuel cells in Canada and Germany, automotive engine systems to reduce pollution and fuel consumption in France, and solid state hydrogen storage systems in Brisbane. She is now CEO of Nano-Nouvelle, developing innovative nanomaterials for applications such as high performance lithium ion batteries.

Named one of Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers in 2016, Stephanie combines strong technical capabilities with an in-depth understanding of developing business with global industry players, while managing a growing and diverse team of highly skilled colleagues. To complement her original studies in Engineering Physics, she is graduating in 2016 with a Master of Business in International Business from the University of Queensland.

Russel Gibbon

I bring a demonstrated track record of building businesses and generating ideas for problem solving and business strategies.

I am presently the owner of a Branding and manufacturing business(, as well as a wholesaling/distribution business. Both of which I have taken from concept to reality and continue to build on a day-to-day basis.
Prior to this, I have owned, and operated, a number of different businesses across a range of industries both internationally and domestically.

I hold a Masters of Professional Accounting (MPA), Bachelor of Business (Agribusiness), and a Diploma in Applied Science. Further to this, I am a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and am a Nationally Accredited Mediator; gaining my qualifications through Bond University.
I have worked professionally in my varied fields of education in a number of countries and now live on the Sunshine Coast.

My passion, aside from my family, surfing and scuba diving, is about building businesses and applying my theories of business strategies into these businesses.
Furthermore, I enjoy helping businesses survive once the start-up has occurred and help in identifying solutions to problems, and to provide support for identifying growth opportunities. As well as this, I also bring a certain skill set, which I have learned both formally and through experience, specifically for conflict resolution and strategic management.

Whilst I still work in, and on, my businesses, and sit actively on company boards, I can bring real solutions and strategic planning, which I have, and do, apply to my own business and life, to those around me or whom are interested in expanding such ideas.

Monte Huebsch

Monte is the CEO of AussieWeb Local Search and AussieWeb Conversion – a Google Premier SME Partner. Monte, his team and company are AdWords Qualified Individuals and an AdWords Qualified Company. More importantly, AussieWeb Conversion was invited by Google to become the first Queensland Google Premier SME Partner and the longest serving in Australia.

In addition to this, Monte holds the Google Analytics Individual Qualification and he completed the first Google Apps training at the Googleplex in Mountain View California in March 2008. If it has anything to do with Google, Monte knows it!

Prior to AussieWeb, Monte worked with the United States space and shuttle programs. A dual citizen of the United States of America and Australia, Monte is a keynote speaker on the topic of how technology shapes strategy, customer service and innovation. Monte is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC).


Mr Andrew Fern

Andrew Fern

Andrew Fern is responsible for internal operations within the AIC including systems and processes. His efforts are substantially directed towards internal best practise, strategy, delivery support, and ensuring efficient use of AIC resources.

Andrew’s experience includes P&L management of Australian businesses, an executive role across Australia and New Zealand in a large international software vendor, and a CIO role in a then ASX 200. He has experience defining commercial and go-to-market strategy, managing intellectual property and negotiating partner agreements in differing industry sectors nationally and internationally.
With first hand start-up company experience, Andrew is a contributor to our programs aimed at early stage entrepreneurs. He is passionate about early stage companies and the AIC programs aimed at assisting these companies through the commercialisation process.

He holds a Bachelor of Business from Monash University, and is undertaking a Masters by Research in sustainable energy technology diffusion through QUT.