Speakers and Sessions

From eye-opening discussions to game-changing insights shared by our stellar guest speakers, ON Core delivered a goldmine of inspiration and actionable wisdom.

Meet the Speakers

ON Core brought together a unique group of speakers across a wide range of fields to share fast failings, key learnings and what it takes to lead a deep tech start-up. Meet the speakers that sparked great conversations!

Session Snapshots

ON Startups: Insights with Hindsight and What I Wish I’d Known from the Start

Hosted by Tennille Eyre, this panel featured insights from ON Alumni James Bradley (Diffuse Energy), Helen Souris (CardiHab), and Louise Brown (HydGene Renewables). They shared pivotal lessons on confidence, knowing when to exit, and strategies for success, emphasising real-world experiences and key takeaways for aspiring entrepreneurs.

On Confidence

  • Confidence is always a work-in-progress
  • Preparation is key to confidence
  • Accept there are things you don’t know – ask for help from experts

Key Signals and Learnings

  • Carefully consider when is the right time to spin out of university (James)
  • Determine what people and resources you need (Louise)
  • Instincts based on knowledge vs. whims (Helen)


  • Leverage startup accelerator programs
  • Determine what will move things forward fastest
  • Set up the environment for product market success

Storytelling Masterclass

Delivered by Catriona Dixon (Toothless Parrot Communications), this masterclass shared key principles for impactful storytelling and public speaking – showing us that authenticity wins every time.

Key Communication Elements

  • Always consider the audience and their perspective
  • Define the purpose of your communication and the desired outcomes
  • Don’t be afraid to use your personal stories, it makes it human and relatable!

Elements to Good Storytelling

  • Before storytelling, identify your agenda. What is the underlying message that will guide everything you say?
  • Link your personal or anecdotal stories to the agenda. Stories should support and reinforce your main message
  • Authenticity is crucial
  • Prepare – always! Try reading children’s books out loud for practice in clear communication
  • Every purposeful story should have a call to action, guiding the audience on what to do or think differently
  • Stand with purpose, use hand gestures, and maintain eye contact. When storytelling in a boardroom, diffuse the end of the table to maintain energy
  • Encourage your team members to contribute diverse perspectives and voices to strengthen your overall presentation
  • For scientists and researchers, simplify complex concepts for a broader audience. The strength lies in making information accessible and understandable to everyone

Closing Thoughts:

  • Always remember that storytelling is about your audience. Make them think differently and act differently because of what you share

Fireside Chat: Innovation Visionaries

Interviewed by Phoebe Jackson Morison, Clare Fairfield’s fireside chat explored global perspectives on innovation, challenges within the Australian innovation ecosystem, and crucial factors for success in nurturing valuable companies and learning from global innovation models.

On US Innovation

  • A long history of innovation post-WW2 sparked by Sputnik
  • Robust R&D infrastructure across public, private, and government
  • A culture that celebrates innovation and accepts failure

On Innovation Cycles

  • Boom/bust cycles driven by financialised VC investors
  • Entering downturn phase for next 2-3 years

Global Perspectives

  • Need to think globally as a company from the start
  • Leverage innovations from other countries
  • Build networks globally to grow quicker

Australia Challenges & Opportunities

  • Strong R&D but struggles to commercialise
  • Developing a VC ecosystem needs more early-stage focus
  • Seeking overseas investment takes money away from Australia

University Startups

  • MIT excels at moving minds and hands to commercialisation
  • Define success as killing bad startups and launching good ones

Evaluating Startups

  • Assess market size, team, founder humility on weaknesses
  • Want teams with experience commercialising tech

Exciting Areas

  • AI is phenomenal but rapidly becoming an overused term
  • Biotech & biosciences are also very promising

One Sentence Summary

  • Need new open-ended VC funds to nurture companies’ long-term

Celebrating Diversity in Innovation

Moderated by Torres Webb, this panel brought together Joni Sytsma (iLAuNCH, UniSQ), Luli Adeyemo (TechDiversity), and Scott Allen (Nallawilli Group). Their discussions underscored the importance of diversity in driving innovation, tackling barriers, and advocating for genuine change in the industry, shedding light on the pressing need for inclusivity and representation.

Why Diversity Matters

  • Brings different perspectives and drives innovation (Joni)
  • Need more people to solve new problems (Scott)
  • Representation is important but goes beyond just numbers (Luli)

On Mentors and Journeys

  • Lack of diversity causes losses in talent and skills (Joni)
  • Degree requirements can exclude minority groups (Scott)
  • Sense of belonging is key (Luli)

Diversity Breakthroughs

  • More diversity and visibility at space companies (Joni)
  • Changing expectations of what’s possible with First Nations talent (Scott)
  • Still lack overall industry representation (Luli)


  • Avoiding tokenism and threaded change (Joni)
  • Not being the “first port of call” for procurement (Scott)
  • Going beyond talk to drive real change (Luli)

On Indigenous and Black Founders

  • Partnerships to create impact at scale (Scott)
  • Mental health challenges are disproportionately high (Scott)


  • Be thoughtful in shaping the workforce, don’t just wait (Joni)
  • Spend equal on internal diversity, equity and inclusion as external marketing (Luli)
  • Own making changes to support diversity (Scott)

The Power of the Innovation Intersection: Where Commercialisation and Investment Collide

Moderated by Jen Baxter, this panel featured insights from Callum Benson (Monash University), Silvia Pfeiffer (COVIU), and Clare Birch (Blackbird VC). Their discussions revolved around investor perspectives, and essential advice for researchers and investors navigating the innovation landscape, emphasizing collaborative approaches and strategic guidance.

Key Themes

  • Massive increase in resources for Australian startups
  • Need increased focus on entrepreneurialism in universities
  • High risks for researchers starting a company
  • More friction in Australia vs other countries
  • Importance of supportive mentors/investors
  • Avoid hyper-competition; collaborate instead
  • Seek multiple perspectives throughout commercialisation

Tips for Researchers

  • Complete IP filings before spinning out
  • Understand cap table dynamics
  • Talk to customers early and often
  • Engage with the tech transfer office early

Investor Perspectives

  • Back companies not looking to sell tech/IP
  • Avoid pushing early exits
  • More interest in hard tech and onshoring capabilities


  • The funding environment remains strong
  • Good ideas will still get funded