Farewell and Thank You to Highly Commended Fishburners Board Member, Katherine Woodthorpe

Katherine Woodthorpe has recently left the Fishburners board after five years – her time with Fishburners has been incredibly valuable. 

Fishburners have benefited greatly from her passion for innovation and the need to incorporate it into business models, in all industries. Katherine came to Fishburners with an enormous breadth of experience across sectors which are innovation-driven, and she has been widely acknowledged in the media for her contribution to innovation in the industry. She has also been awarded an Order of Australia, 

Along with Fishburners, Katherine has also served on a range of boards including ASX and NASDAQ listed companies, Government enterprises, SMEs, not-for-profits and research institutions. She’s also spent seven years as CEO of the private equity and venture capital industry association, AVCAL; giving her the opportunity to bring her skills to the financial services sector.

Katherine joined Fishburners in 2015 after helping then-CEO Murray Hurps update the constitution and governance of Fishburners before she was asked to become Chair.  “I’d known about Fishburners since it started as I’ve always worked either in or close to the startup sector. So the opportunity to work with Fishburners and then to be its chair was very exciting,” Katherine says.  

According to Katherine, Fishburners has evolved “massively” in the time she’s been involved. “We’ve over doubled our capacity, added on even more ways to assist founders to achieve their potential, and moved into the CBD which has been terrific for access for founders and also for others visiting us.” While the pandemic has been a challenging time for startups, Katherine says it’s positive to note that there are more VCs both homegrown Australian, and overseas VC who have more money to invest in Australian startups. 

“In turn the Aussie startups are more sophisticated thanks to programs like those of Fishburners and others to help them grow.  Obviously, Covid has  meant that a lot of founders have discovered that their business models no longer apply in this new normal and so are having to pivot,” Katherine says.

“Also they can’t visit key overseas markets or potential overseas funders.  So the ground has changed a lot.  That said, it is a boost for some companies whose business models fit this new world we inhabit.”

“There have been many highlights during my years with Fishburners; the move to Wynyard was a huge highlight.  To grow the number of founders we could help and to build a vibrant startup community in the heart of the CBD has been a great achievement.  Also, the successes of some of our startups – heading off to great things and now becoming established successful companies.”

“Another fulfilling accomplishment was setting Fishburners governance up to be fit for the larger, more professional entity that we have had to become when we have over 500 startups (plus many more virtual members) relying on our services to help them.” 

Katherine says there are many things that make Fishburners unique – particularly the incredibly supportive community.

“Growing at the speed that we did whilst keeping the community spirit that is the hallmark and secret sauce of Fishburners.  Our wonderful staff have achieved that but my part has been to enable and allow them to do that and they have succeeded fabulously,” Katherine says. 

“Community is everything at Fishburners. And the board is there to serve that community and enable it – not a group of external shareholders who have different motivations.  As a not-for-profit we are not beholden to shareholders who are looking for profit growth – we are only there to enable startups to grow and flourish.”

Fishburners will always be grateful to Katherine for her dedication and amazing contributions. What does the future hold for her?

“I mostly spend my time in the healthcare and environment sectors.  My hope for my future is that I manage to find that elusive work/life balance!”  

“It has been both a pleasure and an honour to serve Fishburners as its chair.  We’ve had a lot of ups and downs (as per any startup) and then Covid! But, thanks to the great team that we have, we’ve managed to weather those storms and come up even stronger.  I’m very sorry to go but I feel I’ve left FB in a strong position to carry on while I move to other new challenges.” 

Written by Libby-Jane Charleston

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