Labor adviser turned VC to lead Tech Council

Brandon How

The new chief executive of the Tech Council of Australia is Damian Kassabgi, a former multinational tech executive and adviser to two former Labor prime ministers.

Mr Kassabgi, who served in the offices of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard between 2008 and 2013, was appointed to the key role on Tuesday, ending a three-month search.

He replaces former Tech Council CEO Kate Pounder, who stepped down from the role after three years in February to attend to a family health matter.

Mr Kassabgi has spend the last decade working in senior public policy roles at Google, Uber, Afterpay, and Block in the United States.

In February 2022, he returned to Australia and has been a director at Northern Rivers Ventures, a startup focused venture capital investment firm, since December 2022.

Damian Kassagbi and Anthony Albanese in 2022. Image: LinkedIn

In a statement, Tech Council and Tesla chair Robyn Denholm said she is “delighted to announce” Mr Kassabgi’s appointment, whose “valuable experience in our sector is committed to helping us reach our shared goal of 1.2 million tech workers by 2030”.

The tech worker target was initially proposed by the Tech Council and subsequently adopted by the federal government ahead of the last federal election.

Mr Kassabgi will officially begin in the role on June 11, replacing acting CEO and head of public policy Ryan Black. The recruitment was conducted by executive search firm Hourigan International.

Mr Kassabgi said he has “long been an advocate for our sector and believe the Australian tech sector is one of the most dynamic and ambitious seen anywhere in the world”.

His time at Afterpay culminated in a massive payday when he cashed in his shares following the company’s ASX listing.

“The tech industry has given me an amazing career and I hope to be a role model for people looking to enter the industry,” he said.

“I grew up in a household where my parents spoke English as a second language, and I attended public schools. I hope to show others that a person from low-socio economic or migrant backgrounds can create a meaningful career in technology.”

“I feel honoured that the Board has entrusted me to drive the organisation forward. I am excited to begin working with the exceptional team and look forward to meeting our incredible members as soon as possible.”

Ms Denholm also paid thanks to Mr Black, stating that his “keen policy eye and ability to safely steer the TCA over the last five months has been deeply appreciated by the Board”.

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