The Victorian Government is on the hunt for a new LaunchVic chairman following outgoing Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour’s resignation from the state’s $60 million innovation fund.
Mr Fahour quit his role as chairman on 17 February after serving in the role since the organisation’s formation in January 2016.
LaunchVic has now lost both its key leaders since it was launched just over a year ago, with CEO Pradeep Phillip standing down late last year and Dr Kate Cornick taking his place.
In a letter to Victorian Minister for Innovation Philip Dalidakis dated 18 January and seen by InnovationAus.com, Mr Fahour said he did not have the necessary time to devote to the independent government body.
“This has been a difficult decision for me given my passionate belief in the importance of the growth of Victoria’s startup sector,” Mr Fahour said in the letter.
“The role of Chair of LaunchVic requires significantly more time than I have available as a full time CEO of a major public company. I will always be proud of what we have established over the past year.”
Despite citing his role at Australia Post as the main reason for quitting LaunchVic, Mr Fahour announced he would be stepping down as CEO of the postal company just days later. It comes in the midst of intense scrutiny over Mr Fahour’s salary at Australia Post, which was described as “too high” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
It was revealed earlier this month that Mr Fahour was receiving a $4.4 million salary along with $1.2 million in superannuation at Australia Post. He will leave the role in July.
The LaunchVic chair position is voluntary and no board members are paid a salary.
Devoting time to the non-profit government body while enjoying the huge cheque from Australia Post isn’t a great look, but Mr Dalidakis was quick to claim the resignation wasn’t related to this controversy, and he was informed before the news broke.
“I accepted Mr Fahour’s resignation when he notified me of his intention to leave the board in January, confident that LaunchVic had established a strong position to continue to lead in Victoria’s startup sector,” Mr Dalidakis said.
LaunchVic has now allocated $11.4 million to 26 projects aiming to grow the Victorian startup and innovation ecosystem, and is expected to reveal the projects receiving bigger amounts of funding as part of Round 2 next month.
Mr Dalidakis said Mr Fahour was instrumental in getting LaunchVic off the ground.
“In this honorary capacity, he played a vital role in ensuring there was sound direction and governance processes in place and he has been a great support to my office and LaunchVic CEO Dr Kate Cornick,” Mr Dalidakis said.
The state government is now searching for Mr Fahour’s replacement, and Mr Dalidakis said this process wouldn’t be rushed, with Deputy Chair Elana Rubin taking over the role in the interim.
“I am considering a number of internal and external people for the role,” Mr Dalidakis said.
“We welcome more sector involvement, not less, and are open to any good candidates who want to put their hand up and help drive Victoria as the country’s leading tech and startup destination,” he said.
“Appointing a new Chair is an important decision to make and will not be rushed.”
Ms Rubin has the support of her predecessor in taking over the role permanently.
“I think she has the talent and the knowledge to do a tremendous job in this role,” Mr Fahour said in his resignation letter.