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Suncorp’s Olivia Panzic seizes opportunity to learn from world’s biggest start-ups

2 December 2019

Suncorp’s Olivia Panzic has recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Silicon Valley, San Francisco to learn from some of the world’s biggest and most innovative start-ups.

With the support of Suncorp, Olivia took part in the Startmate Fellowship, a two-month programme which exposes corporate talent to the world of start-ups and provides them with a world-class community of mentors.

Olivia was among 300 people from across New Zealand and Australia who applied. Just  ten were selected as fellows.

The programme kicked off with a week-long trip to the US where she met with billion-dollar start-ups like Lyft, Stripe, Zoox and Coinbase, Australian & New Zealand founded companies Bugcrowd, Skedulo and Thematic as well as people from Google and Facebook.

“The speed of innovation is incredible. The culture is around moving quickly, having the freedom to break things and then testing and improving them, regardless of the industry or the levels of regulation that may surround them,” Olivia says.


A key learning was around the nature of culture being identified rather than created, Olivia says.

“Pauly Ting, a CEO Coach, said you need to address your issues, before they scale and turn into your culture. What he meant was that like children inheriting behaviours from their parents, employees inherit the traits and behaviours a founder brings into your company, and this becomes your company culture.” 

The focus was around authenticity culture rather than brand culture. Consumers know if you’re building a brand that doesn’t align with your core values as a company.

“Gone are the days where you could pump money into flashy advertising to create a brand, people want to know what you stand for,” Olivia says.

A mark of success among the founders was an awareness of their own shortcomings.

“These founders were successful not because they are amazing at everything, but rather they understand what they are amazing at and what they are not, and they lease out those gaps and weaknesses to others first,” Olivia says.

The result, she says, is a highly engaged workforce, with companies competing fiercely for talent and talented candidates picking who they want to work for. After a week in Silicon Valley, Olivia returned with a treasure trove of learnings to share with her colleagues at Suncorp.

“The Startmate Fellowship has definitely been one of the most rewarding professional experiences I have had the opportunity to take part in. There is a lot we can learn from start ups and I’m looking forward to applying my learnings to progress our Suncorp purpose of creating a better today for our customers.”

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