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Telstra’s venture capital activity set for rejig as Deena Shiff departs

Friday, 1 February 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

Telstra executive Deena Shiff has resigned from her role as head of the telco’s in-house venture capital team, which has invested in a clutch of start-ups, such as IPscape and Dimmi.

 

Shiff joined Telstra’s CEO Leadership Team in 2005 as group managing director of wholesale, and subsequently established and led Telstra Business from 2006 to 2011.

 

She then established Telstra’s Application Ventures Group as a corporate venture capital arm to invest in companies that can provide Telstra with access to innovation.

 

Shiff has now stepped down from her role as head of AVG to focus on a “non-executive career and directorships”.

 

AVG, which has a team in Australia and the United States, selects and manages investments in emerging high-growth companies.

 

AVG has seed funds of at least $50 million. Key investments so far include Ooyala, Dimmi, IPscape, Mandoe and Whispir.

 

Dimmi chief executive Stevan Premutico told StartupSmart the venture has gone from strength to strength since the investment from AVG.

 

“BigPond Telstra has created a dedicated Dimmi dining category and heavily promoted Dimmi to their extensive audience,” he says.

 

“This now includes the promotion of the Dimmi brand through the Telstra T-Hub, which sits in hundreds of thousands of kitchens across the country, Yellow Pages, and extensively through BigPond and Telstra channels.

 

“A good example of the partnership coming alive is a joint Valentine’s Day promotion that we are co-working on at the moment, which will also include a full takeover of the BigPond website.”

 

Matthew Koertge, managing director of AVG Australia, and Mark Sherman, managing director of AVG US, will jointly lead the AVG team, and join the AVG board to succeed Shiff.

 

The board is led by Kate McKenzie, group managing director for Telstra Innovation Products and Marketing, and Andy Penn, chief financial officer.

 

According to Telstra, Koertge and Sherman, who joined AVG in late 2011 and early 2012 respectively, have extensive experience in venture capital and investment banking.

 

Shiff will remain available to support Telstra’s AVG investments as an adviser.

 

Telstra chief executive David Thodey said in a statement: “We wish Deena well as she embarks on a new stage of her career and continues to champion new and emerging digital businesses.”