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Creating a better world of work: Didier Elzinga founder and CEO of Culture Amp receives the 2023 Pearcey Victorian Entrepreneur Award

Announcement posted by Pearcey Foundation 06 Sep 2023

The Pearcey Foundation today announced Didier Elzinga, founder and CEO of Culture Amp, as the recipient of the 2023 Pearcey Victorian Entrepreneur Award. The award was presented to Elzinga by the Hon. Ben Carroll MP - Victorian Minister for Industry and Innovation, Manufacturing Sovereignty, Employment and Public Transport at an event in Melbourne. The event also featured the 2023 Pearcey Oration, which was given by Professor Michelle Simmons AO, CEO and founder of Silicon Quantum Computing and director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology in Sydney.

Didier Elzinga is the CEO and founder of Culture Amp, the market-leading employee experience platform. Launched in 2011, Culture Amp is one of Australia's fastest-growing technology startups, with offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, London, and Berlin. This year's Victorian Pearcey Entrepreneur Award recognises Elzinga's role in developing Culture Amp into an Australian unicorn valued in excess of $2bn that is dominating its category globally. 

"This year the Victorian Pearcey Entrepreneur Award recognises the creation of a global success story, from right here in Melbourne," said Jordan Green, chair - Victorian Committee, Pearcey Foundation. "Didier and his team are applying computing technology to help organisations of all sorts meet and master one of the most difficult challenges - creating, maintaining and evolving a successful corporate culture. The award is testament to Didier's core characteristics and resilience as a person, as a businessman and as a leader. A true technology innovator and an exemplary, inclusive leader and role model, throughout the journey he has remained positive and more interested in the world's effect on others than his own story."

"This accolade feels like less of a personal achievement and more a testament to the work of everyone who has contributed to Culture Amp's journey," said Elzinga. "As an entrepreneur my goal is to create a better world of work. Building a business and solving the problem you're most passionate about requires many moments of help from others. I'm grateful for all the coffees, conversations, introductions and words of wisdom I've received along the way."

"It is humbling to be in a group with past honorees like Cyan and Collis Ta'eed, Mohan Koo and Dr Mark Englund. I was also delighted to see that one of the previous winners was Tony Clark - who I learnt so much from at Rising Sun Pictures. Thank you to the Pearcey Foundation for celebrating innovation in the technology sector and for your support in propelling the whole Australian sector forward."

Didier Elzinga

Born in Canberra to an artist mother and psychologist father, Didier's family moved to Adelaide when he was four. His father's work as a research psychologist at Hillcrest Hospital gave Didier access to computers and he started teaching himself programming, and hacking computer games. In Year 11 he fell in love with Adobe Photoshop version 1.0 while attending a week-long program at the Technology School of the Future.

Didier chose a bachelor's degree in mathematical and computer sciences at the University of Adelaide in part because it came with a free email account which otherwise would have cost $20/year. He graduated with a combined major in computers and philosophy; an early indicator of his journey to combine technology and human behaviour.

During university he attended a state IT jobs fair in Adelaide where he solved an annoying problem for a young technology company, which was enough to get him a job there as a systems administrator. After graduating, he worked full-time as a software engineer at that company, developing technology and services for the movie industry. His colleagues there describe him as humble, patient and nurturing, with a voracious appetite for new ideas on a diverse range of subjects. That company was Rising Sun Pictures, now one of the great Australian success stories in visual effects and post-production. (Tony Clark, the managing director of Rising Sun Pictures was the recipient of the National Pearcey Entrepreneur Award in 2018.)

At just 26, Didier became CEO, overseeing the development of innovations that creatively disrupted the Hollywood film industry, including being a co-author of the Academy Award winning cineSync remote collaboration tool, which directly contributed to making globally distributed film-making a reality. As CEO of Rising Sun Pictures, he stood out as a thoughtful and strategic thinker. His belief in culture, strategy and values underpinned a period of accelerated growth for the business scaling to over 150 people. To execute Charlotte's Web for Paramount Pictures he relocated the business, attracted staff through an impressive immigration effort, and built technical infrastructure and production systems to support growth and scale.

Along the way Didier had a chance encounter with the young founders of what would become another Australian success story. They were building a software business for Silicon Valley while he was locked into the conservative business model of Hollywood. The three became good friends and he watched over the next three years as their business exploded onto the world stage. That company is Atlassian. (The co-founders of Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, were Pearcey Award recipients in 2008.)

In 2009, Didier took the next big risk in his life. With two young children, new opportunities for his opera singer wife in Melbourne, a burning desire to make a bigger impact on the world and inspired by the success of his friends at Atlassian, he decided to move on and pursue his own path and vision. The family moved to Melbourne and he launched Culture Amp with Jon Williams, Doug English and Rod Hamilton to provide organisational culture tracking and measurement software. 

Colleagues describe this strongly values-oriented leader as someone who steps between his team members and failure, gives success away freely to those same team members and creates an environment of trust and safe learning. As an extremely busy person, Didier still finds time to call back and provide counsel, and is generous in his support of new entrepreneurs. That passion, self-confidence, experience, motivation and team ethic were all key in convincing early customers like Adobe to take a chance on this ambitious, Australian start-up.

Culture Amp's headquarters remain in Melbourne with offices in San Francisco, London, New York, Chicago and Berlin. It serves over 25 million employees across more than 6,500 companies of all sizes and industries to transform employee engagement, develop high performing teams, and retain talent via cutting-edge research, powerful technology, and the largest employee dataset in the world. Over the years the company has raised over $400m in investment capital, most recently a $155m Series F in 2021. That same year Forbes recognised Culture Amp as "one of the world's top private cloud companies" and this year Fast Company declared the company "one of the 10 most innovative workplace companies" in the world. Last year Didier signed up Culture Amp as a founding member of the World Economic Forum's Global Parity Alliance, a cross-industry group of global organisations that are taking holistic action to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond.

To make his company the exemplar of what he offers his clients Didier chooses to do many things differently to convention. He observes that for most of today's top companies, most of the value is intangible; that value comes from the people. Working out how to maximise what those people are capable of doing, and how to amplify what those people can be, is how Culture Amp helps its clients generate the most value for themselves. Didier believes enabling people that way makes culture a source of competitive advantage.

Beyond Culture Amp, Didier is a non-executive director of the Atlassian Foundation, on the board of the Tech Council of Australia and has served on the boards of Tourism Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria, and as an adviser to companies across diverse industries.

For more information about previous Pearcey Victorian Entrepreneur Award recipients, go to https://pearcey.org.au/vic.

Other State Awards

National Pearcey Awards

The recipients of the prestigious 2023 Pearcey National Awards - including the Pearcey Medal, Hall of Fame and National Entrepreneur Award - will be announced at an event in Sydney on Monday, 30 October 2023. Registration details are still to be finalised. 


About the Pearcey Foundation
The Pearcey Foundation Inc. is a non-profit organisation established in 1998 to raise the profile of the Australian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry and profession. It was created in the memory of one of the greatest pioneers of the Australian ICT industry, Dr Trevor Pearcey. By celebrating the heroes in our industry, past, present and future, the Foundation is looking to attract and encourage young Australians into this most exciting of global, high technology sectors of our nation.

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