Meet the Team

Our team has decades of experience in building and financing innovative companies in high growth sectors. We are based in Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

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Martin Cooper, Advisory Chair

Martin Cooper is a solicitor of nearly 50 years standing. He has a higher degree in tax and trade practices law and has always specialized in entertainment and copyright law.

 

Having managed Network 10 in Australia in the 1970s, he became General Manager, Corporate Planning for News Corporation and spent six years running M&A for Rupert Murdoch. In that time News purchased Ansett Airlines, the London Times and the Herald & Times Group.

 

He was CEO of R&R Films, the partnership of Rupert Murdoch and Robert Stigwood and produced films such as “Gallipoli”. From 1995 he ran the Australian Multimedia Enterprise, a PE investor in new media. Subsequently, he has been a director and mentor to many new media and games development companies, including Team Bondi which produced “LANoir” which sold six million units and earned over $600m.

 

He has been involved in the financing of approximately 70 feature films and many documentaries and television programs. He has also advised on more than 20 Offer Documents for public offers for films and has issued seven in the name of his licensed dealer company. Recently, he has Executive Produced the films “Alex & Eve” and “The Yard”.

 

He has been a director of a number of companies in the Beyond International Group, television stations Ch10 in Sydney and Melbourne and have owned and operated a television station in Western Australia.

 

Martin has been for 30 years a Trustee of the Ted Noffs Foundation and is currently a Director of the Gut Foundation of Australia.
 

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Michael J Gale, Executive Director 

Michael is based in Byron Bay, Australia and has over 40 years of business, investment and managerial experience globally.


At First Penny he focuses on Board Advisory work and in particular capital strategy. He is also often the lead on Strategic Business Development.

Michael had his first entrepreneurial venture in 1978 and in the early 1980s he entered the nascent PC industry and grew with it first from Australia into Asia before becoming part of the leadership team at Macromedia which listed on the NASDAQ in 1993 and was later acquired by Adobe. He then built a multimedia publishing business in San Francisco and was the publisher of the Apple CD-ROM Collection. 

From 1995 through 2013 Michael worked as an investment banker, venture capitalist and served on multiple Boards while helping to steer over 100 growth companies. During this time, he was based in San Francisco, New York and Melbourne. Between 2013 and 2017 Michael split his time between Zürich and Abu Dhabi building an Islamic financial services firm specialised in wealth management for Ultra High Net Worth individuals and shariah complaint estate planning and succession.

Michael sits on the Boards of a number of client and portfolio companies.

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Jerry Brooks, Executive Director

Jerry is a top-class professional having led the acquisition, funding, growth and disposal of complex international businesses over a period of 25 years. He managed communications at a senior level with blue-chip financial institutions and legal firms. Jerry’s experience includes acquisitions, strategy and management, financing, exits, and systems, Controls and reporting.

From 1999-October 2018, Jerry was head of an Atmosclear S.A. focusing on private equity investments across a range of sectors including technology, media, property and energy. AS such, he managed numerous start-up, early-stage & development investments, joint ventures and exits throughout Europe, USA and Australia and grew the investment funds threefold over 10 years.

Prior, Jerry served as Group Finance Director at Countrywide Communications and was in charge of finance, legal and administration functions for a leading European PR group also providing advertising and political lobbying services. Jerry ran the successful sale of the group to Omnicom, following which the group was merged with the US-based consultancy Porter Novelli.

Jerry served as Finance Director at Telecom Technology International from 1989-1991 and was with Arthur Andersen from 1982-1897. He holds a BSc Hons in Computer Management and Sciences from Warwick University (1982) and is a Chartered Accountant (1985).

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Amy Swartz, Executive Director

Amy has been involved in international business development, finance and marketing for 20 years, working closely with clients and portfolio companies to accelerate their global growth, exits and ROI. Her experience encompasses North America, Europe, Australia, Japan, China, SE Asia and the Middle East. She has worked directly with hundreds of start-up technology companies.

At First Penny, aside from managing the firm, Amy focuses in particular on Capital Strategy, Due Diligence and support for the Capital Raising process. In particular she has a strong command of the document requirements of professional investors. She also has global experience in compliance and the fiduciary duties of directors and responsible persons.

Between 2013 and 2017 Amy split her time between Zürich and Abu Dhabi building an Islamic financial services firm which specialises in wealth management for Ultra High Net Worth individuals and shariah complaint estate planning and succession.

Prior to that, Amy co-founded Gramercy Venture Advisors, Inc. in 2001.  She served as Director, Corporate Development at Gramercy Venture Advisors and was based in New York and San Francisco.  Prior to Gramercy, Amy spent several years as a consultant with Double Impact, Inc., a leading San Francisco based Venture Catalyst. 

She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Business, Marketing from San Francisco State University. Amy holds several Directorships.

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Yaser Mansour, Executive Director 

Yaser has over 20 years of experience in technology, he spent it in managing and coaching teams, designing, developing, implementing and operating ICT systems, primarily within telecommunication service provider environments in the Middle East and North Africa most notably as a Director of Emirates Telecom (Etisalat) where he was one of the leaders for the national telecom infrastructure transformation program from copper network to fibre network and from legacy technologies to IP technologies.

At First Penny he focus on technology strategy and technology due diligence, for M&A and investment projects. He works with CTOs, CIOs and their leadership teams and Boards to conduct a strategy review, making the link with strategy, people and operations. The output form these reviews defines a high level business requirement, and a high level target architecture to achieve the business targets, enhance customer experience, develop ROI/business cases and the creation of frameworks for ICT transformation which includes vision, strategy, process, cultural changes and organization structure. 

Currently, Yaser is a Director in a number of technology companies in New Zealand, Australia and United Arab Emirates. He is based in Auckland and directing projects in Cyber Security across different Telecom service providers, in addition to a Tele-Health solution rollout over AWS cloud in multiple countries. 

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Nhan Nguyen, Non-Executive Director

Nhan has over 15 years of experience in Corporate Advisory and Private Equity. He has extensive knowledge in the area corporate financial and strategy, having worked with numerous companies in diverse industries from Banking & Finance, Media through to Technology and software. Nhan specialises in corporate diligence, valuations and helping companies with their corporate and capital strategies. Nhan has a BA in Software Engineering from Monash University and an MBA from Melbourne Business School. 

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Heiko Malessa, Head of Capital Markets, Europe & Middle East

Heiko has been in global investment management/ banking for over 22 years. His career has covered the globe including positions in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Heiko climbed from an entry-level position in Dresdner Bank in Berlin to a Private Banking Officer based in Singapore. Heiko then received his Bachelor of Science from Boston University. Based in Frankfurt, he worked within the strategy department of Accenture and moved on to Deutsche Bank growing his role in the strategy department. A move to Switzerland enabled his roles as Head of Business Development and later Chief Investment Officer at JML Investment Management. He then became Head of Products and Solutions for a Swiss investment boutique and concurrently earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. As CEO of Picard Angst MEA Ltd., Heiko was responsible for the Market Entry of the firm into the Middle East. In the past years, he worked on various investment projects as strategic advisor in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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Randy Boyer, Senior Advisor

Randy is the CEO of Network Society Lab (NSL), a boutique venture development firm and partner of First Penny based in Malta with a background in AI, natural language processing, SaaS,tokenization and decentralized finance (DeFi). Randy has more than 30 years of experience in managing venture-backed high tech companies and providing venture development advisory services—with a long history of collaboration with First Penny’s founders, Michael Gale and Amy Swartz. With Michael Gale, he was one of the key international sales and marketing management members of Macromedia, a software unicorn that Adobe bought for $4 billion in 2005. Since leaving Macromediahe has helped scores of venture-backed technology companies with advisory servicesto accelerate growth related to geographic and market expansion and fundraising. He is a pioneerin both geographic market expansion techniques like the “off-balance-sheet” subsidiary conceptwith Michael Gale and DeFi fundraising mechanisms like the decentralized autonomous trust (DAT)/continuous offering concept. See November 2019 Forbes article on the continuous offering fundraising concept and Randy’s involvement.

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Richard Heale, Strategic Advisor

Richard has enjoyed careers, as both a marketing and HR senior executive, along with periods as an analyst, academic and technologist.

Richard formed Interactive Logic, in Perth, Western Australia, one of the first interactive media companies in Australia. Interactive Logic achieved notable international industry success and was the first company, of its type, to be sold to an international buyer. Richard cofounded with Michael Gale the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association and was inaugural president for its first two years, during which he raised in excess of $120m to develop the interactive industry in Australia. After AIMIA Richard became the London based  the CEO of an Omnicom company, which he developed into the largest digital marketing company in Europe. In this role, Richard also had responsibility for all of the twenty-seven Omnicom agency projects, around the world, for Novartis, the world’s second-largest drug company. Richard’s industry contribution continued in the UK as a member of the board of BIMA, AIMIA’s equivalent, where he was the Chief Judge of the 2001 British Interactive Awards. 

Mixed in with these global journeys was a period as the chief futurist for Fujitsu, Asia-Pacific. Richard also employed his marketing flare for “The Hunger Project”, creating a more measured profile and funds raised for the project than any other of one hundred and thirty cities, worldwide. These same skills were then employed, on returning to Australia, in setting new levels of marketing competence in the commercial real estate industry, when Richard formed teams of professionals to win major large inner-city renewal projects for both a Rothchild’s and Grollo consortia. In recent times Richard has been heavily involved in three text-analytics companies as both marketing executive and analyst. Richard is based in Bangkok

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Hannah Thomas, Senior Associate

Hannah is an experienced client services and project manager with a history of working in alternative investment, not-for-profit and health care industries.

 She is known for her empathic, client-focused attitude and creative approach to problem-solving.

 

Hannah holds a double Bachelor degree in Commerce and Laws from The University of Adelaide, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Australian National University and has recently graduated with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) majoring in Project Management from Bond University.

 

In her role as Senior Associate at First Penny Hannah manages all client projects and reporting and is always on the lookout for streamlining processes and clearing blockages. She reallocates resources when needed and focuses the team. She also assists with research, investor relations and deal-flow.

 

Hannah is passionate about delivering the best for First Penny clients and investors.

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Luke Nesci, Associate

Luke Nesci joined First Penny in 2019 and focuses on financial modeling, client preparation and distribution.

Prior to First Penny, Luke worked in venture capital and on a number of early-stage companies in operations and software development.

Luke is from Sydney and graduated from the University of New South Wales with degrees in Finance and Computer Science.

Alexandra Block, Associate

Alexandra is a Siberian-born cultural entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in territorial marketing, event marketing and audience engagement. She started her career as a manager, and then, as a CEO of the first Russian World Music festival. She also pioneered the event-marketing industry in Russia at the same time, proving that cultural and corporate business fields have joint issues of identity, loyalty, and interactive strategies of communication with an audience. Since that time Alexandra has been engaged in event strategy building, marketing and corporate development for more than 100 international and local brands, including Benetton, Audi, Escada, Adidas, P&G. 

 

As an event-marketing specialist, she hosted a variety of events in Russia, Europe, South-East Asia, from corporate training to international festivals, with the audience’s capacities of more than 100,000 people per event.

As a cultural manager, Alexandra created and executed a variety of projects built around music, and it’s multiple effects on social, economic and territorial development. During her career, Alexandra curated a cultural program of the International Innovation Youth Forum in Russia as well as an international jazz agency for the biggest jazz club in Moscow. Thereby providing interaction between talented Russian artists and international cultural organisations and funds. Her interests in culture and its practical implementations resulted in curatorial work in a private museum in Bangkok, where Alexandra’s role was to provide marketing and business strategy. Alexandra holds a Master’s degree in Public History, from the University of Manchester, England, and has recently been awarded a place to study for a PhD research degree at Griffiths University, in Australia.