with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode, we chat to the CEO of Stride Equity, Maria Halasz, on merging career experience to find your niche, equity crowdfunding, and why healthy leaders make better organisations.

Growing up in rural Hungary, and following family tragedy, Maria arrived in Perth as a 19-year old refugee. Taking full advantage of what Australia had to offer, she graduated with a science degree and an MBA.

Her executive career spans more than 25 years, including several years in investment banking and venture capital, mostly focused on the biotech sector. Maria was the CEO of ASX-listed health and wellness company, Anagenics, for 17 years and also honed her skills on the AICD’s Chairmen’s Mentoring Program.

She is currently the CEO of Stride Equity, the first venture-backed equity crowdfunding platform in Australia.

Maria is also a non-executive director of the Garvan Research Foundation, a member of the Commercialisation Committee of the Digital Health Cooperative Research Program and a Councillor of the Australian Industry Group (AiG).

In this episode we talk about:

  • Her rise to executive roles and, in many cases, within male-dominated industries and how she approached these situations
  • How she created her own personal value to ensure her career journey was full of opportunities
  • Why she started Stride Equity and what makes it different, and
  • The importance of fit and healthy leaders, which makes for better organisations.

Thanks to Sam Dybac and her team at The PR Hub for introducing us to Maria.

Connecting with Maria Halasz

You can connect with Maria via LinkedIn.

Books and resources


“If you can't look after your body, how can you look after a company? You need to be healthy to be a good leader.”


On early career lessons

  • I never considered it male dominated; I just did my thing. And I have to say, clearly in retrospect, a lot of the behaviours that were happening then would not be tolerated today.
  • But I wasn't taking any rubbish from anyone. I just focused on getting the job done. So I really didn't get too involved or bogged down in those things.

On the misconceptions of being a CEO

  • When I got the CEO role, I got it because the Board thought that they needed money. The reality is, when a listed company can't raise money, it's not the money that's the problem. It's the business, the Board, the management, and everything. And so when I got the job, I knew that it was going to be difficult, but ultimately it was a lot harder. And you see in a lot of situations, these senior roles can be like a poison chalice and it's very difficult to turn it around.
  • One misconception about CEOs is that you're the boss, but literally everybody else is your boss, particularly in a listed environment where you've got so many stakeholders to report to.
  • There’s the owners of the company, the shareholders, they’re definitely your boss. The Board is definitely your boss. And actually your employees are definitely your bosses too, because they're the business, you need to look after them.
  • Let's just forget about CEOs being bosses because they're the servants of the company.

On the loneliness of the role

  • At the end of the day, you can't confide in your Board because your job is really to make your Chair look good.
  • It's a pretty lonely job. Yes, you can get advisors, but you have to be lucky that they’re good. And of course everybody has a vested interest around you. Your shareholders have an interest, your Board has an interest, your employees want to keep their jobs.
  • And particularly in a listed environment, you have to be careful about what you disclose. You can't even say things to your partner because there’s trouble if they happen to trade shares based on your information.

On the most important trait of a CEO

  • Communication. And that's at all levels; with your staff, with your shareholders, with the market, with your Board. You have to find a tone of voice at all levels and communicate effectively what you need to convey.
  • You need to communicate fast and you need to make decisions, and particularly the harder decisions very quickly.

On what sets Stride Equity apart

  • Stride Equity is the first venture-backed crowdfunding platform in Australia. And what that means is that we've got an equity crowdfunding platform, so we are licensed by ASIC to provide this platform for companies to raise money from the public. But in addition to that, we've got a venture fund.
  • The weaknesses of crowdfunding was that if it's not backed by a smart investor, how do the retail investors know that it's a good company? And also how can you know that it is backed by serious people? So this is why we set up the fund.
  • Unlike most of the crowdfunding platforms, we do due diligence.
  • If you look at the full contingent of people who are investing in crowdfunding today in Australia, it's relatively new. It's only been since 2018 since ASIC officially issued licences. There may be 50,000 to 100,000 people who invest in crowdfunding. These platforms may have 400,000 registered users in total, but a majority of them are not investors or may have only invested in one investment. When you compare that to the seven and a half million Australians who punt on the stock market directly, I just thought that there's a tremendous opportunity.
  • We see so many exciting companies with brilliant founders, and we really want to be the people who will give them an opportunity to make it happen.

On health and wellbeing

  • I believe that in my lifetime we may have an opportunity or the opportunity to reverse ageing. In the interim, I think we can maximise our potential years so long as we remain healthy. There's no point living to 120 if you're miserable and the last 20 years are spent in hospital. So what do we need to do for that?
  • The three biggest killers are heart disease, cancer, and dementia. So chances are that one of those will hit us. That's just life. And so what can we do to prevent that? By far, not smoking, and not over drinking alcohol.
  • However, the biggest bang for your buck would be exercise. Exercise has an impact on all of those things. Exercise has an impact on cardiovascular health, on certain cancers, and on dementia.
  • Number two is your lipids. We are slightly misled by current medical practice when we are looking at LDL or HDL, good cholesterol, bad cholesterol. I think it astonishes me that the science is completely clear that what we need to look at is Apo B (Apolipoprotein B). I get mine measured once a month.
  • The other is Lipoprotein A aka Lp(a). This is an inherited factor in terms of how high are your lipids and how exposed you are to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease or dementia. We only need to measure that once, not regularly.
  • I wear my Apple Watch and my Oura Ring is keeping track of everything including my sleep. And of course, if you don't measure it, you can't change it. I actually completely changed my sleeping pattern after I started monitoring it.
  • I get a lot of flack for saying this, but I believe that if you can't look after your body, how can you look after a company? You need to be healthy to be a good leader. And in my company I always give people the opportunity to become healthy by giving them the right books and get them to do the right training.
  • So to summarise, sleep seven or eight hours a night, do your exercise and do it every day (aerobic, strength and balance, all of it is important). Eat as well as you can – but remember there's no one diet that will work. And then the last thing is to supplement – there are certain things our bodies are just not capable of producing. So after you hit a certain age, you do need to supplement certain things. Almost all of us require a vitamin D K2 supplementation, and the other one is omega-3.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Run your own race, because fundamentally nobody really cares. And at the end, you're going to be alone anyway, so you'd have to run your own race.


Stay epic,