What does it mean to be a governance champion?

Dr Natalia Blagburn, winner of the 2022 Governance Champion of the Year Award, shares her thoughts on what it means to be a governance champion and why you should consider nominating someone for 2023. Natalia is an experienced non-executive director and venture board expert, as well as holding a doctorate in corporate governance. Internationally recognised for her research and expertise in venture board effectiveness, she has spoken at countless conferences and events including Goldman Sachs 10,000 SMEs, Bacardi SHE Summit, ScaleUpNation Board Programme, and the Governance 2023.

What do you do as a venture capital portfolio director, and why do you think you were nominated for the Governance Champion of the Year award?

‘I am at Mercia Ventures, a venture capital firm, and my role involves serving as investor observer on boards of startups. I support founders and teams, helping with growth and successful exit.

‘As for the nomination, I believe it came about because of my commitment to two governance areas that are very close to my heart. Firstly, I'm on a mission to improve the effectiveness of startup venture boards, mentoring first-time founders and early-career VC investors to grasp all aspects of running boards, and applying principles of good governance in the startup and scaleup context. Additionally, I'm genuinely passionate about promoting the inclusion of first-time board members as boards of directors, fostering diversity and infusing fresh perspectives. I’ve seen firsthand how this improves boards and I advocate for that on all fronts.’

What did it mean to you to win the award?

‘Firstly, huge thanks to CGIUKI and award sponsor Diligent for choosing me as the winner of this award. Being shortlisted alongside other hugely impactful governance professionals was truly humbling. My nomination came through ScaleUp Nation Board Programme in Amsterdam, where I'm a guest speaker on the topic of scaleup ventures board effectiveness.

‘Winning this award helped me to amplify my message of just how important good governance and board effectiveness are for startups. Sharing my investor board director journey and learnings with various venture capital and startup communities over the past year has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve connected with diverse circles outside my immediate network and, of course, the CGI community of governance professionals. Seeing my passion for advocating for first time and young board members resonate during the CGIUKI conference panel on director skills was amazing.

‘The award really fuelled my drive to keep up the conversations about effective venture boards. The encouragement it provided was truly motivating.’

Nominations are now open for 2023, what are your thoughts about nominating someone for Governance Champion of the Year Award?

‘The governance champion is a rare spotlight that shines on an individual within the governance community. It is a very special honour, and there are so many amazing folks here doing great things who deserve recognition. I’d nudge everyone to take a look within your circles for those fearless advocates of good governance. Because if you notice someone making a difference, chances are others see it too. So, let’s team up and nominate them – the process is simple and easy, from what I’ve heard. Let’s celebrate these governance champions, because better governance means better boards, and better boards mean better companies.’

If you have someone in mind, who would be a contender for the Governance Champion 2023 Award, then go to our nomination page. Nominations close on Monday 18 September, so act fast! The Governance Champion of the Year Award, is one of many awards we will be bestowing on the night, so be sure to see the full list of categories. The awards ceremony itself will take place on Monday 20 November at the InterContinental London Park Lane.

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