Kyle Ballarta

Kyle is the Founder and CEO of Falkon Ventures, an innovative venture capital fund designed to catalyze innovation in the new entrepreneurial landscape for companies that have the mission to positively change industry and the world. Prior to Falkon Ventures, Kyle was a member of the founding team at LifeProof, a California based consumer electronics company that grew its force from three people to over 250 employees on three continents in three years. LifeProof’s meteoric growth led to its successful acquisition by Otterbox within three years of its founding.

Kyle’s creative curiosity and passion for collaboration that innovates drives him to work with initiatives in the impact space, including The Hispanic Alliance, A Reason to Survive, The Andy Roddick Foundation, and The Munday School of Business at St. Edwards University. His work with organizations, foundations, and enterprises focuses on creating sustainable and scalable impact by implementing social enterprise models and pioneering new venture funding models.

Kyle holds a number of board, advisory, and mentor roles at private companies and organizations such as ZYX Integrated Technologies, Barnana, Citadel Drone System, and Singularity University Labs (NASA Ames). He holds an MBA in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, and two executive certificates (Innovation & Ideation) from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Scott Collier

Scott Collier is the managing director of Pasadera Capital and the Global Growth and Business Development Manager for Whole Foods Market. Mr. Collier has been a venture capital and private equity manager since 1991, most recently as Managing Director of Triton Ventures, an Austin-based technology venture capital firm.  He has advised private and publicly-traded companies on matters of capital formation and strategy and has led corporate development activities for several companies including Vignette Software and Hearst Corporation.  Prior to Triton he served as Vice President of Capital Southwest Corporation, a publicly-traded venture capital and private equity firm with assets under management of over $500M.  Mr. Collier has had board responsibility for 14 venture backed companies as well as the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas, the Austin Technology Council, Texas Business Hall of Fame and Slow Money Texas.  He has been a guest speaker and panelist for numerous forums on venture capital, a guest lecturer at SMU’s Cox School of Business and the McCombs School of Business at UT Austin, and chaired judging for the Dell Social Innovation Competition. Scott began his career as a design engineer and manager with Northrop Grumman. 

Conley Giles

Conley Giles is a founder of the School of Invention and "The Lean Invention Method".  As an innovator and inventor he has patents for business processes, building components, packaging systems, and sports products.   He has more than 30 years experience in product design, development, and market introductions. As an entrepreneur he has established multiple startups around these innovations including GroHomes Inc (GroHomes.com) and PromoOrder.com. 

Rosa Rios Valdez

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Rosa is certified in development finance by the National Development Council of New York.  She has 30 years experience in business development and commercial real estate lending. She is currently the CEO of Business & Community Lenders of Texas and has been leading the organization since 1997, growing the company’s total assets over 30 fold.  Rosa manages a statewide $25,000,000 commercial real estate loan portfolio and is Asset Manager for a $4.5 million real estate portfolio.  In 2012, she led the formation of the health-focused social enterprise Salud es Vida Corporation. 

Prior to joining BCL of Texas, Rios Valdez served as manager of business finance in the Texas Governor’s Office of Economic Development where she focused on business and manufacturing expansions throughout the state. She also worked regionally in central and southeast Texas as a former Director of Economic Development for the Lower Colorado River Authority.

Rios Valdez serves on the Economic Development Board of the Capital Area Planning Council of Government. She is a past president of the National Association of Economic Developers and former chair of the Travis County Housing Authority, a position she held for 10 years.  She also serves on the Board of the NeighborWorks America Community Capital Corporation, and sits on their Loan Committee. She recently completed an Executive Management program at the Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government and completed an appointment the Travis County Bond Advisory Board in August of 2013. 

Zoe Schlag

Zoe is the founder of UnLtd USA, a program that finds the most promising entrepreneurs tackling pressing social and environmental challenges, then equips them with the necessary capital, resources, mentorship and networks critical to accelerating their mission. Prior to UnLtd USA, Zoe worked as an Associate providing investee support at UnLtd India, served as a Princeton in Latin America Fellow working on microcredit initiatives in Argentina and has worked on community development projects in the United States, Guatemala, Bolivia and Chile. Zoe is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, an Advisor to the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network and holds a BA in International Relations from Tufts University.


Our mentors will be assigned to specific entrepreneurs and work with them through each stage of the competition to refine the business idea and craft the final pitch.

Jeremy Barndt

Jeremy is an independent small business consultant and was previously a business coach for the City of Austin’s Small Business Program.  Jeremy holds an MBA from Loyola University Chicago.  His professional background also includes being an instructor at Austin Community College and program management with City of Chicago Neighborhood Development Centers and Special Service Areas.

Nicole Beckley

Nicole is the marketing and media director for Merlot Skin Care, a natural grape seed-based skin care brand based and manufactured in Texas.  She works to oversee brand and product development, including coordinating with outside partners to expand into international markets in Japan and China.  She's a member of Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) and the Austin Young Chamber (AYC) and has served on the board of the Young Women's Alliance.  An El Paso, TX native, she has a BA from Stanford University in Urban Studies and Communications. 

George Bonelli

George is a New Jersey native with a background in project management and business operations. A successful entrepreneur, he began his career as a project manager with Motorola where he managed large scale multi-million dollar private and public sector projects and honed quality and customer satisfaction skills. More recently, George ran his own consulting business that served the Airline, Insurance, IT, software and telecom industries. As Chairman& Founder of SailTime® George is responsible for the vision, direction and world wide development of the business as well as developing and maintaining key partnerships and relationships. He also serves as Chairman on the Executive Committee of The SailTime® Group.   An avid sailor, Bonelli has achieved his ASA instructor certification in addition to having sailed throughout the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Adriatic Seas and across the U.S.

David Bradley

David designs web sites and software for online retailers at his company, Patterns In The Cloud.  Prior to starting Patterns, David was an eCommerce and implementation consultant for NetSuite.  David explains the 'build with patterns' approach as:  "helping brands and marketers be smart about what they should build on the web.  Our team has experience working with a lot of software across marketing and eCommerce.  Analyzing & leveraging existing solutions helps to narrow the focus on what actually needs to be created. He lives in Austin, TX and Denver, CO with his wife and son.  David works on his passion for startups and continuing education as a volunteer mentor at PeopleFund and a workshop instructor at General Assembly.

PJ Christie

PJ Christie is a Certified Google Partner with more than 15 years agency experience growing businesses large and small. A highly regarded public speaker, Christie has addressed audiences on topics ranging from how freelancers can use data for strategy, outsourcing, technical SEO, bootstrapping startups, and scaling lead generation campaigns. He is a ProductCamp Austin winner and for two consecutive years, a Lean Startup competition judge. Christie’s professional goal is to bring advanced lead generation tactics to business marketing while maintaining transparency with his clients.

Christie brings a competitive intensity to his business marketing portfolio through Search and Convert for large projects and Big Wheel Agency for independent services. A Texas resident since 2010, Christie lives in Austin with his wife, two little boys, and a geriatric cat.

Jacob Cordova

Jacob is Managing Director of PWJ Strategies, an engineering firm performing research and development of advanced technologies and delivering product development, systems engineering, and business strategy consultation to early stage companies and investment groups. Jacob is also Director of Venture Capital Analytics for Rockies Venture where he founded a Kauffman Foundation Research based due diligence program and leads analyst teams with investment banking, law, business, and engineering backgrounds.

Prior to PWJ Strategies, Jacob held integrated roles in the aerospace industry. While at the NASA Johnson Space Center he led facility design and development as Chief Architect of the JSC Engineering Sandbox, an Innovation Design Center built to accelerate the creation, transfer, and commercialization of technologies developed by the American space program. As SATOP Regional Program Manager for Lockheed Martin Relations Jacob built and managed Lockheed Martin SATOP teams, leveraging state grants and talented engineers to accelerate innovations and technology development for startups, entrepreneurs, and university faculty. Jacob also supported the NASA Orion program with product management, design, and manufacturing engineering roles. Jacob is co-founder and Vice President of Strategy of the UT Austin Longhorn Engineering Advisory Board, co-founder and Executive Director of the UT Austin Genesis Program, former President of the Lockheed Martin Leadership Association, and former President of the NASA Johnson Space Center Engineers Without Borders program. He holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from the Cockrell School and is a LeaderShape graduate.

Chris Dammert

Chris Dammert is a serial entrepreneur who has started 8 companies and been an early employee of 3 others. These companies have been in a wide range of industries including software, healthcare, manufacturing, import/export, and education. Currently, Mr. Dammert is the founder and President of Patient Planning Services, Inc., a healthcare technology company that provides solutions to hospitals to help them treat their cancer patients. Mr. Dammert received his MBA and BBA from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

Andrew Durke

Mr. Durke joined Brandywine Realty Trust in 2014 as an investment and development analyst. He is responsible for identifying and underwriting office and mixed-use property acquisition and development opportunities to add to Brandywine’s Austin portfolio. Since joining, Mr. Durke been involved with new projects totaling 7.2M SF valued at $2.0B and helped Brandywine grow to one of the largest landlords in Austin, a city known for its incredibly competitive market. Prior to joining Brandywine, Mr. Durke was the Vice President of Finance at The Ticket Experience, an asset management analyst at Verde Realty, and an analyst with Wells Fargo’s Real Estate banking group in Houston. Mr. Durke holds a B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA). He also volunteers his time with Seedling Foundation, PeopleFund, and UT’s Texas Exes and the Silver Spurs Alumni Association.

Nancy Edwards

Nancy Edwards is principal of Clean Power Marketing Group, an Austin-based marketing firm focused on clean energy companies. She formed CPMG in 2015 to help her clients accelerate the shift to a new energy economy.  Prior to CPMG, Nancy led marketing for SolarBridge Technologies, where she established the brand and helped create a new product category for AC solar modules, leading to the company’s successful acquisition by SunPower in 2014. She has worked in tech marketing for several Austin startups as well as IBM and Applied Materials. She began her career in entertainment PR in LA, representing independent films, consumer brands and personalities. Nancy holds a Master’s degree in Communications Management from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She manages two teenagers and teaches yoga in her spare time.

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans is the founder and executive director of Well Aware, an Austin-based nonprofit that funds and implements clean water systems for impoverished communities in Africa. Well Aware is known for its sustainability model in building lasting water systems with high impact. Evans is also founder and CEO of Aurora Global, a world-wide for-profit business that advises NGOs on water efforts.

Evans’ vision is to identify the great potential that already exists in struggling communities and to enable prosperity thereby providing access to lasting clean water. Evans has frequent speaking commitments on the success of this approach, as well as on nonprofit administration, creative fundraising, social media and global development issues. She is also a contributing author for MariaShriver.com, Wandering Educator and Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She has twice been a finalist for the Austin Under Forty Awards, was an Austin Woman Magazine "Cover Woman" and was a finalist for the Austin Business Journal Profiles in Power this year.

Susan Faykus

Susan Faykus is a financial professional and principal with Integrated Financial. She works closely with businesses, foundations, successful professionals and their families, and began her career in 1987. She specializes in philanthropic and charitable planning, retirement and business strategies. Faykus has a unique gift of seeing how to create true significance with her client's success while allowing them to provide a better legacy for future generators. She is a grateful graduate of the University of Texas in 1987 with a BA in Economics/Business Administration. Registered Representative offering securities through NYLIFE Securities, LLC (Member FINRA/SIPC).

Dustin Fedako

Dustin is the founder and CEO of The Compost Pedallers, a bike-powered compost recycling company that collects organics from Austin homes & businesses and connects them to a network of urban gardens to grow food, instead of landfills.  By approaching Austin through the lens of as an urban ecosystem, the Compost Pedallers have built an innovative closed loop model for organic resource management, diverting 500,000 pounds from the landfill, saving 31,619 gallons of diesel fuel, and donating over $12,000 of compost to local gardening initiatives. 

A proponent of rewiring the food system and supporting urban agriculture, Dustin sits on the Sustainable Food Policy Board for the City of Austin and has served on the board of The Food is Free Project since 2012. He is passionate about building market-based, paradigm-shifting solutions that address pressing social and environmental challenges, and has helping launch four impact organizations since grabbing his B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011.

Sloan Foster

Sloan is an entrepreneur who specializes in go-to-market strategy and execution. She loves to connect dots and bring products and services to market making your launch fruitful and profitable. She has helped launch several companies and numerous products in a myriad of areas. Her specialty is developing and activating go to market strategies.

Sloan excels at rolling up her sleeves and taking ideas and making them a reality - from ideation to implementation. As the Founder and Principal of Envisage Associates, she designs short and long-term strategies to maximize investment while driving revenue and optimizing the customer experience. With over 20 years’ experience, she has successfully navigated launches for emerging technology, disruptive technology, hardware/software solutions, SaaS/PaaS, professional services, CPG and patent monetization companies. Sloan has a Communications and Psychology degree from William Jewell College and two granted patents for video over Wi-Fi.

Zoe Gabbard

Zoe is a Senior Analyst for The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO) where she supports monitoring, management, and diligence responsibilities for both the Natural Resources and Emerging Markets teams. She also serves as a One-to-One Mentor for PeopleFund and on the Grants Committee for the Women's Fund of Central Texas. Zoe graduated with a degree in Corporate Finance and Business Honors from The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys outdoor activities including camping, hiking, kayaking, and playing tennis and soccer.


Dulari Gandhi

Dulari Gandhi is a marketing and public relations expert with over 10 years of experience supporting businesses and non-profit organizations hone their brand and communications. Dulari is passionate about social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility, and has worked on issues including equitable capital access for small business owners, public education reform, global and domestic public health, and the environment. Dulari currently manages several accounts for GMMB , a full-service communications firm that specializes in cause and issue marketing. Prior to her current work, Dulari contracted for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, developing communications materials for doctors, caregivers, and patients on addiction, mental health disorders, and support services. Dulari also has experience in non-profit donor relations and fundraising management. Dulari is a graduate of the State University of New York at New Paltz. A native of New York City, she now lives in South Austin with her husband and various pets. 

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Michael Hanan

Michael Hanan has been working on the front lines of urban agriculture in Austin for the past 5 years- first, as Co-Founder of Ten Acre Organics, and most recently as CEO of Agua Dulce Farm. Agua Dulce Farm grows and supplies fresh salad greens, herbs, and fish deploying a combination of aquaponics and field agriculture to produce their crops. Agua Dulce Farm was acquired by Ten Acre Organics in the summer of 2016 and is currently being renovated to revamp farm production, with a re-launch scheduled for the Fall of 2016.

Prior to Agua Dulce, Michael was the Co-Founder/CEO of Ten Acre Organics, an urban micro-farm in Austin’s Windsor Park neighborhood which supplied leafy greens to many of Austin’s premier restaurants. Michael and Ten Acre Organics were part of the first UnLtd USA cohort and were winners of the 2015 Food Challenge Grand Prize awarded by the University of Texas at Austin. Michael has been on numerous panels relating to urban agriculture and sustainable food policy and holds a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Southwestern University. 

Kristie Whites

Kristie Whites is an expert brand and marketing consultant and strategist, Board of Directors for Texas Women in Business and national speaker. Looking to create social change in the world, Kristie started Serving Social, LLC with the goal to work with great brands, with great missions, to impact the greater good. Offering guidance to small businesses, new start-ups and non-profits alike she works to establish their marketing goals, navigate the uncertainty of social media and measure results to show them that marketing is simple when given the right tools.


Kyle Hickey

Mr. Hickey was most recently an investment analyst at NGP Capital Resources Company (“NGPC”), a publicly traded BDC, before its sale to Oak Hill Advisors, LP. While at NGPC, Mr. Hickey was involved in all aspects of the principal investing deal process. Prior to joining NGPC, Mr. Hickey began his career as an analyst at Wells Fargo where he was involved in a broad range of transactions for a portfolio of clients across the upstream, midstream, and oil service sectors. Mr. Hickey received a B.B.A. in Accounting and a M.P.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Barbara Kelso

Barbara Kelso is a native Texan with a vast global network. Through her extensive work with Entrepreneur’s Organization, Empowering A Billion Women by 2020, and Million Women Mentors, Barbara has become an expert on entrepreneurship and women leadership. For over 25 years Barbara successfully ran a multi-million dollar wellness company that was ahead of its time in bringing innovative wellness trends to the industry. In 2009, Barbara was nominated as “Texas Business Woman of the Year”. Today through Kelso Consultants, Barbara utilizes her in depth knowledge of a wide variety of industries to work, mentor and empower entrepreneurs and women worldwide through legacy building strategies. Barbara acts as a Pitch Judge for different accelerators, such as Rice Alliance, and is a Judge of the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards.

Barbara’s global, national, and local networks allows her to create new opportunities, find needed capital revenue solutions, align with crucial strategic partnerships, develop strong go to market strategies, develop and fulfill personal and corporate goals, and build long term succession planning. Barbara’s civic involvement is punctuated by the following committees and boards: local, regional and global positions for EO, (Entrepreneurs' Organization) EO Austin Board: Integration Chair, Membership Chair and Learning/Events Chair, Regional Membership Chair, and Global Director of Strategic Alliances, EO Texas University global committees for Sponsorship and Events, and served as an Ambassador for international member companies. Austin Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee, Advisor to the MIT Philanthropy Foundation, Board of Advisors for Austin Museum of Art, Grameen America and Committee Member of Austin Gives, Mentor, Million Women Mentors, Mentor, Austin Business Journal Mentoring Monday, Board of Advisors, Survive 2 Thrive, Board of Advisors, Austinfree.net.

Andrew Litschi

Andrew Litschi is currently the Chief of Staff to the CEO of Civitas Learning, a venture-backed startup bringing predictive analytics to Higher Ed.  Prior to Civitas, Andrew was a consultant at Litschi Advisors, where he helped business owners and investors understand the financial and operational implications of changes and/or growth to their business model. Andrew recently completed his MBA at the Acton School of Business with a focus on entrepreneurship. Prior to Acton, Andrew led a number of projects and institutions in higher education, including at the University of Chicago, Georgetown University, and UT-Austin. An Austin-native and backyard chicken enthusiast, Andrew has a MA in Philosophy of Religion from Yale and a BA in Philosophy/Theology from Notre Dame.

Karen Magid

Dr. Karen Magid is the Sustainability Director for Huston-Tillotson University (HT). She holds a PhD in Materials Science from UC-Berkeley. After postdoctoral work at the ETH-Zürich, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mexico working on knowledge and environmental sustainability projects related to green eco-technologies. As Sustainability Director, she builds and executes university sustainability strategies including monitoring, communication, coordination and support of programs and projects to support energy efficiency initiatives, improving overall operational sustainability, academics, and outreach efforts of university. She is also the Co-Director of the Dumpster Project, an environmental education initiative to transform a used trash dumpster into a sustainable home. She leads the project implementation, creative-in-residence program and manages all aspects of the project. She is a co-advisor to HT environmental student group Green is the New Black and co-founder of the Building Green Justice Forum at HT.

Chris Mascaro

Chris Mascaro is a creative and design director, brand experience professional, and small business marketing consultant. Chris Mascaro opened her first business in college — an internship incubator at Michigan State that connected advertising, marketing, and design students to local businesses that allowed students to earn credit for their 'on -the-job-training', earn money, and allow businesses to access a network of talented students who were looking to build their resume. Since then, she's been through a series of business adventures, including design and branding companies, professional writing, tourism, and hospitality business brand consulting. She's been involved in the creation of non-profit businesses, and currently consults as a contractors from businesses in Colorado, Texas, and Michigan. A serial 'micropreneur', she seriously understands the struggles of small business who are trying to 'look big' but can only afford to 'spend small'. She helps other businesses develop brand and identity, and then helps them understand their target market, and helps them identify why customers may not be 'interacting' with a brand.

Kelli McLaughlin

When friends and colleagues think of Kelli, they describer her as someone who always lands on her feet, sees the positive in every situation and is constantly striving to be her best self.  Kelli has enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing for over 20 years. While her journey has taken her through many industries including financial services, broadcast, advertising and real estate, as an entrepreneur she is consistently a part of the solution and is always looking for the most beneficial way to solve problems and connect people.

In 2015, her youngest daughter graduated from Austin High and headed off to college, Kelli shifted her entrepreneurial direction yet again and is now following her life-long dream to work in real estate as a REALTOR®. Proud to be an agent with local firm, Sky Realty, in her first year she closed nearly 3 million dollars in transactions. She works primarily with listings over 500k and loves to analyze and find deals for investors, but her primary goal is to share knowledge, invest in others and life each day with joy and purpose.

Marco Melendez

Marco is a Business Loan Officer with PeopleFund team since June 2014, he also is a volunteer Business Mentor and Spanish Workshop Instructor for SCORE Austin. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Marketing in Mexico. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and economic opportunity for all. Responsible for introducing clients to PeopleFund’s mission and working with them throughout the loan process. He brings over 7 years of experience in banking, business lending, mortgages, counseling, and customer service. Fully bilingual, Marco is ready to assist Spanish speaking people as well. He is very involved in the community and has a commitment to helping small business owners find the capital they need to be successful. He enjoys meeting new people; reading books and listens to podcasts. Marco believes that success comes with being focused on being great at what we do. 

Lloyd Minick

Lloyd Minick is the President of Agua Dulce Farm, which grows and supplies fresh vegetables, herbs, and fish to Austin restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets using a combination of aquaponics and field agriculture. Agua Dulce Farm was acquired by Ten Acre Organics in the summer of 2016 and is currently being renovated to revamp farm production, with a re-launch scheduled for the Fall of 2016.

Prior to Agua Dulce, Lloyd was the Co-Founder/President of Ten Acre Organics, a sustainable agriculture company based in Austin, Texas. Ten Acre Organics aimed to create a replicable, high-tech, local farm model for urban areas to provide consumers with fresh, local, organic foods. Lloyd also served as Program Manager for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas in 2013/14 where he worked with a small team to manage a youth entrepreneurship program called Lemonade Day. Lloyd has an MA in Integral Psychology from John F. Kennedy University and a BA in Psychology/Music from Southwestern University.

Ryan Nacol

Ryan Nacol moved to Austin in 1995 and graduated with a BBA in Finance from UT in 1999.  After graduating, he spent over a decade in San Francisco and Manhattan working within the investment banking groups of JP Morgan and Credit Suisse.  Ryan resigned from Credit Suisse in early 2008 and joined ICAP where he was a Managing Director responsible for running the US Equities & Derivatives unit managing over 200 employees. Now living back in Austin, Ryan has started his own companies in the real estate, catering, music, and financial advisory sectors. His hobbies include fly fishing, scuba diving, war photography, and coaching his two boys, Morrison and Lawson, in baseball.  


Bennett Neiman

Bennett Neiman’s entire career has been about Human Motivation. In the late 1970s, he founded Neiman, Maring & Kanefield, Inc., a full-service marketing/advertising company. As CEO, over the next eleven years, he grew the business from scratch to a company with 30 employees and $15 million in annual billings. He then sold his share of the company to his partners, and went back to complete his PhD in Organizational Development. He then founded, Chrysalis Consulting (www.chrysalis-consulting.com), where he specialized in Strategic Planning, Innovation Training and Leadership Training. In the mid 2000s, he wrote a business book about his work entitled, “Slay the Dragons – Free the Genie: Moving past negativity and resistance to get great results!” At this writing, the book has sold over 4000 copies. Since the books publication, Dr. Neiman has been a sought-after motivational speaker at companies and conferences across America.

Dr. Neiman is now very active with SCORE both locally in Austin and on a national level. For Austin SCORE he is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, and for SCORE national, he is this regions representative on the six-person National Learning Advisory Council.

Georgina O'Hara Callan

Georgina is a serial entrepreneur with a keen sense of strategy. She describes herself as someone with plenty of ideas, many of which she has executed herself in various businesses, or helped other companies in moving forwards. She turns abstract ideas into practical solutions and can sort through large amounts of information to pin-point obstacles and opportunities. Georgina built a start-up and grew it into a nationwide retail chain and handled all the branding and marketing for the concept. She has also managed a vertically integrated manufacturing supply chain. 

One of her companies created bed coverings from by-products and donated to animal shelters. Highly creative, Georgina is also a writer and an author and creates content for magazines and brands. British born, she has lived in the USA, in New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston, and has now settled in Austin. Georgina's areas of specialty and interest are textiles and design, marketing strategy, sales strategy, consumer goods, and operations. 

Bob Paino

Bob was a partner in a mid-size boutique advertising agency in New York City for over 37 years. Throughout his career his roles included but weren't limited to President, COO, CFO, Account Management. The Agency specialized in hotels, resorts, destinations as well as book publishing, consumer products and business to business accounts. Bob worked with clients such as Helmsley Hotels, Resorts in Atlantic City, New York Place Hotel, a number of Islands in the Caribbean, the State of Maine Tourist Board, Penguin Books,  Random House, Bulova Watch Company, Delta Dental Insurance just to name a few. He has been a Certified SCORE Mentor for 5 years working with clients in both New York and Austin, Texas.

Gayle Reaume

Gayle's purpose in life is to empower financial stability for the next generation. Gayle has been working directly with parents and children for the past 10 years through her company Moolah U which offers parent workshops and week long camps to students. The Moolah U experience provides students with hands-on experience in creating their own business, learning how money works and how to use money wisely. In addition, Moolah U offers a long-term Apprentice Program that provides ongoing training and development for students 12 years and older to broaden their understanding of leadership and financial concepts.



Abe Rothbaum

Abe is a commercial real estate agent at the Downtown office for the commercial division of Prudential, focusing on Central and East Austin. Prior to joining Prudential in 2011, he specialized in multi-family sales with Marcus & Millchap. Abe is interested helping non profit entrepreneurs build earned revenue streams. He is a Social Venture Partner with Mission Capital where he helps identify and assist nonprofits that can prove their impact, measure outcomes, and solve a social issue. He is a graduate of Suffolk University, lives in East Austin with his wife and enjoys traveling in his spare time.


Jessica Sager

Jessica Sager, MS is an organization development and business consultant with a passion for developing leadership and a knack for aligning and energizing teams. Her background ranges from work with entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow and scale their businesses to consulting with Fortune 500 companies to align their marketing plans. Currently she works with Impact Hub Austin in developing their programming and partnerships, and with Delta Associates, as a management consultant.

She is passionate about social impact, community, and entrepreneurship. She volunteers with innovative nonprofits as a Social Venture Partner with Mission Capital, she hikes and climbs and bicycles with a gaggle of teenage girls asmentor with Explore Austin, and she helps high potential individuals break out of poverty through her work with Dream Come True Foundation.


Brian Schoenbaum

Brian is an impact-driven individual passionate about building socially-focused businesses that improve the lives of others. Since 2012, Brian has founded Vuka, Impact Hub and Wake Up which together offer innovative spaces and programs that spark creativity and deepen awareness for the Austin community on both a personal and professional level. He is passionate about designing and building space to foment connection. He also sits on the Boards of several Austin-based non-profits. Prior to his work in Austin, Brian had a functional role as a partner in a Atlanta based restaurant group (where his passion for hospitality in business began) as well as began his design firm 15 years ago where he led design projects for various residential and commercial projects across the US and a handful around the globe.

Sameer Shah

Sameer Shah is a creative and articulate leader with experience ranging from marketing to operations and finance, across small start-ups and large multinationals.  He is presently leading marketing efforts at Smart Flour Foods, a manufacturer of nationally available, award-winning baked goods. In this role he is responsible for building the brand and driving sales through efforts ranging from social media to public relations and events. In past roles Sameer has served in marketing and operations positions at Dell and SiteStuff, a successful dotcom startup. He has also owned and operated an Oracle consulting business funded with SBA debt.

Outside of the private sector Sameer is involved in several community initiatives, including serving as Secretary of the Indian American Coalition of Texas (IACT) and hosting an annual writing contest for area youth that commemorates the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Sameer served in the US Marine Corps (Reserve) from 1992-2000 and is graduate of Texas A&M University with a Master of Science in Finance.

Katherine Sobel

Katherine joined the PeopleFund family in June of 2016 as the Education and Training Specialist. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Texas State, and is now working on her Master’s degree in Community Improvement through Texas Tech. In her role, Katherine focuses on the sustainability of PeopleFund clients through education, training, and outreach. Some of her responsibilities include matching clients with volunteers that may help them with an aspect of their business, administering and tracking pre- and post-loan education, coordinating educational events, and ultimately connecting businesses with the resources they need to learn and grow. Katherine is passionate about economic opportunity for all and committed to serving underserved populations. She believes that through education, anything is possible.

Carleton Smith

Carleton Smith retired in 2003 as Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Harris Corporation, a Fortune 500 company with worldwide operations.  During his forty year business career, he managed the turnaround of many businesses, acquisitions and mergers, worldwide sales and marketing for semiconductor and communications divisions in difficult markets with demanding customers and tough competitors.  He has a BSEE from Purdue University and a Masters in Engineering Management from George Washington University.  He also had executive training at Harvard, Northwestern, Texas A&M, SMU and University of Wisconsin.  He has been a volunteer business counselor with SCORE in Austin since January 2006.

Stephen Stearman

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Stephen moved to Austin in March of 2014 to pursue an MBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship from Acton School of Business with the end goal of running sales organizations for multiple companies and later to pursue a management and consulting firm. Stephen began his sales career in college selling books door to door, ran sales for a small start up called CoachTube, helped set up an office for a solar company, and served asa sales consultant. Stephen is a volunteer mentor with PeopleFund. Stephen values family, community, nature, eating, learning, fitness, helping other and of course the University of Kentucky basketball program.

Carl Weisman

Carl has a masters in electrical engineering and an MBA in finance. He also has over 30 years of hands-on engineering experience. He is a published author and online teacher. He has started several small businesses (and one partnership).



Phil Willis

Phil Willis has over 30 years of restaurant management experience including management training positions with Club Corp, General Manager, Flemings Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar/Partner. His experience includes management recruiting for Club Corp’s home office, as well as a food and beverage director, general manager and vice president of operations experience with conference hospitality group for 8 years. Experiences also include 6 years in fine wine sales class A and class B on premise in Dallas, Texas. Willis is ServSafe© certified and certified to instruct and proctor ServSafe Food Safety classes.

Willis has successfully trained and ServSafe certified over 200 teachers in Texas and conducted “Train the Trainer” sessions to teach high school instructors more effective ways of instructing high school students in food safety. As a result, high school students benefit by acquiring a nationally recognized certification as well as obtaining state recognition as a Texas Food Safety manager, hence, enhancing their resumes and recognizable job skills. Willis has conducted approximately 4-5 “Boot Camp” Restaurant Management sessions each year from 2013-2016. Each seminar is comprised of 10-14 students ranging from aspiring professionals working toward becoming managers, to those looking to take refresher courses in Restaurant Management, and finally to restaurant owners with newly established restaurants. Willis also worked with over 150 at risk juveniles from the Dallas youth village for over 20 pop up dinners to help fund the now open Café Momentum.

Lu Yan

Lu is the CEO of YAN Engines, a company he co-founded to bring to develop fuel efficiency technologies for car, truck and engine manufacturers.  Lu has 20 years of experience in leading energy companies across both technical and business functions. Lu worked at companies such as Ernst & Young in their Energy & Utilities Business Unit, General Electric for their Marine & Industrial Engines Department, and also in smaller greenfield energy projects. Lu has experience in engineering, management consulting, government contracting, finance, and operations management. He is a BSME with an Executive MBA from Columbia Business School.  Specific to the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition Lu’s experience in engineering design and manufacturing will be helpful for the product side and business strategy, planning and marketing will assist in market assessment. 


Technical Advisors

Our technical advisors will be available to provide guidance and specific expertise to entrepreneur-mentor teams throughout the competition process.

Communications Advisor

Eleni Gesch-Karamanlidis

Dr. Eleni Gesch-Karamanlidis is focused on helping people discover ways to improve how they communicate, problem solve and work together within and across organizations. She is an independent communication consultant, helping organizations address their challenges and goals through design, implementation, facilitation, and training on all aspects of managing better business conversations. In her approach, communication isn't something that "just happens" in business, but rather the foundation for an ecosystem of positive working relationships, agile and collaborative teams and ultimately, an organization that runs as smooth as possible. Eleni offers advice for managing tough workplace conversations in her weekly LinkedIn feature called Talk Over Lunch. Eleni has worked with people in all sectors; from whale-watching boat captains to senior U.S. Navy leadership. She is personally interested in food access, the environment, and mentorship, and helping people have meaningful conversations on these issues as well.

Previously, Eleni was an instructor and researcher in the Communication Department at Texas A&M University where she taught public speaking, technical communication, group communication and conflict management to over 450 students in STEM, Business and Liberal Arts. Eleni recently completed her Ph.D. in Communication from Texas A&M with a specialization in inter-group/inter-organizational collaboration. She is a trained mediator, published author, and regional/national conference speaker in her area of expertise. A Rhode Island native, she holds a M.A. in Marine Affairs and a B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Rhode Island. 

Environmental Impact Advisors

Shaun Auckland

Shaun Auckland moved to the East Austin from Martindale, Texas in 2004.  Working in the solid waste industry was a natural fit for her passion for the environment.   As a Conservation Coordinator at Travis County she developed and coordinated an award winning program T-shirts for Hunger initiative.  She serves on the Texas Product Stewardship Steering Committee and Central Texas STAR Committee.   In her free time, Shaun loves spending time outside with her young daughter.  In her local community she volunteers advocating for a pocket park in her East Austin neighborhood.  She is grateful to live in the live capital of music, with abundant natural spaces and strong community of volunteers.  She studied environmental resources and recreational tourism at Southwest Texas State University.  She has a Master of Science in Sustainability from Texas State University.

Amanda Rohlich

Amanda Rohlich is an Environmental Programs Coordinator with the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, where she develops and implements strategies to drive intentional, thoughtful and creative policies and programs that make Austin “the most livable city in the country”. 

Previously, Amanda worked with Austin Resource Recovery implementing Zero Waste policies and programs such as the Universal Recycling Ordinance.  Prior to returning to her hometown of Austin, Amanda spent nearly a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area working with a number of organizations to help create empowered, healthy and sustainable communities including the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment in California’s Central Valley and City Slicker Farms in West Oakland.  Whether piloting an energy efficiency behavior change initiative for the City of Berkeley or developing neighborhood food system planning, Amanda looks for ways to leverage resources and spark positive change.

Amanda holds a degree in Sociology and History from the University of Texas at Austin and earned an MPA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco.

Marc Coudert

Marc Coudert is an Environmental Programs Coordinator with the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, where he helped create and manages the Austin Green Business Leaders program.  He also works on corporate sustainability and climate change resiliency for City of Austin operations and services.

Before moving to Austin in 2009, Marc was an urban planner and intern architect in Upstate New York and California where he helped local officials, developers and citizen groups achieve common sustainable goals. Along the way, Marc has incorporated environmental issues into his professional and extracurricular activities. He organized the Green Material Expos in Troy, New York with the American Institute of Architects and lectured on issues of sustainable urban design as an adjunct professor at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute School of Architecture.

Marc received a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning from Arizona State University and a Master of Science in Sustainable Design from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and an Envision™ Sustainability Professional.

E-Commerce Advisor

Alexander Keller

Alexander Keller is the Business Development Manager at Effective Spend, a digital marketing agency in Austin, TX. Effective Spend provides a full suite of digital marketing services including, Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Performance Display, and Social Advertising. Alex works on all areas of the business to achieve rapid growth, as well as ensuring all clients achieve the best possible results by integrating paid search into a comprehensive business strategy. Prior to Effective Spend, Alex co-founded FringeSport, a multi-channel retailer and manufacturer with $5.4 million in revenue in its 4th full year. At FringeSport he built and grew the business from the ground up with the help of a team that was 30 strong at its peak. After 4.5 years at FringeSport, Alex engineered the sale and transition of FringeSport to new owners. Alex is a proud new father to baby Fritz, whom will one day lead the US Men’s National Soccer Team to World Cup glory. Alex has a BA in Accounting & Business Management from Southwestern University.  

Freight Logistics Advisor

Christie Wright

Christie Wright is the Operations and HR Manager for FreightPros, where she has worked since 2011.  FreightPros is an Austin-based freight broker specializing in Less Than Truckload (LTL) and Full Truckload shipping. Christie worked in the operations department for several months before getting involved in accounting, billing and payables, and now works in HR with the goal of finding amazing people to join the FreightPros team!  She also manages the Operations team and finds new, creative ways of getting things done.  As an early employee, Christie has developed and implemented new processes that streamline services and make the best use of available technology.  In addition, she helps to continue the development of FreightPros’ dynamic culture both within the office and in the community at large.

Christie was born and raised in Austin, TX.  She graduated from Austin College in Sherman, TX (not in Austin!) in 2010, where she studied Psychology and Spanish.  Prior to FreightPros, she worked at a nonprofit refugee resettlement agency, where she helped newly-arrived refugees adjust to life in the US.  She also attended graduate school at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Social Enterprise Advisor

Kristin Scheel

Kristin Scheel and her associates at Scheel Legal advise entrepreneurs, and founders of charitable & social purpose entities. Early on Kristin developed a wealth of big industry experience serving as corporate commercial counsel for an international energy company, and negotiating large capital projects for a Fortune 100 technology company. Kristin follows emerging trends in social enterprise (harnessing capitalism for social good), benefit corporations, and innovative models of business and law supporting sustainable local economies, including business and worker cooperatives and sharing law.

Kristin brings a unique perspective gleaned from following her own entrepreneurial spirit. For two years, Kristin's law practice was part of a Houston business cooperative. During that time she and a business partner operated a neighborhood yoga studio that was part of the coop. Kristin has first-hand experience in developing a values-based business, forming and dissolving business partnership, commercial tenancy, permitting, and employment.

Sustainable Packaging Advisor

Reyna Bryan

Reyna is the Director of Rainchild Design, a consulting house specializing in sustainable packaging design and compostable flexible film development. A seasoned entrepreneur, Reyna has helped many start-ups and small businesses with strategy, innovation, operational design, valuation and fundraising. She is passionate about conscious capitalism and building businesses to heal the planet.

Reyna focuses much of her work around material management, Zero Waste and producer responsibility to design for recyclability (DFR).  She has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a MS in Engineering Technology Management. Her well-rounded education and experience help her bridge the worlds of technology and business.

Technical Material & Production Advisors

Ryan Sansbury

Ryan Sansbury is the Co-founder and CEO of Logro Farms and a sustainability consultant for local small businesses and non-profit organizations. Ryan received degrees in Economics and Management from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2010 and has experience in the financial services and insurance industries. His strong belief in the need for an equitable and regenerative food economy is what led him to found Logro Farms, an Austin-based sustainable business, in 2013 through a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter. 

Logro Farms utilizes the latest advancements in botany, mycology and systems biology to transform local agricultural waste streams into gourmet produce and sustainable consumer goods. Since its creation, the company has diverted more than 20 tons of these materials away from landfills and has used them to grow healthy and nutritious food for thousands of Texas families. In 2015, Logro Farms received the City of Austin Small Business Award for Excellence in Promoting the Circular Economy from Mayor Steve Adler. 

Ryan views the challenge of food insecurity as a huge opportunity to create a new system based on zero waste principles and symbiotic processes. Ryan has consulted and collaborated with many local organizations in this regard including the University of Texas Materials Lab & Green Corps, the Austin Organic Gardeners Association, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, the Austin Materials Marketplace, Slow Food Austin and more. 

Joe Diffie

Joe Diffie is the founder and CEO of Joe's Organics, an urban farm that has recycled over a million lbs of Austin's food waste into tons of fresh, local, seasonal produce for chefs and farmer's markets.  He has served on the board of the Rhizome Collective and Ecology Action of Texas as well as receiving a Young Farmer's Grant from the TX Dept of Agriculture in 2015.

His passion for simple solutions to complex problems, focused around food waste and agriculture, has grown from a lifetime working in all aspects of the food chain, from cultivation and harvest to distribution and waste.  Prior to starting his organics recycling business, Joe was a Co-Director at Ecology Action, where he administered one of the City of Austin's first commercial compost hauling pilot programs.  He founded Joe's Organics in 2012 to innovate the emerging food waste hauling market and help Austin reach it's zero waste goal by 2040.  Joe has a BA in Psychology and Political Science from Hendrix College in Arkansas. 

Joe Licata

Joe Licata oversees BuildASign.com’s production, logistics, and supply chain operations. Joe joined BuildASign.com in 2013. Before leading the production team, Joe served as both In-House Counsel and Financial Analyst for BuildASign.com. He is responsible for scaling the company's production infrastructure and capabilities in addition to working with the operations leadership group to support the needs of the Production Team Members (PTMs). Joe is a regular volunteer, enjoys youth mentoring and periodically serves as a mentor for 3 Day Startup (3DS) teams in College Station. In addition, Joe is active in the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association (ARMA) and the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME). Before joining BuildASign.com, Joe worked in investment banking and then worked as an attorney focused on civil litigation and contracts for a boutique firm in Houston after attending law school. He has a bachelors of science degree in Economics from Texas A&M University and a J.D. from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University, where he was a Walsh Scholar. When he's not at work Joe enjoys spending time outside on the local greenbelt with his wife and their three children. Occasionally he can also be found casting a fly rod somewhere on the San Gabriel or Colorado river.

Mindy Reed

Mindy Reed, Managing Librarian for the Austin Public Library started the Library's used bookstore, refuse and repurposing operation Recycled Reads almost eight years ago. American Library Association named her a 2015 Mover and Shaker in Innovation for her commitment to green librarianship. Recycled Reads was also awarded at 2014 IMLS ignition grant to build training models for other library systems to emulate the Recycled Reads model. Recycled Reads is fully committed to supporting the City of Austin’s Zero Waste Initiative and continues to look for ways to reuse, repurpose and recycled books and media.


*More judges, mentors, and advisors will be added in the comings weeks. Stay tuned!*

Promotional Partners

Thank you to our promotional partners for helping us spread the word about the [Re]Verse Pitch Competition to competitors and mentors!


Tina Mabley- October 11th Emcee

Tina Mabley is the Assistant Dean and Director of the Full-time Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. She is responsible for strategy and day-to-day operations of the full-time Texas MBA program. She focuses on developing a dynamic, inclusive culture and a robust learning environment to foster the development of future leaders who will impact society. Tina has 15 years of experience leading the direction of the program, admissions and alumni relations. Prior to joining the University of Texas, Tina worked in marketing, developing educational content and online community for internet start-up Garden.com.  Tina’s work has consistently been at the nexus of education and business.   Prior to attending the Texas MBA program, Tina worked in educational technology consulting in the k-12 education space and in admissions for a New England boarding school.  She holds an MBA from the McCombs School at the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in Psychology with Education from Dartmouth College.

Steve Wanta- December 6th Emcee

Steve loves the struggle.  For him, this is where growth happens.

Since college, he sought out the unconventional path while never straying too far. His career started in technology as he learned the art of translating complicated ideas into simple terms. Although it was a good job, there was something missing - the struggle. He opted out of the traditional career path to join the Peace Corps serving in rural Guatemala. This leap allowed Steve to find his passion for creating opportunities for others to reach their potential through business solutions. After his service, Steve joined Whole Planet Foundation where his belief in the power of conscious capitalism to change the world was cemented. Overseeing a global grant portfolio in more than 60 countries and $70M, he was both content and compelled to do more. In January 2016, Steve left the foundation to launch a new social venture, JUST to invest in hard-working, low–income women in the United States to become successful entrepreneurs. Steve now believes he has found a place with enough struggle to last him a lifetime.