Our 2019 Team will be announced soon! Learn more about our 2018 Judges, Mentors, Advisors, and other partners below.
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.
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.
Amy Bell is a Senior Director for Tideline, a consulting firm that provides tailored advice to clients developing impact investment strategies, products, and solutions. Since joining in 2016, she has led client engagements in global health and affordable housing for large private foundations as well as a project focused on smallholder agriculture for a major international development finance institution. Prior to her current role, Amy was Executive Director and Head of Principal Investments for the Sustainable Finance business unit of JPMorgan Chase. In this role, Amy managed a $100 million portfolio of investments in businesses benefiting low-income and underserved populations. In her last year with the firm, she lived and worked in Costa Rica with EcoEnterprises Fund, supporting their work to grow businesses that drive conservation outcomes and improve rural livelihoods. Amy also worked in JPMorgan’s Investment Bank and as a consultant for Deloitte in the Dispute & Forensics Service group earlier in her career. She sits on the Board of Urban Roots in Austin and WaterEquity (an affiliate of Water.org) and is an advisor to Alante Capital. Amy holds a Masters in Professional Accounting and a BBA, both from the University of Texas at Austin.
Dennis Passovoy is lecturer at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. Dennis received his B.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles and his M.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. His research and teaching interests include Entrepreneurship, Organizational Behavior, Strategy, Negotiation, Leadership, and Employee Engagement.
Michelle Reese is the AVP of Partner Strategy and Business Development with KGPCo. Michelle is a business technology professional and seasoned operations executive with strong communication, leadership, and full P & L experience. She has previously held senior leadership and executive positions with Mitel, Nexius, and Cloudmasons, where she had a successful exit. She serves on the advisory council for the UT McCombs' Masters of Science in Technology Commercialization program.
David is CALSO's program director and runs Tarmac TX, Austin's first 9 months social tech incubation program in partnership with 3M. Arrived in Austin from France in March 2017, he's passionate about Blue Economies and socially responsible businesses.
*Due to an unforeseen and unavoidable conflict, David Annic is unable to attend the final competition. His spot will be filled by Michelle Reese. David served as a judge during the finalist application stage.
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.
Samuel Alexander is the founder and CEO of Concept 2 Conception (C2C), an Austin, TX-based business providing its clients with access to a revolutionary B2B2C fashion eco system. Alexander’s experience spans more than three decades—and brings together expertise in both the fashion and technology industries. Samuel is an expert in product design/development; global sourcing/production; strategic branding/marketing; and technology integration. He was instrumental in promoting the growth and development of numerous major labels including Levi Strauss, Votre Nom Paris, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jones of New York, Shelli Segal, David Dart, Laundry, Icon Aura, Lois, Peter Golding, and Sue Wong—among many others. Alexander specializes in Smart Fashion, including Nano and Bio-Tech integration. Through his newest venture, C2C, Samuel is revolutionizing the fashion industry by bringing his expertise to bear in the creation of two online platforms: Order Register and C2C Virtual Shop. The Order Register platform (B2B) connects the production and fulfillment processes for the wholesale business into one software program. C2C Virtual Shop (B2C) utilizes virtual and augmented reality to provide customers a personalized avatar life model allowing shoppers to virtually “try on” an article of clothing. The C2C Virtual Shop platform also integrates with other retail and social platforms thus providing new and interactive features.
Jason earned his MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas to complement his BS in Mechanical Engineering. Jason has over 10 years of R&D experience at Baker Hughes, a GE Company. He led and managed a 15M project, comprising a cross-functional team of 15 engineers, to deliver a one of a kind completion system which received the 2015 ASME Woelfel Best Mechanical Engineering Innovation Award and 2015 World Oil Award for Best Deep-Water Technology. He also has 10 granted patents along with 12 other pending applications.
His passions revolve around bringing ideas to life which is what led him to get his MBA; in his own words, “I am want to transform the world and make it a better place—one idea at a time.
Celia comes from the SCORE Austin mentor network and has deep experience in the areas of small business formation, marketing, strategic planning, non-profits, and real estate. Celia has served as the COO in both the banking and commercial real estate sector and as an Executive Director for a non-profit. Celia has a BS from the University of Texas at Austin and has completed graduate studies at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, and the University of Texas.
Billy is a SCORE Austin mentor, and has over 40-years’ experience in domestic and international business development, marketing and strategic planning for major defense corporations. Broad background in engineering, production, program management, and highly skilled at business turnarounds. Business consultant for small to mid-size companies and developing strategies for startup to growing businesses. Creative problem solver, with multiple patents and awards. Known to create and nourish trusted professional relationships. Adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology. Billy has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Shivaji University and an MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology.
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.
Jordan thrives on being part of a team and working hard to meet a goal. He has been a student and practitioner of leadership for the past 15 years. He honed in his team leadership abilities through eight years of decorated service to our country as an Army Ranger and Intelligence Officer. He left the Army to join the high tech industry where he has been a sales executive for three years. Jordan is experienced in strategic account management, leadership, sales and business development. He excels in team leadership and communicating ideas to gain corporate buy-in.
Shayna is a New York native who escaped to Austin after a few too many winters. She currently works at 3 Day Startup, an international nonprofit organization that delivers experiential weekend programs all over the world to teach people how to start companies. As a (failed) founder herself, and through her work with 3 Day Startup, Shayna has extensive experience in the early-stage startup process and is passionate about empowering others to make their dreams a reality. When she's not thinking about how entrepreneurship can change the world, she can be found listening to podcasts while cooking or lifting heavy barbells at her gym downtown.
Tony Ferguson is currently Vice President of Business Development at Austin Rubber Company with focus on product development and technical sales of devulcanized rubber recovered from scrap tires. Mr. Ferguson has extensive background in stage-gated development cycles and a unique ability to bridge the gap between technology, business and operations. Mr. Ferguson also serves as Vice President of Technology Development at Green Source Holdings LLC, the parent company of Austin Rubber. Prior to these appointments, Mr. Ferguson was Senior Engineer at an energy-based technology development company, Senior Product Engineer at a software development and consulting firm, Business Analyst at a real estate investment company and Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) Engineer at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Mr. Ferguson received a Bachelor of Science Degree and Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland in College Park.
Christian has a wealth of experience (15 years+) as the founder and CEO Tableaux Custom Grilles, which designs and builds custom decorative grilles for residential and commercial customers. Prior to founding Tableaux, Christian served as the Director of Business Development for the Capital Network in Austin where he helped entrepreneurs hone their pitch and business models prior to meeting with investors. Christian has an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA from St. Edward’s University.
Dulari Gandhi is a marketing and public relations expert with over 10 years of experience supporting businesses and non-profit organizations hone their brands 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, global and domestic public health, and the environment. Dulari currently serves as Communications Manager at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, a family foundation with the mission of improving the lives of children living in urban poverty. Prior to her current work, Dulari managed several accounts at GMMB, a full-service communications firm specializing in cause and issue marketing. Dulari also has experience developing materials for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and non-profit fundraising and 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 too many pets.
Matt Glazer is the former executive director for the Austin Young Chamber of Commerce and founding executive director of Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute. In both roles he served as the chief executor for the overall vision and direction of the organization and as a representative voice for the millennial workforce and progressive policy community, respectively.Matt is a Texas native who has successfully launched four companies, a regional homes tour (Weird Homes Tour), a statewide advocacy non-profit in Texas (Progress Texas), and an international festival focused on entrepreneurship (Small Business Festival).He is well known as an operations, public affairs, communication, and community engagement expert winning the Austin American Statesman’s social media award in 2009 and the Austin Chronicle’s “Best of…” award, Austin Under 40 Finalist (2017), along with the WeWork Creator Award, Special Community Giver Award, and Austin Inno’s 50 on Fire. In addition to launching companies and a non-profit, Glazer has worked for local and national groups including — the American Heart Association, Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, KTBC Fox 7 Austin, and dozens of political candidates and causes across the country. He is an alumni of Leadership Austin (Emerge ’14, Essential ’17) and is a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow, Truman National Security Project partner, and Glass Leadership Fellow. Currently, Glazer serves as the Director of Community at WeWork. He is an avid runner, cinephile, and loves all things Muppet.
Arjun started four ventures in India. He came to Austin in 2014 for his MBA at McCombs and now works at Dell in product and device innovation strategy team. He is a mindfulness meditation practitioner, distance runner and voracious non-fiction reader. Arjun is happily married for 9 years and has two elementary school age daughters
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.
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.
Richard Huckle graduated from the Naval Academy in 2010 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and then spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. Currently, Richard is a second year full-time MBA at McCombs (UTexas MBA). He spent his summer MBA internship at Los Alamos Laboratory doing business development and technology commercialization. For the past two years Richard has worked on a robotics startup which focuses on automating drilling processes within airplane manufacturing. Richard has plans to pursue product management at Amazon upon graduation.
Dennis Lyftogt is an experienced Go-To-Market technology commercialization professional. His diverse business experience includes-sales, marketing, business development, partnerships (alliances and channels), and consulting. He has successfully worked with diverse executive management and stakeholder roles to deliver business value to customers, clients, and partners. He has over 25 years of experience in Silicon Valley technology community from start-up to Global 2000 companies.
His most recent professional experience was as a Go-to-Market consultant with Cisco Systems, Inc’s Data & Analytics Software Incubation & Strategy Team. This team had Global responsibility for pioneering data and analytics research, integrated solutions, machine learning and cognitive analytics incubation. Team’s responsibility included- R&D, Partnerships, Corporate investment, and P&L new software solutions. The Team successfully accelerated an OEM partnership bringing two automated machine learning software products to market within six months and led the launch of a joint Cisco and IBM offering targeted at edge analytics and cognitive IoT markets.
Scott Mackey is the Vice President of Sustainability at Smarter Sorting, an Austin startup that uses a machine learning enabled, data driven software solution to turn Household Hazardous Waste into reusable products. The result is that cities increase reuse and save money off their expensive disposal/incineration contracts. Since launching in June, Smarter Sorting has grown from 4 to 25 municipal customers while also signing Canada's largest retailer, Canadian Tire. In this role, Scott handles policy, communications, outreach and retail sales. Past experience includes being a failed startup founder, founding and running DC based political non-profits, working both Obama campaigns, and travelling widely for work, spending time in locations ranging from Afghanistan to Croatia.
Lucas Martin is an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for the Texas Association of Regional Councils (TARC) and the US Economic Development Administration (EDA). He is currently a Master of Business Administration (MBA) student at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, with a concentration in Technology Management. In 2014, Lucas moved to Austin, Texas as an AmeriCorps VISTA through the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, where he worked to promote financial capability & affordable loan programs in Central and North Texas. Lucas is passionate about assisting teams through digital marketing and sustainability consulting.
Bob started in the Austin recycling industry in 2008 by forming Austin’s first single-stream hauling service, Wandering River Recycling. During that time he provided stakeholder input as a hauler while the City of Austin drafted the Universal Recycling Ordinance (URO). As the business grew, Bob developed strategic partnerships and efficient systems to contribute to the City of Austin’s evolving Zero Waste initiatives. In 2014 Balcones Resources acquired Wandering River Recycling to add rear load collection and event recycling to its menu of services. Bob continues to grow the recycling and shred business through trusted partnerships who share Balcones’ high standard for integrity, sustainability and customer service. He received his BA in Communication and International Business from San Francisco State University, teaches entrepreneurship in AISD schools through Junior Achievement of Texas, is an active member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.
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.
Lloyd Minick is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Agua Dulce Farm, a certified-Organic urban farm which grows and supplies fresh vegetables, herbs, and fish to Austin restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers' markets, using a combination of aquaponics and field agriculture. Agua Dulce Farm also offers farm tours, workshops, and courses, with the goal of educating and connecting communities through sustainable agriculture.
Prior to Agua Dulce, Lloyd was the Co-founder/President of Ten Acre Organics, a sustainable agriculture company that worked to create a replicable, high-tech, local farm model for urban areas to provide consumers with fresh, local, organic foods. Lloyd also previously served as Program Manager for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Central Texas in 2013/14, where he helped 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.
Hayley Netherton is a venture associate at The Capital Factory, the center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas. In her role as venture associate, Hayley spends her days finding to the most interesting startups in the state and getting them funded and scaled through the Capital Factory accelerator and venture fund. She also actively mentors local entrepreneurs through a number of organizations including Capital Factory, Div Inc, Startup Weekend, and 3 Day Startup, and is a frequent speaker at entrepreneurial focused events in Central Texas. Hayley is also a member of Capital Factory’s Diversity Council where she led the organization of Capital Factory’s first annual Women in Tech Summit and co-founded the ATX LGBTQ in Tech Meetup. Prior to Capital Factory Hayley worked for Ernst & Young in New York as a financial consultant in the banking industry. Hayley is a CPA and holds two degrees from Texas A&M University in accounting and entrepreneurship.
Bhavnesh Patel is the CEO/Founder of Volt480 and brings 14 years of manufacturing expertise to the company. Prior to launching Volt480, he held a variety of global sales and business management roles with Rockwell Automation, a leading industrial automation company. In his most recent role with Rockwell, he led Global Product Management for a portfolio of Customer Support & Maintenance Services.
Originally from a family of small business owners and entrepreneurs, Meghan Rauker has a unique understanding of the challenges entrepreneurs face today. In her role of Bloom Lab Manager & Advancement Specialist for PeopleFund, Meghan oversees the Austin based co-working space, provides business advising, coordinates statewide digital marketing campaigns, and develops fundraising strategies. Meghan earned her Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Modern History from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. While pursuing her degree, she volunteered with several non-profit organizations and discovered her passion for helping people achieve their dreams
Mrs. Rodriguez is an international investment executive with over 17 years’ experience in real estate investments and business operations. Her keen understanding of both multicultural and multidisciplinary organizations, and her ability to develop and pursue strategic business goals enabled her to produce a strong track record of success leading large portfolio optimizations and negotiating complex deals. Currently she is investing in and advising entrepreneurial start-ups and real estate projects.Mrs. Rodriguez led business development and risk activities for GE Capital for almost a decade, originally based in Madrid, Spain, then Austin, Texas. She closed and managed real estate deals over $1B, as well as analyzed large debt and equity opportunities across property markets in Europe and the United States.Prior to GE Capital, she launched and led the corporate finance department of Aguirre Newman (Spain's leading real estate consulting group) and worked for the corporate finance division of Arthur Andersen in Spain. Mrs. Rodriguez holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from UAM, is a graduate of the Executive Program in Real Estate Management from the I.E. Business School, and is currently a McCombs Texas Executive MBA 2019 candidate.
As a loan officer with PeopleFund, Jemerell’s core objective is to identify the financial needs of entrepreneurs in our community and provide access to capital and support to grow healthy small businesses. As a member of Austin’s financial industry for over 11 years and operating his own business for 4 years, Jemerell is in tune with the obstacles faced by many PeopleFund clients. With a keen understanding of the traditional financial mainstream, Jemerell looks forward to creating opportunities to help small businesses thrive.
Abe Rothbaum works in commercial real estate, focusing on acquisitions and redevelopment in Central and East Austin. Prior to working for his own account he worked for Prudential Texas Realty, Marcus & Millichap, and traded treasury bond futures on the Chicago Board of Trade. Abe has been a Social Venture Partner with Mission Capital and enjoys travelling and spending time outdoors with his family.
Dr. Sanders mentors cleantech companies across the portfolio and serves as the Director for both the Water and Transportation Incubators. In this role, he mentors and advises portfolio companies, facilitates academic entrepreneurship programs, organizes the regional coalition of clean energy incubators, and works globally to cultivate relationships and foster a network of clean energy and water technology advocates. Dr. Sanders has worked for several clean energy nonprofit organizations over the past seven years. Prior to joining ATI, Mark was the executive director at the Rosenfeld Society for Sustainable Energy, South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER), and the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Alliance (TREIA). He came to the nonprofit sector from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he worked to commercialize new innovations developed at U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories. Before his time with Berkeley Laboratory, Mark was the founder of a company that employed novel environmental technologies and methods; the company was subsequently acquired by a national firm. He earned a PhD in Building Energy and Environment from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA in innovation and entrepreneurship from Babson College.
Whether sounding a warning to greenwashers on NBC’s TODAY show or spending all day in a landfill to show her dismay at the state of U.S. recycling efforts, Valerie Salinas-Davis passionately speaks out about injecting ethics, transparency and authenticity into companies' sustainability and diversity programs. She cofounded EnviroMedia in 1997, with the company’s first project being to help launch the first America Recycles Day. She led the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign to victory in the America’s Favorite Slogan Competition, beating Nike’s “Just Do It” and “Got Milk?" In 2017, her company launched the “Nobody Trashes Tennessee” campaign for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Valerie is a speaker at water, energy, solid waste, health and advertising conferences, and is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Texas College of Communications. She is a winner of the American Advertising Federation-Austin Silver Medal Award for outstanding contributions to advertising and furthering the industry's standards, creative excellence and responsibility in areas of social concern. Valerie earned a Bachelor of Journalism in Public Relations at UT Austin, and represented the College of Communications on the Texas Exes Council of the UT Ex-Students’ Association. She is a board member of Austin Habitat for Humanity.
Blake is a current MBA student at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and the president of the McCombs Entrepreneur Society. Prior to attending McCombs, Blake served as an Aviation Officer in the United States Army in various operations and management roles both within the United States and multiple countries abroad. He is experienced in solving complex problems in high-stress environments as well as building, leading and managing effective teams towards a common vision.
Blake is passionate about driving social and environmental innovation forward utilizing emerging technologies and disruptive business models. He is the recent recipient of the James D. Pippin Award at the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition.
Two years ago Carrie became the Director of Personnel at Factom, a blockchain startup, after being convinced that this technology would change the world. It's been an amazing experience to support such an innovative team and to watch the world take notice of this flourishing industry. In her free time she attends business school at UT McCombs, learning how all the parts of a business work together. She can't wait to share your enthusiasm and help you pitch your vision to the world.
Cory is a sustainable business consultant with FWD Impact and supports nonprofit strategy services with Red Queen Group; both firms are based in New York but serve clients nationally. She’ll complete her MBA this May at Bard College Graduate Programs in Sustainability, where she also works as a teaching assistant for graduate level courses in Finance and Accounting. Her MBA capstone research focuses on the role of impact investing finance in enabling the scaling of circular business models, especially apparel and other textile industries.
Previously, Cory served as Co-Director at Treasure City and Interim Executive Director at Ecology Action. She’s competed twice in the [Re]Verse pitch (winning the Audience Choice award last year) and enjoys working with early stage companies and developing creative revenue and impact models.
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 as a sales consultant. Stephen is a volunteer mentor with Sunshine Camps and is heavily involved with the Austin Young Men's Business League. Stephen values family, community, nature, eating, learning, fitness, helping other and of course the University of Kentucky basketball program.
Ligia is a dedicated professional with extensive experience in the financial industry. She is a Business Banking Officer and Assistant Vice President at BBVA Compass. She has helped many business owners in the Austin area reach their financial goals. During her 16 years in business banking, she has provided many clients with a customized solution for their company by listening to their individual needs. She also serves as the Economic Development Coordinator for BBVA Compass’ Volunteer Chapter.
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.
Our technical advisors will be available to provide guidance and specific expertise to entrepreneur-mentor teams throughout the competition process.
Environmental Impact/Sustainability Advisors
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.
Marc Coudert is an Environmental Conservation Program Manager with the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, where he works with city departments to embed climate change resiliency into long term operation and asset management planning. In this role he also supports the local Municipal Planning Organization to assess the vulnerability of the regional transportation system to climate change.
In addition, Marc manages the Austin Green Business Leaders, a green business program, and helps city departments with sustainability efforts.
Marc received a MS in Sustainable Design from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning from Arizona State University Design School. He is a LEED Accredited Professional, Envision™ Sustainability Professional and CNU Accredited Member. Marc is a member of the USGBC Resilience Workgroup, NACCHO Global Climate Change Workgroup, USDN Climate Change Preparedness Peer Learning Group and is also board chair of the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC).
Amanda Rohlich is a Business Process Consultant Sr. 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.
Celine Steer is an experienced professional in corporate sustainability strategy and communication. She strongly believes in the role of businesses as a contributor to a more efficient, equitable and innovative society and has worked in this area in Europe and Latin America. She holds two Masters in Sustainable Development and International Relations and a Bachelor in Communications.
She came back to Austin recently to help companies better understand their specific impacts and contributions from a social, environmental and economic perspective so that they're able to make informed decisions.
E Commerce Advisor
Alexander Keller leads Operations at Effective Spend, including directly overseeing the Business Intelligence and SEO departments. Effective Spend provides a full suite of digital marketing services including, Paid Search, Social Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Digital PR and Business Analytics. 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 our digital marketing services 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 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.
Technical Material & Production Advisors
Adam Kennedy is a Scientific Glassblower in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. He works with researchers across the UT network to design and fabricate custom glass to facilitate their research. Adam trained at Salem Community College in New Jersey and is a member of the American Scientific Glassblower’s Society.
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.
Ashley Gill is Senior Manager of Industry Integrity at Textile Exchange, on a team that works to address industry gaps in preferred material verification. Her expertise lies in verification, supply chain management, recycling, certification, labeling, and preferred fiber and materials. She leads the multi-stakeholder groups behind the Responsible Down Standard, Recycled Claim Standard, and Global Recycled Standard. Ashley speaks frequently at industry events on topics related to traceability and textile sustainability issues.
Textile Exchange (TextileExchange.org) is a global non-profit that works closely with our members to drive industry transformation in preferred fibers, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks. We identify and share best practices regarding farming, materials, processing, traceability and product end-of-life in order to reduce the textile industry’s impact on the world’s water, soil and air, and the human population.
Chris Holland is a founding member of Malta Dynamics and serves as Director of both the Product Development and Quality departments. With degrees in both Mechanical Engineering and Business Management, he combines these talents with over a decade of construction and industrial site experience. He uses this exceptional set of skills to support both Malta Dynamic’s customers and the community as a whole.After years of working in the construction and manufacturing industries, Holland came to work for Damian Lang, who is the CEO of four companies in the construction, masonry and safety industries. Holland started working as the plant engineer for EZG Manufacturing. There he was involved in many of the projects that helped EZG maintain their status as one of the premier equipment manufacturers in the masonry industry. One of these projects was the purchase and implementation of a ground-up ERP system, which he designed. Later he led a major design project that resulted in the creation of the award-winning Grabber – an innovative and ground-breaking design that eventually led to the formation of Malta Dynamics.
Dr. Jennifer Pollack is an Associate Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her research focuses on the conservation ecology of marine and estuarine organisms and habitats. She is involved in a broad range of projects, including oyster reef restoration, ecosystem service assessments of habitat value and nitrogen removal provided by restored oyster reefs. Dr. Pollack received her Ph.D in marine science from the University of South Carolina.
Eleni Gesch-Karamanlidis is a conversation designer in the City of Austin’s Design, Technology, and Innovation Fellows Program. The Fellows are working with City staff to improve services for residents, and navigating a complex system in the process. Eleni serves on a team of designers and developers as a communication expert: bringing teams and organizations with competing needs to the table, learns what matters most to them, and helps them clear communication lanes and build connections so they can have the conversations needed to move forward together. Eleni also consults for teams and organizations as a conversation design consultant and coaches juniors rowing on Town Lake. Prior to this, she taught undergraduate public speaking, leadership communication, and negotiation at Texas A&M. Eleni is a trained mediator, has a Ph.D. in Organizational Communication from Texas A&M, and an MA in Marine Affairs and BS in Animal Science from University of Rhode Island.
Christie McNeill is the Director of Operations and HR 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. FreightPros was founded in 2009 and has quickly grown to be a leading provider of freight services nationwide. With a vision to "Set the standard for a quality freight experience," FreightPros specializes in helping small to medium-sized businesses by providing tailored service options that fit each company's unique needs. Our team is comprised of experts in many different modes of transportation, so we're here to help answer any questions you may have!
Christie was born and raised in Austin, TX. She graduated from Austin College in Sherman, TX, where she studied Psychology and Spanish. She attended graduate school at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
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Meeta Kothare teaches Financial Innovation for Social Impact at the LBJ School. She is the founder and president of Neeva Solutions, a management consulting firm assisting organizations dedicated to social impact. She is also on the faculty at the Center for Nonprofit Studies, where she teaches a leadership class for nonprofit executives and volunteers. Kothare has more than two decades of academic, business and social sector experience. After completing her doctorate, she joined the finance faculty at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, where she taught in the MBA, Executive MBA and Business Honors programs. Her research on corporate finance, governance and securities markets has appeared in leading academic journals. Kothare’s current interests include social innovation and the use of financial tools for social impact. Her areas of expertise include impact investing, impact measurement, social entrepreneurship and social enterprise. She is also engaged in community service and philanthropy in Austin. She is a member of Impact Austin, a philanthropic organization, where she has held several leadership roles. Kothare holds a Ph.D. in finance and an M.S. in applied economics from the University of Rochester, and an MBA from the University of Georgia.
Mark Clayton Hand
Mark Clayton Hand is a PhD student at the University of Texas, where his areas of interest include political decision-making, network analysis and immigration policy. He is also cofounder of Assemble, which helps companies have better conversations, build better teams and get more done.
Prior to his PhD, Mark served as Venture Partner at UnLtd USA (now Techstars Impact). At UnLtd USA, Gray Ghost Ventures, Oxford Seed Fund, and the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Mark made, managed and supported investments in over 40 ventures. He has taught entrepreneurship courses at Oxford's Saïd Business School and UT-Austin and worked for four years in community development, including founding Manna Project International's site in Ecuador.