Meet the Investors & Tech Leaders Judging at Startup Night SXSW 2018

Whenever you get the opportunity to talk with an investor, do it. Getting face time with VCs or people of influence is an ongoing challenge for startup founders, and it may take layers of introductions to get to the right person.

Fortunately, for those headed to SXSW, Startup Night SXSW 2018, presented by the Kauffman Foundation and TechCo, will be filled with investors from a multitude of industries who are looking to discover and fund startups building the latest solutions and tech innovations.

Also at Startup Night will be 25 diverse and innovative startups showcasing their latest products, competing for prizes including: $1K from LaunchKC, Business Extra Points from American Airlines, and a fast tracked spot to the Startup of the Year semifinals competition at Innovate Celebrate 2018. The judges for this must-attend event will be people who can help fund and build your business – and you don’t have to wait for an introduction.

Lisha Bell, Deal Flow Lead for Pipeline Angels

Lisha is a member of Pipeline Angels, a social impact angel investing group focused on women and non-binary femmes, and serves as the Deal Flow lead. Lisha served a lengthy tenure fulfilling multiple roles at Wells Fargo, most recently as VP of Consumer Financial Services, where she led the mobile payments strategy and implementation for the credit card business. Lisha works tirelessly to build a platform of advocacy around issues such as tech inclusion, diversity, and education.

Kira A. Blackwell, iTech Program Executive & OCT Innovation Liaison, NASA

moonshots space

Kira is the Innovation Program Executive at NASA HQ within the Office of the Space Technology Mission Directorate Office. She launched the iTech program within NASA to reach out to startups with innovative technology that have an Earth and space travel application. The program has been so successful that the startups have leveraged $48M in private capital to further their development. She has created a successful model to bridge entrepreneurs, investors and the federal government. Prior to NASA, she served as the Executive Director of Operations at Chrysalis BioTherapeutics, Director of Strategic Relations for the Houston Technology Center (HTC) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), and the Director of Strategic Relations for Jacobs, one of the largest engineering service contractors for NASA JSC.

Ashley Bowling, Founding Member of NextGen Venture Partners

At NextGen Venture Partners, Ashley discovers and vets potential investments. She’s also an advisor and connector to portfolio companies, and consults other angel groups to develop business plans. Prior to NextGen, she worked at Morgan Stanley, MetLife, SunTrust, and Ernst & Young.

Joanne Chen, Partner at Foundation Capital

Joanne was an angel investor for two years at Hyde Park Angels prior to joining Foundation Capital in 2014. She began her career as an engineer at Cisco Systems and later cofounded a mobile gaming company. She also spent many years working on Wall Street at Jefferies & Company, helping tech companies go through the IPO and M&A processes, and at Probitas Partners, advising venture firms on their own fundraising process. Today, Joanne works with passionate entrepreneurs who use data assets to disrupt business functions and verticals. She is particularly interested in applications that leverage AI to automate existing workflows or create new services.

Thomas Flake, Founder of PTI Incubator & Founder of bcause

Tom is a well-known serial entrepreneur and most recently founded Bcause, the world’s first full-stack cryptocurrency ecosystem. In addition to that, Tom works with the National Institute of Aerospace and proposed the creation and funding of a small business incubator (Peninsula Technology Incubator or PTI). Previously, his business Synergy Consultants merged with iTribe (1998) that went on to merge with or acquire seven other companies. He then founded TeliOn that sold to Pinnacle Online, and then joined Jacobs Engineering, a Fortune 500 firm, that won the largest contract ever awarded by NASA’s Langley Research Center.

Andre Fowlkes, Managing Partner at Wolf River Angels & President of Start Co.

Andre is an innovation broker, entrepreneur and advocate for inclusion of minorities and women. As the President of Start Co., he brings experience in financial services and economic and community development to bridge resources for talent development and economic growth. He has over a decade of portfolio management in capital markets.

Felecia Hatcher, White House Award-Winning Entrepreneur, Author & Founder of BlackTech Week

Felicia is the cofounder of Black Tech Week, Code Fever, Tribe Cowork and Urban Innovation. She is on a mission to rid communities across the globe of innovation deserts by working with community leaders and government officials to create inclusive and diverse tech/startup ecosystems. As an author, social entrepreneur and the former “Chief Popsicle” of Feverish Ice Cream, Hatcher was named one of the Empact 100 Top 100 Entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by the White House and Kauffman Foundation in 2011 and a 2014 White House Champion of Change for STEM Access and Diversity.

Siggi Hindrichs, Principal at Samsung NEXT

Siggi is a principal at Samsung NEXT in San Francisco, where she focuses on early-stage investment in frontier tech software companies. Prior to joining the investment team at NEXT, Siggi worked on drone fleet management as an Entrepreneur in Residence, also at Samsung NEXT. Siggi is passionate about changing the pipeline for female and minority founders, and co-leads an ever-expanding network of Women in Enterprise.

Andrew Hong, Senior Manager at Daimler US’ M&A Technology and Venture Unit

Andrew’s focus is on early-stage companies operating in the connectivity, autonomous, sharing, and electric drive space (CASE). Andrew leads Daimler US’s M&A Technology and Venture unit, which is responsible for all VC related investments. Before joining Daimler, he was a member of VW China’s M&A team where he led several JV related projects. Prior to that, Andrew was Vice President of Yatsen Associates, a boutique corporate advisory firm specializing on cross-border M&A.

Elizabeth Jennings, Principal, Global Analytics at Venture Atlas Labs

As a marketing technologist and serial founder, Elizabeth has spent the last decade launching medical devices and new health technologies in some of the most complex and challenging regions worldwide. She leads Venture Atlas Labs as a Principal for clients such as Prometheus (Nestle Life Sciences), Dell Healthcare, the American Heart Association International, Alcatel-Lucent, and IDEXX International. Prior to Venture Atlas Labs, she served as Director of International Marketing at Becom Italia in Brescia, Italy.

Darlene Gillard Jones, Chief Community Officer, Partner and Founding Team of digitalundivided

Darlene leads all new ventures, community partnerships, and events at digitalundivided. She is also a founding member of the BIG Innovation Center, and has been a featured speaker at SXSW, Grace Hopper, American Library Association (ALA), Georgia Tech, City College of NY, and the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. She is also the founder of the Gillard Jones Agency.

Mateusz (Mat) Kaliski, Associate at Rubicon Venture Capital

Mat focuses on sourcing and evaluating early-stage companies, conducts diligence on potential investments, and supports Rubicon’s portfolio companies and fund operations. Prior to joining Rubicon, Mat was an Investment Banking Analyst in the TMT Group at Cowen, a growth-focused investment bank. Prior to Cowen, Mat spent time at Barclays and WePay, a fintech startup in Palo Alto.

Sarah Koch, Vice President of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation

With a background in developing and marketing online tools for nonprofits with, Sarah jumped right into the launch of Be Fearless and the Finding Fearless campaign to identify fearless change-makers around the nation. Sarah also leads the inclusive entrepreneurship movement at the Case Foundation, which works to create the opportunity for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to grow and scale their businesses.

Amy Lesnik, CEO and President at Pledge 1%
Amy has over 20 years of experience in leading/scaling/advising early-stage, high-growth ventures and translating innovative ideas into successful new realities. She is a passionate connector and loves to cultivate strategic partnerships and build communities. Amy was named one of the “Bay Area’s Most Influential Women” in 2008 & 2009 by the San Francisco Business Times, and inducted into the “Forever Influential” hall of fame in 2010.

Marissa Lowman, Investor at Village Capital

Marissa leads the Education Practice at Village Capital. Most recently she was a Senior Fellow at Learn Capital, where she focused on product development and investment due diligence. Marissa was also a cofounder of LearnLaunch, an edtech accelerator, community, and coworking space in Boston. While there, she served as the Executive Director of LearnLaunch Institute, LearnLaunch’s non-profit arm, where she grew the edtech community across New England, developed and scaled the Across Boundaries conference, and helped select incoming cohorts for the LearnLaunch Accelerator.

Eric Mathews, Founder and CEO of Start Co

Eric is a champion for community and entrepreneurial change. Beginning in 2006, he began creating entrepreneurial ecosystem components in Memphis, Tennessee and then founded Start Co., the region’s venture development organization. Prior to these endeavors, Eric was the Associate Director of Corporate Research & Development at the FedEx Institute of Technology. Eric is the author of From Garage to Greatness: Succinct First Steps for Early Stage Entrepreneurs, an owner of many businesses in the Midsouth, and board member to the Global Accelerator Network (formerly TechStars Network).

Adam Palmer, Startup Arlington

Adam serves as the Federal Business Development Manager at Arlington Economic Development and works with Startup Arlington, an initiative created to promote Arlington as a technology and startup friendly community on a national level. Previously, he was a founder of a tech startup, served as a mentor at the Technology Entrepreneurship program for Stanford, and AE at Living Social. Today, he seeks out startups to help connect them to government agencies and businesses, and grow.

Concetta Rand, Chief Revenue Officer at iFundWomen

For more than 15 years, Concetta has led and grown global partnerships, exceeded revenue targets and deepened senior-level relationships across a number of complex organizations from startups to global brands. She has held marketing strategy positions with global brands including American Express and Google, and leadership positions at venture-backed startups. As CRO at iFundWomen, Concetta oversees sales, marketing, analytics, and revenue management.

Drew Solomon, LaunchKC & Business Development at Economic Development, Kansas City

Drew is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for the EDC of Kansas City, Mo. He has a professional background in Investment Fund Management, Economic and Real Estate Development, and Technology. Drew also serves as the founder and Competition Chairman for the LaunchKC Grant Competition and Techweek Kansas City.

Andy Stoll, Senior Program Officer, Ecosystem Development in Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation

Andy is a serial entrepreneur and a senior program officer at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he is responsible for the implementation and management of the Foundation’s innovation ecosystem development strategy. Before joining the Kauffman Foundation, he co-founded six entrepreneur-focused companies, including Seed Here Studio, a social good company specializing in building innovation ecosystems in unexpected places, a startup accelerator, coworking space and a series of ecosystem building organizations.

Kimberly Strong, Founder & CEO of Strong Connexion, Investor

Kimberly is a angel investor with Pipeline Angels. She has been a diversity and inclusion specialist for 25 years. Her expertise is in enhancing an effective human resources program, by actively building a workplace of diversity, inclusion and employee engagement. Previously she served as Regional Vice President, Stores HR and Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at Target Corporation.

Tarik Sultan, Founding Partner of Sultan Ventures

Tarik is the founder and Managing Partner of XLR8UH in Honolulu, HI, which was recently listed in Forbes as one of the top 30 accelerator programs in the nation. He is founding partner at Sultan Ventures, a venture firm focusing on early-stage startups, that was awarded the 2014 Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA) Investor of the Year. Tarik now serves as a Board Director and Treasurer of HVCA, is on the Advisory Board of the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE), and has been federally appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce as a Member of the Hawaii Pacific Export Council (HPEC).

Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, Founding Venture Partner of NextGen Venture Partners, Baltimore
As an investor who backs women-led businesses, Kelly helps entrepreneurs, startups and creatives communicate their vision, plan for growth, and pitch to partners, collaborators, and investors on a daily basis. Kelly’s advice has been featured on CNBC, Fox Business, and PBS as well as in Fast Company, TechCrunch, Forbes, The Boston Globe, Redbook, The Baltimore Sun, The Huffington Post and Daily Worth (which she invested in). Kelly also currently invests in and advises over thirty startup companies, and launching a new podcast called SEE JANE INVEST.

Alice Turinas, Partner of Turinas & Bird, Investor
Alice is a member of Pipeline Angels. She applies her 20+ years as a business lawyer and advising tech-focused companies. With experience in corporate and technology licensing, Alice frequently acts as outside general counsel for digital health companies, as well as other SaaS providers. She also has experience advising non-U.S. companies on their expansion in the United States.

If you’ll be in Austin on Saturday, March 10th, RSVP now to join us for the SXSW Startup Night 2018 at the American Cities House located at Maggie Mae’s on 6th St.

Make sure to check out all of the American Cities House SXSW Activities.

Read more about our Startup Nights and SXSW on TechCo

Thank you to all of our SXSW partners: The Kauffman Foundation, Pledge 1%, Startup Arlington, Launch KC,  American Airlines, The Case Foundation, StartCo, digitalundivided, BlackTech Week, Pipeline Angels, Global Entrepreneurship Network, ESTABLISHED, and iFundWomen.

 Follow all the action on Twitter: @startupofyear, #StartupNightSXSW and #StartupofYear

Photo: Ezequiel Williams

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Written by:
Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master's degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.
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