2023 ECOSYSTEM SUMMIT SPEAKERS
The 2023 Ecosystem Summit includes an impressive lineup of nationally recognized experts to local ecosystem builders.
The 2023 Ecosystem Summit includes an impressive lineup of nationally recognized experts to local ecosystem builders.
As the Eastern Regional Outreach Director for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Elizabeth Dougherty carries out the strategic direction of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and is responsible for leading the USPTO’s East Coast stakeholder engagement. Focusing on the region and actively engaging with the community, Ms. Dougherty ensures the USPTO’s initiatives and programs are tailored to the region’s unique ecosystem of industries and stakeholders.
Senator Thom Tillis is a prominent American politician, serving as the junior United States Senator from North Carolina since 2015. With a background in business and a successful career in the private sector, he entered politics in 2006 when he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. In 2014, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate, where he focuses on healthcare, national security, and economic growth, representing conservative values and the interests of North Carolinians.
Matt Dunne is the founder and executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation, a national nonprofit committed to advancing economic prosperity in rural America through the creation of inclusive tech economy ecosystems that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation.
A Vermont native and Brown University grad, Matt previously served 11 years in the state legislature, focusing on broadband policy and downtown redevelopment efforts, and was tapped by the Clinton Administration in 1999 to lead the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In 2007, he started Google’s Community Affairs division out of a former bread factory in rural Vermont, helping lead the Google Fiber rollout in addition to the company’s U.S. philanthropy and engagement efforts.
Bennet has over 20 years of senior leadership experience in operations,
finance, strategy, and life-cycle M&A. He’s led three companies to successful
liquidity events and held enterprise-wide roles in two public companies. Bennet also served in two Presidential Administrations, concluding his government service as Counselor to the Secretary of the US. Department of Homeland Security, where his portfolio included counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, emergency management, and aviation, border, and transportation security.
Bennet is an Honors graduate of Davidson College; the Boston University School of Public Health; and the Medical University of South Carolina, where he was a Dean’s List graduate and inducted into the MUSC Honor Society. He was a part-time faculty member in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for more than 20 years and served as Associate Faculty Director of the Center for the Business of Health in the Kenan-Flagler School of Business.
Victor is founder and CEO of Right to Start, a national nonpartisan nonprofit that expands entrepreneurial opportunity in over 28 states through grassroots organizing, engaging policymakers, and storytelling.
Victor was VP of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, where he co-founded the Entrepreneurship Funders Network and led initiatives that impacted over 200,000 entrepreneurs in 200 cities, including catalyzing capital formation, transforming economic development practices, launching a national policy roadmap, and breaking barriers for underserved entrepreneurs. Victor has been a serial entrepreneur, venture investor, corporate lawyer, and ESO leader. He has advised philanthropies, governments, corporations, and organizations on entrepreneurial innovation and building ecosystems.
He has been a contributing columnist to Inc., Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur. His book, The Rainforest, was Book of the Year by ForeWord Reviews. Victor is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School.
Shenell McClurkin Thompson is the senior program officer for Local Impact in Forsyth County at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. With more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector and a commitment to propelling systems change, Shenell has brought invaluable leadership and knowledge to the foundation as it works toward supporting thriving residents and communities, equitable access to care, and equitable health outcomes. In her role at the Trust, Shenell works with grantees and partners to build an inclusive economy in Forsyth County and manages the Trust’s Great Expectations initiative to ensure that all children in Forsyth County enter kindergarten ready to learn and leave set for success.
Before joining the Trust in May of 2020, Shenell founded Brick by Brick Consulting and served as the organization’s CEO while providing direct support to nonprofits working to address racial disparities, asset building, and economic mobility. Prior to that, she worked for 15 years as the director of assets and opportunities for Financial Pathways of the Piedmont and spent three years at Simon Green Atkins CDC as a program assistant.
Shenell holds a master’s degree from Webster University in human resources development and management and a bachelor’s degree from Central Missouri State University. She and her family reside in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she also serves on the North Carolina Asset Alliance and Prosperity Now committees.
John R. Bradford, III, is an experienced entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of working in corporate America, the property management industry, the tech industry, and in local and state government. He is the Founder and CEO of PetScreening, which is an NC-based pet-tech SaaS company that has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in the country.
He is currently serving a fourth term in the NC House of Representatives and serves as Senior Chairman of Finance and Vice Chairman of Regulatory Reform.
In his spare time, he likes to fish, camp, and travel with his family.
Chakema Clinton-Quintana is Vice President, Director of Channel, Powered by Live Oak Bank in downtown Wilmington. With a degree in business management, she focuses on strengthening and supporting inclusive small business growth in our communities through research, mentorship, and programming. She was named one of WilmingtonBiz top 100 connectors in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Chakema also received the New Hanover County Equity Award for Business in August 2022, and the 2022 James Fullwood Award for outstanding commitment to our community. In addition, Chakema is a board member of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the co-chair of the African American Business Council (AABC) at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Commission of African American History, and is on the boards of four nonprofit organizations that aim to empower underserved young people to aspire and achieve.
Jerry E. Edmonds III is currently the Vice President of Workforce and Community Engagement at Vance Granville Community College, Henderson, North Carolina, a post he has held since October, 2019. Dr. Edmonds previously served as Dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Halifax Community College, Weldon, North Carolina. Prior to his role as Dean, Dr. Edmonds served as Halifax Community College, Small Business Center Director, a position he held from August, 2014 until August, 2018. Prior to his current roles, Dr. Edmonds held a variety of executive leadership positions within Johnson & Johnson and IBM where he was the recipient of numerous training, recruitment, marketing, and leadership awards. Dr. Edmonds served as President of the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Chapter of Rotary International and he is currently a member of the Henderson, North Carolina Chapter of Rotary International and a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. Dr. Edmonds serves on a variety of boards including Mariah Parham Duke Life Point, Lakeland Cultural Arts Center, Working Landscapes, Kerr Tar Council of Governments, Turning Point, CDC and as Chair of the NC IDEA Board of Directors. Dr. Edmonds is a collaborative leader with vision, innovation and integrity.
Heather McWhorter, MS, PE, is passionate about empowering individuals and communities to succeed through entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainability. As the director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), she focuses on collaboration for maximizing entrepreneur success. CIE nurtures emerging startups and accelerates the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern North Carolina as a vibrant hub of innovation and a central facility that offers educational events, UNCW connections, and a state-of-the-art incubator space. Heather has many other roles to support entrepreneurs such as: chairs the Wilmington Business Coalition, a collaboration of organizations that assist entrepreneurs and small businesses in the region; serves on the Leland Economic Development Committee (with a focus on entrepreneurs); and teaches entrepreneurship online for Penn State College of Engineering. And she has many accomplishments supporting entrepreneurs and innovators when serving roles such as Regional Director Regional Director of the UNCW Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), the statewide Director of the SBTDC Business Launch Initiative, and entrepreneurial/innovation leadership roles at Penn State.
José’s professional experience and passion for the past twenty-two years have been in the non-profit and economic empowerment fields.
He currently manages Prospera’s North Carolina operations, including overseeing staff, programming, impact measurement, fundraising and community relations to provide the state’s Hispanic entrepreneurial community with sustainable support and access to economic opportunity.
Liz Brigham serves as the W. Spencer Mitchem Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Davidson College. She leads a team committed to facilitating access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship for all. Prior to this role, she held product and marketing leadership positions at Morningstar Inc., Jive Software, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, and tech startup Timshel. In 2019, she was recognized as the Product Marketing Leader of the Year by the Global Product Marketing Alliance and with the Davidson Alumni Service award. Brigham holds a B.A. in English, cum laude, from Davidson College and an MBA with Distinction from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She is also a mentor and serves on the boards of LaunchCLT and Cannon School, serves as a strategic advisor to startups, plays the piano and acoustic guitar, and dreams of building a family band with her young sons and husband.
John Hardin is the Executive Director of the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation. Serving in that position since 2008, he conducts strategic planning and makes recommendations for technology-based economic development, implements technology-related economic development policy and resource allocations, and supervises the staff of the N.C. Board of Science, Technology & Innovation directs and oversees the administration of grant programs to support technology development and commercialization and oversees strategic initiatives. From 1998 to 2003, he served as Assistant Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs in the UNC System Office. From 1998 to 2005, he held an Adjunct Assistant Professor position in the Department of Political Science at UNC-Chapel Hill. From 2006-2018, he was a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he taught courses on American politics, public policy, policy analysis, and science policy. A native of Tulsa, Okla., he holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill, a B.A. in economics from Baylor University, and a certificate of completion for the Leadership Decision Making program, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Eric is a global business leader who serves as an advisor, mentor, thought solutions leader, and coach to corporate leaders and their teams, as well as to individuals working to release their inner brilliance.
Working to improve business operations for industry leaders like Charlotte Works, Celgard, Mars, Intel, PepsiCo, and Anheuser Busch has given him the knowledge, skills, and abilities to work in any industry.
He is currently the CEO of NXT | CLT, an Entrepreneur Support Business Accelerator.
Josh is a co-founder and the CEO of Cycle Labs. Prior to Cycle Labs, Josh founded and led a global supply chain consulting firm through 12 years of organic growth, where he also led the development of the Cycle product from its idea phase to the valuable enterprise continuous testing platform it is today. With over 18 years of experience deploying enterprise solutions across various industry verticals, Josh is dedicated to modernizing enterprise solution deployment and helping companies focus on business growth rather than business risk. Josh leads his teams with an emphasis on culture and a focus on innovation, curiosity, and a willingness to ask why. Cycle Labs encourages clients and teams to question everything and strive for continuous, iterative improvement.
Laura Smailes serves as the Assistant Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI). With a focus on experiential student activities, Laura works directly with departments and colleges on campus to develop and implement an inclusive interdisciplinary community to engage and serve UNC Charlotte students and faculty in innovation, entrepreneurship, and social impact. Laura assists in the design and implementation of several community programs, including Inclusive Innovation Leadership Academy and Charlotte Launch, prioritizing diverse leadership in the Charlotte entrepreneurial community and supporting founders in their customer discovery journey. Extending her mentorship in the academic community, Laura is an adjunct professor and guest lecturer on UNC Charlotte’s campus and an adjunct professor for I-Corps South, National Science Foundation’s I-Corps National program.
Natalie J. Brown is Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship in Charlotte, NC and leads Ally’s charitable giving and community affairs initiatives, while also positioning Ally as a corporate social responsibility leader in the community.
Throughout Natalie’s career, she has held a range of positions with several fortune 500 companies such as Duke Energy, Bank of America, IBM, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., Haworth, Inc., and Honda of America Manufacturing, Inc.
Natalie actively promotes the company’s commitment to philanthropy and diversity and inclusion, through her work inside and outside of the company. She has received several awards including Black Business Ink’s Magazine Power 100 and is a recipient of the “2021 LEADing the Way Awards”, one of the highest recognitions an employee can receive at Ally. Natalie currently serves on the national board of Rebuilding Together and several local boards in the region. She is also a member of the Charlotte Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, she received her bachelor’s degree in Transportation Management from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and a Certificate in Corporate Citizenship Leadership from Carroll School of Management at Boston College. She is married and has two daughters.
Davis, a Baltimore native, holds a Master’s in Management from Wake Forest University and a BA from Davidson College.
He has worked in tech his entire career. Prior to joining EcoMap as co-founder and COO, Davis co-founded AdWap, an adtech platform with a charitable fundraising focus. He also held leadership roles at TrackOFF, a data privacy startup that was acquired by Avast Software in 2019, and Protenus, series D healthtech startup.
Davis has been active in the Baltimore tech ecosystem as one of the co-founders of a coalition dedicated to transforming Baltimore into a hub for diverse tech professionals. His contributions to the tech community have earned him recognition as a ‘Best in Tech’ Executive by the Baltimore Business Journal. He is also involved in various community initiatives and currently serves on the boards of Retrain America and Code in the Schools.
Dr. Michael Harris is the Interim Dean & J. Fielding Miller Distinguished Professor in the ECU College of Business. He was the founding director of the Miller School of Entrepreneurship, and co-creator of the RISE29 student entrepreneurship program. He has published extensively in the areas of entrepreneurship and small business, and worked with over 800 students to complete consulting projects for more than 200 regional business clients in eastern North Carolina.
Lakesha McDay is a deeply respected leader across the State of North Carolina with 25 years of leadership experience in equity, diversity and inclusion; strategic operations and human resource management; and leadership development. Her areas of expertise include a demonstrated ability to build trusted collaboration and partnerships with community members, government officials, education and executive leaders, and grassroots organizations.
She most recently served as the executive director for governmental and community relations at the University of North Carolina – Asheville. Ms. McDay also served significant leadership roles, including equity officer at Dogwood Health Trust, a private foundation in western North Carolina. She also served the community of western North Carolina while working for Mission Health for more than 20 years. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from UNC Asheville, a post-graduate certificate in innovation management from Western Carolina University, and is currently pursuing an MBA from Fayetteville State University. Ms. McDay holds a certification as a national diversity professional through the Society for Diversity and the National Institute for Diversity and Health Equity. She is also a trained facilitator in leadership coaching, professional development, and organizational communication.
Ms. McDay is excited to join the inaugural senior leadership team at New Hanover Community Endowment and is looking forward to being in and serving alongside the people in this community.
David Reeser is a serial entrepreneur and current CEO and Founder of OpiAID, a data science company making addiction treatment safer and more effective. David spent the first 13 years of his career in direct patient care, before starting his first company. OpiAID was founded out of love for his Neighbors in recovery. Outside of work, David enjoys being with his family, traveling, mentoring others, and being a part of his local church.
Jenn Summe is the driving force behind Primordial, an early-stage investment initiative from Colopy Ventures. With eight years of experience in the Triangle tech startup scene, she brings a wealth of operational knowledge in business development, marketing, and customer experience to her investments, helping to nurture 12-15 new Triangle-based tech startups each year. Jenn holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
On November 1, 2021 Manwell Bynum joined Atrium Health as it’s first Head of Business Acceleration. In this executive role, Manwell has administrative oversight of enterprise business diversity strategy, sustainable sourcing and economic mobility efforts aligned to enterprise initiatives, including the Pearl Innovation District and the Atrium Health Center of Business Diversity and Entrepreneurship.
Manwell is also a founding member of Queen City Venture Partners, LLC, an angel investment group based in Charlotte.
Manwell currently serves on the inaugural Executive Advisory Board for the Center of Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at N.C. A&T State University. He is also an advisory board member for the Charlotte Engineering Early College, a member of N.C. Biotech Advisory Committee for Biotechnology in Greater Charlotte, and the advisory board for the NC Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in STEM Pathways and Research Alliance (NC-LSAMP). Most recently, Manwell was appointed to the NC Board of Science, Technology and Innovation by the Governor of NC.
Manwell holds a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C.
At Dogwood Health Trust, a Western North Carolina-based regional health conversion foundation, Moriah manages the investment strategy and deployment of grants to small business capital providers and partners working to develop thriving local economies. In addition to her role on the granting team, Moriah sits on Dogwood’s impact investing working group, where she contributes to the strategy development and deal management of economic-mobility-focused investments.
Prior to joining Dogwood, Moriah worked with Mountain BizWorks, a regional U.S. Treasury-certified community development financial institution, where she was responsible for development, impact measurement, and communications to support a thriving, inclusive, and vibrant economy in Western North Carolina.
Moriah is an MBA candidate at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, holds a BA in Sustainable Product Development from Warren Wilson College, and currently resides in Polk County, North Carolina.
Molly, a native of Morganton, NC, is Co-Executive Director for The Industrial Commons. She co-founded the organization in 2015 to support industrial workers across her region. After attending Duke University, she returned home to teach in the public school system. In 2008, she founded Opportunity Threads, the largest, US-based worker-owned, cut and sew facility. She also co-founded the Carolina Textile District in 2013, a strategic value chain supporting the resurgence of textiles across the Carolinas. Molly served on the national board of the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) and was a founding board member of NC Employee Ownership Center (NCEOC). She was named a 2023 Ashoka Fellow for her work in rural economic development.
With a wealth of 35 years of experience, Kirsten specializes in the convergence of technology, industry, and innovation ecosystems for her federal, commercial, foundation, and regional economic development clients. Her career began in product development as an electronics packaging engineer, where she laid the cornerstone for her work helping clients develop technology strategies, roadmaps, processes, and tools that help them move their technology investments to market. She has an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina and a B.S.M.E. from the University of Minnesota.
Kelly joined CED in 2017 and has a diverse background in leading teams and improving organizational capacity. As an accomplished executive, she offers 20 years of experience using aspects of both systems and design thinking to develop innovative solutions for organizations. Her past successes are most noted by her ability to align strategy with value to drive towards maximum impact. Rowell has a B.A. in Marketing, Small Business Management, and Entrepreneurship is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and a CFRE.
Tom is Executive Director of RIoT, supporting Internet of Things and disruptive technology industry growth. Under Tom’s leadership, RIoT has launched the RIoT Accelerator Program, RIoT Studios, which includes the RIoT Underground Podcast, and RIoT’s ED series. He has grown RIoT from a Research Triangle focused organization to one with international reach.
In his spare time, Tom co-instructs Product Innovation Lab, a Forbes award winning multidisciplinary course in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at NC State.
Prior to joining RIoT, Tom held an executive leadership role at the ASSIST Center, a National Science Foundation sponsored effort to create wearable electronics for healthcare monitoring. Previously, he spent two decades in product development and technology incubation for multinational technology
companies. He’s passionate about creating and fostering collaborations across disciplines, markets and cultures.
He enjoys the outdoors, woodworking, board games, big crowds, craft beer and ideas that are just crazy enough to work.
Ramya Vijapurapu is a Technology Commercialization Counselor for the North Carolina Small Business Technology Development Center, based in Raleigh. She is a recent graduate of NC State’s Master of Microbial Biotechnology (MMB) program. Post graduation, Ramya consulted with several small, innovation-driven companies in the RTP area on business development initiatives.
Katrece Boyd is the Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at North Carolina Central University where she leads initiatives that drive innovation and economic prosperity for student and community entrepreneurs. For nearly two decades she’s coached small business owners and corporate leaders, helping them unleash their potential to create both social and economic value. She is actively engaged in community work dedicated to advancing the economic mobility of under-resourced communities including NC IDEA’s Black Entrepreneurship Council, the Black Wall Street Forward Initiative, and Habitat for Humanity’s Advocacy Committee. Katrece is the Co-Founder of Loving All My Body, an indie beauty brand whose mission is to make every woman’s body her home, as well as an ICF-credentialed coach and trained facilitator.
Will is the Founder & CEO of Incolo, whose Founder Community in 2022 raised 36% of all Investment Crowdfunding successfully closed by startups out of its HQ state, North Carolina. Incolo’s on a mission to create a world where the rewards of capitalism are accessible to all and has a goal to help 1,000 founders fund & scale through the crowd by 2030.
Since 2016, he’s personally invested in 90+ startups (CRE / SMBs / Venture)
Will’s vision? A community-owned city – dirt to tower, coffee shop to aerospace – all businesses partly owned by those who call it home.
Emil Runge has the phenomenal pleasure of working with entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners on an array of efforts to improve the probability of success of early-stage science startups. He leads the First Flight BARDA DRIVe Accelerator focused on national health security, facilitates Propeller Ideation Trainings, manages the partnerships with the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP) and the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (DMCSP) focused on defense textiles and wearables, works with our awesome Navigators and lines up our great companies to present at our investor-focused pitch practice sessions and science talks. In 2022, Emil helped launch the Wheels UP Accelerator, a comprehensive 12-week, cohort-based, sector-focused accelerator for science/technology startups.
For over three decades, Emil has consulted, advised, and assisted elected and appointed officials in capacities at the federal, state, and local levels as well as academia. Since 2001, he focused primarily on improving his region, state, and nation through innovative public policy solutions and strategic initiatives in the political, governmental, innovation, and entrepreneurial arenas. For over a dozen years, he has focused on growing and improving Innovation and entrepreneurial Ecosystems, especially those focused on specific industry clusters and convergent opportunities that combine multiple clusters.
William Toole is a Deputy to North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, the first woman elected to the Council of State in North Carolina. As Deputy, he oversees the Department’s Business Registration, UCC Filing, Charitable Solicitation Licensing, Notary Commissioning and Enforcement, and Land Records Divisions. In that role, he evaluates filing processes and analyzes registration data to identify Departmental improvements and policies that can attract and promote commercial and noncommercial capital formation in North Carolina. Before joining the Department in 2020, Toole was a practicing environmental lawyer for 27 years, focusing on mergers and acquisitions, compliance, high-stakes litigation, complex stakeholder negotiation, and rulemaking. He has a BA from Haverford College (1982) and a JD/MBA from Wake Forest University (1989). He has also been an elected Belmont City Council member, commercial fisherman, carpenter, newspaper journalist, and French chef.
Magalie Yacinthe fulfills her purpose in inclusive entrepreneurship by leading the execution and delivery of solutions and learning engagements as the Director of Ecosystem Engagement at Forward Cities, a national nonprofit focused on equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem building. Magalie also leads a nonprofit, HUSTLE Winston-Salem, an organization co-founded by her, and CEO of Forward Cities, dedicated to leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs with a focus on women, people of color, and marginalized business districts. Through these roles, Magalie has been fortunate to be recognized for her contributions to advancing equity in entrepreneurship across North Carolina.
Juan has been serving as an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder in the Charlotte community for the better part of the last decade. He currently serves as managing director for Innovate Charlotte, as executive director of PitchBreakfast, and leads innovation-led entrepreneurship initiatives for Charlotte Economic Development. Previously, he founded and led StartCharlotte before it was acquired and rebranded as Charlotte Inno, where he continued as general manager. In these roles, Juan has hosted over one hundred entrepreneurial events and advised hundreds of founders and entrepreneurial support organizations. He continues to support the ecosystem in other capacities as well, including as a member of the Centralina Economic Development District board and the Queens University Entrepreneurial Leadership Circle. Juan is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University Charlotte, where he majored in marketing and served as student body president. He lives in north Charlotte with his wife and four school-aged children.
David Newsome is a director in the Employer Mobilization practice at JFF. He helps design and implement programs to advance employers’ skills-based talent practices that improve business outcomes while enabling equitable economic advancement for workers.
Before joining JFF, Newsome was vice president of strategic initiatives at Virginia Community Capital Social Enterprises, a community development financial institution, where he led internal and external projects to increase access to economic opportunity.
Bachelor’s degree in linguistics, University of Virginia
Master’s degree in city planning, MIT
MBA, MIT Sloan School of Management
Tim Scales is Executive Director at the American Underground, a startup hub and community of entrepreneurs in downtown Durham. Previously, he founded a successful marketing company and an unsuccessful tech startup and learned a lot from both opportunities. He has an MBA from Duke University and lives in Durham with his wife and their boisterous kindergartner.
Dr. Dana Upton excels at aligning both scientific and business objectives to help clients successfully advance their technologies. Her scientific training focused on DNA damage, repair, and replication in the context of cancer biology, immunology, and virology. Before joining EGC, Dr. Upton served as a biotechnology strategy and writing consultant for early-stage companies. Dr. Upton is also an ASQ-certified Six Sigma Black Belt. At EGC, she enjoys helping companies with their commercialization strategies to transition innovative solutions from the bench to the marketplace.
Dave Kaiser is the Deputy Director for the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation, which is staffed by the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation in the North Carolina Department of Commerce. In this role, he manages research projects, policy analysis, and programmatic functions, writes reports, articles, and issues press releases on innovation opportunities and activities across the state, and collaborates and fosters partnerships in support of North Carolina’s efforts in the recruitment and retention of high-growth, innovative companies statewide. Kaiser also directs conferences, workshops, and task force meetings organized by the Office. Previously, Kaiser was a research economist at RTI International and a Research & Policy Analyst with the Kauffman Foundation. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for FIRST North Carolina, a nonprofit organization created to inspire youth in North Carolina to pursue further studies and careers in science and technology and to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to compete in the technologically-driven global economy; on the Board of Advisors for the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership, which addresses the critical need for high-quality professional development for educators and is the largest STEM-focused teacher leadership program in North Carolina; and is a mentor in the LaunchAPEX program.
JaLisha is Thread Capital’s director of lending and client support. She leads Thread Capital’s loan origination, coaching, connections, and customer service efforts, with the goal of executing Thread Capital’s mission of strengthening entrepreneurship and expanding access to capital for small businesses in North Carolina. JaLisha is a Durham native and a graduate of Emory University with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a minor in global health, culture, and society. She enjoys filling unclaimed time with traveling, pretending to exercise on social media, and binge-watching TV with Garrett and two dogs, Jim Bean and Dacarius.
Bianca Simmons is a North Carolina native who moved from Morehead City to Raleigh, NC, in 2019 with her husband to pursue her career as a paralegal. Bianca is the Pro Bono Programs Coordinator for the North Carolina Bar Foundation, overseeing pro bono programming such as Wills for Heroes and the Entrepreneurs Assistance Program (EAP). She earned her associate degree in paralegal studies at Carteret Community College, graduating in 2018 with honors and being awarded the academic excellence award, a statewide honor. Bianca has served in various legal association roles, such as a criminal defense paralegal, an investigative analyst for the North Carolina Board of Law Examiners, and a Probation Clerk for the Eastern District of North Carolina. She is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal and Notary Public. Bianca is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in Business Administration. Within the years to come, Bianca plans to create a non-profit organization that focuses on reducing recidivism and breaking generational trauma in low-income communities while promoting generational wealth.
Ivan Barajas Vargas has a wealth of work experience, beginning in 2004 with e-Quallity as a Software Test Engineer. In 2005, they worked as a Software QA/Automation Engineer for Hewlett-Packard contractor by Sinergia. In 2006, they were a Software QA Project Lead/SAN Testing Lab Manager-Architect for Softtek (EMC Contractor). From 2010-2011, Ivan was a Senior Software Engineer for CommVault and a Systems Technical Strategy Manager, SW QA Group Lead, and Principal Software Engineer for EMC. In 2014, they were an Entrepreneurship Concentration for UNC Kenan-Flagler – Entrepreneurial Consulting Projects. Most recently, in 2019, Ivan became the CEO + Co-Founder of MuukTest, which was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation in 2020. Ivan Barajas Vargas obtained their Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.) in Computer Systems Engineering from ITESO – Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C. between 2000 and 2004. Ivan then went on to pursue a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School between 2012 and 2014. In June 2019, they were also a MassChallenge Finalist at MassChallenge.