Sarah Sharif is a Pakistani-born, British-American who has dedicated her career to social innovation, civic technology, and human impact projects. Sarah is the Founder of Experimental Civics, Founder of Capsule, and Co-Founder of Life Sci Hack. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Sharif quickly gained recognition as the Director of ATX Hack for Change driving the generation of 157 social innovation and emerging technology projects in her role. Through Experimental Civics, she has launched over 10 workshops and 25 hackathons to increase awareness in open science, social innovation, and design thinking. As a millennial CEO under 30, we've only seen the beginning of her global work as Sarah empowers communities through engagement with technology. Many millennials talk about change with no real outlet for action. Sarah is truly unique in that she's creating a space for changemakers to make a difference with hands-on experiences, workshops, and hackathons.
Frankie Russo has built the Russo Capital portfolio of companies throughout multiple industries including technology, advertising, marketing, music, agriculture, publishing, and finance. The companies he has invested in have offices in the USA and India and serve 121 U.S. Markets. Russo and his team have lead 2 of his companies to become one of America’s fastest growing privately owned companies 6 years in a row [Potenza Inc - INC 5000 list 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 360ia - INC 500 List 2019]. In 2017 his company became one of the top 50 companies in southwest Louisiana. Russo was also named as ABIZ entrepreneur of the year and recognized as one of the top 20 under 40 honorees in Louisiana. "The Art of WHY", Russo’s first book which was published in 2016, landed on Amazon’s Best Seller list in the Self Help category. He currently conducts a series of book tours and talks around the country to help his audience master their own purpose. All proceeds from the sales of The Art of WHY go to support microfinance around the world. TAOW Publishing’s main microfinance partner is currently KIVA.
Bruce Garrison is senior vice president of zColo, Zayo Group’s colocation segment. In this role, he is responsible for the strategy, investment, operations, sales and financial performance of the business unit. During Bruce’s four-year tenure with Zayo, he has served as vice president of Global Partners, which includes the company’s Global Reach team, International Carriers and the Indirect channel. Prior to joining Zayo, Bruce was vice president and head of international services for GTS Central Europe based in Prague, Czech Republic until its acquisition by Deutsche Telekom. Before joining GTS, Bruce held senior leadership roles at EarthLink Business and Cavalier Telephone Corporation. Bruce graduated from McNeese State University with a degree in marketing.
Gregarious Narain is a serial entrepreneur and founder, having founded more than a dozen companies over the past 25 years. His most recent company, Chute (YC W12), raised $16MM, grew to millions in revenue with 50+ employees spanning 6 cities, before being acquired in 2018. Prior to Chute, Greg was the first employee and V.P. Product at Klout. Greg’s diverse background gives him a unique point of view on the startup experience. A designer and developer by trade, Greg straddles the technical, product, and business realms to help align businesses around a common, customer-driven vision. Greg’s no-nonsense, outside-in approach to entrepreneurship has helped startups and the Fortune 500 alike understand and achieve the success they need. Greg has spoken internationally at many leading industry events, including Cannes Lions Innovation, DreamForce, NAB, SXSW, AWS Re:Invent and mentored for programs including YC Startup School, Google Launchpad, TechStars and Founder Institute.
Mark Graffagnini is the founder and Managing Partner of Cara Stone, LLP, a national law firm focused on transactional law, securities, and corporate litigation. Mark has been selected as a "Super Lawyer" in the field of securities law for multiple years in a row and has significant experience representing public and private companies. Mark has successfully represented clients through various rounds of financing, exit, crisis management, and scale. Many of his clients have already had successful exits, including Waitr Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: WTRH) and Lucid, LLC. Mark is an active and successful angel investor and is an active Public Policy Advisory Committee member of the Angel Capital Association.
Brad Wolverton is the head of content at The Hustle, a San Francisco-based digital media company best known for its informative and entertaining daily business newsletter, which has more than 1 million subscribers. He oversees the company's podcast, its popular Sunday long reads, and its new premium publication, "Trends," which helps entrepreneurs analyze business opportunities. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and other leading publications.
Maxwell is a Product Catalyst at Revelry, where he is responsible for learning the objectives of partner companies, helping them understand the Revelry approach to building digital products and being an advocate for those partners within the Revelry ecosystem. As an Alumni of Boston College and Venture for America, Maxwell believes in the power of technology, entrepreneurship and empathy to create positive impacts on our lives. He has a 3y year old Louisiana Mutt named Olive and loves getting outdoors, good food and seeing live music.
Heidi Redmond Raines is passionate about developing technology and services that deliver the highest quality health care in the safest possible environment. Raines is the founder and CEO of Performance Health Partners (PHP), a software solutions and services company that provides innovative, custom software solutions to all types of health care organizations. After 10 years as an intrapreneur in multiple companies, Raines founded her first healthcare company, Medical Executive Partners, where she lead the successful build and sale of a medical center and high complexity laboratory in New Orleans to a national operator. Next she founded Performance Health Partners where she successfully lead the company through funding rounds backed by Goldman Sachs and Lafayette General Health’s Healthcare Innovation Fund. Heidi is the Board President of the American College of Healthcare Executives’ Women Healthcare Executive Network (WHEN), and also holds a Preceptor Faculty position at Tulane University’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program and UNO’s Bachelor of Healthcare Administration program, where she aims to impart the encompassing view of the healthcare industry that she was grateful to receive early in her career. She has received awards for innovation and executive leadership, including City Business’ Innovator of the Year and Woman of the Year awards and was named one of the Top 100 Influential Entrepreneurs in Louisiana.
Senior IT Delivery Executive with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business goals through the application of Information Technology solutions and services. Experience managing and delivering complex project implementations, enterprise level product development management and full hosting and managed operations in support of Utility and Public Sector clients. Specialties include: Delivery Risk Assessment Delivery Management and Oversight Creation and Management of Global Teams Project Management Client Relationship Management Financial and Contract Management Global Delivery SaaS Delivery Management Managed IT Operations
Harold J. Callais II, "Hal" is a Managing Partner and the Chief Investment Officer of Callais Capital Management. He oversees all investment activity, portfolio management, and directly engages with portfolio companies to deliver value to their management teams. Hal has sourced, analyzed, negotiated, and closed over $138 million in direct transactions. Under his leadership, Callais Capital Management has returned in excess of $30 million to its investors. Hal serves on the Board for numerous portfolio companies, advisory boards, and investment committees. Hal is the Treasurer for the Board of Trustees of Bayou Community Academy, a member of the Committee of 100 for Economic Development in Louisiana and is a member of the Steering Committee for Nicholls State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Previously, Hal was Vice President of the Nicholls State University Alumni Federation, a Director for the Lafourche Parish Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lafourche Program, and was an inaugural member of the Emerging Leader's Council for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Hal received his BS in Finance at Nicholls State University and holds the FINRA Series 65. Hal was awarded ACG Louisiana's 2016 Young Dealmaker of the Year and was included on Silicon Bayou’s 100 most influential and active people in tech and entrepreneurship in Louisiana for 2016, 2017 and 2018, and is a frequent panelist on industry matters and pitch competitions across LA and MS. Hal and his wife Kristen live in Thibodaux, LA with their five children.
Kelly Campbell is an Agency Growth Consultant and Coach based in New York. A former digital agency owner for 15 years, she helps creative/technology agencies and their leaders transform. An SEO consultant to Facebook, Inc. and NASA, she is also a keynote speaker and has been featured in The New York Times, Woman Entrepreneur and Forbes. She hosts THRIVE: Your Agency Resource, a bi-weekly video podcast sponsored by Workamajig, and is writing her first book on how creative leaders release ego and reveal purpose.
As Creative Director of DEFINITION 6, Thom Henkel is proud to help guide culture, discover innovative ways to use technology, and elevate the team to make every day a new adventure at the company. Throughout his 20 years in the industry, he’s had the opportunity to work with brands including: Chick-fil-A, AMC Theatres, Wells Fargo, Coca-Cola, FRIDAYS, Kimberly-Clark Professional, Verizon Wireless, CenturyLink, and more. Because of his expertise in the field, Thom has earned awards including multiple Gold, Silver and Bronze ADDY awards, GDUSA American Graphic Design Awards, a Webby Award Honoree and was named 2010 Creative Advertising Person of the Year by the Ad Club of New Orleans.
William serves as Chief Information for the Lafayette Economic Development Authority (LEDA) in Lafayette, LA where he is responsible for recruiting and retaining high-wage technology jobs in Lafayette Parish and managing LEDA's IT infrastructure. Prior to his role at LEDA, William was Chief Business Administrator at LUS Fiber, one of the country's first city-owned fiber optic ISPs, where he was responsible for marketing, sales, public relations, products and pricing, television contracts, regulatory compliance, employee training, and administration. William earned his Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana in 2006, majoring in Management Information Systems and received his MBA, also from University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in 2013.
Molly Hegarty is the Founder & CEO of Junum. Junum is a digital health company focused on empowering clinicians to utilize nutrition best practices using technology and data. Junum started as a result of Molly's personal experience and passion for nutrition. While working as a process engineer at Intel, a friend passed away from complications due to surgery to treat Crohn’s Disease, a condition where the impact of nutrition is substantial and often overlooked. After switching careers to focus on nutrition, the frustrations she experienced as a nutritionist with electronic medical records and patient care led her to use her technical and clinical expertise to found Junum. Molly holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Michigan, a Masters degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University and is a Registered Dietitian. She completed her Dietetic Internship at the Tulane School of Public Health. In the nutrition field, she was a 2016 Nominee for Outstanding Dietitian in Louisiana. Her work has been recognized nationally by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and she has been a featured speaker at national and Louisiana-based health conferences.
Jaci began her career at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in Los Angeles, California. While there, she worked as a Junior Talent Agent for clients such as Helen Hunt, David Letterman, Blair Underwood, Bonnie Hunt, Janine Turner, Mimi Rogers, Jennifer Grey, and Gwyneth Paltrow – developing projects, negotiating contracts, and creating opportunities. Before returning to her hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, Jaci took on the role of Executive Assistant to Chairman and CEO, Barry Diller. As Diller’s right-hand, she coordinated the strategic planning, mergers/acquisitions and business development of six different Diller-owned companies including Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, USA Network, Lycos, CitySearch, and Savoy Pictures. Jaci co-founded brandRUSSO in 2001. Only 30 years old at the time, she was an industry professional to watch. As an author, Jaci has published numerous eBooks on branding and is the primary contributor to RUSSO’s Razor Branding Blog. In addition, Jaci is a sought after speaker and has served as a featured writer for Ad Age’s Small Agency Diary and Talent Zoo.
Aimee Quirk is the CEO of innovationOchsner (iO), an innovation company founded by Ochsner Health System in 2015 to reimagine and revolutionize the delivery and experience of healthcare and health. iO focuses on digital health, advanced analytics and precision medicine, and uses technology, data and new thinking to create effective and convenient patient-centered solutions. Aimee joined iO in 2015 with more than 15 years of experience in law, economic development and public affairs. Previously, she served as the Senior Advisor for Economic Development for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu from 2010 to 2014, and prior to her public service she was a partner at Jones Walker, where she practiced corporate and business litigation. Aimee received a B.S. in Finance magna cum laude from Louisiana State University and a J.D. summa cum laude from Tulane University School of Law. A native of New Orleans, she is active in the community and serves on several nonprofit boards.
Sloan is the Executive Director of INNO (https://innoconf.com/), a New Orleans based conference focused on collaboration and innovation in strategic partnerships between startups and corporations, hosted between Jazz Fest weekends from April 27-30, 2020. Before spearheading INNO, Sloan ran a consultancy focused on advising startups, optimizing organizational workflows, and implementing digital strategies. He has also previously served as an entrepreneur-in-residence to a Gulf South startup accelerator, co-founded two discontinued startups, and worked for two Philadelphia-based digital creative agencies.
Marcus Lyle Brown is a producer, consultant and academic with over 20 years experience in film/television, digital media development and higher education. He is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Twin Studios.
Colin wears multiple hats for Revelry, most often playing the role of Product Manager and Product Owner. He has run multiple client and internal projects, even building some along the way. Through his journey from Product Manager to Software Engineer back to Product Manager, Colin has seen all aspects of building digital products. He loves the excitement of taking ideas from concept to market.
Kyle “Skip” Boudreaux is founder and Managing Director of Acadian Capital Ventures, a Seed Stage Venture Capital Firm based out of Lafayette, LA. Acadian Capital Ventures (Acadian.vc) provides access to professional and institutional Venture Capital for investors and companies in locations that are often over-looked by conventional venture capital. Skip also manages the operations and deal flow of the Acadiana Angels through his investment research company, Acadian Capital Research. Skip’s portfolio includes companies such as Waitr, Digital Twin Studios, Salarius Pharmaceuticals, Something Borrowed Blooms, GripOn, Developing Lafayette, Certification Connect, amongst others. Skip is a lifelong Lafayette resident and graduated from UL with a Bachelors in Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as a Masters in Business Administration.
While pursuing his MBA at UL Lafayette, Reece Theriot served as a medical device salesperson for one of the largest sports medicine manufacturers in the US and also pursued several entrepreneurial projects. After completing his studies, Reece became an instructor of Sales, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at UL Lafayette where he lead the Accelerate South program - a nation-wide healthcare startup accelerator. Now, Reece serves as the founder and President of Fulcrum Sales and Marketing which provides B2B companies with the ability to rent a professionally trained, managed and equipped sales team as their very own boots on the ground.
Josh Bendickson earned his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Louisiana State University and is currently a faculty member at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Josh’s research interests include the strategic use of human capital resources as well as other issues relevant to small businesses and entrepreneurship. He also serves on the board of directors at the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Locally Josh played a role in Accelerate Acadiana and Accelerate South by connecting MBA students with businesses to produce consulting deliverables.
Cian Robinson began his career at Lafayette General Foundation (LGF) in August of 2014 as the Director of Development and Operations. In November of 2014, Cian was promoted to the position of Executive Director of the Foundation, and in 2018 was moved to the position of Executive Director of Innovation, Research and Real Estate Investments for Lafayette General Health System. Prior to LGF, Cian was a Director of two computer science based research centers within the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Research Department (Center for Business and Information Technology and Center for Visual and Decision Informatics) as well as a decades long entrepreneur in the information technology and management consulting fields (Robinson Ventures, LLC). He and his wife Dr. Natalie Harder reside in Lafayette, LA and have two children, Tucker and Rory.
As an African-American woman and an Entrepreneur, the Chairwoman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Owner of CReynolds Cleaning Service LLC, Owner of Creative Events Group LLC, Owner of Reynolds International Group LLC, Owner of Clean Earth Remedial Services LLC, and Assistant Carpenter to Reynolds Woodworks, has a knowledge and experience on what it takes to succeed in becoming an entrepreneur and leader in her community. From her experience as Owner, Leader, 2nd VP, Secretary, President and Recording Secretary, Assistant carpenter, basketball coach for the Women’s City League Basketball team and player for 10 years and also college studies in Architecture, she has what it takes to take on multiple task throughout her years in different activities. Courtney also travels to different countries with the National chamber on Trade mission trips. NBCC partners with different countries to bring business to each other and affiliates in the Organization. She is the also the CEO/President of Louisiana African American Chamber of Commerce. She currently opened the chamber and working on the grand opening, which she will bring her 13 years of experience and education to Louisiana. Courtney plans to continue traveling all over the world in pursuits of education and knowledge to bring back to her hometown, Lafayette.
Award-winning designer and creative, Evan was born into the creative world by flipping records (Grandmaster Flash style) in his basement as a kid. Working as a creative for the last decade, Evan has strived to be a creative generalist, doing everything from graphic design and social media marketing to video production. Graduating from San Jose State University in Industrial Design, Evan's primary focus has been helping small businesses and teams increase productivity and creativity. Part hip-hop culture enthusiast, part community activist, even in his spare time Evan focuses on helping voices tell their story.
Scott is the Technical Director at Noble Plastics. Scott received both his Bachelor's and Master's degree from LSU in Mechanical Engineering, and is the holder of several patents. Scott's favorite part of the design process is the "blank white page" when all things are possible. Scott directs the design staff on proprietary products and is always developing process and system improvements. He is a true visionary for Noble. His background includes creation of custom monitoring systems for machinery assessment, and dynamic modeling of machine performance. An occasional fishing or hunting trip helps to break his normal routine. Scott enjoys bluegrass guitar, fried catfish, and embarrassing his teenage children.
Destin serves as Director for the Opportunity Machine, where he has worked with more than 70 startup companies. Destin earned his bachelor’s degree in visual arts, with a concentration in graphic design, and his master's degree, with a concentration in public relations, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He spent ten years as a musician, touring and playing national festivals such as South by Southwest and Warped Tour. Destin's professional experiences include working as the Director of Public Relations for Acadiana Sports Leagues, Account Executive for Delta Media, and Creator/Owner of Clash of the Cocktails and Clash Events LLC. Destin’s passion for entrepreneurial and economic development drives his service as a board member for Social Media Day, Young Professionals of LAGCOE, Academy of Information Technology and Academy of Interactive Entertainment Advisory Committee. Destin is married to Shade Ortego and currently resides in Youngsville, La.
Jady is the CNO - Chief Nut Officer, of Cane River Pecan Company, a nationally recognized corporate gifting company. Jady is a native of New Iberia, a graduate of LSU and holds a masters from Texas A&M University. Before returning to Louisiana to run Cane River, Jady worked 13 years in sports marketing and administration for the Chicago Bears, the Louisiana IceGators hockey team and LSU men's basketball.
Kristyn manages the social media presence for Stuller, Inc., North America’s largest jewelry manufacturer, and its subsidiary companies. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Public Relations, and has completed Hootsuite Social Marketing Certification. A two-time SPRF Award of Excellence recipient, Kristyn’s work focuses on demonstrating a correlation between engagement and revenue. When she’s not garnering attention on Stuller’s platforms, she’s teaching retail jewelers how to make social make sense for their business.
As the face of Rally Marketing, Rodney is their “secret weapon.” His career in online marketing spans more than a decade, where he worked for one of the fastest growing Search Engine Marketing firms in the Gulf South and has developed and grown a successful digital marketing department for one of Louisiana's largest ad agencies. Rodney always has an answer for everything and it’s probably because his brain never turns off. You will often find him tapping a pencil or jangling his leg while he dreams up his next big scheme.
Aileen Bennett lives on the intersection of business and creativity. She is a brand creating, business improving, clever thinking, staff motivating, customer-pleasing, quirky-as-they-come designer and consultant, with a head (and a heart) for business. She is fascinated with people and the way they think and act. Aileen uses her English wit and sarcasm liberally (you have been warned).