Amanda K. Edwards
2024 Houston Mayoral Candidate
Amanda K. Edwards is an attorney and native Houstonian with a passion for empowering communities through solutions, engagement and public service. Amanda is currently a candidate for mayor of Houston. From 2016-2020, Amanda served as the Houston City Council Member in At-Large Position 4. During her tenure as a City Council Member, Amanda served as Vice Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee. She also served on the Economic Development Committee and the Transportation, Technology and Infrastructure Committee. While on City Council, Amanda initiated and led the Mayor’s Technology & Innovation Task Force to cultivate a stronger innovation economy in Houston. Her work led to the creation of Houston’s new innovation district, with the first phase (The Ion) already open. She also led the High Capacity Transit Task Force for the Houston Galveston Area Council Transportation Policy Council. Amanda also launched and led Houston’s Women and Minority-Owned Business Task Force to assist women and minority business owners with gaining access to capital. She also led national efforts to address the future of work. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Amanda mobilized hundreds of volunteers to render aid to residents in Harvey recovery efforts. Finally, Amanda launched numerous programmatic efforts ranging from an annual senior conference to town halls under her Community Empowerment Signature Series to empower residents to be the solution in their communities. Amanda attended Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. She earned a B.A. in Political Science from Emory University, where she served as president of the undergraduate student body and was later inducted into the Emory University Hall of Fame. While in Atlanta, Amanda gained valuable community building and public policy experience working in community development corporations as a Community Building & Social Change Fellow as well as in the Georgia Legislature. After graduating from Emory, Amanda worked for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in Washington, D.C. Amanda then earned her juris doctor from Harvard Law School. Compelled by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Amanda relocated to New Orleans. While in New Orleans, Amanda served as a judicial law clerk for Federal District Court Judge Ivan Lemelle and founded Project NOW: The New Orleans Writing Project, which inspired New Orleans youth to empower themselves and their community through the power of writing. Amanda returned to Houston with a broadened perspective and interest in impacting her community. Amanda practiced law for years as a municipal finance lawyer, where she solved complex issues relating to tax-exempt bond financings, public-private partnerships and non-profit organizations. She has practiced law at both Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP. Amanda has served as President of the Board of Directors for Project Row Houses and on numerous other boards, including the National League of Cities and Texas Lyceum. In addition to her service on various boards, Amanda serves on the Advisory Council of Accelerator for America. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., as well as the Houston Chapter of The Links, Inc. Amanda has been featured by multiple media outlets, including: ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox Business, Essence, Black Enterprise, The Root, The New York Times, NPR, Politico, and The Texas Tribune, among others. While Amanda has received many accolades for her legal and community work, she finds empowering communities to be her greatest reward.
Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives, MBDA Pandemic Recovery Center
April Felton is Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for the MBDA Pandemic Recovery Center, a collaborative initiative operated by HCC’s Office of Entrepreneurial Initiatives and funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), where she develops program initiatives to build and sustain Houston’s minority business community. In this role, she provides the strategic and organizational program direction in assisting the minority business community in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. April’s dedication to entrepreneurship, higher education and public service has led to her current roles as founder of Immaculate Concepts, a lifestyle management and concierge brand, business adjunct instructor and as a licensed Texas real estate agent. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Texas Southern University, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Houston, and a Certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurship from Cornell University.
Board of Advisors, Texas Innovation Center
Aruna is the Co-Founder and COO of AlphaX Decision Sciences, a AI energy software company focused on upstream. She is a unique combination of a tech startup and SMB COO and a successful VC/PE and angel-investor, having managed over 150 investments across various portfolios. Throughout her career, she has led and developed organizations with limited resources by creating and optimizing processes in technology and software development, customer-centric delivery, sales and marketing, and finance in sectors including cloud infrastructure and data-centers, SaaS based Artificial Intelligence solutions, education, commercial real estate and consumer products. She currently serves on the board of directors of Industrial Tech (NASDAQ: ITAC) and on the board of the Houston Chapter of TiE, a global entrepreneurship organization, Ecosphere Ventures and the Texas Innovation Center at UT Austin. Ms. Viswanathan holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. She is based out of Houston, Texas.
General Partner, The Collectiv
Ashley DeWalt is an emerging fund manager, advisor, and mentor for venture-backed startups. He is currently the General Partner of a VC fund that invests at the intersection of sports, media and entertainment as well as the Managing Director of DivInc, a non-profit organization that provides resources to underrepresented founders to build high-growth, high-impact startups. He was previously the Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy for the Houston Outlaws, an esports team in the Overwatch League where he led the global marketing strategy. During the past 20-years, Ashley worked as a management consultant for globally known sports and entertainment talent, brands, and properties. His work has been featured in local and national media outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, The Sports Business Journal, and Front Office Sports, among many others.
Austin is Co-Founder and CEO of Outfield. He has a BA in Communication from Eastern Michigan University and an MBA from Texas A&M University. Moreover, Austin has worked the majority of his professional career in consumer goods and the IT space. Function wise Austin has practiced mainly in field marketing, management, and business development roles. He’s been responsible for teams as large as 70 and always enjoys working with clients to help solve their problems and drive growth.
Barbara J. Burger, PhD.
Energy Director, Advisor, and Innovator
Barbara J. Burger, PhD., is a “recent graduate” from Chevron where she ended her time as the Vice President, Innovation and President of Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV). During her career, Burger held management positions across a number of the company’s businesses as well as a wide range of civic and industry board and advisory positions including the MIT Energy Initiative, Houston Symphony Society, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investment LLP, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In this new chapter, she remains focused on the big challenges in energy transition, equity, and access to education. She has been recently named as a Senior Advisor to Lazard, to the Heliogen Board of Directors, Emerald Technology Ventures Advisory Council, Greentown Labs Board of Directors, and Advisor to Syzygy Plasmonics and Epicore Biosystems. Burger is a proud alumnus of the University of Rochester where she serves on the Board of Trustees and chairs the River Campus Libraries National Council. She established the Barbara J. Burger Endowed Scholarship in the Sciences and founded the Barbara J. Burger iZone, where students generate, refine, and communicate ideas for social, cultural, community, and economic impact. At Caltech, she supports graduate women in Chemistry who aim to contribute through careers beyond academia and serves on the Strategic Advisory Board for the Resnick Sustainability Institute. Burger holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester, a doctoral degree in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and an academic honor MBA in finance from the University of California, Berkeley.
Chad Spensky, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO, Allthenticate
Chad is the founder and CEO of Allthenticate, a cybersecurity company that provides companies with the ability to securely unlock and login to everything with their smartphones. He has over 10 years of research experience and has numerous academic publications in top conferences. Formerly, he was a member of the technical research staff at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, where he helped them solve some of the Department of Defense's toughest cyber-security problems. Chad received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is also a recipient of the prestigious IBM Ph.D. Fellowship. In addition to his academic credentials, Chad has some serious hacking clout. His hacking career started in his teenage years and has taken him to compete in some of the world's best capture the flag tournaments around the world as a member of the Shellphish hacking team. His unique blend of hacking knowledge and academic rigor make him particularly well-suited to solve complex real-world cybersecurity problems, like scalable authentication solutions.
2024 Houston Mayoral Candidate
Chris Hollins is a native Houstonian, community leader, and entrepreneur with a deep commitment to public service. A Morehouse College graduate and Obama White House alum, Chris served as Harris County Clerk and gained national acclaim during the 2020 Presidential election by instituting innovative measures like 24-hour early voting and easy drive-thru voting. Chris stood up to Gov. Abbott and won, protecting voting rights for 2.5 million Houston area voters. Chris will fight to make Houston the safest city in America with the strongest local economy and build a brighter future for our kids. Chris and his wife Morgan live in Third Ward with their two children, Vivian and George.
Cochrane Exploration Technologies
Christopher is a high-impact technology and business leader who accelerates growth to create market-leading advantages - while preserving scalability and reliability. Underpinned by over 20 years of expedited transformation for driving solutions across various technology industries, Device Manufacturing, Application Development, Telehealth, Data Analytics, and Remote Patient Monitoring adoption. He is exceptional at leading the development of cutting-edge innovative technologies through the project management lifecycle, driving full-scale implementations from concept to delivery. As the current Director, of Information Technology for Louisiana Primary Care, Chris established the Health Information Technology Division and was awarded $1.2M in Federal Funding to expand capabilities focused on Security, Data Analytics, Data Governance, Telemedicine, Remote Patient Monitoring, Privacy, and Technology Policies to improve care throughout the state of Louisiana. Chris earned an MS Degree in Physics & Mathematics from Southern University, an MBA from the University of Houston Bauer College of Business, and a BS Degree in Computer & Electrical Engineering from Louisiana State University. In addition, he is PMP-certified and achieved several designations such as a SAFe Practitioner and Six Sigma Green Belt. In his spare time, Chris exercised his entrepreneurial drive and passion for aerospace, athletics, and healthcare to become the Founder of several startups. He even supported multiple Investor engagements leading to a $2M Series A raise on a $12M valuation for a patient-centered technology startup.
Corey Thompson is the Chief Executive Officer at CarTwin. He brings over 20 years of executive experience in the operation, management, development and delivery of advanced technology to some of the most demanding locations on earth. Corey’s global experience spans multiple industries including Defense, Automotive, Manufacturing, Construction, Engineering, Energy, Nuclear, Maritime Operations, Oil & Gas, and Medical Services. Prior to this, Corey was the Chief Information Officer for Pacific Drilling where his “Rig First” approach was focused on delivering new capabilities via technology and process improvement directly to the front line of the company aboard the company’s deep-water drill rigs to grow revenue, improve efficiency and safety, and delight the companies end customers. Corey’s career includes 10 years with CB&I as VP of Global Supply Chain and SVP of Technology and CIO where he developed and implemented the digital strategy to consolidate two $6B companies within three years and spearheaded the company’s Customer Centricity strategy and implementation. Corey also led the development of the company’s first mobile application which was a first-of-kind craft labor application directly contributing to the company’s ability to staff major construction projects with quality applicants. Prior to his work in industry, Corey spent 23 years in the US Submarine Force. Corey retired in 2008 at his last duty station in Washing DC as manager and Resource Sponsor of the Submarine Tomahawk Cruise Missile program and the MK48 ADCAP torpedo program. Corey holds a bachelor’s in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Idaho and a master’s in Financial Management from the Naval Postgraduate School where he graduated with distinction as a Conrad Scholar. He is a graduate of the Stanford “Innovative CIO” course as well as the “Disruptive Innovation Strategy” course from Harvard University. Corey is a board certified Naval Nuclear Engineer and qualified for Command at Sea of a Nuclear Submarine.
Founder, Pinot’s Palette, Rivalry Technologies, and T-Minus Solutions
Craig Ceccanti is the founder of Pinot’s Palette, Rivalry Technologies, and T-Minus Solutions. He is a Houston-based entrepreneur, angel investor and author of the book, “A Founders Guide to A Software Startup.”
Damyanna Cooke is the founder of Boozed, an early-stage startup developing an AI driven cocktail making and dispensing system for weddings, events, and more. Damyanna recently served as the Ion’s Innovator in Residence and is alumni to the Ion Aerospace Innovation Accelerator for MBEs. Prior to founding Boozed, Damyanna served as Senior Director for FIS Global, a fintech company and global provider of middle office technology solutions for asset managers, hedge funds and investors. She has also served as Vice President of the Institutional Client Group for Neuberger Berman, a former Lehman Brothers company. Damyanna received her undergraduate degree from DePauw University as a Posse Foundation full tuition scholarship recipient and is from New York. She has over 15 years of financial services and technology experience. In her spare time, Damyanna enjoys spending time with family, exploring Houston’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and recently launched the Texas Black Founders Network.
Chief Investment Officer, Pickering Energy Partners
Dan Pickering is the Chief Investment Officer of Pickering Energy Partners (PEP). PEP is an energy financial services company spanning traditional energy and the energy transition via business units focused on Investments, Insights, Consulting and Advisory. He has spent the past 28 years as an energy portfolio manager, researcher and analyst, first at Fidelity Investments, then Simmons & Company and as the founding partner of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Dan grew up in Missouri, has a BS in Petroleum Engineering from the Missouri School of Science and Technology and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Personal Anecdote/Tidbits Dan is the Board Chair of MERGE Electric Fleet Solutions and sits on the Board of Trustees for Texas Children’s Hospital, the Texas Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Posse Foundation, as well as the Advisory Board of Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., Capital Creek Partners, Midway Companies, the Houston CFA Society and Dynamo Energy Hub. He likes being an old dad to a young daughter, traveling, reality TV shows, Twitter and golf.
Managing Director, Freestone
Ellen Wilkirson is a Managing Director at Freestone, a portfolio company of Tailwater Capital focused on making venture and growth equity investments in companies that specialize in disruptive technologies, infrastructure, manufacturing, and support services that enable the transition to a lower carbon or more circular economy. Since joining Freestone in the spring of 2021, she has focused on the origination and execution of new investments and partnering with management teams and founders to identify and implement long-term strategic and growth initiatives. She serves on the Board of Directors of Momentum Technologies and is a Board Observer for Elemental Recycling and WASTELINQ. Prior to joining Freestone, Ms. Wilkirson served as a Vice President at Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, focusing on public and private investments in energy infrastructure and renewable energy. She also served as an investment banker in the Global Energy Group at Credit Suisse. Ms. Wilkirson graduated from the University of Texas and is a licensed CPA.
Founder and CEO of Universal Toll Tag, Inc (Unytag)
Fareed Zein is the founder and CEO of Universal Toll Tag, Inc (Unytag), a tech startup working to disrupt the toll road fee payments industry and ease toll roads commute through a mobile payment solution. Fareed retired as an IT Planning Manager following a 26-year career in Information Technology with Royal Dutch Shell Plc covering various positions of increasing responsibility across the Oil & Gas value chain with broad experience in enterprise IT systems.
Partner, Mercury Fund
Heath Butler is venture investor, a serial entrepreneur and seasoned corporate executive with over 20 years of experience as a transformational leader with a proven ability to define a vision, execute strategy and deliver accelerated business impact. At Mercury Fund, Heath invests in Work-Tech, Fin-Tech and Sports-Tech B2B SaaS platforms. He also manages the firms proprietary venture studio and network platform, The Mercury Method, which helps portfolio companies achieve sustainable, long-term growth.
DEI Sr. Program Manager, Greentown Labs
Herb Lozano, 33, is an experienced professional from the City of Boston with a demonstrated history of providing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives throughout the City of Boston. With skills in marketing and communications Herb successfully brought awareness and engagement to startups and organizations in the nonprofit sector, real estate developers, and local trade unions. Herb is a forward-thinker, who aims to advance local communities by creating career opportunities, and sharing resources with aspiring entrepreneurs. Outside of his professional career Herb enjoys all things food related! Nothing makes him happier than trying multiple entrees at a nice restaurant. Herb also enjoys playing basketball, documentaries, and social events.
VP, Strategic Programs, Intuitive Machines
Col (ret) Jack Fischer is a senior space ops leader, combat fighter pilot, astronaut and flight test expert with 27 years of experience across the spectrum of operational levels. He is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Draper Fellow with Bachelors and Masters degrees in Astronautics. He is also a command pilot astronaut with over 3,000 hours in more than 40 aircraft, an Associate Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and has 136 days in space with two spacewalks.
Senior VP, Energy Transition & Executive Director, Houston Energy Transition Initiative The Greater Houston Partnership
As Senior VP, Energy Transition and Executive Director of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, Jane leads the Partnership’s efforts to leverage Houston’s energy leadership to accelerate global solutions for a low-carbon future. She leads a coalition of industry, academia, and community partners to ensure the long-term economic competitiveness and advancement of the Houston region towards a more sustainable and net-zero emissions future. Prior to joining the Partnership, Jane spent over two decades at bp. Among her many accomplishments, she developed and delivered the 2019 National Petroleum Council study on carbon capture, use and storage in coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy. Her most recent role as Senior Relationship Manager of Regions, Cities and Solutions integrated her as a critical partner to cities and industry to collaborate on low-carbon energy solutions, working closely with the City of Houston to implement their Climate Action Plan. Jane received her MBA from Loyola University in Chicago. She is a contributing faculty member of the University of Houston’s Center for Carbon Management in Energy, Regional Advisory Board member for the Energy Industries Council, and member of the Advisory Board of the Houston Chapter of WRISE – Women of Renewable Industries & Sustainable Energy.
Founder & CEO, Solid Ox (TH2) Motors
Jared Moore is the founder & CEO of Solid Ox (TH2) Motors as well as the originator of the Thermal Hydrogen economy. He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy. In March of 2023, Jared will release his debut novel, Greetings Lunar Colonist, a science fiction novel about energy set in the 22nd century.
Jhana Porter is the founder of frakktal, a startup developing biobased polymer processes to upend the use of polyvinyl chloride in the built environment.
Head of On-Court Basketball Strategy & Business Development, WME Sports
Joe Branch is the Head of On-Court Basketball Strategy & Business Development for WME Sports bringing nearly two decades of experience to the firm. Branch began his career in basketball at Nike and the NBA, which led to the role of Principal at Landmark Sports Group representing several NBA Players. From there, he was the Managing Director of Basketball at RocNation Sports where he was instrumental in building the firm’s basketball management business and was involved in player representation. During his tenure with RocNation, he negotiated contract extensions for Justise Winslow, NBA Champion Danny Green, and Caris LeVert. Before WME, he served as the Assistant General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves focusing on domestic draft efforts, and integrated player development initiatives and player personnel matters. Branch is a founding partner of UWANTGAME, a student-athlete mentor program that works with underserved youth. He established the organization to build the “Game Behind the Game” through mentorship, after-school programs and career development of high school student- athletes.
Johanna Schmidtke, PhD
Managing Partner, Rev Innovations
Dr. Johanna Schmidtke is Managing Partner of Rev Innovations, a public benefit corporation and affiliate of GTI Energy. Rev Innovations was founded in 2022 as a collaborative platform for innovation and investment focused on low-carbon, low-cost energy systems. With over 15 years of experience in investment management and corporate development, from early-stage venture capital to private equity funds, Johanna’s strategy and management experience spans energy and industrial sectors, including renewable and conventional energy, circular economy models, materials and chemicals, and industrial cybersecurity. Most recently, Johanna served as Senior Consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office. Her previous experience also includes roles as an Investment Director at Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, the venture capital arm of Saudi Aramco, and later as Managing Director and member of the investment committee at Ara Partners, a private equity fund focused on industrial decarbonization. Johanna began her career in consulting advisory with Lux Research, later moving to corporate development & strategy at First Solar. Johanna received her Doctorate in Physics from the University of Cambridge and her BS in Mathematics and Biochemistry from the University of Arizona.
VP of Product, Cart.com
Josh Smith is the VP of Product for commerce technology unicorn Cart.com, which is helping merchants sell and operate smarter across digital and physical channels. Founded in Houston and headquartered in Austin, Cart.com grew to 6,000 customers and hundreds of millions in ARR in just two years. Prior to Cart.com, Josh drove the global strategy and development of AI-enabled business automation products for a Fortune 250 technology company, leading a team spanning 7 countries. He also built and took to market Deloitte Consulting’s first SaaS product, empowering enterprises to use machine learning for automated decision-making in supply chain management, marketing optimization, and fraud detection.
Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Houston Rockets
Julian Duncan is the Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for the Houston Rockets, where he leads the strategic and creative development of all marketing, branding, digital, innovation, experiential, retail, content production, community, and promotional strategies and tactical execution platforms. He was previously the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of social responsibility for the Jacksonville Jaguars and their Bold Events experiential company. Additionally, Duncan has more than a decade of brand management and marketing experience with globally recognized sports brands, Nike and Under Armour. Throughout his journey in the sports apparel industry, Duncan crafted marketing strategies and drove execution at the global, geography and territory levels elevating performance and lifestyle products across a myriad of sport categories, in partnership with global sport and cultural icons including LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Serena Williams and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. His path to the Rockets organization also included stops in Dusseldorf, Germany and Regina, Saskatchewan where he played football in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League, respectively. Duncan is passionate about increasing minority participation in leadership positions in corporate spaces. He works to make this a reality as the co-founder of the Monday Night Mentorship Collective; an organization that provides mentoring and coaching to minorities and persons of color seeking to accelerate the advancement of their careers. Julian is a native of Houston, and a proud alum and former student-athlete from Rice University, where he earned a dual degree in Sport Management and English, and later returned to earn an MBA from the Jones Graduate School of Business. He is blessed, motivated, and inspired by his phenomenal wife Antoinette, and amazing children Sydney (9) and Ace (6).
Chief Development and Investment Officer, Head of Houston Incubator, Greentown Labs
Juliana is the Chief Development and Investment Officer, and Head of Houston Incubator at Greentown Labs. A Board Member of the Angel Capital Association, Juliana is a Lead Investor of the Portfolia Rising America Fund that invests in BIPOC and LGTBQ founders, as well as the Portfolia Consumer and Rising Tide Funds. She is also an Advisory Board Member of the University of Houston Cougar Venture Fund, the Houston Diversity Fund, the Investors of Color network and Impulse4women. A Kauffman Fellow experienced in Bridging the Gender Gap in investing, she is part of the City of Houston’s Women Commission. Juliana was the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund Director and the Managing Director of the Houston Angel Network. She was the Manager of the French Riviera's Sophia Business Angels network and Antipolis Innovation Campus and Project Manager of several International Projects funded by the European Commission. Previously, Juliana worked for five years in Singapore: first as an International Trade Consultant for the Trade Commission of Spain in a broad range of industry sectors and then as a Project Manager for the Asia Technology Office of Citigroup, leading projects at the international level. Juliana obtained an MBA at the London Business School and Haas School of Business in Berkeley, specializing in Entrepreneurship.
Kara Branch, MBA, LSSGB
Founder and CEO, Black Girls Do Engineer Corporation; Chemical Engineer
Kara Branch is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer Corporation a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in June 2019 headquartered in Houston, TX and has two other chapters located in Los Angeles, CA and New Orleans, LA. Black Girls Do Engineer is passionate about developing young women in all areas of STEM. Black Girls Do Engineer provides mentoring, personal growth regimens, STEM projects and activities, and guidance on career paths based on insight from professional women that are leaders in the STEM industry. Our organization goals are to provide access, awareness, and advocate for two million Black-American girls to pursue STEM careers by the year 2050. Kara is an alumnus of The Prairie View A&M University and hold a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering (2015) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Executive MBA (2021). Black Girls Do Engineer was founded based on Kara’s oldest daughter expressing to Kara that she wanted to be a software engineer at the age of nine. Now Kara is on a mission to help her daughter and hundreds of girl ages 6 to 21 years old who look like her achieve their S.T.E.M career goals. Kara has always been the only black women in her roles and knows representation matters. Her STEM program challenges girls to be critical thinkers and encourages girls to choose STEM and they are. Her challenges are paying off. She took girls in her organization who had no STEM background to finalist in the NASAWear Challenge, where they beat out 70 plus teams around the nation. Kara started her career going directly into boardrooms with clients with her calculator walking them through her grass roots design projects. She has design one of the first plants of its kind in the USA. In her 7-year career, she has managed 15 plus improvement projects starting at $1 million to multi-million dollars in the Oil & Gas industry and as a Project Manager in the Space Industry supporting NASA and currently works as a Engineering Manager for Intel. She has served as a Science and Engineering Lead and Diversity & Inclusion Region Chapter Leader for ERG groups in Corporate America. She also holds a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. She was selected to participate in the National Black MBA Association Accelerator Program due to the impacts her STEM program has made. Kara is a Award Winning Chemical Engineer. In 2022, she won the Mentor of the Year Award from Houston Innovation Award Gala, Grit- Executive Award from ALLY Energy, 2022 Women in the Fast Lane of S.T.E.M Role Model Awards from Greater Houston Women Chamber of Commerce, and Rising Star in Child Advocacy from Children at Risk. Black Girls Do Engineer was also awarded their own “Black Girls Do Engineer Day” in the City of Houston from the Mayor of Houston.
L. Barton Womack
CEO, Eden Growth Systems
L. Barton Womack is the CEO of Eden Growth Systems. He is a Futurist, Investor, Producer, and Inventor and has, over the last 30 years, built businesses and executed ideas in a wide range of industries. He has helped catalyze cultural movements and inspired generations of consumers. He is the founder of Eden and the Inventor of its first product The LifePod. Eden Growth Systems is a farming technology company focused on closed-system ecological design, with building next-generation, modular, automated farms. They are dedicated to finding and implementing the newest farming technologies and designs, with the end goal of giving families and communities the ability to be self-sufficient in their food production. Their first consumer product is Habitat 2, a turn-key food and energy production system that can function in any environment and be delivered anywhere in the world. They also design and build custom farming solutions for any environment or customer need. The LifePod was their first prototype which is a self-contained, automated, climate-controlled, aquaponic, and organic food production system. The shipping container format means that a complete, ready-to-use system can be shipped anywhere in the world and immediately begin producing a complete balanced diet, even in the most inhospitable environments on Earth. The LifePod produces a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh fish for protein. Bart has also worked on major motion pictures, produced TV shows, interviewed presidential candidates, and owned the largest, most successful nightclub in the state for over 5 years. He has produced events and concerts with thousands of attendees and he has developed marketing campaigns that reached millions. Bart is a dedicated patron of the arts and sciences. He produced and hosted a public interest TV show, which catalyzed his interest to secure a 501(c)(3) for Houston Media Source, a public access platform for Houston. He organized a campaign that resulted in the station receiving a 10-year, $12 million grant from the city of Houston and millions in funding from other sources. Bart also volunteers with local organizations and frequently manages communications and media projects for inspirational non-profits, such as the New Worlds Institute. Bart has also, since 2008, been a Principle at Ramsey Financial Group (RFG), a Houston, Texas-based single-family office, which manages the Leo B. Womack Family Trust. Established in 1992, RFG seeks to preserve wealth and where applicable, deploy capital into the most viable, long-term, wealth-building opportunities that have good risk-to-reward metrics. Real estate and life sciences are at the core of their investment philosophy, building on the experience of the team in these sectors. Being also a Real Estate Agent, Bart manages the Womack-Crawford Realty Investors, a privately held real estate investment company. Bart earned his Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Digital Communication and Multimedia from the University of Houston.
LaGina R Harris
Founder, The Us Space
LaGina R Harris is an entrepreneur who focuses on social impact. A graduate of Stillman College and member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., she is an accomplished event planner, visual artist, and rising media personality. Among LaGina’s professional experiences are strategic growth and operations consulting, leadership & team training, public speaking, curriculum writing, matriculation model design, and student retention implementation. She is the founder of The Us Space, intentional innovation spaces for women of color, women-led businesses, & women-centric organizations to thrive. LaGina is passionate about challenging social norms, amplifying women, and bringing positive change to her community through her brand, LaRae Infinity and is the creator of the LaRae Infinity "Let's Talk" podcast series as well as the host of the Stomping Ground with LaGina Rae radio show. "LaGina Rae" is often found moderating panels, hosting events, and interviewing people at award shows for organizations that create social change. LaGina recently completed the gBETA Houston Accelerator Spr 2022 cohort as the founder of The Us Space, where she focused on increasing membership, developing platforms, and utilizing her ecosystem to scale the business. Furthermore, she also won the Savage X Fenty Game Changer Duo Award in December 2021 for The Us Space's first Member Powered Program, Melanin Minds Mental Health Conference, in partnership with a member business, all from the momentum gained from winning the Spr 2021 Houston Area Urban League Pitch Competition. Her philanthropic endeavors are paramount to LaGina. Currently, she serves on The Ensemble Theatre: One Act Steering Committee, is an Advisory Board Member for Lift Collective: Entrepreneurship Program, and one of the organizers of Share The Mic Now Texas.
Co-Founder, Gow Companies
Lawson Gow is the co-founder and Partner in Gow Companies, a holding company building the largest and most comprehensive sports-tech and innovation ecosystem in the United States, which he launched in 2022. Prior to Gow Companies, between November 2017 to April 2022, Mr. Gow was the founder and President of The Cannon, an organization that provides startup businesses, investment groups, governments, corporations, and other strategic organizations with a variety of innovation solutions and incubator workspace. Mr. Gow is a board member of Central Houston Organization, an entity responsible for managing much of the funding and strategy associated with the growth and development of downtown Houston, and a member of the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee, an entity formed to develop a formal bid to the FIFA World Cup international site selection team on behalf of the City of Houston. Mr. Gow received the Houston Business Journal's 40 Under 40 Award in 2019.
Lee L. Kaplan
2024 Houston Mayoral Candidate
Lee L. Kaplan is a lifelong Houstonian, small businessman and candidate for Houston Mayor in 2023. Lee was taught by his father that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. He has taken that lesson and applied it to every aspect of his life. As Mayor, he will take that lesson to city hall, to tackle the thorny issues that frustrate all Houstonians; crime, infrastructure, traffic and garbage in order to improve the city for all residents. Lee is a graduate of Bellaire High, Princeton University and the University of Texas Law School. He is married to Diana Hudson and they have one son, Will Kaplan. With a background in law, business and working with a diverse range of people, Lee brings integrity, intelligence, and intensity to his campaign to improve the essential services in the City of Houston.
Loretta Williams Gurnell
Founder & CEO, SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation
Loretta Williams Gurnell was raised in Trotwood, OH to parents, who later divorced yet were the firsts Black family on their street with a hardworking father who had less than a high school education but pushed his girls in this area and a mother where education and community building were very important. In her junior year of college at Central State University, Loretta was awarded a biological science field research opportunity at Cornell University. This program opportunity was the first to be awarded by any CSU student. The program selection signified Loretta’s astuteness in problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership development and community collaboration building skills, which is seen in her long career in science research, education, and non-profit leadership. In 2022, Loretta was named Houston’s InnovationMap DEI Champion of the year which brought attention to her lifelong achievement and long-time work in inspiring, developing and mentoring underserved communities and particularly, girls (women) with STEM + opportunities through early exposure, access & equity initiatives. Loretta holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences, a master’s degree in education leadership with an emphasis in secondary sciences along with several professional leadership, nonprofit, business, and development certificates. As founder of the SUPERLady NetWORK that benefits, SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation (SGSF), Loretta serves as founder & CEO of SGSF, the premiere organization for rewriting the narrative for more underserved women and girls in STEM education, college degrees, mentorships, internships, careers and C-suite roles. With her leadHERship, 1700 plus girls have been impacted since the inception of SGSF, March 2016, along with more than 150 leadHERs in diverse industries, with 25 plus male STEM champions, 17 higher education institutions and 19 public/private/homeschool schools within 7 different school districts. In doing so, 100% of SGSF SUPERGirl high school graduates attend college and 87% pursue STEM degrees whereas, alumna are gaining 91% in pursuit of graduate STEM degrees and certifications.
EVA Program Manager, Axiom Space
An experienced leader and program manager with federal government contracts and public sector including interface with state and local entities. Mark is currently leading Axiom’s Space Suit Program. Mark has 30 plus years experience managing NASA Space Shuttle and International Space Station Launch/Entry Suit and Extravehicular Space Suit Programs for Boeing, United Space Alliance, Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, KBR and Axiom Space. He was the former program manager for the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Program, Extravehicular Systems Contract, Flight Crew Equipment / Extravehicular Activity Program Element, Extravehicular Space Operations Contract, and the Research Engineering Mission Integration Contract. In addition to his role as a program manager for NASA contracts , Mark has managed highly complex facilities and spent 14 years as a director on a utilities board, repsonsible for a significant utilities infrastructure providing him with valuable experience in the public sector. Mark holds an udergraduate degree in Aeronautics and graduate degree in Aeronautical Science and has benefited from significant leadership training including the multi-level Boeing Leadership Institute series, United Space Alliance Leadership series, and the University of Houston Leadership and Management Certification program.
Partner, Moontower Finance
Melissa Molinski is a partner at Moontower Finance. She is a “Jill-of-all-trades” in the Accounting world. She has over ten years of experience across an assortment of industries and specialties. Her knowledge ranges from early-stage tech startups to established construction firms. Melissa excels in project accounting, taxes and external audit representation, software implementation, and related process automation. She is also highly skilled in complex financial cleanups (including cash to GAAP conversions), and has applied this expertise in the context of several mergers, acquisitions, and restructures. She has some pretty sick tax skills too. Melissa is an alumna of Northern Illinois University. She is a Texas CPA, Certified Management Accountant, and continues to actively pursue opportunities to expand both her knowledge and her network. In addition to her proficiencies, she enjoys bringing her own brand of wit and knowledge to any conversation. Outside of work, Melissa is an aspiring writer, enjoys “Big Mode” Tetris, and will usually say yes to a concert.
Founder and CEO, MRC
Michele Rossi is the Founder and CEO of MRC, an advisory group that helps organizations create a realistic roadmap for achieving their sustainability targets. Combining over a decade of international sustainability, strategy, and operational experience, Michele brings the necessary knowledge to MRC to help drive the industry transition to a carbon neutral future. Michele enjoyed a successful career with Siemens where he developed expertises in consulting, auditing, business development and strategy, technical sales, and engineering. He supported the creation of multi-million dollar global decarbonization programs for enterprise companies like Ford, Heineken, 3M, and Maersk. He also led multiple national sustainability projects in the Municipal, Federal & Government, K-12, and Higher Education sector. Michele holds degrees in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Kinesiology from Texas A&M University.
Mohammed Almani is a business owner and an internet entrepreneur based in Houston, Texas. Equipped with a background in Computer Science and business, he has years of experience in digital marketing and communications. He uses these skills to help other business owners excel in their chosen fields. As an immigrant himself, he uses part of his time and resources to give back to the Houston community through workshops and volunteering. He empowers entrepreneurs, especially start-ups and small business owners, by helping them be more visible on the internet. He has worked for the Houston Community College Student Innovation & Entrepreneurship program.
CEO, Cemvita Factory
Moji is a carbon-negative entrepreneur, and a technology futurist. His mission is to create a sustainable future where humans have applied technology to balance the rate of climate change. A future where humans live in harmony with nature. As an operator, he has a track record of taking a range of multidisciplinary ideas to market. The fruits of this experience became Cemvita Factory, a company that Moji started with his sister Tara. In his role, Moji serves a team of passionate scientists and engineers on a mission to deploy industrial biotech solutions to empower the energy transition and create a brighter future.
Montgomery B. Goforth
Assistant Director, NASA JSC
Mr. Goforth has more than 30 years of experience as both Engineer and Manager in a variety of highly technical space and defense-related efforts. He joined NASA in 1990 as part of the Mission Operations Directorate, working on planning systems and automated procedure execution tools for the International Space Station (ISS). He became Deputy Project Manager for the Portable Computer System, the laptop used for command and control of the ISS, in 1996, and ultimately became Chief of the Branch responsible for all laptops onboard ISS and the Space Shuttle. In 2002 he moved to the ISS Avionics and Software Office as Manager of the Flight Software Development Office and later served as Chief Engineer. During 2005 he spent several months at NASA Headquarters working in the Robotics Lunar Exploration Program. In 2006 he joined the Constellation Program as Chief of Avionics and Software Test and Verification and became Chief of the Software and Avionics Integration Office in 2007. In this role he was responsible for leading a large nation-wide Systems Engineering & Integration (SE&I) organization which provided program-level coordination, oversight, integration and management of the system-of-systems avionics and software, including the coordination of integrated modeling and simulation and test activities across the Constellation program and the technical integration of Constellation’s Command, Control, Communications, and Information (C3I) architecture. In 2011, he joined the Avionic Systems Division to support their Strategic Planning and Partnership efforts. In 2015, he moved onto Engineering Directorate Staff to support Strategic Pursuits and Partnerships. In this role, he put together a framework to better focus Engineering’s efforts towards Human Spaceflight technology and systems development consistent with JSC and Agency goals for exploration. This framework guides Engineering’s internal investments and external partnerships supporting Lunar and Mars Exploration. Mr. Goforth was born in East Texas, raised in Southern California and Arizona, and graduated from Rice University (BSME 1982, MSME 1987). Prior to coming to Johnson Space Center, he was employed by a small defense contractor specializing in anti-submarine warfare.
Nithy Sevanthinathan, Ed.D
Chief Strategy Officer, Adcetera
Pagogh leads overall strategy for Adcetera that involves client, project, and agency growth. His domain focus is product marketing which according to him is simply "positioning brands so they can sell their stuff." He plays the dual role of brand empath and agency catalyst and is driven by a bottomless curiosity and an obsession to "figure things out." He guides the agency and clients through strategic, critical, and divergent thinking initiatives ranging in scale from enterprise to startup. Before joining the world of marketing and advertising, Pagogh worked in digital, IT, and corporate roles at UT Medical School, EATON, BMC Software, and HP. He’s played for both teams — clients and agencies alike — which gives him a perspective that is uniquely tailored for his role as Chief Strategy Officer. A Houston native, Pagogh holds his Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.
CEO & Co-founder, CaseCTRL
Pamela Singh is CEO and Co-founder of CaseCTRL, an AI platform that streamlines surgery coordination for improved efficiency and patient care. Pamela is a seasoned technical manager in both the IT and healthcare settings. She studied Systems Engineering & Operations at George Mason University and Systems Engineering & Technical Management at Johns Hopkins University. Her current focus is currently applying her expertise to modernize the delivery of personalized surgical care!
External Affairs Manager, City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity
Pearl Cajoles leads OBO’s External Affairs division, which operates the OBO Solutions Center and OBO’s business development and workforce development programming. She also serves as OBO’s Public Information Officer. Prior to joining the City of Houston, Pearl served as marketing manager at the University of Houston’s Hilton College for Global Hospitality Leadership. She also served as writer and editor at the Houston Chronicle, and has worked in global operations management.
Rara Ranjiwa is an international student from Indonesia studying Animation and Special Effects at Houston Community College. She previously worked as a lead illustrator at Ruangguru.ltd, the largest education technology company in South East Asia. Currently, Rara is collaborating with the Director of Education in the City of Houston on an educational children's book about Indonesia and working on her community impact project a infographic campaign related to child safety.
Director of Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, HCC
Ravi is an experienced servant leader, doctoral candidate, passionate patriot, accredited investor, and a university faculty focused on delivering proven entrepreneurship and innovation programs, creating viable economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners. A tech and media entrepreneur turned educator, Ravi is a passionate change driver and problem solver who is acutely engaged in Texas's startup and entrepreneurial community. Ravi currently serves as the Director of student innovation and entrepreneurship at Houston Community College, where he co-authored and led workforce degree plans and certifications on innovation and entrepreneurship and received national and regional outstanding awards and recognition for his programs. In addition, Ravi serves as Education chair for TiE Houston, a global executive team leader of TiE University, and an active business mentor for SCORE and UH SURE. Ravi serves on multiple regional and international boards focused on fostering entrepreneurship.
Global Energy Advisory Leader and Global ESG Leader for Energy, Utilities, & Resources, PwC
Reid leads Global ESG EUR and Global Energy Consulting practices as well as the Fit for Sustainability offering, and is a Principal in PwC's Houston Office. He has 25+ years of experience in the resources industries across oil and gas, power and utilities, chemicals, mining, and bio-fuels both domestically and internationally. His client experience covers strategy, M&A, digital solutions, Net Zero and decarbonization, sustainability, operating models, ESG, and trading.
Risa B. Myers PhD
Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Computer Science; Director of the Rice Computer and Data Science REU, Rice University
Dr. Risa Myers is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Computer Science department at Rice University, where she teaches students about databases and data science. She is also the director of the Rice Computer and Data Science summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. She holds degrees from MIT, Stanford, and Rice University. Her interests include applications of data science in healthcare and exploring and innovating in data science pedagogy.
Director of Economic Development, Central Houston, Inc.
Robert, Director of Economic Development for Central Houston Inc., is responsible for developing strategies to accelerate the growth of Houston’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, and proactively advance Downtown Houston as a premier global destination for corporate headquarters. Robert has a proven track record for developing innovation ecosystem initiatives in California and Texas that bridge the gaps between entrepreneurs, startups, startup development organizations, corporations, investors, academia and government. His vision led to the creation of a 17,000-SF Downtown innovation hub. The inspiration behind his project Downtown Launchpad was to integrate specific ecosystem elements in a distinct space, fostering a robust environment to support high-growth, high-impact startups. The project is anchored by nationally recognized startup accelerators MassChallenge and gener8tor, and globally recognized incubator Impact Hub. He serves as an advisory board member for Austin-based venture fund Ecliptic Capital, multiple startups across different industry verticals, and startup accelerators gener8or and MassChallenge Texas.
Sahar El Hoderi
International Student, HCC
I am Sahar El Hoderi, originally from Libya and have lived in Istanbul, Turkey for almost six years. As a passionate international student at HCC, I am eager to make the most of my time in the USA. I have a passion for hosting events and making a positive impact on those around me. I have a personal goal to continuously improve and better myself, which led me to become involved in student organizations at HCC. Since joining, many opportunities have arisen for me. Currently, I hold the position of President of the United Student Council, where I represent the entire student body of HCC. Additionally, I am the Vice President of Membership for the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
Marketing and promotion officer, Italian Trade Agency of Houston
Salvatore Grignano has spent the last six years as Marketing and promotion Officer for the Italian Trade Agency in Houston, supporting Italian companies In the space industry with tailor-made services and promotional activities. He is a marketing professional with proven experience in planning and coordinating marketing policies and programs in the public sector with strong knowledge in the technology sectors related to advanced manufacturing and machinery.
Director, Glenda & David Regenbaum Center for Entrepreneurship – Northwest, HCC
Sandra Louvier, Director, Glenda & David Regenbaum Center for Entrepreneurship – Northwest, Houston Community College, Ms. Louvier has 17 years of experience in economic feasibility analysis and appraisal in the hospitality industry at PKF Consulting, Marriott International, and as President of her own consulting practice, Louvier & Associates. She also served for nine years as U.S. Real Estate Director for the franchisor, Haagen-Dazs Shoppe Company, Inc. Sandra joined HCC NW in 2009 to launch HCC’s first Center for Entrepreneurship at HCC Northwest and to grow the center’s programs. She develops and holds entrepreneurial summits, workshops, seminars, classes, and programs, including three signature programs: the annual HCC Business Plan Competition, the Small Business Success Series by HCC © and the HCC Mattress Mack School of Selling © .
Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, MBA
CEO and co-founder, Venus Aerospace
Sassie Duggleby is the CEO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace. Prior to launching Venus, she was Launch Systems Engineering and Mission Management Consultant at Virgin Orbit, where she developed & tested launch software and telemetry systems, managed launch systems engineering requirements, as well as helped with Mission Management and Business Development. She has spent her career growing multiple high-tech startup businesses including fiber-optic test (Luna Technologies), biotech (Ecolyse / Phage Biocontrol), and hazardous trailer manufacturing (Exosent). She started her career with National Instruments as an applications engineer before getting her MBA focused on entrepreneurship. She is a proud mom of 2 daughters, a barn cat, and a goofy labradoodle. Ms. Duggleby has a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University (graduated summa cum laude), and an MBA from Virginia Tech.
Executive Director - External Engagement, Halliburton Labs
As Executive Director at Halliburton Labs, he was responsible for launching the organization in 2020. He currently oversees External Engagement and collaborates to build a thriving clean energy community in Texas and around the world. Scott was recognized in 2022 with Hart Energy’s Forty Under 40. Scott serves on the Rice Business Alumni Association Board and on the Energy Advisory Board for the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator. He also serves as an Advisory Board member for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council which represents 600,000 energy jobs. He is a professional voice actor and film investor. He hosts both the Owl Have You Know and Curiosity podcasts. He joined Halliburton in 2014 where he managed multiple strategic efforts taking new technologies from ideation to commercial success at scale. Scott holds a chemical engineering degree from Brigham Young University and is a graduate of Rice Business where he founded the Jones Student Association for Executives and was recognized with the Jones Citizen Award. He actively supports multiple startup organizations as a mentor, advisor, and angel investor. Scott and Nicole, his wife of 16 years, together have four children ages 14, 12, 10 and 7.
Co-Founder and CFO, Criterion Energy Partners
Sean Marshall (he/him) is co-founder and CFO of Criterion Energy Partners. He began his career as a technical oil and gas analyst before being elevated to corporate development roles. Most recently, he was a Vice President within the Energy and Infrastructure group at Credit Suisse’s Investment Bank where he coordinated and created extensive technical and economic analysis of oil and gas assets. Throughout his career he has worked on numerous transactions exceeding $80 billion dollars in value. Mr. Marshall holds an MBA from Rice University, and a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from The University of Houston.
Steven A. González
Venture Partner, Seldor Capital
After retiring from NASA, Mr. González is employing his 32 years of technology expertise as a Venture Partner at Seldor Capital. With the successful closure of its first fund, Seldor Capital is launching its second fund, a $25 million fund investing in pre-seed and seed-stage space technology startups that will grow the new space ecosystem or leverage space technology to address the United Nations Sustainability Goals. He is also a Venture Partner at Ecosphere Ventures, a $10 million fund investing in in pre-seed and seed-stage startups cleantech startups.
Susie R. Molina
Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives and Community Relations, HCC
Susie Molina currently serves as the Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives and Community Relations for HCC. In this capacity Susie, works closely with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help establish and grow their business potential. In addition to helping businesses owners, Susie works closely with area chambers, partners and business organizations to help strategic partnerships. Susie was proudly born and raised in Houston and a first generation college graduate receiving her BA from the University of Houston and her Masters in Higher Education administration from Sam Houston State University.
Space Systems Engineer and Technical Demonstrator, Blue Origin
Thomas Baker is a passionate founder, engineer, and industry-leading technologist who specializes in Advanced Concepts R&D, Deep Tech innovation, and early-stage investment. He has made it his lifelong mission to push the boundaries of cutting-edge technology and leverage its benefits for the greatest positive social impact. Raised in Silicon Valley and with a specialization in Electromagnetics/RF from San Jose State University, Thomas started his early career in the semiconductor industry, working in research and development for Mil/Aero Satellites and Tier 4 & 5 Self Driving Tech. After working on the SpaceX Hyperloop initiative, where he designed and built novel magnetic levitation engines and led multidisciplinary research teams to tackle some of the challenges faced by energy-efficient high-speed transit, Thomas worked in large-scale experimental aerospace for a private technical research company under the co-founder of Google. While there, he led multiple development efforts in propulsion, avionics, structural metrology, power generation, RF communications hardware, and early-stage liquid hydrogen development. Currently working at Blue Origin as a Space Systems Engineer and Technical Demonstrator for the Advanced Development Program (ADP), Thomas previously led Blue's Payload Development efforts for The Orbital Reef. In 2023, he moved to Blue's advanced concepts design, where he currently focuses on developing the future of space technology and solving inspiring challenges of the industry to come.
Global Experience Lead - Metaverse Continuum, Accenture
Tyler Gillespie is a Global Experience Lead at Accenture's Metaverse Continuum Business Group. As a staunch believer in the power of imagination in every micro moment in your life, Tyler spends his days as a permanent resident in Wonderland, helping people and companies find and create magic through creative direction, business development/strategy, and immersive technology.
William J. Hitters
Founding Partner, Fysikes Biosolutions
Mr. William Hitters is a Founding Partner of Fysikes Biosolutions. Fysikes is in the fast growing, high margin, high ROIC energy and materials transition space seeking to produce Biochar and Green Hydrogen from agricultural and urban-sourced waste organic feedstocks. He is also an early investor in Heliogen (Concentrated Solar Power – formerly Edisun Microgrids) and a partner/advisor at Khepra (Plastic Waste to Fuels Technology – a California startup). Will has 25 years of experience working in the Energy, Materials, Specialty Chemicals and Mining industries at Dow, Honeywell, Tenaris and Danaher. He has participated in the creation of startups in both South and North America, with a successful exit at Advanced Organic Materials, a producer of Tocopherols & Biodiesel (acquired by Glencore – Switzerland). With a BSc in Chemical Engineering from ITBA, an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master or Arts (MA) in Global Diplomacy from the University of London (SOAS) with a concentration in ESG and Energy Transition; Will has attended executive programs at MIT and Northwestern. He is an inventor and holder of four USPTO patents and has been recognized as an Innovator in the industries where he has held roles.
Chairman, SCORE Houston
Willy was born in Belgium. He has been CEO of 6 Billion dollar International Industrial Manufacturing Technology companies and 4 Technology (non IT) startups in ten different industries. He has five Masters (Master in Electronics and Semiconductors, Master in Nuclear Science Technology and Radioprotection, Master in Finances, Business and Administration, Master in International Sales, Marketing and Business Development, and a Master in Industrial Manufacturing Process Optimization). He has spoken 8.5 languages during his career, lived in five countries, and worked for twenty thousand people as a servant leader and has had manufacturing plants and service centers in over 186 countries around the world. His nickname is Mr. International. He created more than $ 100 Million dollars of shareholder value per year for every large organization he has run as a leader. He has been the chairman of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce of Texas and the Southwest, the Chairman of the Mayor of Houston International Trade and Development Council, a founding member of the World Chamber of Commerce of Texas and the Chairman of SCORE. He has been married for 45 year, and they live in the USA for more than 30 years and in Houston for 20 years They have 3 children and 9 grandchildren. He is now a CSO or Chief Spoiling Officer.