Judges for the Women Startup Challenge 2016

Ten finalists pitched their startups to these investors at LinkedIn in San Francisco on June 14, 2016. The grand prize winner, SIRUM, received $50,000 as a cash grant.

Meet the Jury

Ajay Chopra

General Partner, Trinity Ventures

Ajay Chopra is a General Partner at Trinity Ventures. Prior to joining Trinity in 2006, Ajay co-founded Pinnacle Systems, a seminal media technology company that pioneered consumer generated media creation. During his tenure at Pinnacle, the company grew from start-up stage to a global multi-billion-dollar public company, won an Emmy award and completed over a dozen M&A transactions before being acquired by Avid Technology. Ajay has over 20 years of operating experience at the senior management and board level with start-ups, private companies and public companies.  He has active investments in several digital media and e-commerce companies including Dynamic Signal, FitStar (IPO 2015) TubeMogul (IPO 2014), Gobble, RadiumOne, Deliv, ZIRX, BirdEye and 21vianet (IPO 2011). He is a charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs, an active group providing support for entrepreneurs and is on the Board of Trustees of the Harker School in San Jose. Ajay is also an avid skier, boatman and biker.


Susan Kimberlin

Venture Partner, Backstage Capital

Susan is an angel investor and startup advisor in San Francisco, where she has a front row seat to an amazing variety of new ventures.  She is passionate about making connections and helping people meet their potential.  She believes that diversity is an essential and under-utilized asset to all businesses. Susan focuses on enterprise businesses and technology. Her background is in search and natural language processing technology and her operational experience spans product development roles from coding to product management at both startups and Fortune 500 companies like PayPal and Salesforce.  When not investing and advising, Susan can be found climbing one of San Francisco’s many hills, frequenting the ever-growing array of 3rd-wave coffee shops around town, and singing with the Loose Interpretations.

Nisha Dua

Partner, BBG Ventures

Nisha Dua is a Partner at BBG Ventures, a NYC based early stage fund which she founded with Susan Lyne in 2014. BBGV is focused on consumer internet and mobile startups with at least one female founder. They back the new wave of female entrepreneurs who are reimagining daily life, creating market-defining consumer tech products and services that make our work, play and home lives simpler, better — and more satisfying.

Nisha has spent the last 10 years working across media, tech, strategy and law. She was the General Manager of AOL’s millennial site, Cambio, which she re-launched in 2014 as a site “for girls, #BUILTBYGIRLS” in partnership with Girls Who Code and where she quadrupled the traffic in less than 7 months. Nisha founded the #BUILTBYGIRLS movement which challenges young women to be part of the tech-enabled economy through a series offline and online programs designed to help young women get ahead in tech, including the Girls Who Fund internship program which teaches girls the fundamentals of venture capital.

Nisha was previously Chief of Staff for the AOL Brand Group, working on strategy, operations and special projects. Prior to that, she was a management consultant for Bain & Company advising companies across Tech & Telco, Financial Services, and CPG. She cut her teeth as an M&A and securities lawyer at top tier Australian law firm, Blake Dawson. Nisha has also consulted for various early stage startups.

Lisa Stone

Entrepreneur and Cofounder, BlogHer

Lisa Stone is an entrepreneur and digital media strategist with 18 years of experience developing scale consumer communities via storytelling, quality conversation and analytics. Most recently, Lisa was CEO and Co-founder of BlogHer Inc., where she grew an idea for a grassroots conference into a leading start-up reaching 100+ million women each month, $30 million in annual revenues and a proprietary technology platform for engaging social influencers. She also executive-produced BlogHer’s conferences, the world’s largest for women in social media (her past interviews include President Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Soledad O’Brien, and Melinda Gates). In 2014, Lisa led the sale of BlogHer to SheKnows Media, creating the #1 women’s lifestyle digital media company. Previously, Lisa pioneered the first blog publishing network at Law.com, and was Vice President, Programming and Editor in Chief at Women.com Networks, where she led original programming and partnerships (Bloomberg, Gallup, E! Online, HBO’s Sex and the City), and helped launch 11 Hearst and two Rodale magazine sites.

Although Lisa left CNN for WebTV in 1997, she has continued to write (The New York Times, LATimes.com, LinkedIn, Medium, HuffPost and, of course, BlogHer.com). Her honors include a Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur Award, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business and an Ernst & Young Winning Women award. She was the first Internet journalist awarded a Nieman Fellowship by Harvard University. A Montanan who goes home to ski as often as possible, Lisa lives in Silicon Valley with Christopher Carfi and their children.

Follow me on Twitter: @LisaStone


Shelly Kapoor Collins

Founder, Shatter Capital

Shelly is a frequent Tech entrepreneur and Advisor who works at the intersection of Technology, Politics and Innovation. In 2015, the Economic Times of India named Shelly one of the twenty most influential global Indian women. Shelly is Founder and CEO of Tech Hill Advisors, based in Silicon Valley. Tech Hill is based on Shelly’s keen understanding of the challenges faced by innovative companies, where Technologies outpace state and federal legislation and regulations. Shelly has extensive experience in aligning public sector officials with relevant private sector stakeholders around a specific issue to drive actionable results. Previously, Shelly founded Enscient Solutions.

Shelly developed Root Square, an innovative, incentive-driven online fundraising tool designed to enable political candidates and non-profits to raise funds across social media sites. Currently, Shelly is developing Shatter Capital, a funding platform for women led startups. Shatter accelerates women’s role in tech and offers guidance and support from idea to delivery. Shelly also started the Veterans Training Council to train and connect honorably discharged veterans with skills to prepare them for 21st century careers in top-notch companies.

Shelly is one of eight female CEOs appointed to the National Women’s Business Council in the Obama Administration and was a member of the President’s delegation to India in January 2015. Shelly served as Vice Chair of the Women in Public Service started by Secretary Hillary Clinton while at the State Department and is actively helping to develop women leaders in government and civic organizations on a global level. Shelly has served in a number of appointed and advisory positions for President Obama, including as a National Co-chair for Technology during the 2012 Presidential Campaign, was a Technology Advisor to the Office of the Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris and a Technology Advisor to the India Senate Caucus. Shelly is a staunch advocate of STEM Education to young girls in underrepresented communities.

Follow her on Twitter: @ShalKCollins

Jen Consalvo

Cofounder, Tech.co

Jen Consalvo is Cofounder and COO of Tech.Co, a news and events organization focused on better connecting and educating entrepreneurs, and amplifying start-up communities everywhere. Started as a grassroots event to connect local communities, Tech.Co now has millions of global readers, works with industry leading brands, and is the go-to place for tech startups and enthusiasts.
Prior to Tech.Co, Consalvo led product development teams in a range of product areas such as digital imaging, community & social platforms and personalization. Much of her career was at AOL, planning and building products used by millions of people globally.

Consalvo is also a startup investor and advisor, and a founding member of NextGen Angels. Jen serves on the digital advisory board for The Nature Conservancy and for the Master of Arts in Media Entrepreneurship at American University.

She was nominated by Nevada’s TBAN for 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year, listed by Business Insider in their 100 Most Influential Tech Women On Twitter, named a 2013and 2011 Tech Titan by Washingtonian Magazine, was has been featured in Forbes, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, DC Modern Luxury Magazine, and others.

Sibyl Edwards

Cofounder, Black Female Founders

Sibyl is the Executive Director for DC Innovates (DCI), a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering and supporting a diverse tech innovation economy in the District of Columbia. DCI manages the Digital DC Technology Fund (DDCTF), a $1 million fund and customized mentorship program dedicated to promoting the success of early and growth stage technology ventures in the District.

Sibyl is also the President of DC Web Women (DCWW), one of the longest-running tech nonprofits for women in D.C, which supports and advocates for women and girls in technology by providing a community in which they can develop and promote their leadership, technical and professional skills.
For over a decade, Ms. Edwards has created successful digital campaigns for Fortune 500 companies, non-profit associations and startups.

Working with organizations to help expand their digital presence she develops strategies to grow their business and build their brands. Her clients include The World Bank, Land O’Lakes International Development, Social@Ogilvy, Rosetta Stone, Cision and Marriott.

Follow me on Twitter: @saedwards

Elizabeth Galbut

Founding Partner, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital

Elizabeth Galbut is the Founding Partner of two start-up venture capital firms, SoGal Ventures and A-Level Capital.

During her graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University & Maryland Institute College of Art, Elizabeth consulted with hundreds of start-ups and identified the lack of pre-seed funding as the major issue preventing these startups from succeeding. To solve this, she created A-Level Capital, the student-led venture capital firm powered by Johns Hopkins students. With her team of 17 student venture capital partners, A-Level Capital aims to invest in 80 JHU student and young alumni startups in the next five years.

Elizabeth knew the venture capital firm she desired to work for currently does not exist, and set out to create her own. SoGal Ventures is the first female-led millennial venture capital firm, with an investment focus on exceptional, diverse founding teams that have plans for global domination through tackling major consumer or healthcare problems in the U.S. and Asia. SoGal Ventures represents how far our generation has come, and how deep our impact on the world can be.

Prior to graduate studies, as a Strategy and Operations Consultant at Deloitte Consulting, Elizabeth focused her attention on developing long-term strategy for a variety of large healthcare clients. She contributed to business development efforts leading to over $200M of new work.

Elizabeth is a proud alumnus of Georgetown University, London School of Economics, Johns Hopkins University, and Maryland Institute College of Art.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @design4innov8

Frank Gruber

Cofounder, Tech.co

Frank Gruber grew up in the Midwest heartland and is an entrepreneur, new media journalist and angel investor. He is the author of Startup Mixology: Tech Cocktail’s Guide To Building, Growing and Celebrating Startup Success published by Wiley. He cofounded Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail) in 2006, which has grown into a hub for the creative class, offering tech startup focused news, events, and resources. Frank has built and launched products for the masses while at AOL, Tribune and Classified Ventures along with startup efforts like Thankfulfor, Splog Reporter and more.

As a journalist his works have been featured in a number of top media publications like Tech.Co, TechCrunch, Fortune, HuffPo, etc. Frank is an advisor to many startups including TurboAppeal, Zuldi, and Umba. Frank was nominated for 2013 Entrepreneur of Year in Nevada, honored as a “Washingtonian Tech Titan” in Washington, DC in 2009, 2011, and 2013, and was named by Forbes as one of the most connected people in tech. His alma maters include Purdue and Northwestern respectively.

You can find him on Twitter at: @FrankGruber and @TechCoHQ.

Donna Harris

Cofounder and Co-CEO, 1776

Donna Harris is a Cofounder and co-CEO of 1776, a global innovation platform bringing together startups, investors, major institutions and policymakers to uncover, validate and scale the world’s most promising ideas. With campuses in Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and San Francisco, a digital innovation curriculum accessed daily by thousands of startups and institutions around the globe, and a venture capital fund making investments worldwide, 1776 has become the premier partner for innovators seeking to drive major global change.

Prior to launching 1776, Donna served as the Managing Director at the Startup America Partnership where, working in partnership with the White House, the Kauffman Foundation, and the Case Foundation, she led the formation of entrepreneurial communities across the United States and integrated them into a national startup ecosystem. Prior to joining Startup America, Donna was a serial entrepreneur with three successful exits. She was Vice Chair of Interpoint Group, a government markets, government relations, and public affairs strategy and management firm. She also worked previously as Founder and CEO of Kinderstreet, which sold software in the education, sports, and recreation markets. She was also Vice President at Centromine, a provider of web-based clinical and fiscal systems in the Health and Human Services industry.

Donna is a member of The Economic Club of Washington DC, serves as a Trustee of the Federal City Council, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Entrepreneurship Network and is also an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Georgetown University. She is an active angel investor as a cofounder of K Street Capital. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and an MBA with distinction from The University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Angela Jackson

Co-Managing Director, Portland Seed Fund

Over the last 12 years, Angela’s placed 60 angel investments and advised startups spanning everything from mobile to consumer products to clean tech.

Angela proudly maintains multiple leadership roles in the flourishing Portland startup ecosystem. In addition to being Co-Managing Director of Portland Seed Fund, she’s also Director of Portland State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which has housed more than 30 emerging tech companies to date. Angela is a past Chair of Angel Oregon and past President of Keiretsu Forum Portland chapter.

An entrepreneur herself, early in her career, Angela launched, secured funding, and managed several ventures including a clean water educational nonprofit. She can also regale you with tales from the three years she sailed around the world professionally as a tall ships sailor.

Angela holds a B.A. in English and History from Boston University and a M.A. in Environmental Studies from University of Oregon.

Lynne Johnson


A veteran journalist turned digital and social media strategist who led cross-functional teams to develop creative content and community experiences for popular media brands like Vibe, Spin, and Fast Company, as well as for a host of B2B and B2C brands.

Currently working as a Content + Community Engagement Consultant developing brand marketing strategies and campaigns, with a focus on insights, strategy, planning, and execution to help brands reach their business goals by better engagement with their target audience through the power of storytelling.

Also still a journalist covering popular culture, as well as various aspects of emerging media and technology, such as the augmented reality and wearable technology markets, for various media outlets. See Lynne’s website for updates.

Formerly served as a Director of Digital + Social Media Strategy in the Brand Strategy and Marketing Practice at Waggener Edstrom providing strategy and guidance internally and to clients to build digital and social programs, as well as successfully pitching new business.

Follow Lynn on Twitter: @lynneluvah

Penny Lee

Chair, K Street Capital

Penny Lee is a seasoned political and communications strategist with over 20 years of experience. She has worked extensively with the executive branch, as well as elected officials in both houses and across the aisles of Congress, State Government, and in the private sector. Lee is a regular commentator on the po-litical process, campaigns, and elections for US News and World Report, and ap-pears regularly as an analyst on CNN and FOX News Channel.

Lee is presently a Senior Advisor at Venn Strategies, LLC, having served as the firm’s President for the past four years. Venn Strategies, LLC is a public affairs and government relations firm located in Washington, DC. She has provided federal, state, and local advocacy, strategic positioning, guidance, crisis communications ad-vice, and political strategy direction to clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits.

From 2007-2008, Lee served as the top communications and political advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Over her extensive public affairs career, she has served as the Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association (where she oversaw 38 statewide elections and helped Democratic governors regain the ma-jority of statehouses for the first time in more than a decade), Communications Direc-tor for Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, and as a member of the senior staff of the Democratic National Committee.

Lee currently serves on the Advisory Board for 1776, a Washington, DC incubator and accelerator for global startups and serves as Chair for a Greater-DC angel in-vestment group called K Street Capital. As an avid golfer, Lee has also served on the First Tee of Greater Washington Board, and the Advisory Board for Bloomberg Government. Lee has lectured at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Georgetown Univer-sity and the University of Pennsylvania.

She holds a BA with a double major in journalism and political science from Baylor University.

Mara Lewis

Co-founder and Managing Director of Upstart

Mara Lewis is a serial entrepreneur and champion for diversity in tech. After launching her first startup in college, she went on to found 4 more tech startups, and is currently the Managing Director of Start Co. — an accelerator and venture fund for early stage startups. To date, she has helped accelerate over 30 high-tech, high-growth companies. Mara sits on the Board of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and advises Fortune 500 companies on innovation strategy and corporate venture. Mara has been quoted in the media as a thought leader for women in technology, and in 2012, helped launch Upstart, one of the nation’s first accelerators for women-led tech startups. She resides in San Francisco, CA with a secondary residence in Memphis, TN to support startups outside of traditional tech hubs.

Susan Mernit

Founder, Oakland Local

Susan Mernit is an innovator and media entrepreneur working to help local communities build civic engagement, improve economic development and give voice to people of color and those in underserved communities through amplifying the power of local media and discussion on the web. Mernit is the founder of Oakland Local, a news & community hub for Oakland, recognized as one of the most interesting and unique local sites in the country because of its civic engagement model and its training academy and programs.

Mernit sometimes works as a consultant, trainer, and coach, and is interested in projects focused on community media, bridging the digital divide, new revenue models for media, media entrepreneurship and product strategy. She was the consulting web strategist for The Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch project and is currently a circuit rider for the Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge.

A former VP at AOL and Netscape, and a former Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was the consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge in 2008-09, as well as a consultant to organizations including Salon.com & TechSoup Global. Mernit spent summer 2008 at TechStars, incubating a company that died; that experience has super-fueled her energy. She has been a contributing editor at BlogHer, a blogger, and was is a co-founder of Hack the Hood, a project that provides Oakland youth with tech training and exposure to tech careers while also helping local businesses become more visible online.

A popular trainer and speaker, Mernit works often with The Knight Digital Media Center at USC’s Annenberg School and does trainings and webinars with  The Poynter Institute. She was the Keynote program chair for the October 2009 Online News Association conference in San Francisco and is an experienced facilitator and presenter.

Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanMernit

Susan Nesbitt

Business Development Director, Make School

Susan is currently the Head of Business Development for Make School where she is helping to build diverse classrooms and change the face of technology. Previously, Susan was the Director of Partnerships and Development at Girls Who Code. She was Deputy Director at Craigslist Foundation and started her career in product management roles at Yahoo! and in digital music, most notably at Shawn Fanning’s SNOCAP. She cares about the future of computer science education, cycling and yoga. She stops for puppies.

Nathaniel G. Pearlman

Founder Graphicacy, NGP VAN

Nathaniel is an experienced entrepreneur. He founded NGP Software, Inc. in 1997 (now NGP VAN, Inc.) to join his interests in politics and technology and grew that company into the market leader in fundraising and compliance software for progressive political campaigns. Nathaniel served as Chief Technology Officer for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign in 2007-8. In 2009, Nathaniel founded the information graphic products company Timeplots and reserved the name Graphicacy for information graphics consulting and services. Together, Timeplots and Graphicacy are dedicated to making the visual display of information more comprehensible and aesthetic. He is also an adviser, coach and investor in a variety of businesses and a founder of the antipoverty nonprofit Lever Fund.

Maci Peterson

CEO and Cofounder, On Second Thought

Maci Peterson is the CEO and co-founder of On Second Thought, a messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they get to the other person. In 2015, she was named “Tech’s Newest Innovator” by Essence Magazine and recognized among Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40”. On Second Thought won First Place at SXSW’s annual pitch competition #StartupOasis in 2014, was named “The Texting Savior” by AT&T, and won 1st Place in the inaugural Women Who Tech Startup Challenge, in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and Fred and Joanne Wilson. Before launching On Second Thought, Peterson was a brand manager at Marriott International and a marketing strategist for The Root. Peterson received her Bachelor of Arts in public relations and advertising from Chapman University.

Follow Maci on Twitter: @OnSecondThought

Adam Quinton

Founder and CEO, Lucas Point Ventures

Adam is Founder/CEO of Lucas Point Ventures and an active investor in and advisor to early stage companies. Previously he was a top ranked sell side investment analyst in the UK, Asia and the US.

Adam’s current investments include The Muse, Rapt Media,Glassbreakers, VenueBook, Hire an Esquire, Pinks and Greens,Validately and Snaps. In the first half of 2014 he served as Chief Financial Officer of NYC based cybersecurity company NopSec, another of his investees. In addition in 2014 he was named one of the 25 Angel Investors you need to know in New York by AlleyWatch as well as one of 100 Tech Influencers You Need to Know. In 2015 he was featured in Tech.co as “One of 8 VCs Making Waves“.

He serves on the Board of Pinks and Greens and an Advisor to Hire an Esquire, Tactile Finance and San Francisco based SwoopTalent. He is on the Executive Advisory Board of techweek. Adam is and member of and/or advisor to several angel groups including 37 Angels and Astia Angel where he is a founding Angel and chairs the Astia East Coast Advisory Board. He is an Mentor for Boulder based accelerator program MergeLane and an Advisor to San Francisco based Women’s Startup Lab as well as the Vinetta Project.

In the not for profit space he is Board member at International House New York and a member of their Executive Committee. He is also a Board member at the Center for Talent Innovation.

Adam is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs where he is a Capstone workshop advisor and member of the Management Faculty.

He holds a BA and MA in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University and an MBA from Cass Business School, London.

DJ Saul

Investor, NextGen Angels

DJ Saul is the CMO and Managing Director of ISL (an AdAge 2014 Small Agency of The Year). One of the company’s first employees, DJ is now responsible for ISL’s marketing, DC operations, partnerships and business development as well as the company’s ongoing experimentation/prototyping efforts. He was recently named a 2015 Washingtonian Tech Titan.

DJ advises companies and early stage ventures on everything from digital to experiential marketing strategy, to branding and partnership development, and has been described as “an invaluable pillar of support for the region’s aspiring entrepreneurs.” In short, he brands, markets, and creates experiences that launch companies, sell products, and connects people and organizations with what they need to succeed.

He also speaks and writes regularly on building meaningful relationships, brand strategy, emerging tech and marketing trends, and entrepreneurship. He teaches much more about marketing strategy in his courses on Brand Positioning and; Product/Company Naming.

DJ studied International Affairs at George Washington University and Beijing Foreign Studies University. He is a member of NextGen Angels, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Shapers, co-producer of the DC Tech Meetup, and serves on the advisory board of Think Local First DC.

In his spare time, DJ plays in the DC Bocce League where his team, Ben’s Chili Bowl Bocce, has donated thousands of dollars in winnings to local non-profits. He has won DC’s Great Urban Race and was a finalist in the Great Urban Race National Championship. DJ is an ardent supporter of DC United and Liverpool F.C.

Sabine Seymour

Founder, Softspot

Dr. Sabine Seymour is an entrepreneur and researcher focusing on the next generation of wearables and the intertwining of aesthetics and function in our garments. She is described as being an innovator and has been involved in wearables for almost two decades. Sabine is the founder and CEO of Moondial, where she works with Fortune 500 companies worldwide on inventing new products, examining manufacturing processes, and building prototypes. She recently founded the soft computation start-up Moonlab to serve the need for a truly seamless sensor system for clothing.

Sabine is an active member in the wearable technology community; which affords her to have access to the latest R&D. She was a visiting researcher for Computational Cellulose at Aalto University in Helsinki, curated the MAK Fashion Lab at the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, co-directed the research project BODYMetaphor at The New School, and was on the steering committee for ZeroPower Smart Fashion. Sabine authored the successful books “Fashionable Technology, The Intersection of Design, Fashion, Science, and Technology” and “Functional Aesthetics” and co-edited “ComputationalFashion”.

Sabine serves as adviser and jury member, and chairs the Rockefeller Foundation Grant funded project Computational Fashion at Eyebeam. She has received numerous grants and awards and was awarded the Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design Fellowship.

Sapna Shah

Angel Investor, Red Giraffe Advisors

Sapna is an angel investor, start-up advisor, retail expert and entrepreneur. Through Red Giraffe Advisors, Sapna makes angel and early-stage seed investments in the retail, fashion and consumer start-ups. Sapna is also a member of New York Angels, one of the most active angel groups in the world. Sapna advises start-ups at the Wharton School, NYU Stern and Columbia Business School and at accelerators including XRC Labs and Trendseeder.

Previously, Sapna co-founded and led Retail Eye Partners, a successful independent Wall Street equity research firm. At Retail Eye, Sapna assessed the monthly and quarterly performance of major retailers in the specialty, big box and department store sectors through intensive channel checks and analysis. Sapna also co-founded and launched a menswear e-commerce retailer, Mind the Chap, and led the Marketing and Web Development areas of the company. Prior to Retail Eye Partners, Sapna was Executive Director of Strategy and Customer Insight at Linens ‘n Things, Inc., responsible for customer targeting and segmentation, market and consumer research, corporate strategic planning, new business rollouts and competitive benchmarking. Prior to Linens ‘n Things, Sapna was Director of Strategic Planning & New Business Development at Ann Taylor, where she worked on launching Ann Taylor’s e-commerce site, developing a color cosmetics line, visioning the store of the future and improving store operations. Sapna also has experience at Gap, Inc.

Previous to her career in retail, Sapna worked in investment banking at Punk, Ziegel & Knoell and at Morgan Stanley as a credit analyst. Sapna received her B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School as well as a B.A. in East Asian Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.

Pocket Sun

Founding Partner, SoGal Ventures

Pocket is the Founder of SoGal and Founding Partner of SoGal Ventures. During graduate school, Pocket built and grew SoGal from a new student organization in November 2014 to an empowering global community of 3,000+ diverse entrepreneurs and investors in 26 countries. She created and produced dozens of large-scale events for hundreds of emerging founders, and advised over 20 startups within a year. She is also known as a master connector. Prior to SoGal, Pocket was a Global Marketing Specialist co-managing a $3B product portfolio.

Born and raised in China, Pocket is bicultural and bilingual. She holds a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation degree from University of Southern California, and Bachelor of Business Administration degree from College of William & Mary.

Follow Pocket on Twitter @pocketysun

Diane Tate

Senior Program Manager at Mozilla

Diane ran and grew WebFWD, Mozilla’s accelerator for open source startups. She currently works on internal communications; previously she was Program Manager for Mozilla’s Developer Relations team.

Pre-Mozilla, Diane did communications, marketing, product management, and business development at various startups as well as at Charles Schwab. She got her MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and her BA in History from Stanford.

Ligaya Tichy

Angel Investor

Ligaya launches new markets for consumer technology companies. She kickstarted Airbnb’s international development as Global Head of Offline Marketing & Community during their most rapid growth phase. Prior to that, she was a Marketing Manager for Yelp, helping the company expand their footprint across the US. Ligaya now angel invests and advises startups and serves as a mentor for 500 Startups. She is also a regular speaker at SXSW, various TEDx, and CMX Summit. Ligaya was also selected as a 2014 TechWomen by the US Department of State.

Alice Zagury

CEO at TheFamily

I love impulsive people who design beautiful and emotional products because they couldn’t dream of doing anything else. When we started TheFamily, Nicolas, Oussama and I wanted to kill the toxicity of the French tech environment. How? We looked to design an ambitious infrastructure for startups, by scaling education, tools and access to capital in order to create billion dollar startups.

With TheFamily, I work tirelessly to make changes to a landscape ruled by elitism, where neither youth nor diversity are welcome. We’re driven by a strong belief in the ability of local talent – no matter where it comes from – to build international champions.

I was born in 1984 to an open-minded and loving family. With a father from Casablanca and a mother from Paris, my siblings and I grew up around plenty of music, drawings, and culture. They pushed us to find our own quests for meaning. For me, having grown up in a suburb of Paris, part of my quest came from always being aware of the discrimination and racism that was present yet largely ignored in France. 

Throughout my life, I enjoyed developing my artistic skills, but a strong desire to compete with decision makers made me choose business studies. So for university, I selected a French management school, EM Lyon. After university, I ended up discovering the tech culture by pure chance. After spending time in art galleries and with artists’ collectives, a friend forwarded me a job posting from a non-profit organization involved in digital innovations. I immediately fell in love with this new world. Artists, engineers, and doers were all fighting the same battle. Digital was providing the tools necessary for breaking down the walls that prevented them from working together.

In 2009, YCombinator was already a big deal. I travelled all over Europe, discovering different ecosystems and using this experience as an inspiration to create something new for the French market. I launched Le Camping – the first startup accelerator in France. After 3 seasons, 36 startups, and 18 fundraising rounds, I left for a new adventure – serving as CEO of TheFamily.

Adam Zuckerman

Director of Ventures & Innovation, Discovery Communications

An entrepreneur, attorney, and MBA, Adam is the founder of Fosterly, an organization which connects innovators and entrepreneurs as they start and scale their endeavors. In January 2015, Fosterly held the Collaborate Conference, the region’s largest innovation and entrepreneurship event of the year. More than the 1,000 attendees included leading innovators from both the private and public sectors including Google X, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, NASA, the White House, the GSA, and more.

In addition to being an active member of the Washington, DC metro region’s community (e.g, being a member on Mayor Bowser’s transition committee) he serves on the advisory boards of other organizations, mentors entrepreneurs and startups, and has a full time position focused on innovation initiatives at the world’s #1 pay-TV provider, Discovery Communications.

Just a few of the brands he’s collaborated with include Anheuser-Busch, Box.com, Discovery Communications, DocuSign, Facebook, Box.com, Microsoft, NASA, Twitter, and Verizon.

Follow me on Twitter: @Adamz