Francis joined ITEN in early 2012 as Director of Operations, responsible for new client attraction and intake, mentor engagement, as well as managing ITEN’s business acceleration programs. He became Interim Executive Director in June of 2015, and assumed the permanent role later that year. Francis has been an integral part of building the technology innovation ecosystem for more than a decade, both as an entrepreneur and in leadership of key organizations. Before joining ITEN, he served as the Statewide Director of External Operations for the MoFAST team of technology business development specialists. The MoFAST program, through the University of Missouri Extension Small Business & Technology Development Centers, seeks to improve the environment for emerging technology companies in the state through the use and implementation of federal government research and development grants. Prior to MoFAST, Francis served as the Director of Operations for the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC), a business incubator located in downtown St. Louis. TEC offered start-up businesses in the field of information technology, low-cost office space as well as high quality business mentoring services. He joined the incubator at its opening, where his duties included recruitment of new client companies, management of TEC’s mentoring program, as well as directing the incubator’s growth and funding. In the for-profit arena, Francis has held numerous positions in retail and business to business sales and has experience in human resources with an emphasis on employee training and development. Francis’ educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from Saint Louis University with an emphasis in organizational psychology as well as graduate work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and University of Missouri-Columbia.
Melissa brings over a decade of experience and commitment to the St. Louis innovation community to her role at ITEN. She works with our companies to help foster their successful navigation through ITEN’s various programs–from Intake to Mock Angel grad; as well as manages ITEN’s operations and many community-focused collaborations and events. Prior to joining ITEN, Melissa served as the Director of Administration for Akermin, Inc., a clean-tech R&D company that was BioGenerator’s first client company in 2004. Prior to Akermin, Melissa was one of the original employees of BioGenerator where she served as Manager of Operations and Client Services. Earlier in her career she spent time at Monsanto in its new products division and corporate M&A. She has also worked as a certified sign language interpreter. Currently, Melissa is a Mosaic Project ambassador and a member of the Parent Boards of Webster University and Bradley University. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Educational Studies and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Linh graduated from Truman State University in 2012 with a degree in Political Science and Business Administration. During her four years there, she served as a PC technician and competed in Ping-pong competitions, of which she has received many accolades. Upon graduation, Linh joined Innovate St. Louis – ITEN’s parent organization – and joined ITEN a few months later. Linh oversees ITEN’s data collection and data management as well as developing closer relationships with all of ITEN’s ventures, service providers and mentors. Her skills and enthusiasm are a great asset to St. Louis’s tech ecosystem! Linh spends most of her free time enjoying outdoor activities and watching soccer. She is a die-hard fan of Manchester United.
Jing joined ITEN as a 2nd employee in 2009, responsible for mentor and talent engagement, websites development, user account support, data management, communication via newsletter, social media accounts and event planning. Jing is also deeply involved with ITEN’s business acceleration programs.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” by Lao Tzu
Entrepreneur in Residence
Michael Gaddis was the founder and chairman of CoreExpress, which at its peak raised over $700 million in venture, debt and vendor financing and employed over 350 personnel. Prior to that, Michael served as the executive vice president and chief technical officer of SAVVIS Communications. He is an expert in Internet operations and technology as well as investor presentations.
Mary Louise has over 25 years experience working in executive marketing, product and business development roles for start-ups and companies with high growth initiatives in the technology, financial and education industries. She is the former President of Virtual Nerd an ed-tech start-up who received national and industry awards for product design and is currently a mentor for the Capital Innovators Accelerator Program. In addition to working for start-up companies, while at American Express Incentive Services she led the strategic planning process including rebranding the product portfolio and while at Charter Communications she managed the re-design of the consumer high-speed internet installation program.
Tom Niermann has been the founder and CTO of 3 venture backed software companies and is the former head of technology and program management of strategic partnerships at Google. He as been an active member of the St Louis Arch Angels. He has expertise in Product Marketing, Engineering, and Fundraising strategies.
Over the last five years, Chuck has mentored over 50 startups in the St. Louis region. He has over 20 years of experience in software, engineering, analytics, product, marketing, executive leadership as well as founding and contributing to the success of several early stage, growth and public companies.
He was previously a Co-Founder & CEO at Inferology and Kivivi, President & COO at Qualtech Systems, Vice-Chair at VNA HealthCare and served in various product and marketing leadership roles at MSC Software.
Chuck holds a MS in engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and an MBA from the University of Chicago- Booth School of Business.
He is a mentor at Startup Weekend and The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St Louis. He’s a judge for Accelerate St. Louis Challenge and Arch Grants, and has coached entrepreneurs for the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum and Rise of the Rest.
Jane has been a mentor with ITEN for more than 4 years and is the chair of its Due Diligence Committee. She has twenty years of industry experience in mergers and acquisitions, financial planning and analysis, various software implementations and corporate tax, with expertise in setting up public company tax departments. She is a graduate of Fontbonne College and began her finance career at PwC in St. Louis. She is the founder of C&I Compliance, a technology and consulting company focusing on economic development credit and incentive contract and statutory reporting.
Board of Directors
Jim has 32 years of entrepreneurial, management, marketing and sales experience with technology-based companies. He has been involved with numerous start-up ventures, including telecommunications, IT, retail, manufacturing and a number of non-profit organizations. Since April of 2008 he has been Executive Director of ITEN. From 2003 to 2006, he was the President of the Technology Entrepreneur Center, a technology incubator in downtown St. Louis. He built TEC into a regional center for start up companies focused on information and communications technology. TEC continues as the parent organization of T-Rex. In 1999, he became the CEO of Partner Communications, providing wireless internet services to apartment communities in the Midwest. Partner raised $15M from a combination of local and national investors. During that time, he also served on the Board of Directors of Intira Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based web hosting company. He joined Brooks Fiber Properties in 1994 as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing until the successful sale of the company for $3B+ in 1998. Prior to joining Brooks Fiber he was with Nortel Networks, developing leading-edge technology and innovative financing solutions for the emerging Competitive Local Exchange market and also won the largest telecommunications contract ever awarded by the US Air Force at that time. Jim holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pursued graduate studies in psychology and innovative management at the Institute for Comparative Studies, Gloucestershire, England.
Dedric A. Carter holds dual appointments as Associate Provost, Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Professor of Engineering Practice at Washington University in St. Louis. As the executive officer for innovation and entrepreneurship, he has oversight for the Office of Technology management, the Center for Research Innovation in Business, and the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in addition to the campus strategic engagement, planning and programming with St. Louis’ Cortex Innovation District. He is the primary liaison to the international travel oversight committee and the east campus planning committee. As a professor of engineering practice in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, he focuses his work on the intersection of technology and policy, efforts that effectively stimulate entrepreneurial ecosystem development, and the catalysis of basic research outcomes towards commercialization.
Hal has nearly 30 years of experience in the software industry as a CEO and Angel Investor. He founded and sold two successful software businesses, Gentry Systems and GridLogix.
Hal served as CEO of Gentry Systems, a provider of geographic information and outage management systems for the electric utility industry. Before Gentry Systems’ acquisition by Autodesk in 2001, it provided software to over 300 utilities worldwide.
Hal was Director of Utility Strategy for Autodesk before co-founding GridLogix, where he served as CEO. GridLogix provided sustainability management software for the building automation industry. GridLogix was purchased by Johnson Controls in 2008.
Hal is a Limited Partner in Cultivation Capital and is part of the investment committee of Cultivation Capital and the iSelect funds. He is a member of ArchAngels, the largest angel investment group in the Midwest.
Hal serves as a board member or advisor for several software and Internet companies, including, aisle411, Bonfyre, DataServ, Growth Systems, GremLn, TrackBill, and PixelPress.
Hal earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUe) where he now serves as chair of the advisory board for the School of Engineering and Computer Science Department. He is a member of SIUe’s Alumni Hall of Fame and is a veteran, having served in the United States Air Force.
Vicki Gonzalez is a founding member and managing partner of Nidus Partners LP, bringing more than 25 years of executive management and start-up experience to the partnership. Nidus is a partnership between corporations and entrepreneurs to source, develop and operate promising early stage technologies in the energy and agriculture sectors. Nidus has a portfolio of six companies of which Ms. Gonzalez is acting CEO of two; AeroValve LLC and Glucan Biorenewables LLC. With over 15 years of chemical industry experience with Monsanto and DuPont, Ms. Gonzalez brings an understanding of the chemical and industrial markets to these early stage start-up companies. Ms. Gonzalez received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M and a M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She currently serves as a Trustee for the The Academy of Science-St. Louis and on the Board of Marian Middle School.
Jason Hall is the General Counsel and Vice-President of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the St. Louis Regional Chamber. In this role, he is leading the Chamber’s collaborative work to grow the St. Louis region’s global innovation hub by attracting more entrepreneurs and insuring that the region has the early-stage capital and other tools to support these innovators in pursuing their dreams.Prior to joining the Chamber, Jason served as a member of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s cabinet leading economic development and the Missouri Technology Corporation. Jason began his career in the St. Louis office of Bryan Cave LLP, one of the largest global law firms, where he served clients across a range of technology sectors in high-stakes matters. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Bates College and Vanderbilt University Law School.
In 2015, Jason was recognized as a “40 Under 40” by the St. Louis Business Journal; 100 St. Louisans You Should Know to Succeed in Business by Small Business Monthly; and was in the inaugural class of 35 STL Innovators by Alive Magazine.
Ken Harrington works with early stage and fast growing ventures as an advisor and board member. He has supported and mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs in a broad set of industry groups. The Bayberry Group has access to experts and investors who work with startup ventures, economic development, entrepreneur support systems, innovation, commercialization, and university entrepreneurship initiatives.From 2001 to 2014, Ken Harrington served as the Managing Director for the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. During that period St. Louis spawned entrepreneur support systems, infrastructure, and investment capital in several specialty areas including Biotech, IT, Agtech, Social Enterprise, Fintech and other areas. Under Ken Harrington’s leadership Washington University’s Skandalaris Center started over 450 ventures. Wash U’s top ten entrepreneurship ranking has a broad experiential curriculum and numerous co-curricular programs that connect the university to St. Louis’s entrepreneurial support groups. Ken has been designated as one of the US top 25 entrepreneurship professors.Prior to joining Wash U, Ken held senior management positions in seven start-up technology companies. He has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and a BS from the University of Vermont. He is an author and speaker including contributing to: Rebuilding the American Dream, Restoring American Jobs and Competitiveness through Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a book that was authored by Robert Skandalaris.
Jim von der Heydt has been working at the intersection of technology and branding for his entire career. Jim started his career in the advertising industry in Chicago. Jim joined the Marketing Department of Ralston Purina in 1981. During is 21-year career he held the roles of VP Marketing Cereals, EVP Marketing Pet Products and EVP Global Business Development and R&D for Pet Products. He also played a key management role in the company’s technology and brand acquisition strategy. After retiring from Purina in 2002, Jim formed a consulting practice focused on business development and strategic acquisitions. He has invested in and coached a variety of early stage companies as one of the first members of the Saint Louis Arch Angels. He is currently advising the new early stage fund iSelect where he also serves as a member of the Selection Committee. In 2010 Jim joined the management team of a start up beverage company, Nawgan. Jim is also an active member of the St. Louis Arch Angels, serves on their screening committee, and has invested in a number of local startups.
Brian Hopcraft is an entrepreneur and technology leader with more than 15 years of experience leading established technology companies as well as early-stage organizations. As Managing Director of Lewis & Clark Ventures, he is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the firm, including fund management, deal sourcing and investments. He also takes an active role directly with portfolio companies.
Prior to joining Lewis & Clark Ventures, Brian held senior leadership roles at high growth technology companies including Answers, Bullhorn, and Sendouts. At Answers, he was SVP of Operations, leading the integration and optimization of four Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) businesses into one operating unit. Prior to Answers, Brian was CEO of Sendouts, a SaaS company focused on the recruiting and staffing industries. Through his leadership, Sendouts transformed into a fast growing and profitable entity that was ultimately acquired by Vista Equity Partners and integrated with Bullhorn, one of Vista’s portfolio companies. Brian led this integration as General Manager of Bullhorn.
Earlier in his career he founded Simplified Workforce Solutions, a pioneer in workforce optimization technology. As founder and CEO, he led the fundraising, high growth and ultimately the company’s acquisition by 360Commerce. He has also held senior leadership positions at Oracle Retail, and with Dennemeyer & Co., an Intellectual Property software and services provider.
In addition to his involvement with Lewis & Clark, Brian is an investor and active advisor to numerous early-stage service and technology companies. He and his family reside in Clayton, Missouri.
Jean Roberson is the Chief Financial Officer of Appistry. Appistry is bringing the power of genomics to next-generation medicine by making genomics data easier for researchers and clinicians to act on. In her role as CFO, Jean is responsible for raising capital, budgeting, human resources, risk management and financial modeling. Under her guidance, the company has proactively raised more than $35 million in private investment.Roberson brings more than 25 years of experience across all areas of finance to her role at Appistry. Prior to joining the team, she was the CFO of Bandwidth Exchange Buildings, and was co-founder and CFO of Partner Communications and Services. She also served as Treasurer for Purina Mills during the time of its $425 Million leveraged buyout where she raised $350 million to transition the business unit into stand-alone enterprises and during the sale of the business to for $660 Million to Koch Industries in 1998.Roberson began her career as an auditor at Ernst& Young, joining the firm after receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and becoming a C.P.A. While an auditor at Ernst and Young Jean served clients in the banking, manufacturing and real estate industries.Jean has a passion for mentoring early-stage companies and is involved with a number of organizations in the St. Louis entrepreneur community includingTechnology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) – Founder and Board Member 14 years. TEC is the parent organization for the St. Louis TREX incubator which is home to over 100 early-early stage companies.ITEN – Advisory Board Member 6 years. ITEN provides mentoring services to over 200 early-stage companies.Women Entrepreneurs of St. Louis (WEST) – Founder and Board Member 2 years. WEST was founded in December of 2012 with the simple idea of creating events that pulled the brightest and most accomplished females in St. Louis together to exchange ideas, share resources, and build great friendships.Bridgeway Foundation – Board Member 9 years. Bridgeway Foundation provides funding for two women’s shelters that provide services to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
Jean’s energy and passion serve her well as a wife, a mother of two boys and an avid swimmer and triathlete.
Donn Rubin serves as President & CEO of BioSTL, a non-profit civic organization and coalition of university, business, and philanthropic leaders enhancing the St. Louis region’s economic vitality through its world-class strengths in medical and plant biosciences. BioSTL ensures that financial and human capital, entrepreneur support, laboratories and physical infrastructure, and public policy are in place to build a high-growth bioscience industry cluster.Mr. Rubin chairs the board of BioGenerator, BioSTL’s non-profit venture development and investment arm, which has built 53 startup companies that collectively have raised over $180 million. BioSTL and BioGenerator have won national and international accolades for their innovative best practices, including being named a “Best Practice of the Western Hemisphere” by the Organization of American States.Mr. Rubin is also past chairman (2005-2008) and current board member of the Missouri Technology Corporation, charged by the General Assembly with leading the state’s technology-based economic development strategy.As founding chairman of Missouri Cures, a coalition that includes over 70,000 citizens and over 100 leading patient and medical groups, Mr. Rubin led the successful effort to pass the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, or “Amendment 2” to the Missouri Constitution, approved by voters in November 2006. The Washington Post called this hotly contested race the nation’s “emblematic election” of 2006. Mr. Rubin continues to lead Missouri Cures and its affiliate, the Missouri Cures Education Foundation, in ongoing work to advance medical research in Missouri.Mr. Rubin previously worked in international development, assisting the post-communist governments of Eastern Europe to reform their legal and health care systems. He coordinated U.S. legal assistance to the government of Albania, serving as advisor to the Minister of Justice and the Constitution Drafting Committee, and providing counsel on legislation, foreign investment, and the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Subsequently, Mr. Rubin established and led programs in nine Eastern European countries to help reform and improve their post-communist health care systems, and served as a consultant to the World Bank on legal reforms and institution building.Mr. Rubin is active in many civic and non-profit organizations in the St. Louis community. He helped found and chaired the board of St. Louis for Kids, improving after school programs for the region’s youth. Mr. Rubin was named “Pillar of the Community” in 2010 by the Clayton Chamber for his contributions to the St. Louis region. He has been named among the “Most Influential St. Louisans” numerous times by the St. Louis Business Journal.
Mr. Rubin received his B.S. in Economics, summa cum laude, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and his J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School.
Jeff Sexton is a proven leader with over 26 years of experience spanning start-up to global organizations. Jeff’s focus is on the creation of long-term value by facilitating talent to drive innovation leveraging technology. He currently is a District Manager with EMC, a global IT organization; Managing Partner of DnB Group, providing business development services to emerging businesses; and, ITEN Corporate Engagement Program Steering Committee Lead and Mentor.
Jeff began his career as a software developer at EDS. He worked for multiple consulting firms in the early 1990’s and started his own, COAD Solutions, which was acquired by EpicEdge, in 1996, where he then served as both COO and CEO. His start-up highlights include raising $18m in venture capital, leading 7 acquisitions, and driving business growth from $5m to $50m in less than 2 years. Jeff was a CIO for a mid-market organization that led him to join Dell to manage key global accounts in 2004. In 2011, Jeff joined EMC to work with large enterprises to drive both Business and IT transformation.
Jeff’s experience provides him a unique perspective on the challenges both start-up and enterprise businesses face developing and executing successful strategies that foster innovation and create value.
Mark Showers is Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated (RGA). He has primary responsibility for the strategic direction of the company’s information technology resources, as well as the global operations of information technology functions on a day-to-day basis.Prior to joining RGA in 2009, Mark spent more than 25 years at Monsanto Company in St. Louis, Missouri, in roles of increasing responsibility, retiring as Chief Information Officer.Mark is an active member of the St. Louis business development community. He is Board Chairman of the Technology Entrepreneur Center (T-REX), a member of the Innovate St. Louis board, a member ITEN’s board, and serves on the CIO Advisory Board of Sierra Ventures, a venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley. He is also a member of several academic advisory boards, including the External Advisory Board for the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis and the External Advisory Board for the School of Business at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville.Mark holds undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and Chemistry from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Physical Chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis, and an Executive M.B.A. from the John M. Olin School of Business (Washington University in St. Louis). He has also received several honors: in 2007, he was named one of the Premier 100 Leaders in Information Technology by Computerworld magazine; in 2008, he was elected to the Alumni Hall of Fame at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville; and in 2010, he was named a 2010 Elite 8 insurance technology leader by Insurance & Technology magazine.