Speakers, Investors, Moderators, and Panelists

Keynote Speakers:

Investors, Moderators, and Panelists:

Investors and Panelists:

Stephanie Harkness

Indus Holdings Inc.
Panelist and Lead Director

Doug Erickson

Santa Cruz Works
Doug Erickson launched his entrepreneurial journey a year after graduating from UCSC by building a windsurf company which rose to the second largest worldwide. He then entered the tech world. Six of the past companies have been acquired including Presenter, WebEx, and SugarCRM. He built the 4,100+ member Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp which is the 8th largest in the US. He also co-founded and built CruzHacks, a 1,000+ attendee 3-day hackathon. Erickson is an angel investor in Inboard Technologies and Buoy Labs. He is also a founding member of Zentrepreneurship Life.

Susan Szasz Harker

Slow Money Monterey Bay

Namrata Banerjee

Carnegie Mellon Accelerator
Director of VentureBridge

Jenny Kuan

CSUMB College of Business
Institute for Innovation and
Economic Development

Joel Gambord

Gambord Investments

Amy Stocker

Slow Money Monterey Bay

Bob Kavner

Venture Capital Investor

John Seabern

Ridgecrest Investments
General Partner

Nina Robinson

The Runway Project
Oakland Project Director

Julius Robinson

MUFG Union Bank
Managing Director & Group Head,
Corporate Social
Responsibility for the Americas
Photo of Tom Armstrong

Tom Armstrong

White Summers

Moderator, Investor

Mr. Armstrong is a partner and heads the Central Coast office at the law firm of White Summers Caffee & James, LLP (www.white-summers.com).  He has over 34 years of legal experience in representing companies and investors in venture capital financings, private placements, angel financings, mergers and acquisitions, and general corporate matters. His practice includes representation of companies and investors in various industries including medical devices, software, internet, consumer goods, telematics and entertainment. 

Mr. Armstrong is also a FINRA registered investment banker holding a Series 63 license and a Series 79 license assisting companies in capital raising and mergers and acquisitions .and is a member of Angels by the Sea, an angel investment group in the Central Coast Area.

Photo of Brad Barbeau

Brad Barbeau

Institute for Innovation and Economic Development

Event Moderator

Brad Barbeau, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay, and Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development at CSU Monterey Bay. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship and new venture formation and finance, and is faculty lead for the entrepreneurship concentration for the College of Business. 

His primary research is on the entrepreneurial process. Brad holds his MBA, M.A. in economics and Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Brad is also an advisor to several startup companies, and is currently on the board of California Coastal Rural Development Corporation, a lender to agriculture and small businesses. 

Photo of David Blume

David Blume

Blume Energy

Panelist, Funding Success Stories

David has over 40 years of working with advanced biofuels and regenerative Ag production methodologies. He is an author, speaker, and internationally renowned permaculture and biofuels expert. After studying Ecological Biology and Biosystematics at SF State University, he worked on experimental projects, first for NASA, and then as member of the Mother Earth News Eco Village building alternative energy teams.

David is author of the critically acclaimed book Alcohol Can be a Gas!, which has been adopted as standard curriculum for colleges and Universities in the US and abroad. David has pioneered the appropriate-scale approach to utilizing surplus and waste as well as cultivated carbohydrate, sugar and starch rich resources for alcohol fuel production.

He has appeared on National Public Radio’s (NPR) Science Friday, has been a commentator on the Huffington Post, and has been a guest on nationally syndicated radio programs hosted by Thom Hartmann and Lou Dobbs. David has spoken at key agriculture and biofuel industry conferences, and he was the keynote speaker at the OLADE Renewable Energy Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Photo of Kristi Bowers

Kristi Bowers

CEO, FlyX Systems


Kristi Markkula Bowers is a Marketing executive and prominent Philanthropist directing her family’s foundation. In addition, she advises startups, including through a recent executive role with an IoT vineyard agtech company. In her career, Kristi has worked internationally for Apple and most recently has been running the award winning Kings Mountain Vineyards. Kristi is a Trustee for Santa Clara University and in that role serves alongside Silicon Valley giants on the Marketing Committee (2012-2016), Academic Affairs Committee, and Facilities Master Planning Committee. Kristi also serves as an active advisor for the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, which is widely recognized as the #1 Ethics center in the Country. She serves as the Chair of the Strategic Resources Development Committee and holds a position on the Executive Committee.


Photo of Maya Brooks

Maya Brooks

iFund Women

Panelist, Investor

Maya is New York-based Product Manager, Educator, Speaker, and Entrepreneur. Fueled by her passion to create new ideas (and perhaps a bit too much Cold Brew), Maya enjoys helping fellow entrepreneurs & tech enthusiasts reach their full potential. She is currently a Product Manager at iFundWomen, a crowdfunding ecosystem for women-led businesses, where she builds thoughtful and intuitive products & experiences to empower female founders. Prior to iFundWomen, Maya held positions at JPMorgan Chase and Techstars.

Toby Corey

Tesla/Solar City

Luncheon Speaker

I’m a lifelong entrepreneur turned Zentreprenuer and Stanford University Lecturer. I believe deeply in customer-centric big idea thinking. I like to be on and preferably over the edge as much as possible. I used to think that I was figuring life out over time, silly me. I learned to let my journey expand and flow and then I realized the more knowledge I acquire, the less I really know. That “less” part is what shapes me and where awe-ness exits. I’m grateful for: learning so much at Tesla, SolarCity, USWeb, Novell and several other great companies along the way, falling in love with technology early in life, taking disco dance lessons in 1978 after watching “Saturday Night Fever”, currently sitting on the boards of Buoy, Advanced MicroGrid Solutions, WildLifeDirect with Chairman Dr. Richard Leakey (former board member) and advisory boards at Inboard Technologies, YaDoggi and CruzFoam.

Career Highlights: successfully managed three $1b+ businesses (one as co-founder/President), two successful IPO’s, raised over $300m in private and public financing, former President of a leader in clean energy services with successful IPO and successful Tesla merger, co-founder and former President/COO of worldwide leader in web development services with $3b+ market cap and successful IPO, managed 7,000+ employee organization, operating globally, awarded two “messaging” patents, executed 40+ M&A transactions while career path disrupted information technology, digital economy, Renewable Energy and Mobile sectors.

Dan Coughlin

Joby Aviation


Dan Coughlin is the Special Projects officer for Joby Aviation. His primary focus is assisting the company lay the foundation for the company’s future production phase of the S4 electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Dan began his career in at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. His primary focus through his 17-year NASA career was the development and flight test of advanced technologies and experimental space flight vehicles including X-34, X-33 and X-37, as well as other NASA efforts to replace the Space Shuttle with the next generation of launch vehicles.

After completing his Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, Dan became the Director of Business Development at NASA Ames Research Center’s ‘Space Portal’ – an organization created to directly support the entrepreneurial space sector. In 2011, Dan took a position at Virgin Galactic (VG) where he directly assisted raising $100 M in capital for VG to establish a new product line – the LauncherOne launch vehicle, and then led the proposal team to win a DARPA contract worth over $5M and a NASA contract worth millions more.

Dan joined Joby in June of 2018 and currently spends most of his time in Marina, CA preparing the company for aircraft production. Dan also assists the company acquire government grants/contracts and tax incentives.

Photo of Geoffrey Dillon

Geoffrey Dillon



Geoff is a five time CEO that enjoys the challenge of changing consumer behavior, directly impacting adoption of products over measured periods of time. He started his career in sales, literally pioneering the multi-billion dollar flea pill market while at American Cyanamid, then moved to Paris, pioneering spinal endoscopy. Upon his return to the states Geoff was part of the executive team that pioneered OPCAB (off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery) while at Cardiothoracic Systems that was successfully sold to Guidant Corp for $350M. Then was part of the minimally invasive movement to repair and replace diseased heart valves. Currently Tenon Medical, where he’s part of CTIG investment group, is changing the way orthopedic surgeons address SI Joint pain, minimally invasively. Geoff has recently branched into the consumer goods industry, overseeing successful launch of dhama wristbands addressing women’s health issues, while currently serving as co-founder and President of SellHound Inc.

SellHound recently launched their app that makes reselling on line as easy as buying, via a proprietary AIS (advanced image structuring) engine that literally translates, from just a few pictures, fashion items for sale into critically worded title, description, and key word post with accurate selling price attached based on the actual condition of the used item for sale. Initial results show a 3X increase in velocity of items resold when using SellHound vs resellers doing the work themselves. SellHound will be expanding into other categories in 2020 but started with fashion as it represents 50% of the online resale industry today. “What needs to change to make reuse more mainstream… SellHound”!

Photo of Andy Drenick

Andy Drenick

Capital for Founders
Panelist, Investor

Andy Drenick is Managing Director of Capital for Founders (CFF) LLC, which provides growth capital to founder-run businesses. Prior to founding CFF, Mr. Drenick was CEO of Qualmark Corporation, sold to Espec Corporation in 2015. Prior to Qualmark, he was CEO of Inovonics Corporation which exited to Roper Corporation in 2005.

Mr. Drenick holds a BS in Engineering from Colorado School of Mines, an MBA from Stanford University, and is a licensed Mechanical Engineer.

photo of Doug Erickson

Doug Erickson

Santa Cruz New Tech/Santa Cruz Works

Panel Moderator

Doug Erickson launched his entrepreneurial journey a year after graduating from UCSC by building a windsurf company which rose to the second largest worldwide. He then entered the tech world.  Six of the past companies have been acquired including Presenter, WebEx, and SugarCRM. He built the 4,100+ member Santa Cruz New Tech MeetUp which is the 8th largest in the US.

He also co-founded and built CruzHacks, a 1,000+ attendee 3-day hackathon.   Erickson is an angel investor in Inboard Technologies and Buoy Labs. He is also a founding member of Zentrepreneurship Life.

Photo of Arno Hesse

Arno Hesse


Panelist, Investor



Arno Hesse works to empower people and communities with solutions for placing their money into the future they want to live in. Making it easier and more transparent to channel investments into local businesses through combining shifts in culture with innovations in technology.

Arno is the Founder and CEO of Credibles, and co-founder of Investibule. He also co-leader and investor for Slow Money Northern California.

Photo of Shyam Kamath

Shyam Kamath

CSU Monterey Bay College of Business


Shyam Kamath, Ph.D., is Dean of the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay. He has held academic and administrative positions at leading universities in the U.S., Canada, Asia and Europe. Previously, he was an entrepreneur as a co-founder of three start-ups, has pioneered a number of academic start-ups and has worked for leading international firms in the energy equipment and consumer goods areas. He has been a consultant to four governments and over 100 companies and non-profits worldwide. He has published over 80 articles in leading peer-reviewed scholarly and trade journals and is the author or co-author of three books. Dean Kamath serves on the boards of four non-profits and one for-profit company, including as the CEO of a Monterey-based non-profit organization.

Photo of Chrissy Meyer

Chrissy Meyer

Root Ventures

Panelist, Investor

Chrissy Meyer has spent the past decade taking hardware products from early concept through high-volume production. At companies like Apple and Square, she developed products that have shipped millions of units, and she has spent over a year on the ground in Asia working closely with manufacturers and suppliers. Chrissy is now a partner at Root Ventures, a seed-stage hard tech venture capital firm investing in robotics, hardware, industrial automation, AI, and developer tools.

Photo of Carrie Nitkin

Carrie Nikitin

CEO, Avatekh, Inc.


Carrie is currently CEO of Avatekh, Inc., a high tech company developing and monetizing Intellectual property in noise filtering and power management industries. With strong skills in constructing, and negotiating licensing agreements, joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions, raising capital and collaborative development and research agreements, in both domestic and foreign markets in various industries. She is an expert on working with companies in various stages, such as start-up, expansion, downsizing, turnaround, branding and rebranding phases. She has written federal SBIR, NIH and NSF grants, state economic development grants and not for profit grants.

Photo of David Payne

David Payne

CEO and Angel Investor

Panelist, Investor

David earned his BA & MA from Stanford University, and K-12 Educational Administration Credentials from UC Berkeley. After a career in secondary education from 1991-1998, he was appointed as a Visiting Professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business as well as the School of Education. At the same time, he founded and served as CEO of WebLearning, Inc, which used taxonomy-based matching to pro-actively recommend web-based educational content to K-12 students and teachers based on their individual learning needs and teaching styles.

After selling the company in 2000, he founded and served as CEO of Extreme Learning Inc., which provided academic support for students in low-income high poverty schools. Extreme Learning served more than 100,000 students in 200 school districts in California, employing as many as 1000 tutors and support staff before he sold the company in 2013.

Since then, David has been an angel investor in Costa Rica, where he lives part time, and in California, his other home. He has taken board, advisory, and mentorship roles in several companies he has invested in. Together with his wife, Mary, David has been involved in philanthropy focused on education and the environment in Costa Rica, and on food and affordable housing in Monterey County, California.

Photo of Mike Rose

Mike Rose

Montage Capital

Panelist, Investor

Mike Rose is a founder and Managing Director of Montage Capital. Mike was largely responsible for developing the firm’s initial strategy and positioning, and has been intimately involved in all aspects of fund management since Montage’s first investments were completed in 2005. Key ongoing responsibilities include investment origination, structuring and underwriting, portfolio management and raising capital. Prior to founding Montage, Mike spent over 11 years in corporate banking, serving as Senior V.P. for two early-stage banks, United American Bank and Legacy Bank, where he was responsible for building commercial loan divisions.

Mike spent over 8 years with Silicon Valley Bank, where he gained an acute understanding of technology lending and venture capital. In addition to commercial lending, Mike was a Director overseeing investments made by Silicon Valley BancVentures, L.P., SVB’s $56 million equity fund launched in 2000. Mike started his career as one of the first 10 employees of Meta-Software, a Silicon Valley-based provider of Electronic Design Automation software tools. Meta-Software achieved its initial public offering in November 1995, and was acquired by Avant! (now Synopsis) in the subsequent year.

Mike is actively involved as an advisor to the Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, and has served on numerous boards including OnPharma (acquired by Valeant Pharma) and Striva Corp. (acquired by Informatica). Mike holds a BS in Finance from San Jose State University.

Susan Szasz

Slow Money Monterey
CSU Monterey Bay



Susan is a co-founder of SlowMoney Monterey Bay and the Associate Director of the MBS program at Cal State University Monterey Bay. She is a strategic HR leader and trusted advisor with a broad business background and a passion for developing people and organizations. As an educator, consultant and corporate professional, Susan uses listening, data and analysis to help individuals, teams and organizations become more effective. She is a collaborative leader known for integrity, commitment, work ethic and teamwork.


Photo of Hillary Talbot

Hillary Talbot



Hillary has a decade’s worth of experience in scaling small businesses throughout the San Francisco Bay and Reno/Tahoe regions. She founded her second company, être, in 2011, to guide entrepreneurs past the obstacles that often cause them to stumble—management issues, lack of a strategic plan and difficulty obtaining funding.

In 2018, Hillary founded Sail Community Capital to help startups and small businesses access capital in their communities, via Regulation Crowdfunding. Sail helps clients prepare their offerings, tell their stories and market their raises.

Hillary is also a business advisor at the California Manufacturing Technology Center, the Sierra Small Small Business Development Center and the Silicon Valley Small Business Development Center.

Photo of Gary Tsifrin

Gary Tsifrin



As one of the original founders of DriversEd.com (sold in 2014), Mr. Tsifrin has experience in all areas of entrepreneurship. He has worked on management, course design, user experience, marketing, operations, strategic partnerships and, especially, legislative and regulatory expansion. Mr. Tsifrin has spent two decades working with state legislatures and regulatory agencies on driver safety education helping to create new markets. In addition to his regulatory efforts, Mr. Tsifrin has forged strategic partnerships across industries. Mr. Tsifrin has been an independent seed/early stage investor for more than ten years with a particular interest on regulated and consumer businesses. Mr. Tsifrin holds a B.A. from UCLA and an M.A. from Cornell University.

Photo of Craig Vachon

Craig Vachon


Craig Vachon has earned success leading P&L operations, new product development, corporate development, sales/Business Development, general marketing, finance and product marketing with start-ups and high-tech companies throughout the world. Craig has raised over $1.13M in private equity (VC) investment for 27 companies in seven countries.

Founder of Chowdahead Growth Fund [www.chowdahead.org]. BoD member @LifePrint . BoA member at Hera Systems, SocialRep and AnchorFree. Chair at Live Life Large Charitable Trust. TEDx Santa Cruz presenter [most-popular TED Talk in 2012 according to Mashable – http://mashable.com/2013/02/26/ted-x-connections-video/ ] and novelist/artist/sculptor.

Photo of Marco Vangelisti

Marco Vangelisti

Slow Money Northern California

Panelist, Investor

Marco is a 100% impact investor with a longstanding commitment to direct local investments. He is a founding member of Slow Money and has been on the leadership team of the Slow Money Northern California Network since 2009. Prior to his shift in focus towards local and sustainable ventures he spent 20 years in the finance industry, where he managed investment equity portfolios on behalf of large foundations and endowments, developed statistical risk models for equity and fixed income markets around the world, and taught portfolio management, asset allocation, and performance and risk analysis at the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute of SF.

A Fulbright scholar in Mathematics and Economics at the University of California in Berkeley, an MBA at the Milan-based “Enrico Mattei” school in his native Italy, and a Master of Fine Arts at the intersection of public art and ecology, Marco’s cross-disciplinary, integrative approach to solving complex problems provided the foundation for developing Essential Knowledge for Transition. From his experience as a visual artist to his studies of permaculture design to his role as core advisor for Ecocity Builders, Marco’s reputation as a guest lecturer and author is rooted in whole systems thinking and his ability to make complex concepts accessible to the general public. He is dedicated to democratizing financial literacy and sustainable investing.

Photo of Huoy Ming

Huo-Ming Yeh

 Upshot Ventures


Ming founded Upshot Ventures in 2015, then formed the firm’s first early stage focused fund, CSC Upshot. In close partnership with AngelList, Upshot defines seed stage venture investing with large-scale intelligent data and online communities to scale value creation.

Ming is a deep technologist with more than 15 years of experience in venture capital and 10 plus years of experience in technology companies. Prior to founding Upshot, Ming spent six years in Shanghai, headed up SVB Capital Asia as Managing Director for SVB Financial Group. Formerly, Ming was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. As a technologist, she was a design engineer for Sun Microsystems, Key Computer Labs (acquired by Amdahl), and Prime Computer. During her tenure at Sun, she earned three patents for her work on the UltraSPARC processor.

Ming is passionately devoted to efforts that promote and inspire women to make actionable contributions to real issues. She sits on the Wellesley College Business Leadership Council, supporting Wellesley in its mission to educate women who will make a difference in the world. She is the Past Chairperson of Women In Leadership, an organization focusing on fostering next generation of women leaders in China.

Ming holds an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Wellesley College.

Photo of Nick Zaldatani

Nick Zaldastani

BrainTap Technologies

Keynote Speaker,
Panelist, Investor

Nicholas Zaldastani, who is known for his startup success rate, focuses on entrepreneurship & organizations that positively impact the world. Mr. Zaldastani is currently Chairman/CEO of BrainTap Technologies.

Mr. Zaldastani’s executive leadership and investments contributed to the growth of key corporations such as: Oracle (#1 database company worldwide), SABA (pioneer of learning management software), Open Horizon (pioneer in enterprise application integration software), World Energy Solutions (market leader of energy procurement systems), Salary.com (pioneer of compensation management SAAS solutions), and CrocPond (pioneer of educating and inspiring through entertainment). In addition to Mr. Zaldastani’s operational leadership, his twenty-two years as a venture capitalist brought solid returns to his investors.

His professional affiliations include: Board Member of Duke University engineering school; Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Tbilisi, Georgia; Board of Directors World Energy; Director of the Georgian Association in the United States of America; and Dr. Oz’s HealthCorps Board.

In the development of a free Country of Georgia, Mr. Zaldastani was part of the 7-person U.S. delegation, including Secretary Colin Powell, who attended the inauguration of President Saakashvili. He has worked on Georgia’s future economic recovery plans and educational expansion. During the U.S. Presidential visit of Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Bush to Georgia, Mr. Zaldastani hosted First Lady Laura Bush on her tour of the American Academy in Tbilisi.

Mr. Zaldastani received his MBA from Harvard University School of Business, a French Diploma from the University of Paris, and Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from Duke University. He was also on the team that received a CLIO International Award
for Advertising.

Rafael Zamora

Founder & Former CEO, Totali Sports


A lifelong adrenaline junkie before it was even cool, Rafael prides himself with attention to detail, quality and his famous reoccurring statement of “What could I do better?”  He pretty much rides any board: Surf, snow, skate, paddle…whatever! The founder and former CEO of Totali Action Sports, a Bay Area-based extreme sports equipment company, he built the company as the Apple of the extreme sports equipment industry and sold it to one of the leading global companies in the space.

A technology industry veteran who started with PC sales and ultimately sold custom built datacenters, Rafael spent over 15 years in various roles in the high technology industry. He is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, he mentors multiple entrepreneurs and companies in their pursuit of the American Dream. He received his undergraduate degree in business from California State University, Monterey Bay.

Arman Zand

Berkeley SkyDeck


Berkeley SkyDeck is UC Berkeley’s official startup accelerator. SkyDeck helps Cal entrepreneurs and transformational startups. 

Located on top of the tallest building in downtown Berkeley, SkyDeck combines the consulting know-how of traditional accelerators with the vast resources of the UC Berkeley research university. This robust partnership is coupled with SkyDeck’s unique mentorship program to create a powerful environment for startups.