Top-notch team

We are a collective group of entrepreneurial warriors, mentors, community influencers, policymakers, and ecosystem builders. We live and breathe entrepreneurship and are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs all over the globe transform their dreams into reality.

Charles Ross, CEO

Over the past 15 years, Charles has worked with communities of various shapes and sizes to build and sustain vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. His experience spans across several innovation-related disciplines to include entrepreneurship, business incubation, economic development, and investment management. He has provided strategic leadership for organizations within the public, private, and nonprofit domains and has directly mentored and coached founders/CEOs at over 30 high-growth companies.

Before joining the InBIA management team, Charles was responsible for driving economic impact for local communities through senior leadership positions at Kennesaw State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. In these roles, Charles connected universities’ talent, know-how, and assets to businesses and communities to increase economic prosperity and to improve quality of life.

Prior to his assignments in higher education, Charles directly worked with entrepreneurs to launch and grow technology businesses. As Vice President of the Telecommunications Development Fund, Charles sourced, structured, and managed investments in several early-stage communications companies, and as a Director of Ameritech’s venture capital division he identified and executed strategic technology investments.

Charles joined InBIA as a member in 2006, was elected to its Board of Directors in 2011 and served as Chair in 2017. Charles holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and an MBA from Indiana University.

  Email: [email protected]  

Lindsay Schuenke, Director of Content

Lindsay Schuenke has been with InBIA since December of 2004, when she joined the training and events team. In her time with the association, Lindsay’s responsibilities have primarily focused on coordinating content and details for events, including the annual conference, the fall training, and the advanced summits. She was involved in the inception and launch of the Business Incubation Management Certificate Program and has helped plan more than a dozen conferences and several smaller tours and events. Over the years, Lindsay has managed hundreds of speakers, written thousands of session and course descriptions, managed dozens of tours, and been involved with countless other aspects of planning and executing the conferences and other events. In recent years, Lindsay has shifted her focus to be more specific on content; to include editing and working on the association’s publications.  She has a degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University. Lindsay works remotely from her home office in Maine, where she lives with her husband and four children.

Email: [email protected]

 

Jack HenkelJack Henkel, Director of Programs

Jack Henkel has worked for over 10 years in supporting technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.  He has coached thousands of entrepreneurs, researchers, university faculty, and other technology commercialization stakeholders in their pursuit of pursuing federal R&D funding, developing commercialization strategies, conducting market assessments, and implementing lean startup practices among many other activities.   He has served as a project manager for entrepreneurship accelerators and programs, including several with funding from federal partners such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Economic Development Administration, and Department of Labor.  Jack most recently served as the Assistant Director of the UCF Venture Accelerator and is currently the Director of Programs at the International Business Innovation Association.

   Email: [email protected]

Andrea Wesser-Brawner, Senior Vice President of Strategy & Partnerships

Andrea Wesser-Brawner has assisted thousands of entrepreneurs, research faculty and others in starting technology companies, pursuing federal funding for R&D, and generating revenues. She has led the development and operation of five technology accelerator programs, some with federal partners such as U.S. Department of Energy and Economic Development Administration. Having managed such diverse and large regional initiatives, she has since become a trusted advisor to the development of entrepreneur support organizations, most notably in programming, funding, and operations plans. She most recently handled business development and large federal grant management for BRIDG (formerly, the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research), an industry-led consortium for the manufacturing of sensors and photonic devices.

Andrea has also been an entrepreneur while executive in a number of micro- and nano-technology based start-up companies. She graduated with Honors from the University of Central Florida with her Masters and Bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Andrea is thrilled to offer members and other industry leaders who support entrepreneurs with rich content and easily-accessible benchmark data among peer organizations.

 Email: [email protected]

 

 

InBIA Board Members

Chair

Leslie Lynn Smith, President, Epicenter

Leslie Lynn Smith is president and CEO of Epicenter, the Memphis region’s entrepreneurial hub that drives strategy, connects entrepreneurs to resources, and measures impact to create an inclusive, growing economy. Smith’s role in Memphis comes after five years of successful entrepreneurial leadership as president and CEO of TechTown, where she led the creation and launch of novel urban economic development programs, expanded tech-based company creation and launched robust regional entrepreneurship collaborations with great and measurable impact. Previously, she was director of business acceleration for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Smith’s current board service includes InBIA, Center for American Entrepreneurship, and Memphis Fourth Estate, Inc.

Email: [email protected]


Second Vice Chair

Krista Covey, Vice President Economic Development / Operations, VelocityTX

Krista serves as Vice President of VelocityTX, an innovation hub in San Antonio, Texas. Previously, Krista was the Director of the Pasco County Economic Development Council’s SMARTstart Business Incubator in Pasco County, Florida. She has an extensive background in banking and finance and experience in economic development, economic gardening for growth companies, business incubation, management, business development, marketing and public relations. An InBIA member since 2013, Krista has completed the association’s Business Incubation Management Certificate Program and currently serves as a member of the InBIA Board. She is part of the Startup Champions Network, and has served on numerous community and industry boards.

Email: [email protected]


Secretary

Kyla Frye, Executive Director, WT Enterprise Center

Kyla is associate director of the WT Enterprise Center, a mixed-use rural incubator in Amarillo, Texas. Kyla is a key leader in the growth and success of a program that won InBIA’s Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year award in 2016. She is a community leader, an advocate for entrepreneurs, a visionary, and an esteemed marketing professional. Kyla is a recipient of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Top 20 under 40 award, past president of Amarillo Business Women, and the 2016 Woman of Leadership recipient. An InBIA member since 2013, she has presented at conferences and participated with Impact Index focus groups.

Email: [email protected]


Ron Duggins, Professor of Entrepreneurship, University of Central Arkansas

Ron is also the founding advisor for a public/private entrepreneurship support organization at the university. Before moving to Arkansas in 2015, Ron directed the Center for Business Development at Meridian Technology Center and oversaw the Oklahoma Technology and Research Park in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He also worked for Autry Technology Center’s James W. Strate Center for Business Development in Enid, Okla. when he joined InBIA in 2007. Ron has extensive international training experience and has presented at InBIA events. He also holds InBIA’s Business Incubation Management Certificate. 

Email: [email protected]


 

Nic Zito, CEO, Rev3 Innovation Center

Nic is CEO of Rev3 Innovation Center in Naperville, Illinois and business services director at Choose DuPage, a county-wide economic development organization. An InBIA member since 2013, he completed the Business Incubation Management Certificate Program and spoke at the Orlando Conference on Millennial Innovation. Nic serves on the boards for the Small Business Advocacy Council –Suburban Chapter and DuPage PADS, a provider of homelessness services. He was honored as one of the top twenty business professionals under the age of 40 by the Daily Herald Business Ledger and is a recipient of an Entrepreneurial Excellence award. He is a trustee for Wayne Township’s six cities.

Email:  [email protected]


Paul Riser Jr., Managing Director, TechTown Detroit

Paul serves as Managing Director of Technology-Based Entrepreneurship at TechTown Detroit. In this capacity, he guides the design, execution and ongoing management of the nonprofit’s technology programming for early and seed stage companies. This includes support for startups in the form of business acceleration, proof of concept, university and health care system commercialization, and incubation services. Paul is also an entrepreneur, chief technologist, information officer, and systems engineer with more than 20 years of professional experience working with startups to global enterprises. He is a founding member of the Legacy Associates Foundation, board member and equity partner of B.L.A.C. Magazine, board member of the New Detroit Coalition, Motown Museum, Cranbrook Institute of Science and the National Advisory Board for the University of Michigan’s Fast Forward Medical Innovations (FFMI).

 

Email: [email protected]


Steve DeBretto, Executive Director, Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago

Steve is the executive director of the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, an economic development organization that sponsors Make City (formerly the Fulton-Carroll Center Business Incubator), a light industrial mixed-use incubator, and The Hatchery, a food and beverage manufacturing center; ICNC also houses two SBDCs in its facilities. Steve was a founding board member of The Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network and served on the steering committee of the Chicago mayor’s Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs. Steve has been an InBIA member since 2012, participating in InBIA events and serving on the 2015 Awards committee.

Email: [email protected]


First Vice Chair

Esther Vargas, Director, Emerging Ventures Ecosystem (EVE)

Esther directed the Emerging Ventures Ecosystem at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. from 2014-2018. She was incubator site manager and assistant director of the Office of Research and Commercialization at the University of Central Florida for eight years. UCF’s Business Incubation Program was named InBIA Incubator Network of the Year in 2013, and client and graduate companies won InBIA awards in 2014 and 2012. An incubation professional with diverse experience in corporate, entrepreneurial, and university environments, Esther joined InBIA in 2007 and serves on the boards of INBIA and the Business Incubator Association of New York State.

Email: [email protected]


Treasurer

Jeff Milanette, President, Innovation Partners Incubation

Jeff is president and CEO of Innovative Partners Inc., an incubation consulting firm that has been an InBIA member since 1986. He has served as president, or executive director for a number of incubation programs including the Ethiopia Climate Innovation Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; PortTech Los Angeles, a clean/green tech incubator affiliated with the Port of Los Angeles; and the Rutgers Business Innovation Center. Jeff has also been an entrepreneur and co-founded SpeakEZ, Inc., a speaker identification software company; served as CFO of the Venture Information Network for Entrepreneurs, an internet service company; and was a co-founder of the Russian Venture Fair (2000-2005). He served as president and CEO of the New Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum from 1992-2009 and has consulted with numerous international organizations including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Tallinn Technology Park, and UNIDO. He is presently consulting with capacity building organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa regarding development of Blue Economy incubation programs.

Email: [email protected]


Devon, Laney, President & CEO, Innovation Depot

Devon is president and CEO at the Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the largest and most successful incubators in the United States. His program won InBIA’s 2011 Dinah Adkins Incubator of the Year, Technology Focus with Devon lead the effort to have Innovation Depot designated as an InBIA Soft Landings International Incubator, and he was a primary source for the Innovation Depot’s case study in Best Practices in Action from InBIA Publications. He serves on the executive committees of TechBirmingham and BioAlabama and recently completed a second term as president of the Birmingham Venture Club.

Email: [email protected]


Jamie Coughlin, Director, Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, Dartmouth College

Jamie is the Director of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network at Dartmouth College and the Founding Director of the DEN Innovation Center, where he oversees the development of entrepreneurial programming and the growth of new venture creation and incubation through the greater Dartmouth Entrepreneurial community for students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  Jamie has a 15-year history in entrepreneurship, both as an entrepreneur and as an incubation professional.  Previously, Jamie was the CEO and Entrepreneur in Residence of the Abi Innovation Hub, NH’s oldest business incubator.  In the process, he was awarded NHBR’s 2012 “Business Excellence” Award as NH’s most innovative nonprofit leader, was the former President of the NH Business Incubator Network, and recognized as a 2013 NH Union Leader’s “40 Under Forty” recipient.  An InBIA member since 2010, Jamie has moderated panels and presented at InBIA events.  Jamie received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University.

Email: [email protected]


Adrian Wallace, Executive Director, SEED Center Business Incubator

Adrian spearheaded the development of the SEED Center Business Incubator, which opened in 2013 and has helped create 210 new jobs and nearly $4 million in gross revenue. An InBIA member since 2007, Adrian previously worked in business development, city government, online training, laboratory research, and small business ownership. He is certified in incubator management through InBIA and Wendy Kennedy’s training program and has moderated sessions at a number of InBIA conferences. Adrian currently chairs the Louisiana Business Incubation Association, among his many other volunteer activities.

Email: [email protected]


Angela Crane-Jones,  Executive Director, Nashville Business Incubation Center

Angela joined the Nashville Business Incubation Center at Tennessee State University in 2003 and has served as executive director since 2012. She implemented a service delivery and revenue diversification initiative, successfully expanding NBIC’s client base while reducing its budgetary reliance on service fees from 80% to 54% in one fiscal year. The Center for Nonprofit Management recognized these efforts with the Frist Revenue Development Award in 2015. An InBIA member since 2005, Angela’s business advising skills and leadership helped her clients receive multiple awards, including InBIA Client and Graduate of the Year awards in 2015, 2014, and 2010.

Email: [email protected]


Herman Nyamunga, Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Herman is director of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia, Pa. His program sponsors the Global Enterprise Hub, a soft landings accelerator and incubator; the PhillyiHub Immigrant Incubator Space; and the 52nd Street Micro Incubation Project, which incubates informal businesses in low-income neighborhoods. Herman is a five-year InBIA member who has attended and presented at several conferences and holds certifications in both InBIA’s Incubator Manager program and as a Business Model and Value Proposition Design Trainer. He also serves on the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council as a mayor’s appointee.

Email: [email protected]