University Startups is committed to creating opportunities for students and life learners to expand their minds beyond traditional curriculum by teaching an entrepreneurship model. The organization develops pathways to college and the workforce through access to college preparation, internships and new career opportunities.
Supported by a leading team, partnering with nonprofits and foundations, and offering a virtually delivered hands-on program, we’re set on changing hearts and minds through the power of entrepreneurship.
Co-Founder and Co-CEOView Bio
Co-Founder and Co-CEO
For startups, Marc has founded multiple companies and has received investments from celebrity investors Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Wayne Gretzky and Nokia Ventures. He is the co-founder and co-CEO of University Startups, an edtech SaaS platform funded by TEDCO. Marc has won multiple sales and customer service awards and sold his latest company in 2012 to publicly traded company, after which time he has dedicated his time to teaching entrepreneurship. Marc has been featured in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Washingtonian Magazine and was recognized as an Entrepreneur Expert by Georgetown University, named to Young CEOs of Washington, DC and Mindshare (an invite-only group for entrepreneurs). For Education, Marc is the founding Director of Entrepreneurship at the Universities of Shady Grove and a professor in the Academy of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of Maryland College Park. He was the Co-Director of the Georgetown University Summer Launch Incubator, Entrepreneur In Residence and adjunct professor. His students have gone on to ABC’Shark Tank, Tech Stars of London, Chobani Incubator, Leonsis Prize winners, Halycon Social Incubator and Georgetown’s Entrepreneur of the year. Incubator teams have gone to receive venture capital and be valued at over $600 million. Marc was the winner of the NFIB’s National Educator of the Year and winner of the David S. Stone for Teaching award. He is the author of three books; The Student’s Guide to Entrepreneurship and Stories from Connie and, School Culture Fit. Marc has a B.A from Johns Hopkins University,a J.D from University of Pennsylvania Law School and is a candidate for Masters in Management at Harvard University Extension School.
Co-Founder and Co-CEOView Bio
Co-Founder and Co-CEO
John started and ran international business units at GlaxoSmithkline, and teaches Technology Startups and Social Entrepreneurship at Georgetown and UMD. John is a 2-time Entrepreneurial Excellence Award Winner at Georgetown for Outstanding Mentorship as an Entrepreneur in Residence, and his student teams have won school and industry awards, government grants and investor funding. His book Mastering Customer Interviews for Entrepreneurs is used in new business design courses nationwide. A 3-time startup founder, John was named Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year by the Clean Energy Center, and his company was awarded Maryland Incubator Company of the Year and ‘Best For Environment’ by the non-profit B-Lab from 2015-2017.
Karen is an experienced Professor, 2-time Founder, Startup Advisor, and Academic Director who has designed and taught innovative course work at nationally-ranked universities including Cornell and Syracuse. She is currently the facilitator for women’s entrepreneurship courses at Cornell University. Prior to that, she oversaw Entrepreneurship and Innovation across the university at George Mason where she grew the innovation pipeline; resulting in a 6X increase in startups launched. Karen has proven success in developing strategies that launch startups; helping over 100 startups produce strategic plans, leading student teams to take top spots in national competitions, and assisting teams to raise over $22M in funding. She speaks regularly on women and tech in entrepreneurship.
Nonprofit Business DevelopmentView Bio
Nonprofit Business Development
Le-Marie V.J. Thompson is an entrepreneur, educator and technologist looking to make the world a better place one innovation at a time. She spends a good bit of her energies advocating for women and girls in STEM, tech for good and STEM education among the underserved. Le-Marie is the Founder and CEO of Nettadona, and was selected by Fast Company magazine as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business and Social Good. She has over ten years of experience with global 100 telecom companies and 5 years experience with innovative education programs. She holds an M.A. in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland.
Lead DesignerView Bio
Brooke Smith engages learners in innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, Georgetown University, University Startups and beyond through human-centered courses and workshops. She creates and facilitates experiences using design thinking and lean startup experiences for students, faculty, and staff along with public and private sector partners including the Department of Health and Human Services, NASA, USDA, and local non-profits to empower learners to become creative problem solvers.
SVP of OperationsView Bio
SVP of Operations
Katherine Zmoda is an entrepreneurship education specialist with experience in operations, marketing, strategy, and curriculum design. She was the Program Manager for the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Honors College Program at the University of Maryland where she planned and delivered curriculum, advised students, coached startup teams, ran professional development events, and hosted pitch competitions. She also has served as the Director of the Entrepreneurship Academy at Georgetown University, an international summer program for high schoolers. Katherine also runs day to day operations at the Lab for Entrepreneurship and Transformative Leadership at the Universities at Shady Grove. Other experiences include assisting new entrepreneurs through NSF I-Corps, freelance consulting for small businesses, and visiting classes at her alma mater, the University of Maryland.
SVP of Community PartnershipsView Bio
SVP of Community Partnerships
Tremain Davis is the founder and CEO of Davis and Davis Investments and Management, a boutique strategy consulting firm located in Maryland. For the past 10 years Tremain has helped hundreds of clients exceed their goals through a proven business framework, he developed, that is value-based and human centered. Tremain also heads a Maryland nonprofit called Think PGC, which focuses on regional economic development through innovation. In addition to his business and his nonprofit, Tremain is a university teacher and an angel investor. Tremain has provided services at various universities, corporations, and professional conferences as a public speaker and thought leader, focusing on developing executable strategies and plans that realize organizational objectives and initiatives. He has delivered high-content programs of ready-to-use and practical information in many fast-paced business environments. Tremain has prepared and presented over 200 interactive presentations for a multitude of audiences, including angel investors, executive management, church denominations, entertainers, college students, community and civic leaders, law enforcement and nonprofits throughout the United States. He is considered a provocative thought-leader in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship, business strategy, leadership and shared value.
SVP of Corporate DevelopmentView Bio
SVP of Corporate Development
AS an international marketing executive for American Express, Nike, Pacific Century CyberWork and Ralph Lauren, Laura Lee never set out to be an entrepreneur. IN the corporate world, her strengths are instrumental in developing strategic initiatives, revenue generation and implementing trade and technical solutions. With Laura Lee Designs, she was known as a proven entrepreneur with a passion for building a consumer based luxury/accessories business, leading people, and bringing big ideas to life. With a clear understanding of tactical management, she sold the business to a Japanese corporation and continues to thrive working with them with designs. Currently, working for University Startups as the SVP of Corporate Development, Laura Lee is thriving with the opportunity to build and help scale this EdTEch rising company.
CTO, HobsonsView Bio
Bobby Tahir, Chief Technology Officer, leads Hobsons long-term technology vision, and is responsible for the Hobsons technology organization spanning Software Engineering, Cloud Operations, Data Science & Analytics, and Enterprise IT. He also facilitates the technical community within Hobsons. Prior to joining Hobsons in 2018, Bobby served as CTO of the K12 Division of Community Brands, a leading provider of software solutions to the Private School market, where he helped the company to integrate and bring to market a number of significant software services. Previously, Bobby was Vice President of Engineering at Diamond Mind, where he focused on development of PCI-compliant payment processing and reconciliation systems and mobile-enabled payment solutions. Bobby joined Diamond Mind from Envictus, a pioneer in the EdTech market, where as CTO he focused on development of college readiness and financial aid platforms and K12 learning management systems. In addition, Bobby served as a Consultant with Nortel Networks Global Professional Services Group working with Fortune 500 organizations focused on the Internet Service Provider (ISP) market. Bobby has a B.S. in Physics from Virginia Tech
CEO, National Family Engagement AllianceView Bio
CEO, National Family Engagement Alliance
Accomplished national education leader with strong track record of building organizations/programs and cultivating relationships. Adept at strategic alliance, partnership management and program execution. Led education-oriented corporate social responsibility efforts for Microsoft and served as the former CEO of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Former policy advisor and strategist for state federal initiatives including The Helping America's Youth Initiative, Building A Grad Nation Summit for America's Promise Alliance, and NBC News' Education Nation. Also served as the National Program Leader for Youth Development for the USDA, overseeing all 90,000 4-HClubs. Internationally recognized speaker and author with a focus on leadership development and social emotional learning. Published by Scholastic.
Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, Wake Forest UniversityView Bio
Executive Director, Center for Entrepreneurship, Wake Forest University
After a successful fifteen-year career as an entrepreneur that included founding, growing, and ultimately selling his startup, Dan Cohen transitioned to academia full time in 2005 when he accepted a faculty appointment at The University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business from 2005-2007. While at the University of Iowa, Cohen earned accolades for teaching, advising and mentoring excellence before moving on to Cornell University from 2007 to 2015. While at Cornell, Dr. Cohen taught courses on entrepreneurship and business at the undergraduate, graduate, and executive levels and founded and directed eLab — Cornell’s entrepreneurship accelerator program hailed by Forbes Magazine as a major driver of Cornell’s ascent to a #4 national ranking in entrepreneurship. Professor Cohen was also awarded Cornell’s Robert N. Stern Memorial Award for Mentoring Excellence in 2012. In 2015, Cohen moved on to Wake Forest University as a Full Professor of Practice in business and entrepreneurship. In 2016 Cohen co-founded Startup Lab and became more integrally involved in the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. In the summer of 2017, Cohen was named the John C. Whitaker, Jr. Executive Director of the newly minted Center for Entrepreneurship while remaining a full Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship. In terms of research, Professor Cohen studies how nascent entrepreneurs develop passion for entrepreneurship and how, and under what conditions, they form an entrepreneurial identity. Cohen also researches how entrepreneurs develop key capabilities such as how to spot and develop valuable opportunities.
Chief Financial and Corporate Development Officer, Lefteris Acquisition CorpView Bio
Chief Financial and Corporate Development Officer, Lefteris Acquisition Corp
Jon Issacson has nearly two decades of experience working in the private equity and venture capital industries as both an investor and executive. From January 2019 to December 2019, Mr. Isaacson served as the Chief Financial Officer of Senseonics, Inc. (NYSE: SENS), a portfolio company of venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, and provided advisory services to Senseionics from January 2020 to June 2020. Prior to joining Senseonics, he served as the Chief Financial Officer of Edelman Financial Services, LLC from November 2017 to December 2018. Before joining Edelman Financial Services, he served as a Managing Director for over 14 years at American Capital, Ltd from November 2002 to January 2017. Mr. Isaacson also held roles at Thayer Capital Partners, L.P., GTCR LLC, McKinsey & Company and Morgan Stanley & Co., LLC. He served as a director of each of ECA Medical Instruments, The Meadows and Alchemy Corporation from 2014 to 2016, where he served on the compensation and audit committees of each.
Angel Investor & Seven-time FounderView Bio
Angel Investor & Seven-time Founder
Jonathon Perrelli is a seven-time founder and an angel investor turned venture capitalist with the founding of Fortify Ventures in 2011. Fortify was a seed investor in a handful of companies that have been acquired or had substantial raises including Social Tables, Hinge, Venga, Introhive (closed a $100M Series C in June 2021), and ID.me a DC area startup that that achieved unicorn status in 2021. Jonathon has served on a number of profit and not for profit boards including the Board of the Virginia Tech APEX Center for Entrepreneurship, Vinetta in DC, and he currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of InertialLabs based in Virginia.
Co-Founder and former CEO, Blue MercuryView Bio
Co-Founder and former CEO, Blue Mercury
Marla Beck is a serial entrepreneur, visionary consumer brand-builder, CEO and investor focused on mission-driven consumer brands. She co-founded and was the Chief Executive Officer of Bluemercury, Inc., a high-growth, disruptive omni-channel beauty retailer founded in 1999 and acquired in 2015 by Macy’s Inc. Ms. Beck also co-founded M-61 Laboratories, creating the clean, sustainable brands M-61 Skincare and Lune+Aster Cosmetics. Prior to founding Bluemercury, she was a consultant at McKinsey and Company. Ms. Beck enjoys advising and supporting entrepreneurs in the for-profit and social entrepreneurship sectors. Ms. Beck served at Harvard Business School as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Since 2014, she has served as a judge at Harvard Business School’s New Venture Competition. Ms. Beck serves on the Advisory Board of Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Public Leadership Advisory Board at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Retail Federation, the Global Advisory Board of EdX, is a trustee of the Sidwell Friends School and is an independent director on the Board of Directors of The Children’s Place (NASDAQ: PLCE). She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MPA from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a BA in Political Economy with high honors from the University of California, Berkeley.
Co-Founder, UreekaView Bio
Melissa L. Bradley is a co-founder of venture backed Ureeka, a community where small businesses gain unprecedented access to the expertise needed to grow their business. The Ureeka mission is to democratize economic opportunity by enabling community and by reducing the cost and risk associated with growing a small to medium business (SMB). She is also founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. In this role she created a community of over 10,000 New Majority entrepreneurs in three years. Melissa also serves an advisor the New Voices Foundation and New Voices Fund, as well as the Halcyon Fund. Melissa is the former Co-Chair, National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and was recently named one of The Most Entrepreneurial Women Investors in 2018. Melissa is a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University where she teaches impact investing, social entrepreneurship, P2P economies and innovation. She recently received The Ideas Worth Teaching Award which celebrates exceptional courses that are preparing future business leaders to tackle society’s largest challenges and create a more inclusive, just, and sustainable version of capitalism. She is also a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Sidecar Social Finance, a social impact agency that provides impact investing advisory and capital services to individuals, institutions, and social enterprises. Melissa currently serves as board chair for My Way to Credit (MWTC) and board member for AEO. She is a Founding Advisor to the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs as well as a Senator with the Board of Governors at Georgetown University. Melissa's educational background includes graduation from Georgetown University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the School of Business, and a Master’s degree in Business Administration in Marketing from American University in 1993.
Founder & Former President, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and CEO, Atlas LearningView Bio
Founder & Former President, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and CEO, Atlas Learning
Steve Mariotti is founder and former president (1988-2013) of the nonprofit Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which provides life-changing entrepreneurship education to low-income youth from Chicago to China. Mariotti founded NFTE in 1987 while working as a South Bronx special ed teacher, as he relates in his Amazon bestseller: Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy and Inspired a Movement (BenBella Books 2019). As NFTE president, Mariotti led teams that grew NFTE into a multimillion-dollar foundation which has provided 1.2 million students with entrepreneurship education in 22 U.S. states and 10 countries. Mariotti represented NFTE at The World Economic Forum in Davos, on the Council on Foreign Relations, and as a lecturer at colleges and universities. After retiring from NFTE in 2015, Mariotti served as Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship at Philadelphia University (2016-2018), and Senior Fellow at Rising Tide Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey (2018-2020). In 2020, Mariotti executive-produced the PBS docu-series Trauma to Triumph: The Rise of the Entrepreneur. In 2021, he founded the consulting firm Atlas Learning Inc., which teaches social enterprise leaders to fundraise and operate sustainably. Mariotti has also authored and co-authored 34 books, textbooks and workbooks, including The Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting and Running a Business (Random House 2000 and 2014), Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management (Pearson 2010, 2012, 2014), An Entrepreneur's Manifesto (Templeton Press, 2015) and Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy and Inspired a Movement (BenBella Books, 2019), which received multiple awards and reached number one in four Amazon categories. He wrote his groundbreaking textbook for high school students, Entrepreneurship: Starting and Operating a Small Business, in 1988. Eleven editions have been published by Pearson, including two editions that received the Association of American Publishers Golden Lamp Award in 2002 and 2010. In 2013, Mariotti traveled to Southeast Asia as a guest of the U.S. State Department. Mariotti's meetings with entrepreneurs in Cambodia and other war-torn regions inspired him to focus his Huffington Post articles on how exposure to the entrepreneurial mindset helps victims of extreme traumas like war and genocide build thriving new lives. Mariotti investigated this topic further as executive producer of the 2020 PBS docu-series Trauma to Triumph: The Rise of the Entrepreneur.
CEO, KUSI Global, Inc.View Bio
CEO, KUSI Global, Inc.
Talia Fox, CEO of KUSI Global, Inc., is a leadership strategist and a legacy builder. She has transformed thousands of executives over the last two decades in every sector, including major corporations in health, higher education, technology, and government agencies. Talia holds an M.Ed. in psychology from Howard University and is a Harvard University Fellow. She has assisted leaders in the development of innovative strategies for some of the most critical and complex missions globally, including defense, wealth inequalities, racial and social justice, aviation, and healthcare. Talia helps organizations maximize human potential by leveraging strategic intelligence and helps individuals and organizations foster connected cultures and promote conscious equity. She has facilitated and designed thousands of interactive learning experiences that support cultural competence, organizational intelligence, productivity, and leadership strategies. Her trainings are widely sought after, and she has been invited to share her expertise in leadership and business strategies globally. Talia was recently featured in THE WALL STREE JOURNAL and AUTHORITY MAGAZINE. To connect with Talia, please visit www.kusitraining.com, or follow her on additional social media platforms such as Instagram (@taliafoxspeaks).
National Leader, Nonprofit and Social Sector Group, Marcum LLPView Bio
National Leader, Nonprofit and Social Sector Group, Marcum LLP
Thomas Raffa is the national leader of Marcum’s Nonprofit Social Sector group. Mr. Raffa came to Marcum via the Firm’s merger with Raffa, P.C., one of the nation’s preeminent public accounting and business consulting firms, specializing in nonprofits. He founded Raffa in 1984 and grew the firm into one of the 100 largest and best-managed accounting firms in the United States. A recognized pioneer in social enterprise, Mr. Raffa’s professional and volunteer support of nonprofits has garnered him numerous awards, including the 2016 Individual Making a Difference Award from The Nonprofit Village, the Volunteer Achievement Award from the Accountants for the Public Interest, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. His current Board roles include, the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee and member of the Executive Committee), the Mental Health Coalition (Founding Board Member, Treasurer, and member of the Executive Committee) and the Park City Community Foundation (Chair of the Governance and Communication Committee and of the Audit Committee and member of the Executive Committee). He has served on the board of the United Way of the National Capital Area and spent over a decade serving the Catalogue for Philanthropy as well as Social Impact 360, including being the Chair of the Board for both organizations, and he is also a founding member of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management. A graduate of Georgetown University, Mr. Raffa has been an active member of the Alumni Admissions Program and has served as a mentor at the McDonough School of Business for more than 20 years. He was named the Georgetown Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016.
In the early days of the pandemic, our founders, both academics and entrepreneurs, created an online course for high school students on how to launch a social impact venture. Utilizing proprietary online resources while students were at home, they were able to teach students and provide a different style of learning with access to top tier professors.
The initial course was a success, not only igniting an entrepreneurship flame in many participants, but several of the students went on to elite colleges in an entrepreneurship-related career path.