University Startups is committed to creating opportunities for students to discover pathways to higher education and better careers. 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.
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.
Chief Strategy OfficerView Bio
Chief Strategy Officer
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.
Chief Technology OfficerView Bio
Chief Technology Officer
Khuram Zaman is the former CEO of Fifth Tribe, a leading software development and data science firm serving the Washington DC Metropolitan Area and an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University where he co-teaches “Launching Entrepreneurial Ventures”. In his professional capacity, he has provided consulting services to clients as diverse as Silatech, Kaiser Permanente, Oxfam America, the Department of Defense, Ernst and Young, and The Hult Prize. His writing has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, and Business2Community.
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.
VP of SalesView Bio
VP of Sales
Erica brings experience in sales, administration, product design, management, working with startups, instruction, public speaking, curriculum and alignment development, teaching and coaching, program mapping, onboarding and training, team building, consulting and customer service. Fully bilingual in English and Spanish with professional certifications in translation and interpretation, Erica has years of experience working in multicultural and diverse environments, as well as internationally across the United States, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. Her undergraduate studies included Hispanic and indigenous (Meso - American) studies, as well as Spanish language and literature, Italian language and film, education, as well as medical and legal translation and interpretation. Her MAed is in curriculum and instruction with a focus on English Language Learners. She is passionate about creating opportunities for all students of all stripes, including expanding opportunities to underserved communities, neurodivergent learners and finding those young people who have the heart to serve and bring about meaningful change.
Non-Profit Business DevelopmentView Bio
Non-Profit 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 Curriculum DesignerView Bio
Lead Curriculum Designer
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.
VP of Customer DevelopmentView Bio
VP of Customer Development
As a lifelong learner and educator, Tami is dedicated to ensuring equal access to higher education. In addition to her role as an adjunct professor of English at Montgomery College, Tami is an integral part of the Achieving the Promise Academy, serving as an embedded coach. This enables her to collaborate with students, helping them refine their college success skills. Moreover, she engages with high school seniors as they navigate the constantly evolving college application process, assists in identifying suitable college programs, and meticulously tracks submission deadlines.
Vice President Strategy and Impact at Paramount, Board member National Jobs CorpView Bio
Vice President Strategy and Impact at Paramount, Board member National Jobs Corp
Potter is a forerunner in creating meaningful social change through her expertise in spearheading social impact strategies and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. She has a proven track record with national non-profit organizations, as well as some of the world’s largest and most influential brands. Throughout her prestigious career, Potter has established herself as a respected, nationally known thought leader developing innovative ideas and creative solutions. Her current role as Vice President, Strategy and Impact at Paramount enables Potter to supervise each brand’s commitment to the long-term social impact of cultural shifts in society. With expertise including the issues of Race, Identity, Culture, Equity, and Social Justice, she is known for masterfully managing moments of crisis with her unflappable style. Additionally, she is responsible for spearheading the revolutionary MTV Entertainment Group Culture Orientation program in collaboration with the country’s leading racial and social justice organizations. This groundbreaking initiative unites shared values, increases understanding, and amplifies learning to empower the entire creative community to tell stories that reflect the diversity of Paramount viewers. A native of New York, Potter received her Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Northeastern University and Masters in Corporation Communication and Public Relations from New York University. She serves as Chair of the Board for the National Job Corps Association and is Chair of the Board of Directors of Fostering Change for Children. She was awarded "Change Agent of the Year” in 2018 from the Digital Diversity Network, is a Webby Anthem Awards juror and a Diversity Committee Member for Transform Films. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
President and CEO intl Solutions, connections to India ecosystemView Bio
President and CEO intl Solutions, connections to India ecosystem
Ravi Puli is a self-made, first-generation entrepreneur and the Founder, President, and CEO of International Solutions Group, (ISG) an award-winning technology services firm, Ravi has over 30 years of experience in the tech space. Ravi is passionate about seeking resources and opportunities to empower businesses and individuals in reaching their full potential. Born in India, Ravi embarked on his journey as a first generation immigrant with a deep desire to make a difference. Fuelled by hard work and determination, he is a serial entrepreneur, has played a pivotal role in helping businesses flourish, as evidenced by the heartfelt testimonials from satisfied customers. At ISG, Ravi leads a dedicated team of professionals who share his vision of creating value for clients through innovation and hard work. The growth structure at ISG ensures that employees have ample opportunities to develop and enhance their skills, contributing to their professional growth. However, Ravi's commitment to philanthropy extends far beyond his business ventures. He strongly believes in supporting social and humanitarian causes and actively participates in initiatives that bring about positive change in society. Ravi is particularly passionate about empowering start-ups in the fields of education and healthcare, as he recognizes their potential to drive meaningful and lasting transformation.
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.
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.
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.
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 ECA Medical Instruments, The Meadows and Alchemy Corporation from 2014 to 2016, where he served on the compensation and audit committees of each.
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.