This year’s installment will see a diverse group of 25 of some of the most innovative startups from 15 states and 4 countries, featuring 12 female and 10 minority founders, fast-pitching during a kickoff Rooftop Pitch & BBQ lunch.
The top 5 will then pitch live to a smaller panel of esteemed judges during our Happy Hour, in hopes of winning a fast-track spot in the semifinals at the 7th Annual Startup of the Year competition this fall.
Photo of 2018 Startup Night SXSW Judges
Meet Our Happy Hour Judges
CEO, Black Girls CODE
Kimberly Bryant is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. Kimberly has been awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award for Community Service for her work in the Bay Area, named a White House as a Champion of Change for her work, and received an Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian Institute.
Todd Klein joined Revolution as a Partner after serving as co-founder, Managing Director, and CIO of SWaN & Legend Ventures and Interim COO of Anonymous Content. During his 20-year career, he’s been involved in financing and building 150+ venture and growth stage companies.
President Sandoz US, Head of North America
Carol Lynch was appointed President, Sandoz US, Head of North America in March 2018, where she leads Sandoz’ largest commercial and country organization, which is responsible for over 35% of Sandoz’ global revenue. Prior to joining Sandoz in 2014, she held several Commercial and Development leadership positions in Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
Principal at Backstage Capital
Lolita Taub is a Principal and Director of Strategic Initiatives at Backstage Capital, an early-stage tech fund. Former investor at K Fund and an LP for Portfolia's Enterprise Fund. Prior to her career in venture capital, she spent nearly a decade in B2B tech, consulting and selling solutions to enterprises cross-industry at IBM, Cisco Systems, and Silicon Valley and NYC startups. As a daughter of bootstrapping immigrants, Lolita looks for founders who are resourceful, humble, and have extraordinary work ethic.
Meet Our Rooftop Pitch & BBQ Judges
NASA Program Executive
Ms. Blackwell is a Program Executive at NASA HQ within the Space Technology Mission Directorate Office. Her vision for an innovative program within NASA to strategically identify entrepreneurs developing cutting edge technologies that have both an Earth and agency application is how NASA iTech, which provides a platform to evaluate the technologies and an opportunity for the startups to leverage private investment dollars for further development, was formed.
Managing Partner, SpringTime Ventures
After more than ten years in the world of oil and gas, Matt’s love for the mountains led him to Boulder, Colorado where, after seeing the need for seed stage capital in the Colorado tech ecosystem, he founded SpringTime Ventures. Prior to his move, he was Managing Partner for Ridge Place Oil & Gas, where he sourced and evaluated new acquisition opportunities and raised capital with multiple oil and gas industry partners.
Community Director, F-Prime Capitals
Rachel Feely-Kohl joined F-Prime Capital as Community Director in January 2018, where she focuses on ecosystem development for the tech fund. Rachel has spent the past four years in Chicago where she supported community growth and expansion for high-growth companies, including WeWork and Startup Institute. Immediately prior to joining F-Prime Capital, Rachel was the Head of Community for FinTEx Chicago, a FinTech industry association, where she oversaw program development and membership.
Founder and CEO, Helm
In 2013, Brit founded one of the first SaaS mentoring startups, which is now Helm, a company building enterprise knowledge sharing technology for startup and small business advice. Most recently, Brit led programming and community outreach at the first Midwest-based accelerator focused on funding and growing tech-driven startups led by underrepresented founders. Before that, Brit led the founding team at 1804 Entrepreneur Center in Louisville, KY.
NASA iTech, Serial Founder; Founder at bcause
Thomas Flake founded Bcause in 2012 and has served as the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer and as Treasurer of the Board of Managers since January 2014. That same year, Tom joined with the National Institute of Aerospace and proposed the creation and funding of a small business incubator (Peninsula Technology Incubator or PTI) on the peninsula to leverage the enormous potential represented by the proximity of Langley Research Center, National Institute of Aerospace, Jefferson Labs, Hampton University, n Labs, Hampton University, Christopher Newport University and The College of William and Mary.
Venture Capitalist, NLP technologist, Winery Owner
Cheryl’s career began at Redbrick Health as a software engineer where she helped launch their second-gen product that was the backbone of their product services until acquisition in 2018. After RedBrick, she consulted as a CTO for D.C. startups and two natural language processing startups, SocialSamba and WishWould. Cheryl wrote the world’s first Emmy-nominated AI, and delivered multiple industry-accoladed projects based on that technology, which received the Social TV Award, two Shorty Awards, Webby awards, two Emmy nominations, and SXSW Interactive Finalist.
Entrepreneurs Program Manager, SOLIDWORKS
As the SOLIDWORKS for Entrepreneurs Program Manager, Jillian is proud to support over 3,000 hardware focused startups, and over 300 incubators and accelerators by connecting them to SOLIDWORKS tools and resources. Prior to joining the SOLIDWORKS family, Jillian founded an organic ice cream manufacturing startup - Spurred by her love of ice cream, and the lessons learned from her family's 4th generation ice cream and food service business.
CEO, Managing Partner, Founders First Capital Partners, LLC
Kim Folsom has been founding, leading and growing innovative companies for more than 25 years. She is currently the founder of LIFT Development Enterprises, Inc. and co-founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator, FUUUSE.com, the first online community for fueling small business expansion and the only women-led, revenue-based venture fund focused on helping underserved, employer-based micro small businesses ($50K to $2M), secure funding and achieve exponential growth. Ms. Folsom also teaches as an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and business strategy at National University School of Business and Management.
Head of Digital at Sandoz International GbmH
André joined Sandoz in June 2018 from his role as CSO at Thermondo GmbH, an integrated energy company offering state-of-the-art energy efficiency services and applying digital process excellence and quality management that Financial Times named the #2 fastest growing company in Europe. Before that, he was Vice President of Local Sales at Zocdoc, Inc., an online service that identifies in-network neighborhood physicians, books appointments, shares patient reviews, provides appointment and check-up reminders, and automatically fills in paperwork.
CEO, Reverly Labs
Thomas has been building online communities since 1996, including his time as Community Architect at Zappos, advising dozens of friend's companies and mentoring hundreds of founders at 500Startups, TechStars, and Up Global. At Revelry Labs, he helps people transform their businesses, making Digital Transformation exciting instead of scary.
Managing Director, Cleo Capital
Sarah Kunst is the managing director of Cleo Capital, a senior advisor at Bumble & a contributing editor at Marie Claire Magazine. She has been named a Future Innovator by Vanity Fair, Forbes Magazine 30 under 30, and a top 25 innovator in tech by Cool Hunting. Sarah has also been recognized for her work in Business Insider as a 30 under 30 Women in Tech and Top African-American in Tech & Pitchbook Top Black VC To Watch, and honored as a top women in STEM by Create & Cultivate.
Founder and CEO, Start Co.
Eric Mathews is a champion for community & entrepreneurial change. In 2008, he founded Start Co. (formerly called LaunchMemphis & LaunchYourCity, Inc.), the Memphis region's venture development organization, where he serves as CEO. Start Co. supports entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of starting up from raw idea forward, including technical assistance, investment capital, acceleration, and resource cultivation for an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Prior to these endeavors, Eric was the Associate Director of Corporate Research & Development at the FedEx Institute of Technology.
Dr. Richard Munassi
Director, Tampa Bay WaVE
Dr. Richard Munassi is a Director at the Tampa Bay WaVE Accelerator program, a founder of Blackfin Technology Partners, a national judge for NASA's iTech program, and an Advisory Board member of SXSW Pitch. He has also served as a judge for the annual Startup of the Year competition each fall, Innovate Celebrate's International Startup of the Year Competition, SpaceCom, and Space Symposium.
Managing Director, Lighthouse Labs
Dan Myers is the Managing Director of Lighthouse Labs, a non-profit startup accelerator based in Richmond, Virginia that has been recognized as a Top 25 Seed-Stage Accelerator in the US for the last 3 years, and unique in taking 0% equity and $0 cash from founders. He is also a co-founder & Partner of 42Phi Ventures, a firm dedicated to inclusivity and underrepresented founders. Previously, Dan was the Founding Director at Runway in San Francisco, which has seen 19 startups acquired or IPO.
Managing Director, Lighthouse Labs
Matei is a product manager with over three years experience deploying user-centric big data products for worldwide enterprise users, as well as a software engineer with over 5+ years focusing on consumer, and enterprise products; both on mobile and online. Additionally, he is researcher with significant publication record (>10 top tier publications), with a focus on Human Computer Interaction and machine learning.
Multiple Hat Wearer, Founder Institute, Startup Grind, Plāsyn
James is a value-driver who discovers, nourishes, and contributes solid ideas and solutions. His designs for corporate processes oftentimes scale to include his expansive network of deployable local, national, and global professionals; his success due to his spectrum of abilities, time management, communication, and rapport with teams that consistently deliver.
Christina Bechhold Russ
Principal, Samsung NEXT
Christina is principal and head of the UK for Samsung NEXT, an early stage fund investing in software and services across mobile, consumer electronics and display. He is also a co-founder and Founding Partner at Empire Angels, and New York and London fund and network of young professionals investing in early stage ventures with a focus on supporting young entrepreneurs. Additionally, Christina is a regular contributor for the Wall Street Journal on startups and small business.
DJ Saul is the CEO of ISL (a 2x AdAge Small Agency of The Year). One of the company’s first employees, DJ is now responsible for ISL's global offering. Having previously led ISL’s marketing, partnerships and business development, as well as the company’s ongoing experimentation/prototyping efforts. He was recently named a 2017 and 2018 Washingtonian Tech Titan. He is a member of NextGen Venture Partners, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Shapers, the Forbes Communication Council, and was a co-founder of the DC Tech Meetup (now in it’s 7th year).
Director, Programs, CO.LAB
Jennifer’s 25 year career includes co-founding her first tech company with her husband and a wide range of experience in technology, entrepreneurship, education, ecosystem building, early-stage investing and scaling nonprofits. Jennifer also serves as a Co-Chair and board member of the Startup Champions Network.
Senior Program Officer, Ecosystems, The Kauffman Foundation
Andy Stoll is a serial entrepreneur and a senior program officer at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he is responsible for the implementation and management of the Foundation’s ecosystem development strategy. Before joining the Kauffman Foundation, Stoll co-founded Seed Here Studio, a social good company specializing in building innovation ecosystems in unexpected places. He is also the co-founder of six entrepreneurial-focused organizations, most recently The Startup Champions Network, the nation’s first professional association for full-time innovation ecosystem builders.
SManaging Partner, TechWildcatters
Ricky Tejapaibul is Managing Partner of Tech Wildcatters, a seed stage VC fund and nationally ranked startup accelerator headquartered in Dallas, TX. Being founded in 2009, Tech Wildcatters is the longest running and first 15 startup accelerators in the world. Ricky has 20 years of investment experience and has worked in management consulting, investing banking, and corporate finance for companies in the Fortune 500.