Meet the 2020 Big Launch Challenge Judges
Today, we're excited to announce the 2020 Judges for Big Launch Challenge ‘Lite’ Pitch Competition. BLC 'Lite' will include an opportunity for 10 companies to share their pitches with a panel of 5 investors representing multiple investor groups located across the country. After each pitch, investors will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on each company’s pitch. Entrepreneurs will be able to ask investors questions about their pitches as well. TLP’s goal is for each company to walk away with valuable insights on their pitch that can help them secure investment funding in the future.
Timothy J. Cartwright is a partner at Fifth Avenue Family Office. Fifth Avenue Family Office provides a broad range of services ranging from investment management to sophisticated estate planning, evaluation of private equity and venture investment opportunities, thoughtful multi-generational legacy transfers and lifestyle services. Mr. Cartwright serves as volunteer Treasurer of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation and was recently named as one of Florida Trend’s 500 Most Influential Floridians due to his venture capital and private equity activity with the Tamiami Angel Funds and Adrenaline Venture Fund.
Prior, he co-founded By-Products Interactive, an electronic trading, market research and publishing company; and Benchmark Solutions, a supply chain consulting company. He began his career working with middle market companies at Arthur Andersen in Chicago, Illinois. He resides in Naples with his wife and three children. He is a softball coach, a soccer coach, and an active member of First Baptist Church of Naples.
Founder and Chairman of the NO/LA Angel Network
Mike Eckert, a native of Chicago is a seasoned business executive and investor with particular expertise in the early-stage investment ecosystem. Mike has been an angel investor since 1997 and currently is Chairman of the NO/LA Angel Network, a group of 115 high net-worth individuals in New Orleans. Mike is also Chairman of the Investment Committee of The Pelican Angel Fund, is on the Investment Committee of the New Orleans Start-Up Fund, and the Limited Partner Advisory Committee of the Louisiana Venture Capital Funds. He has extensive start-up experiences, as a member of the launch team of The Weather Channel/Weater.com where he served as its President and CEO for 14 years, and which brought him to New York City and Atlanta. He also served as Chairman and CEO of Pathfire, a leading digital video asset management and distribution company, which was acquired. Mike was a member of the Board of Directors of the national Angel Capital Association (ACA) which is comprised of over 200 angel investing groups and 15,000 individual investors nation-wide. He served as Vice Chairman of the ACA and Chair of ACA’s Public Policy and Strategic Planning Committees. Mike is past Chairman of the Atlanta Technology Angels, the largest angel investment group in the Southeast, and one of the most active angel investment groups in the USA, and is a former fellow in Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center. Mike is a limited partner in a number of Venture Capital Funds and an active angel investor.
Founder and Managing Partner, FemHealth Ventures
Maneesha is the Founder and Managing Partner at FemHealth Ventures, which is focused on developing and growing women’s health-related companies through investment capital and strategic guidance. Maneesha has been investing in healthcare for over 20 years both on the private side as a venture capitalist as well as a healthcare specialist at hedge funds. She has invested in many public and private healthcare companies within therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, and digital health.
Maneesha earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. She graduated summa cum laude with two bachelor’s degrees (part of the dual-degree Management and Technology Program) from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the engineering school at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a Judge for the Harvard Business School VC Day competition and a member of Impact100 Essex.
Maneesha serves on the Board of Directors for HealthyWomen.org and also serves on the Board of the University of Pennsylvania Metro Club of New Jersey. Maneesha is also a Strategic Advisor for ExSight Ventures. Maneesha’s board work includes advising healthcare start-ups on financial matters, capital raising, market sizing, strategic planning, and valuation milestones.
Founder and Chair of xElle Ventures
Robbie Hardy, founder and Chair of xElle Ventures, has worn many different hats during a career that has stretched from the vineyards of Napa Valley to the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. She’s driven a school bus, worked in both the public and non-profit sectors, served as CEO of several IT companies and founded angel funds.
For more than a decade Robbie has focused on aiding entrepreneurs, especially women trying to get a company started. Her experience founding, growing, guiding and exiting successful startups herself makes her an “entrepreneurologist” by trade, a term she coined to describe both her experience and her passion.
Today, Hardy is most passionate about empowering women in their careers, helping them overcome obstacles they face such as sexism, workplace politics, and self-doubt, and connecting them with strong women role models to help them succeed. In 2016, she published a book, “Upsetting the Table: Women Mentoring Women,” aimed at establishing a “girl’s club” to off-set the “boy’s club” that has for so long dominated company executive offices.
In 2019, Hardy founded xElle Ventures, an angel fund network dedicated to investing in the ideas, products and services of women. The 15 women founders hope to change the fact that, although women comprise half of the workforce and own millions of businesses, companies founded by women receive only 2.3 % of venture financing.
Also in 2019, Hardy initiated Empowering Women Together, a series of panel discussions designed, she says, “for ambitious women who want to invest in themselves and others.” The once a month meetings, held in Durham’s First Flight Venture Center, feature panels composed of strong, successful, confident women including scientists, lawyers, technologists, corporate execs, and business leaders, paying it forward by sharing the secrets of their success and the lessons they learned along the way.
CEO, Ag TechInventures
Karen LeVert is CEO of Ag TechInventures (AgTI) and also President of Southeast TechInventures (STI). She co-founded these entities as technology innovation labs focused on further developing promising technologies from universities and spinning them off into the commercial marketplace. AgTI has a sole focus on technology innovation in agriculture.
Ms. LeVert’s business experience encompasses both corporate and entrepreneurial worlds with over twenty-five years of successful leadership experience in start-ups, technology commercialization, and executive management. She started her career at a Fortune-500 insurance company in positions of increasing responsibility over 14 years from computer programmer, to controller, to general manager of a 500-person Property & Casualty service center. Her first entrepreneurial venture was launching a franchise bioremediation company in 1998 that she later sold in 2001. Before co-founding STI, Karen co-founded a Silicon Valley based software company focused on recruiting in collegiate athletics. Karen earned an MBA from the University of Dayton and an Information Technology undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University (while receiving All-Academic honors captaining her Division 1 basketball team).
Along with her professional duties she serves as a Board member for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, North Carolina School of Science and Math, NC IDEA Foundation, and LCBA Life Insurance company. She also is on the Board of Advisors for The Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Master of Ceremonies
President and Co-founder of RTP Capital Associates; CEO of Lakeview Business Advisory; The Launch Place Seed Fund Advisory Board
Mark Friedman is a founding member and President of RTP Capital Associates, Inc., an angel investor network based in Research Triangle Park, NC. Mark is currently CEO of Lakeview Business Advisory and Management, Inc. Additionally, he is an Executive Advisor to Excelerate Health Ventures Fund II and a member of the Seed Stage Advisory Board for the Launch Place. He is also chairman of the nationwide series of educational conferences--the Mid-Sized Retirement and Plan Management Conferences.
Mark has been involved with many entrepreneurial and later stage businesses in senior operating roles or as an investor/adviser. He served as CEO of Cutting Edge Information, LLC, a leader in providing Fair Market Value databases and market research to the pharmaceutical industry. Earlier, Mark was a member of the senior management team and Vice President of Development for Affordable Care, Inc, one of the largest dental support organizations in the country having affiliation with more than 260 Affordable Dentures and Implants practices in 39 states. Before that, Mark was COO and Director of UAI Technology and its Phoenix-Hecht, University Conference Services and Alexander Business Suites divisions as well as past President of Mid-Jersey Realty, LLC. He was also president of Garden State Dental, LLC, a Dental Support Organization, and Group Dental Health Administrators, Inc., a dental insurance company, and President of Leonard Financial Planning Systems.
He has his bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, his MBA from Duke University and holds the Certified Financial Planner designation.