Faculty & Staff

Yael V. Hochberg, Ph.D.

Head of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiatives (Liu Idea Lab, MBA Entrepreneurship Initiative) Ralph S. O’Connor Professor in Entrepreneurship Professor of Finance

McNair Hall 331 713-348-3596 yaelpublic@rice.edu

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Professor Hochberg’s research and teaching interests are focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and the financing of entrepreneurial activity. Her research focuses on the venture capital industry, accelerators, networks and corporate governance and compensation policies. In addition to her doctorate in finance from Stanford, she holds a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering and Management from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and an A.M. in Economics from Stanford University. Her research has been published in top tier journals, including Science Magazine, the Journal of Finance, the Review of Financial Studies, the Journal of Accounting Research, and the Journal of Financial Economics, and has been presented at numerous universities and governmental bodies around the world. She is an Associate Editor at the Journal of Banking and Finance and the Journal of Empirical Finance, and previously served as an Associate Editor at the Review of Finance.

Prof. Hochberg serves as the Head of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at Rice University and as Academic Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

She holds a Research Affiliate position with MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Prof. Hochberg is also Managing Director of the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, which publishes the annual ranking of accelerator programs in the U.S.

Prior to her appointment at Rice, Prof. Hochberg was previously on the (tenure track) faculty at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, and was a visiting faculty member at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She is currently a visiting faculty member at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Previously, she was employed in the technology industry in both larger and startup companies. She serves on the advisory board and board of directors for a number of early stage startups. In 2015, she was named one of the world’s 40 under 40 best business school professors by Poets and Quants. In 2016, she was awarded the Ewing Marion Kauffman Prize Medal for Distinguished Research in Entrepreneurship.

For more information on the Rice University Entrepreneurship Initiative, visit entreprenuership.rice.edu.

Teaching Interests: 

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation
  • Financing of entrepreneurial activity

Research Interests: 

  • Venture Capital
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation
  • Organizational Networks
  • Ecosystems

Kyle Judah

Executive Director, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

kj25@rice.edu

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Kyle Judah is the Executive Director at Lilie, where he also teaches Financing the Startup Venture, Founders’ Dilemmas and E-Lab New Enterprises courses. Kyle works on building on new programming outside the classroom, with a focus on research commercialization and experiential opportunities for all students in the Fall, Spring and Summer

Kyle has experience as a two time founder, non-profit creator, turn around operator, and investor. After his founding experience, Kyle helped run MIT’s Center for Entrepreneurship, scaling the Delta-V summer accelerator before leading work at the MIT Innovation Initiative supporting research commercialization and new venture capital models. He then continued these efforts after being hired as the first Executive Director of Entrepreneurship at CU Boulder’s College of Engineering & Applied Science, running the Catalyze CU accelerator and launching the Entrepreneurship Minor for the College.

With his vast background in a variety of innovation, leadership, and higher-education roles, Kyle is dedicated to creating systems and processes to help develop new ideas, programs and technologies, and translate them into real world impact – helping students launch startups in and out of the classroom.

Kyle earned his BA in Sports Marketing from University of Massachusetts, and holds and MBA from the Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business.

Hesam Panahi, Ph.D.

Director of Strategic Initiatives and Programs, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

McNair Hall hpanahi@rice.edu

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Hesam Panahi is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in entrepreneurship and design thinking. He is also a faculty member at Rice University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Liu Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Lilie).

Prior to Rice, Panahi was a clinical assistant professor at University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, where he taught courses in management information systems, computer science, industrial design, and entrepreneurship. While at the University of Houston, Hesam also founded RED Labs, the University of Houston’s startup accelerator and technology entrepreneurship program. He holds a Ph.D. and Bachelors of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from the University of Houston.

Teaching Interests: 

– Entrepreneurship
– Design Thinking

Micaela McGlone

Senior Associate Director, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

micaela.mcglone@rice.edu

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Micaela McGlone is the new Senior Associate Director at Lilie. Prior to joining Lilie in summer 2021, she spent seven years at OpenStax, the non-profit publisher of open educational resources (OER), also based at Rice. Micaela helps teams set vision and work together to meet ambitious goals, facilitating shared mindset and removing blockers along the way.

Priscilla M. Hernandez

Marketing Specialist , Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

priscilla.hernandez@rice.edu

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Priscilla M. Hernandez is the Entrepreneur Marketing Specialist at Lilie. Prior to joining, Priscilla spent a few years as freelance marketing consultant in Troy, NY and then as an associate at Energy Circle in Portland, ME. They eventually went on to co-own a marketing agency with their partner, with a focus on small businesses and nonprofits.

They graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a B.S. in Cognitive Science & Psychology and a M.S. in Marketing for New Product Development.

With their experience, Priscilla is determined to develop Lilie’s communications and brand strategy and support students, faculty, and alumni in their entrepreneurial endeavors!

Carlos Estrada

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Carlos.Estrada@rice.edu

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Carlos Estrada is an experienced 3X founder with an extensive background in startup acceleration and incubation at companies like WeWork, where he supported startup founders and SMBs to launch and scale their ventures then scaled operations globally via change management principles and digital tools while bolstering NPS, retention and new sales revenues for the company. Estrada also led Fortune 100 enterprise digital transformations efforts and built innovation hubs globally. His last creation was in the form of an incubator, accelerator, and fund dedicated to startups in agriculture and food in the midwest.

Carlos’s guiding north star principle when supporting startups has always been to be as founder-focused as possible create a culture where founders can find home and get the help, support, and resources they need to launch and scale up.

Edwina Kumi

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

edwina@rice.edu

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Edwina Kumi is a Program Manager at Lilie. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Master’s in International Business. Her professional career has focused on supporting the growth and success of students in their academic and long-term goals. She previously worked as a researcher for wellness programs in primary schools, an activities and enrichment director at a private international high school, and most recently as a program manager over master’s level programming at the University of Houston. Within Lilie, Edwina is focused on facilitating opportunities to empower students in their entrepreneurial pursuits.

Patrick Ray

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Pbr2@rice.edu

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Patrick graduated in 2012 from the University of Texas Permian Basin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, and spent the next six years of his career working exclusively for small businesses and startups in both West Texas and San Francisco Bay Area, California. At Pinnacle Engines, a green-tech hardware startup, he became the go-to guy when it came to high-risk, high-reward missions to Southeast Asia to demonstrate products in both customers’ and government laboratories to prove their industry-leading capabilities. He entered Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business in 2018 at the urging of the leadership of Pinnacle, and graduated in 2020 with his Master of Business Administration degree, concentrating in Entrepreneurship and Real Estate. Patrick founded a remote-first consulting firm in the early days of the COVID-19 Pandemic, along with his partner Sophie, and has helped clients in the Construction Planning, Brewing, B2B SaaS, International Trade, Organic Food Production, Fashion, and Fire Protection industries. He has built financial models, pitch decks, market studies, and marketing materials for startups and small businesses, helping them organize information and analysis into manageable packages for presentation both to investors and internally to C-level executives.

Al Danto

Lecturer in Management - Entrepreneurship

McNair Hall 360 aldanto@rice.edu

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Al Danto is the managing partner of the Danto Burks Group which advises the owners of privately held companies in developing and completing exit strategies, valuations and due diligence representation. He is also a partner in Danto Langerud investments which makes investments and actively manages businesses in a variety of industries. Al has over 25 years’ experience with startup and entrepreneurial companies as well as expertise in the acquisition and divestiture of business interests. He started Structured Graphics at the age of 24 and grew the company through a series of acquisitions into one of the southwest’s largest printing and document management businesses. The company was acquired in 2000 by a Private Equity Group. After exiting the company he went on to fund and launch several enterprises, including Universal Worker, an international health care recruitment firm and Arcemus which was sold to publicly traded Iron Mountain. Al has served as lead representative on a wide range of business acquisitions and has proven experience working with lenders, private equity groups and individual purchasers. He has served on a variety of boards, including the alumni board of the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University and the Entrepreneurs Organization. Al is an Accredited Valuation Analyst received his undergraduate degree in business administration and mathematics from Central Michigan University and an MBA from Rice University.

Teaching Interests: 

-Enterprise acquisition
-New enterprise
-Entrepreneurship

Adrienne Garland

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

adrienne.garland@rice.edu

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Angela Schmeidel Randall

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Angela Schmeidel Randall is a Lecturer in Management at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, where she teaches the undergraduate course in design thinking. Schmeidel Randall is also an adjunct professor at Kent State University’s Master of User Experience Design program, where she teaches courses in research, design, and leadership.

Schmeidel Randall has over two decades of experience tackling tough challenges with human-centered design. She is the founding principal at Normal Modes & UX.training, where she and her team provide research, coaching, and training to organizations that want to improve experiences with their products and services. She specializes in complex, data-driven, mission critical experiences with clients including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and venture-backed startups in a variety of industries.

Schmeidel Randall is a graduate of University of St. Thomas (BA – International Studies) and Rice University (MLS). She is also a graduate of Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders.

Her mission is to change the world, one experience at a time.

Teaching Interests: 

– Experience Research & Design
– Design Thinking
– Entrepreneurship
– Leadership

Aziz Gilani

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

gilani@rice.edu

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Aziz Gilani is a Managing Partner at Mercury, where he focuses on investments in enterprise SaaS, Cloud and data science startups. Aziz currently serves on the boards of Mercury portfolio companies Datical, GameSalad, Graylog, Koupon Media (observer), Label Insight (observer), ShareThis (observer) and Trendkite (observer). Aziz’s previous investments at Mercury have included BlackLocus (acq. by The Home Depot), Infochimps (acq. by CSC), Modest (acq. by PayPal), and Phurnace Software (acq. by BMC Software).

Prior to joining Mercury, Aziz was a Senior Engagement Leader with Infosys Consulting, an early executive at ABB Performance Services, a Senior Consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and an Analyst at Lotus Development Corp. Aziz received his BBA from the University of Texas where he was a TILF Scholar, and his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he was an FC Austin Scholar.

In addition, Aziz is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education, where he completed industry-defining field work on Seed Accelerators.  Aziz is a recognized expert in Seed Accelerators, and has been quoted in several national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, ReadWriteWeb, TechCocktail, and The Business Journals.

Outside of Mercury, Aziz serves in advisory roles for The Black Founders Matter Fund and SXSW Interactive. He is also a Lecturer at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business where he teaches entrepreneurial finance.Aziz received the 2021 National Venture Capital Association Service Award for his work with public policy makers. In 2022 Aziz was appointed to the National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

Teaching Interests:

  • Financing start-up ventures
  • Foundations of entrepreneurship: strategy & funding

Blair Garrou

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

blair.garrou@rice.edu

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Blair Garrou is a co-founder and Managing Partner at Mercury, where he focuses on investments in enterprise SaaS and cloud computing startups. Blair currently serves on the boards of Mercury portfolio companies Apto, Koupon Media, Label Insight, LISNR, ShareThis, TrackX, and Trendkite. Blair’s previous investments at Mercury have included Alert Logic (acq. by Welsh Carson), BlackLocus (acq. by The Home Depot), Dònde (acq. by Mobify), Infochimps (acq. by CSC), Patient I/O (acq. by athenahealth), and Phurnace Software (acq. by BMC Software).

Prior to co-founding Mercury, Blair was the CEO of Intermat, a leader in product information management software (acq. by IHS). Prior to Intermat, Blair was a Principal of Genesis Park, a Houston-based venture capital and private equity firm, where he focused on the firm’s software investments, including Intermat, FuelQuest (acq. by Saracen Energy), and SAT Corporation (acq. by Invensys). Prior to Genesis Park, Blair helped launch and was the Director of Operations for the Houston Technology Center (HTC), the largest technology incubator in the state of Texas, and he led the formation of the Houston Angel Network, one of the largest and most active angel investment organizations in the U.S. Previously, Blair was an investment banker with BMO Nesbitt Burns, and an auditor with Deloitte & Touche. He received a B.S. in Management with special attainments in Commerce from Washington & Lee University.

Blair is also a co-founder of Station Houston, the largest coworking accelerator in Houston, and SURGE Accelerator, a mentor-driven seed accelerator focused on entrepreneurs seeking to solve the world’s energy problems using software. Outside of Mercury, Blair serves in board and/or advisory roles for the Post Oak School, Rice Alliance, Texas Venture Capital Association, UTHealth, and YPO – Gulf States Chapter. Blair is an Adjunct Professor at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where he teaches a course on venture capital.  Blair also was named to the Houston Business Journal’s inaugural “40 under 40.”

Teaching Interests:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Foundations of entrepreneurship: strategy & funding

Carol Tyger

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

caroltyger@gmail.com

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Carol is a product leader and agile coach who has held management roles at a wide range of organizations, from seed-stage to mature startups to publicly traded companies. Currently, she consults for various startups focusing on everything from product metrics to value-based pricing to leading an agile transformation. Previously, she was Head of Product at Spruce, a managed marketplace for multifamily apartment residents to book services such as chores, housekeeping, or pet care. As an executive team member at Spruce, Carol oversaw the product, roadmap, and backlog. She also led the remote development team through the transition to agile and the rebrand that prepped Spruce for national rollout and Series A funding.

Carol previously worked as a Product Manager in Interconnected Retail at The Home Depot, Chief of Staff to the CMO at blinds.com and as an Email Marketing Manager at Zocdoc. She has used these experiences to lead lunch and learns, mentor entrepreneurs, and moderate panels within the Houston startup community. She has also supported founders looking to manage their teams with scrum through workshops and agile coaching.

Before working in tech, Carol was a middle school math teacher with Teach for America. She is passionate about making agile accessible throughout organizations and industries, ruthless prioritization, design thinking, collaborative meetings, diversity in tech, mentorship, and travel.

She holds a Master’s in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Teaching Interests

-Technology Product Management
-Agile Software Development
-Design Thinking

Carolyn Zhoujing Bao

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

carolyn.bao@rice.edu

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Carolyn Bao is a faculty member of Entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business for the MBA@Rice program.

In addition to teaching at Rice, Carolyn works as a the Vice President of Marketing at Moomoo Inc. Prior to that, Carolyn worked as a Product Marketing Consultant for Intuit. She has experience leading global product marketing for advertising measurement products at Facebook and held product marketing leadership roles at global leading companies, such as BrightEdge Technologies, Inc. and Visa.

Carolyn is passionate about developing others through teaching with real-world examples. Since 2013, she has been invited as guest lecturer at a few leading universities, such as University of Connecticut’s MBA program and Tsinghua University. She also published a self-paced online product marketing course in 2019 on the MartTechApe platform.

A firm believer in entrepreneurship, Carolyn frequently advises startups and has personally invested into startups such as Volta Charging and Lime.

Carolyn holds an MBA from Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

Cooper Etheridge

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

lee.c.etheridge@rice.edu

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Douglas A. Schuler, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy

McNair Hall 348 713-348-5472 schuler@rice.edu

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Professor Schuler’s research and teaching interests focus on public policy, business-government relations, social responsibility, non-profits, and social entrepreneurship. He received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. in Strategic Management and Organization from the University of Minnesota. He has published research articles in top tier journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, and Business & Society.  Dr. Schuler is an Associate Editor at Business & Society and serves on the editorial board of Business Ethics Quarterly. He is also the outgoing chair of the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management.

Dr. Schuler teaches the Social Entrepreneurship course for undergraduates. It is a project-based approach to understand the context of social innovations. Specifically, the projects focus on food insecurity innovations and interventions in the greater Houston area. Students analyze such interventions and make recommendations for improvements necessary to achieve greater social impact. This course received the Rice University award for Best Inquiry-Based Learning in 2018.  Dr. Schuler teaches a related MBA course on Social Enterprise that has more of a corporate social responsibility focus.

In parallel, Dr. Schuler conducts research on these interventions and has published a report, Challenges of Social Sector Systemic Collaborations: What’s Cookin’ in Houston’s Food Insecurity Space?, published in March 2019 on Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research’s website: https://kinder.rice.edu/research/challenges-social-sector-systemic-collaborations-whats-cookin-houstons-food-insecurity. This report is one of the centerpieces of the new Greater Houston Coalition on Social Determinants of Health, of which he is a member, that sets out to tackle food insecurity and related issues in the community.

Farzad Soleimani, M.D.

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

farzadsoleimani@gmail.com

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As the Associate Director of the TMC Biodesign Innovation Fellowship and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Farzad Soleimani, M.D., applies his extensive experience and leadership in health care entrepreneurship to ushering in the next generation of innovative startups.

He has served as the founding CEO of telemedicine company eTherapi, strategist and business developer for Hansen Medical (HNSN), co-founder of IGAN Biosciences and founder and CEO of product review platform Review2Buy, and was as an early-stage financial supporter at Mohr Davidow Ventures and XSeed Capital Management. In addition to his work as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, he has also published a wide array of articles on health care innovation and currently holds numerous medical technology patents.

Soleimani completed his residency training and served as chief resident at Baylor College of Medicine. He earned his M.B.A., M.D., M.S., and B.S. from Stanford University, where he was also a member of the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Program, as well as the co-founder and executive editor of the Stanford Scientific Review (SSR).

Teaching Interests:
-Healthcare Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Jim Cohen

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

Jim.Cohen@rice.edu

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Jim is a General Partner at Fitz Gate Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. Jim is also a Lecturer at Princeton University’s Graduate School where he teaches a seminar series on venture capital and an Adjunct Professor at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business where he teaches a class on venture capital investing. Jim is also a member of the Princeton University Dean for Research’s Advisory Council, Princeton University’s Keller Center eLab Advisory Committee and a mentor to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council. Jim was awarded the 2022 Clio Award from the Princeton University Graduate School in recognition of his seminar series on venture capital for graduate students.

Prior to co-founding Fitz Gate, Jim was the Head of Mergers & Acquisitions for an NYSE listed company which he grew through acquisition until its sale to another publicly traded company; a founding partner and member of the investment committee of private equity firm Main Street Capital (NYSE: MAIN); a private equity and M&A lawyer (Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in NYC and London; Baker Botts in Houston) and an investment banker (Morgan Stanley in NYC). Jim is an honors graduate of Princeton University and received his law degree from New York University School of Law.

Joanna Nathan

Lecturer in Management - Entrepreneurship

jnathan@rice.edu

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Joanna Nathan is the Manager of New Ventures at the Johnson & Johnson Center for Device Innovation at Texas Medical Center (CDI @ TMC). In this role, Joanna is responsible for sourcing and supporting external opportunities to accelerate breakthrough technologies at CDI. Prior to this role, Joanna was a Venture Fellow at Mercury Fund, a $300M venture capital fund focused on early-stage enterprise software. In this role, Joanna sourced investment opportunities in next-gen enterprise software, cloud biology, and intelligent manufacturing, and represented the fund on a working board for the City of Houston to grow the local innovation ecosystem. Previously, Joanna was Director of Product Development at Saranas, a cardiology medical device startup spun out of Texas Heart Institute.

Outside of CDI, Joanna is passionate about building Houston’s innovation ecosystem, leveraging her experiences to educate and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. In 2012, Joanna founded Enventure, a non-profit organization that provides education and experiential learning opportunities to over 2,000 aspiring entrepreneurs across Texas, where she currently serves on the board. Additionally, Joanna currently supports the National Institute of Health’s RADx initiative to speed innovation in COVID-19 testing

Joanna received her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Bioengineering and MBA at Rice University, where she served as the Jones School of Business Student Association President. She is an active alumna, serving as President-Elect of the board of the Rice Engineering Alumni Association.

Joey Rodriguez

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

joeyjuanrodriguez@rice.edu

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Joey Rodriguez is the VP of Product at MacroFab, the world’s first software-based cloud manufacturing platform and marketplace for electronics manufacturing. He has grown the MacroFab Product organization through Seed to Series B+ rounds, overseeing the Product Management, Design, Product Marketing, and Product Training departments. He is also a Lecturer in Management at Rice University, where he teaches Tech Product Management to MBA students.

As a tech executive, his career has focused on leading product and software teams at high-growth VC and PE-backed companies spanning several industries and verticals. Before his position at MacroFab, Joey led cross-functional teams as a Business Development Manager at Acteon-Pulse, a KKR backed oil and gas services startup focused on using smart IoT sensors for predictive maintenance insights. He also has held Product Manager, Systems Engineering, and Software Engineering roles at other companies varying from startups to large enterprises.

He graduated with his MBA from the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University. During his time at Rice, he interned at Goose Capital, a super angel investment group that has invested >$30M in startups with four exits of 5-10x and has 16+ current investments spanning digital, life sciences, energy, and enterprise software.

Teaching Interests:

  • Tech Product Management
  • Entrepreneurship

Mark Poag

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

mark.poag@rice.edu

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Mark is Co-founder and General Partner at Fitz Gate Ventures which is an early stage, network-driven venture capital firm investing out of its second fund. The firm brings a unique strategic advantage to its portfolio companies by leveraging its proprietary “Friends of Fitz” network, comprised of hundreds of venture capitalists, startup founders, professors, and senior executives. Fitz Gate’s returns are top quartile among all VC funds, and its portfolio companies have been profiled in the New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Forbes, Vogue, Bloomberg and elsewhere. World class investors such as Sequoia, Bessemer, Blackrock, Canaan, Andreessen Horowitz, 8VC, Greycroft, Spark, Bezos Expeditions, Merck, MIT Engine Fund, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone, Fusion Fund, Workbench, First Round, Sapphire, KKR and others have invested in Fitz Gate portfolio companies. Fitz Gate currently has 20 current portfolio company investments.

Mark brings to Fitz Gate Ventures 20+ years of experience as an experienced entrepreneur and executive with a proven track record of successfully growing companies from the ground up to mature industry leadership. Prior to Fitz Gate Mark was the head of Product, Marketing, Legal and Alliances and Board secretary at Datacert, Inc., an enterprise software company (sold 2014) and Founder and CEO of Digicontract, Inc., a SaaS company (sold 2001).

Mark received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1993 and a JD and MBA with honors from Tulane University in 1997. Mark is an Adjunct Professor at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University where he teaches a course on venture capital, and he also leads a seminar series on venture capital at Princeton University’s Graduate School. Mark previously served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council of Princeton University.

Nique Fajors

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

nf21@rice.edu

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Nique Fajors’ summation of experience includes launching 85 retail and e-commerce products and services generating $2.1 billion over the last 15 years. He is a business thought leader who has been quoted in New York Times, Financial Times, and Business Week. His last start-up One Spear Entertainment launched the first mobile game titles for Shaquille O’Neal, Jet Li, and Muhammad Ali. He sold that company in 2017. Presently, he co-leads the US retail operations for Chromebook. Since stepping into the role Chromebook market share has increased nearly 3x. He holds a B.S.B.A. with honors from the Suffolk University Frank Sawyer School of Management and a M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

His academic pursuits include writing Cultural and Economic Revitalization – A Five Step Reference For Overcoming Black Failure in 1996. Creating and executive producing The Invisible Men, an educational video in 1993. In 2006 he co-authored a chapter for a graduate study text titled, Cross-Cultural Psychotherapy. He is the co-host of The Invisible Men podcast produced by AEI. Presently, he is an Adjunct Lecturer at Rice Business School and the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rafael Alvarez

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

ralvareztx@gmail.com

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Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s top 30 social entrepreneurs, Rafael Alvarez was founder and CEO of Genesys Works and is currently President at Moderno Franchising, LLC.

Established in 2002, Genesys Works is a national non-profit social enterprise that changes the trajectory of life for underprivileged high school students, from one destined to a lifetime of low wage, dead-end jobs, to one in which they will fully participate in the economic mainstream. This is done by training and employing students to work in meaningful internships at major corporations during their senior year in high school so they can discover that they can indeed enter and succeed in the corporate world. Alvarez took Genesys Works from an idea in his head to a national social enterprise, employing over one thousand people in seven major American cities.

In 2019 Alvarez co-started Moderno Porcelain Works, a corporation with not only a profit motive but also a strong purpose. Working with the newest technology in large format porcelain surfaces, Moderno seeks to hire thousands of young people and engage them into successful career paths.

Alvarez became an Ashoka Fellow in 2006, was awarded the sole Entrepreneurial Leadership Award from Texas A&M University in 2012 and was inducted into the Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame also in 2012.

Professor Alvarez has been a faculty member of Rice University’s Jones Business School, teaching social entrepreneurship, since 2015.

Prior to starting Genesys Works, Rafael worked for eleven years at Compaq Computer Corporation (now HP) as a corporate strategist and in other engineering management positions. Rafael holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a M.S. in Engineering Management from the University of Houston. He resides in Houston with his wife and three daughters.

Teaching Interests:

  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Business Planning

Shruthi S. Sriram

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

shruthi.sriram@rice.edu

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Shruthi Sriram is an executive as part of Accenture’s Public Service Strategy and Consulting business. She works with government, nonprofit, and higher education clients to co-create solutions that drive business and operational success, enhance program operations and governance, and improve customer and citizen experiences. Highlights include serving in a Chief of Staff capacity to help drive the regional industry business and strengthen the community; developing high-touch innovation sessions with C-Suite and senior leaders to ideate on their most pressing strategic and operational challenges through design thinking; and leading a roundtable series with K-12 urban school districts across the country on back-to-school COVID reopening strategies.

She’s passionate about driving social impact – be it in entrepreneurship or across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors – through a focus on people and community, strong systems, and strategy and innovation. Prior to Accenture, Shruthi worked at the Arnold Foundation focused on education strategy and policy and grew a social enterprise based at the Harvard Kennedy School that leverages behavioral science research to improve student outcomes and opportunities. She began her career in education and nonprofits at Match Education and the Achievement Network.

Shruthi has coached teams as part of innovation competitions for seed funding and served as a judge for the Rice Business Plan Competition Qualifiers, hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship. Shruthi received her MPP/MBA from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and Booth School of Business and her BA from Emory University.

Teaching and professional interests:
– Design thinking
– Strategy and innovation
– Leadership and management

William Gaydon (Don) Porr

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

william.g.porr@rice.edu

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Don Porr is an owner/partner at Diamond Fiberglass, an industrial fiberglass tank and vessel manufacturer, which he and his business partner purchased in 2003 through an equity raise and SBA loan.  Since the purchase, Diamond has grown revenues by over five times by expanding product lines, improving quality & customer service, and streamlining production processes.  In his years as a business owner and CEO, he has experienced a breadth of challenges and successes typical of an entrepreneur.

Prior to Diamond, Don worked for M.W. Kellogg (now KBR-Halliburton), FMC Technologies, Network International and British Petroleum. He advises on several local community boards (St. Joseph High School, Victoria County Sheriff’s Department).

Don earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Tulsa University (’92) and a Rice MBA (’97).  A founding member of the JGSEO, he now participates as a member of JGSEO’s successor, the Rice Alumni Entrepreneurs and Innovators group.  Through this Alumni organization, Don is a 10-year member of a CEO Roundtable, advising other members and CEOs on startups, failures, business acquisitions and business harvests. Don enjoys entrepreneurship advising and investing, broadening his world perspective by traveling with his wife and family, cycling with friends, and tinkering on classic vehicles.

Yelena Ioffe

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

yelena.ioffe@rice.edu

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Yelena is an early stage VC investor, start-up mentor and an entrepreneur at heart. With over 10+ years of experience in the investments industry, she has been featured as one of the Top Women Investing in Latin American Tech by LAVCA.

Prior to joining Lilie, Yelena was a partner at Cantera Capital and a fund manager at Soldiers Field Angels (SFA), where she led seed and follow-on investments in early stage startups across Latin America. She started her career in venture capital after co-founding Zapatito Blanco, a marketplace for children’s products in Mexico. Her work experience also includes Laudex in Mexico City, J.P. Morgan & Chase in New York and Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.

Yelena holds an MBA degree from Kellogg School of Management and a BA degree in economics from Northwestern University. Originally from Kazakhstan, Yelena has lived in the United States, France, Brazil, and Mexico and is fluent in multiple languages.

Yael V. Hochberg, Ph.D.

Head of Rice Entrepreneurship Initiatives (Liu Idea Lab, MBA Entrepreneurship Initiative) Ralph S. O’Connor Professor in Entrepreneurship Professor of Finance

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Kyle Judah

Executive Director, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Hesam Panahi, Ph.D.

Director of Strategic Initiatives and Programs, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Micaela McGlone

Senior Associate Director, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Priscilla M. Hernandez

Marketing Specialist , Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Carlos Estrada

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Edwina Kumi

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Patrick Ray

Program Manager, Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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Al Danto

Lecturer in Management - Entrepreneurship

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Adrienne Garland

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Angela Schmeidel Randall

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Aziz Gilani

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Blair Garrou

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Carol Tyger

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Carolyn Zhoujing Bao

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Cooper Etheridge

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Douglas A. Schuler, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Business and Public Policy

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Farzad Soleimani, M.D.

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Jim Cohen

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Joanna Nathan

Lecturer in Management - Entrepreneurship

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Joey Rodriguez

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Mark Poag

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Nique Fajors

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Rafael Alvarez

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Shruthi S. Sriram

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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William Gaydon (Don) Porr

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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Yelena Ioffe

Lecturer in Management – Entrepreneurship

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