About the team
Tracy Podell | Executive Coach, Evolution
Tracy Podell has first-hand experience building the plane while she flies it. After years working in early-stage startups that achieved explosive growth and then acquisition by companies like Viacom and Tinder, she’s seen the pitfalls and challenges startup executives can (and inevitably will) encounter. That is why she now dedicates her career to helping VP to C-level leaders navigate through their toughest challenges while scaling their tech companies. After working with startups like Slack, Dropbox, Scopely and System1, in addition to many others in the fintech, SaaS, enterprise technology, subscription services, and entertainment/media sectors, Tracy’s clients have described her communication coaching as “transformational”. Tracy believes that effective communication is the key to gaining access to anything her clients want, and she can help them disrupt conflict, convey their value in a pitch, hold others accountable, and improve relationships with their partners and teams. Tracy’s coaching is also highly sought-after for overcoming impostor syndrome, time and work/life balance management, and executive presence development. In addition to her one-on-one coaching, Tracy launched Evolution’s Women’s Startup Circles, empowering women’s leadership in tech, and is the founder of the Career Reinvention Lab focused on helping high-performing women create a career they absolutely love.
Debra Liebert | Managing Director, Domain Associates
Debra joined Domain in 2007 to create new portfolio companies and evaluate the technical and business merits of investment opportunities. Improving healthcare through the development of drugs has been a focus of her 35+ year career which included operating roles in several Domain-funded companies. She became a principal at Domain in 2009 and managing director in 2014. Debra is a director on the board of Milestone Pharmaceuticals and previously served as an observer on the boards of Atara Biotherapeutics, Sonexa Therapeutics and Tobira Therapeutics. She contributed to the creation of Calixa Therapeutics, Sonexa Therapeutics and multiple seed companies.
Irene Woerner | CEO, emTRUTH
Irene co-founded emTRUTH, because she believes in the transformative power of game changing technologies combined with people of excellence to make it happen. Prior to emTRUTH, Irene was a technology consultant known for leading path finding technology implementations. Her clients included Warner Bros, Caltech and Paramount. emTRUTH is Irene’s second start-up. She was CEO of her first start-up that created product, raised capital, grew and was acquired. Irene spent many years at JPL and was responsible for both flight and ground software on the Pluto mission, now New Horizons exploring the Kuiper belt. While at JPL, Irene also led a team of researchers on advanced information systems.
Jenna Mons | CEO, AccessElite
A life-science and technology marketing executive, who has been on the front lines of innovation in digital health and technology throughout her career. Jenna has worked at large fortune 500 companies driving innovation and directly impacting brand performance as well as building companies from the ground up to more than 200 Million in revenue in under two years. She has a passion for transforming a vision into reality and currently works with a half dozen start ups in the CPG, technology and healthcare space.
Paige Smith | Associate, Stradling
"Paige Smith is an associate in Stradling’s corporate practice group. Paige represents companies, underwriters, and investors across a broad range of industries including technology, life sciences, banking, e-commerce, alcoholic beverages, and social media. Paige advises clients in general corporate matters, venture capital finance transactions, securities offerings, Securities Act and Exchange Act reporting, and trademark license agreements."
Amy Fox | VP of Human Resources, Halozyme Therapeutics
"Ms. Fox brings to Halozyme more than 20 years of human resources experience and expertise in building high-performing, agile organizations. She joined Halozyme in January 2019 as Vice President of Human Resources and is responsible for all aspects of Human Resources. Prior to Halozyme, Ms. Fox served as Vice President, Human Resources for Evolus, Inc., where she was responsible for the overall talent strategy leading initiatives focused on building a strong culture, organizational development, people development, talent acquisition and compensation and benefits. Prior to joining Evolus, she served as Vice President of Human Resources and HR Business Partner at Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc., where she worked closely with the U.S. Commercial organization. Prior to these roles, Ms. Fox spent more than 15 years in a variety of human resources roles spanning the life sciences, legal, publishing and professional services industries. Ms. Fox received her B.A. from University of California, San Diego."
Cathy Kim | COO, Voluware
Cathy (no relation to Dr. Steve Kim) comes from a family of doctors. In fact, she worked at her father’s practice at a time when the administrative load had not yet taken over, and her father could put his patients first. That became her first and lasting view of the philosophy of giving all patients the best care possible, and it helped her carve her career path as well. Cathy focused primarily on start-ups for the last decade, including business development and operations for Amonix and Arzon Solar LLC. Prior to her operations roles, Cathy was a lawyer at Winston & Strawn, LLP, and Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory. Her law background has lent itself to her strong empathy towards Voluware’s customers and their patients as her sole focus is on bridging engineering with the customer experience. Cathy received her BA in History from Yale University, earned her JD from University of California Hastings College of Law, and received her MBA from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. In her free time, Cathy is an avid skier, golfer, and, hailing from Southern California, of course she can surf, too. Her hidden talent? She’s got great karaoke chops.
Lubna Ahmad | CEO, Invoy Technologies
"Lubna founded Invoy to address the growing obesity epidemic using new breath-based biometrics and a highly scalable analytics service. The company deployed its product with the opening of its first retail store in Charlotte, NC with a Fortune 100 company servicing thousands of their employees as well as local consumers. Since founding Invoy, Lubna has led Invoy’s product development efforts, developed a robust intellectual property portfolio, and transferred the current product design to manufacturing. In parallel, she designed clinical validation studies and recruited key thought leaders to collaborate to address key clinical questions. She has been responsible for raising Invoy’s angel and VC financing and recruiting experienced medical device executives to Invoy’s board and management team. Lubna holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and was a Goldwater scholar and National Science Foundation fellow."
Xandra Laskowski | Founder/CEO, OSEA Angel Investors
Xandra Laskowski is a startup consultant with over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience with large multinational tech companies as well as startups as founder, investor, advisor and board member. She has held positions as Worldwide Commodity Manager and National Major Accounts Managerial roles before moving into the Angel Investment and startup worlds. She founded OSEA Angel Investors in 2017, a women focused angel investment group based at the UCI Cove, UC Irvine California. OSEA Angel Investors is an investment partner with Tech Coast Angels, Titan Angels (CSUF) and Angel Syndication Network. Through Xolas, Xandra provides startup consulting assisting entrepreneurs in producing their “Startup Roadmap”.
Kimberly Kovacs | President, The Arcview Group
Kim Kovacs has had a distinguished career in executive leadership and finance. A serial entrepreneur and investor in software-as-a-service, technology, agriculture and health companies, Kovacs has personally raised more than $100 million dollars for ventures she’s lead — all resulting in successful exits. This active angel investor, advisor and executive consultant for emerging companies is passionate about the entrepreneurial ecosystem and provides mentorship to students and startups in Los Angeles and Orange County. She entered the cannabis space as an investor and entrepreneur to raise awareness and usage of cannabis to fight America’s opioid epidemic and give women greater decision-making in their health and wellness decisions. As the founder and president of MyJane Inc., acquired by MJIC Inc. in January 2019, Kovacs aims to normalize cannabis usage for wellness and give women the confidence to make informed health and wellness choices while creating personalized, data-backed routines just right for them. Kovacs also is a member of the OCTANe and president of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) board of directors, a member of OSEA Angels and the Women’s Founders Network.
Sarah Fergusson Chambless | Partner, Fenwick & West
"Sarah Fergusson Chambless focuses her practice on technology companies, specifically in the areas of startup company formation, early-stage finance, technology licensing and regulatory considerations, venture capital investment transactions, and mergers and acquisitions. Sarah advises emerging companies in the digital media, technology, consumer products, social enterprise and nonprofit sectors in issues related to company formation, corporate compliance, and intellectual property licensing and transactions. She represents both emerging companies and venture capital investors in seed and growth-stage venture capital financings (equity and debt), and she has represented buyers, sellers, issuers and investors in investments, business combinations and buyout transactions in the digital media, technology, consumer products and healthcare sectors. Sarah also has experience in the planning, structuring and formation of venture capital funds and joint ventures."
Janice Varney Hamlin | CEO, Marketing Immersion
Janice Varney-Hamlin is founder of Marketing Immersion, a branding and business development firm located in Southern California. She also serves as BOD and Advisory positions for Cuddly, Holiday Channel, Shepherd Growth Partners, a Venture Capital and Private Equity Group, Authenticating.com, Chapman University, and California State University Fullerton. Her scope of expertise spans the entertainment, consumer products, retail and startup communities. Ms. Hamlin has spearheaded strategic planning, marketing, sales, and product development teams to generate revenue growth for some of the most well-known companies in the world like Disney, Mattel, Warner Bros., Viacom and building some of the world’s most popular brands; Barbie, Hotwheels, DC Comics’ Batman and Superman, PBSKids, SheRa, Bassett Furniture, Looney Tunes, Netflix’s Mighty Little Bheem and Stan Lee. Ms. Hamlin has been featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal and was granted the title “one of the movers and shakers of the year” by HFN. She has appeared in Time Magazine, USA Today, Good Morning America, People, Eye on Business on Good Morning America and NPR and was recently featured in two of the four-episode of Netflix documentary, The Toys That Made Us. She holds several advertising patents designed to enhance the quality of marketing while creating both media and creative efficiencies for franchising and licensing organizations.
Kelly Barba | Director of Client Engagement at K&L Gates
Kelly has a solid achievement history of building innovative and authentic client relationships. She provides balanced and strategic client advice coupled with connecting and aligning resources for them. Although her role at K&L Gates is Global, she is has a particular focus in the Southern California technology and life science industries. She is a Board Member of OCTANe and Chair of the Women of OCTANe.
Leila Safavi, Ph.D. | Co-Founder and CEO - Purist Inc.
Leila is the CEO and Co-founder of Purist, a company based on a technology she co-invented during her Ph.D. studies. Purist is focused on developing a technology that can be implemented in existing nuclear reactors to produce medical-grade radioactive ingredients. These radioactive ingredients are time-sensitive material that is used daily to treat and diagnose life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Leila earned her Ph.D./MS in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and BS in Chemistry, all from the University of California, Irvine (UC-Irvine). During her time at UC-Irvine, she became a licensed nuclear reactor operator by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and maintained this license for over 5 years. In 2017, Leila co-founded Purist with her former Ph.D. advisor Dr. Mikael Nilsson and was appointed as CEO. In this role, she has: won first place in the 2017 UC-Irvine New Venture Business Plan competition, been the recipient of the 2018 Orange County Engineering Council’s Project Achievement award, and the 2018 Best Female Owned Business award from the UC-Irvine ANTrepreneur Center. In 2019 she was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health. She is also an entrepreneurial fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program. Both of these programs have provided over half a million dollars in funding and resources to accelerate Purist’s technology towards commercialization.
Rui Jing Jiang | Co-Founder and CEO of Avisi Technologies, Inc.
Rui Jing Jiang is the Co-Founder and CEO of Avisi Technologies, Inc., a University of Pennsylvania spinout company developing a nanotechnology-enabled implant called VisiPlate. VisiPlate is 20x thinner than human hair and aims to treat patients with glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Drawing on experiences from working in global strategic marketing for SYNVISC (Sanofi) and BOTOX (Allergan), as well as researching publicly-listed healthcare companies at JP Morgan, Rui Jing has spearheaded Avisi’s growth since founding the company. Rui Jing co-founded Avisi while completing her degree at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton, where she graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Economics, Finance, and Strategic Management.