Attention URI community! Need help moving your business idea or venture forward?
Business experts will provide consulting, coaching and mentoring to help URI entrepreneurs advance their business ideas into operational ventures.
URI SPARC Office Hours is one tool in the support platform for business startups – focused on creating a rich ecosystem where business practitioners achieve economic and social progress through entrepreneurship.
Mentors provide business consulting, strategy assistance, marketing and communications advice, investor guidance, and more.
Director of the Southern Region for the RI Small Business Development Center at URI, Josh works with start-ups and existing businesses, both high growth and main street, to help them launch, grow, and transition successfully. Before his work with the RISBDC at URI, Josh was active in the entrepreneurial community in New Orleans, mentoring through incubators, and consulting through the SBDC there. He has helped hundreds of businesses develop, test, and refine their business models, and access capital to grow.
Prior to business consulting, Josh managed experiential education and university-community engagement programs at Loyola University, New Orleans. Josh holds an MBA from Loyola and is proud to call southern Rhode Island home.
Angel Investor and entrepreneur John Dipippo is a seasoned executive in the high tech industry with over twenty years of experience in various roles including executive management, mergers & acquisitions, turn-arounds, product marketing, and sales. His work experiences span multi-billion dollar international conglomerates to startups within technology infrastructure, energy, and software industries. John is also an angel investor, and mentor to entrepreneurs independently and via the Providence-based Betaspring incubator.
John was most recently President & CEO of ADI Time LLC, a privately-held company developing and marketing cloud-computing time management software-as-a-service (SaaS) and network devices. John developed and drove the growth plan of ADI Time leading to its acquisition by Asure Software (NASDAQ: ASUR) in October 2011. John is also a co-owner of ForensicSoft, an independent software company established in 2005 that provide tools to the digital forensic marketplace. Currently John and his partners are incubating their next startup company IONIT NETWORKS.
From 2006 to 2009, John served as Senior Vice President of APC by Schneider Electric. APC was a publically-traded $3 billion global provider of critical power and cooling services with 12,000 employees worldwide, acquired by Schneider Electric in October 2006. Schneider Electric employs over 100,000 employees with sales in excess of $25 billion. John held overall responsibility for Schneider Electric’s Data Center solutions. In this capacity he was responsible to drive Schneider’s innovation, roadmaps, and execution plans for data center power, cooling, management software and related infrastructure. John is responsible for conceiving and developing Schneider’s EcoStruXure global energy efficiency initiative, the corresponding software initiative StruXureWare. In addition John led and held P&L responsibility for APC’s management software business unit.
John was with APC from 1989 to 1997, and served as an Officer of the corporation and as Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing. He rejoined APC in 2006, serving as Senior Vice President of Management Systems & Software, and held several other executive level positions with the company including Vice President of Industrial & Access Providers, and Vice President of Business Development. While away from APC, John founded and served as CEO of two privately-held technology start-ups, and was a founding family and administrative volunteer for a startup elementary school, Qwest Montessori School. He is a native Rhode Islander with a BS degree in Computer Science from Lehigh University and a concentration in Economics. He lives in Wickford RI with his wife Lisa – a PhD in Computer Science and professor at URI – and their two daughters.
Dean of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business Administration, Maling Ebrahimpour previously served as the business dean at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. In his five year term, he oversaw the creation of several new programs that led to increased enrollment and strong job opportunities for graduates. The Entrepreneurship Program that was established under his stewardship at the University of South Florida Saint Petersburg was ranked as number one emerging program in the nation by USASBE. Prior to his work at South Florida, Ebrahimpour was the dean of he Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University. While there, he modified and implemented changes to the school’s strategic plan, added new academic programs and established the school’s center for finance and one for security studies.
Nancy Forster-Holt, PhD, MBA, CMA, RFG is the URI Spachman Professor of Entrepreneurship. Her teaching interests include intrapreneurship, entrepreneurship, innovation and disruption, small business management, small firm valuation, global strategy, and lean start-up. Her research is in the areas of entrepreneurial exit, owner retirement (“endrepreneurship”), small firm valuation, and acquisition strategy. She is co-owner of the 158-year-old innovative manufacturing company, Shaw & Tenney, a finalist for the 2015 Maine Family Business of the Year Award. Prior to URI, Nancy was assistant professor in the College of Business at Husson University, where she served as the Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Program, and restarted the Richard E. Dyke Center for Family Business.
Nancy is a “pracademic,” that is, prior to academia she had a career in SBA counseling, public accounting, software sales, and as CFO of Maine’s second largest credit union. Nancy has mentored startups on fundraising, served as startup CFO at Double Blue Sports Analytics, and is sought after for pitch coaching. Her recent mentee, Surge Hydro, was accepted into Boston’s Clean Tech Challenge in 2016.
Attorney Ted Howell received his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics from the University of Pennsylvania. From there, Ted worked primarily in manufacturing. He spent time with a manufacturer of industrial computer enclosures, and later acted as a consultant in the South Boston facility of Gillette, where he helped document and optimize the injection molding lines for the Sensor ® razor line.Ted went to law school at Boston University School of Law, where he graduated, cum laude, in 1999. He took a position with Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault LLP, where he focused his practice on dot.com companies, providing them services relating to formation, shareholder issues, equity financing, licensing, mergers and acquisitions, and IPOs. After TH&T, Ted took a position with a small, Providence, RI – based firm, where he focused his practice on shareholder agreements, contract negotiation, debt financing, asset protection, business succession planning and mergers and acquisitions.
In 2005, Ted commenced practice at Partridge Snow & Hahn LLP, where he practiced until May 2014. At PSH, Ted became partner and chair of the corporate group. He continued the practice that he had engaged in prior to PSH, but was involved in more complicated merger and acquisition, as well as debt finance, transactions. During his tenure at PSH, Ted also got more involved in the start-up community, which eventually led to the formation of Howell Legal. He was integral to the adoption of the RI-CIE office hour program, which resulted in acting as counsel to a large percentage of the companies participating in the Betaspring accelerator program. Today, his clients run the gamut from large companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues to the earliest stage, pre-revenue start-up. His passion is getting to know the client and the client’s business, and integrating himself in a team approach to the provision of legal services.
Michael is the Associate Vice President for Intellectual Property Management and Economic Development at the University of Rhode Island. He also serves as the Executive Director of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that manages the University’s intellectual property rights, supports industry/University research collaborations and hosts Rhode Island’s Manufacturers Extension Partnership, Polaris MEP. At URI he is focusing on seeing more of the University’s technologies commercialized by increasing licensing activity, creating more venues for knowledge exchange with industry and strengthening the ecosystem to support the creation of start-up ventures founded on URI discoveries.
Prior to coming to the University of Rhode Island, Michael served as Executive Director of the offices at the University of California, Berkeley that were responsible for licensing intellectual property rights and contracting research collaborations with industry partners. He was the founding Director of the Office of Industry Partnerships at Virginia Commonwealth University and an Assistant Director for technology licensing at Columbia University’s technology licensing office, Science and Technology Ventures. Michael has consulted for numerous technology-based start-ups, advising them on research and licensing agreement negotiations with universities.
Michael was a Senior Research Scientist with the Pharmaceutical Division of Bayer, where he led the biology team that discovered the anti-cancer drug, Sorafenib. He has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles and was a Howard Hughes post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, where he conducted research on the regulation of cellular immune responses.
Joe Loberti holds a BS (Computer Electrical Engineering) and MBA from URI (’88,’90) and has over 25 years of experience working in the Entrepreneurial, High Tech and Consumer Environment.
Most recently Joe was a Principal at Navia Business Development, a business development ﬁrm that helps foster growth in startups and early stage ventures. In addition to continuing to work in the business development area, he is the co-owner of a number of business ventures, including Revolution Cycle Works, a bicycle component manufacturer. His prior positions include CEO for Alektrona, a smart grid communications company and in-house senior business development roles for Navia clients.
Joe worked for over 17 years at American Power Conversion (APC) and became a Senior Vice President prior to his departure in 2008. He is also involved as an active investor, mentor and advisor to local businesses. He spends his free time with his family and practicing yoga, cycling and enjoying the outdoors on various runs and hikes around New England.
Board Director, Trustee, and CFO with expertise in international private equity and U.S. banking, as well as commercial real estate development joint ventures, REITs, and mortgage banking. Former CFO of a $23B private equity firm and a dedicated and experienced board member who has served on corporate and non-profit boards in a variety of industries, including software, internet, healthcare, food, investments, and academia. Member of two executive committees, two finance committees, two investment committees, one audit committee (chair), two compensation committees, and several capital campaign committees.
Thorne Sparkman, Managing Director of the Slater Technology Fund, joined Slater in 2000, where he now is responsible for investments in software, new media, and energy-related technologies. He began his career at Time Warner in 1993, where he led the book group’s early efforts in online publishing and commerce on CompuServe and the web and, in 1995, co-founded EScribe Corporation, an online publisher that developed communities for upscale, outdoor enthusiasts. He also was co-founder and CEO of Incubator, Inc., an angel-funded, Internet business incubator in Berkeley, California.
Allan is managing partner of Betaspring, a startup accelerator based in Providence, Rhode Island. Allan has worked with more than 100 high-growth startups and managed a portfolio of companies that has raised more than $40M+ in follow-on funding. As a technology entrepreneur, Allan has founded three venture-funded startups. Allan is an active angel investor in early stage technology companies and advises national, state, and local government on nurturing high-growth startup ecosystems. He is a co-founder and lead partner in the Founders League, a coworking and startup support organization. In 2012, he was named an inaugural Rhode Island Innovation Fellow by the Rhode Island Foundation. Allan is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, with B.S. degrees in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Public Policy.
Annette Tonti is a pioneer in the online advertising and mobile markets. As founder and CEO of 3 high tech startups, including Bluestreak and MoFuse, she has developed and sold early stage businesses and raised over $30M from Venture and Angel investors. Early in her career she delivered digital strategies to Fortune 1000 businesses, ran a global program for the MIT Media Labs, and headed up operations for a global telecommunications consultancy.
She’s a recognized leader at the intersection of technology and business model possibilities. Her strengths include: online advertising and marketing, customer growth, using technology innovation to develop new business models, creating highly motivated teams, and Software as a Service (SaaS) innovations. Annette earned her BS in Biological Sciences and MS in Mathematics & Computer Science at the University of Cincinnati and studied Innovation & Strategy: Lean Startup at Harvard. Annette received the Governor’s IT Achievement Award for Rhode Island in 2000, and was selected as a regional finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the year award for 2002.
Matt is a URI graduate with a Bachelors degree in Computer Electronics Engineering and an MBA with concentrations in entrepreneurship and accounting. He also earned a graduate certificate in information security management from Villanova University.
As a project manager Matt has delivered technology-based initiatives as large as $50M, which started as concept and ended with an operational system. He worked in the financial sector for over 20 years and was a technology consultant during the birth of the commercial internet.
He has served as adjunct professor at Boston University and Johnson & Wales University delivering project management and operations management courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Matt is interested in the maker movement, novel uses of technology and assisting gifted youth to reach their potential.
He enjoys jazz and lives in Saunderstown with wife Kathryn and son Dan.
Melissa Withers is Managing Director of startup accelerator Betaspring. Founded in 2009, Betaspring has accelerated 91 companies and the portfolio has raised $55MM in follow-on funding and produced four exits. In 2015, Melissa was co-founder of RevUp by Betaspring–the first investment and accelerator platform for revenue-first companies. Melissa’s career began at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT, with a unique role developing communications for the Human Genome Project. She was Executive Director and co-founder of the Business Innovation Factory, a leader in the design and testing of business models. With 15+ years experience in strategic communications and public relations, Melissa has also held positions within the public sector, serving as the communications and market development director the the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and the Director of Communications for the Mayor of the City of Providence. Melissa is an experienced startup mentor advising ventures on PR, communications, customer discovery/engagement, marketing, team building, and management. She is also co-founder and director of Founders League, a startup support and co-working community in Providence, R.I. She has a graduate degree from Northeastern University, where she studied science and technical communications.