The Alliance Team

Gene Sykes headshot

Gene Sykes

Chair

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Gene Sykes headshot

Gene Sykes

Chair

Gene is co-chairman of Global Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) and co-chairman of the Global Technology, Media and Telecom Group at Goldman Sachs. He joined the M&A department in New York in 1984 and moved back to Los Angeles in 1987. He became a partner in 1992.

Gene is chair for the Alliance for Southern California Innovation. He serves on the boards of the Pacific Council on International Policy, the Los Angeles 2028 Organizing Committee and Common Sense Media. Between 2015 and 2018, Gene served as the CEO of Los Angeles 2024 and then Los Angeles 2028, the organization responsible for bidding for and organizing the Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Games. Gene is a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees and a member of the Advisory Council of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Gene earned an MBA from Stanford University in 1984 and an AB from Harvard University in 1980.

Paul Roben

Paul Roben

Vice Chair

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Paul Roben

Paul Roben

Vice Chair

Paul Roben, Ph.D., was named Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Commercialization at UC San Diego in June 2015.    Working with the Vice Chancellor for Research, Dr. Roben is transforming the functions provided by the Technology Transfer Office, Industry Research Alliances, and Industry Contracting into an integrated organization to include patenting, strategic corporate research partnering and industry contracts. He oversees the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, which will establish a campus-wide innovation platform to build a systemic and sustainable innovation culture, create a vibrant regional ecosystem, and accelerate the commercialization of UC San Diego inventions.  

Previously he was Senior Director of Office Technology Development at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, working with multiple academic institutes to develop strategic processes to drive innovation alliances, and help translate their research programs into products for patients and society. He guided the formation of multiple new start-up companies and was responsible for the negotiation of a broad spectrum of technology licenses to industry.  

As a key member of Ireland’s Innovation Taskforce (2009 to present), he co-authored a national economic-development plan for Ireland, among other achievements.  

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology, as well as his Ph.D., at Dublin City University in Ireland, and studied as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Greg Silverman at UC San Diego.

Jody Foldsy

Jody Foldesy

Vice Chair

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Jody Foldsy

Jody Foldesy

Vice Chair

Jody Foldesy is a Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in Los Angeles. He is the global lead for BCG’s Corporate Finance practice area and has assisted BCG clients on topics related to corporate, portfolio and growth strategy for the past 14 years. He has helped many clients understand long-term disruptive scenarios as a result of technological, regulatory and societal changes.

Jody holds B.A. in Journalism from American University and an M.B.A. with High Honors from the University of Chicago (Booth) Graduate School of Business. Previous to BCG, Jody worked as a journalist at The Washington Times. He won several awards and broke a variety of major stories while covering the city's #1 sports beat, the Washington Redskins.

Steve Poizner

Steve Poizner

Founder & Board Member

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Steve Poizner

Steve Poizner

Founder & Board Member

Steve Poizner has launched, grown, and sold three tech companies in Silicon Valley; managed a portfolio of a dozen start-ups as an SVP for Qualcomm; worked at the highest levels in state and federal government; and volunteered for a year as a public high school teacher.

A few of his key accomplishments include transforming the mobile phone market by inventing a way to integrate GPS into handsets thereby saving tens of thousands of lives and enabling a new multi-billion-dollar location-based services sector. While working as a White House Fellow, he helped develop a post-9/11 Homeland Security plan for the National Security Council. As the elected CA Insurance Commissioner, he modernized California’s Department of Insurance, resulting in multi-billion dollars in cost savings for consumers. Mr. Poizner was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame in 2014.

Julie Hill headshot

Julie Hill

Vice Chair

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Julie Hill headshot

Julie Hill

Vice Chair

Julie Hill is an experienced international Board member, philanthropist and social activist. Currently serving on Fortune 25 companies Anthem and the Lord Abbett Family of Mutual Funds. She has also served on the Boards of Directors of the global development group Lend Lease Corporation, listed in Sydney, Australia, the US professional services firm Resources Connection, and the US subsidiary of Swiss-based building materials group Holcim.

Julie is active in several not-for-profit and philanthropic endeavors, including the domestic violence agency Human Options, the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, and she is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of California, Irvine. She has won numerous awards, including Director of the Year from the Forum for Corporate Directors and the Elizabeth Dole Glass Ceiling Award from the American Red Cross.

Julie holds a BA in English from UCLA and an MA in Management from the University of Georgia.

Donald Grant

Donald Grant

Special Advisor, Diversity and Equity

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Donald Grant

Donald Grant

Special Advisor, Diversity and Equity

Dr. Donald E. Grant Jr is an equity, diversity, inclusion and impact practitioner and Executive Director of Mindful Training Solutions. Dr Grant has a long history of direct mental health service delivery and administrative oversight for foster care systems, child welfare programs, education systems and homeless mental wellness services. He is an international speaker and workshop facilitator, film and TV consultant and published author.


Andy Wilson headshot

Andy Wilson

Executive Director

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Andy Wilson headshot

Andy Wilson

Executive Director

Andy is a leader in the Southern Californian innovation ecosystem and has started, led or invested in more than two dozen tech start-ups. In addition to leading the Alliance as Executive Director, he serves on the City Council for the City of Pasadena and he is a founder of Innovate Pasadena (www.innovatepasadena.org), which is dedicated to advancing the Eastside of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation center for deep tech.

Previously, as founder of Momentum Ventures, an early stage tech accelerator and venture fund, he personally led more than a half dozen SoCal tech start-ups and invested in almost a dozen others. He previously held senior executive roles (President, SVP Product, CIO, COO) at Overture Services/Yahoo!, RiverOne, Bowne & Co and RR Donnelley & Sons. He has extensive board experience in not-for-profit and community organizations such as Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena Heritage and STEAMCODERS. He is a regular speaker at entrepreneurs’ events and business schools and was named one of the 50 Most Innovative Men in the San Gabriel Valley. Andy holds an engineering degree with honors from Dartmouth College and received his MBA with a concentration in operations and technology management from Harvard Business School.

Sue LaChance headshot

Sue LaChance

Corporate Engagement Lead

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Sue LaChance headshot

Sue LaChance

Corporate Engagement Lead

Sue often describes her career as having a front row seat to the information revolution. Her work has spanned from the early days of information storage & retrieval systems and paid search to cybersecurity and marketing automation. She has enjoyed product leadership roles at many leading Internet companies including Infoseek, Walt Disney Internet Group, Overture, Yahoo!, EarthLink and J2 Global. She has successfully spearheaded several market development initiatives for early-stage start-up companies such as Quiver, Guru.com, FastSoft and Rexter. Her focus on information systems and user experience shifted into marketing and training roles when she created new lead generation and sales enablement programs for Guidance Software’s EnCase product lines. Since then, Sue has held several independent consulting engagements to help companies improve their data operations, brand positioning and customer on-boarding processes. She hopes that her experience working with companies in various stages (from startup to maturity), will benefit the Alliance’s corporate partners to further the SoCal Innovation ecosystem.

Sue earned her Executive MBA from the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University in 2010. She completed a certificate in college teaching through CGU’s PFF program 2020. She also holds a B.A. in History from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Library Studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Vicki Vainshtein headshot

Vicki Vainshtein

Program Manager

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Vicki Vainshtein headshot

Vicki Vainshtein

Program Manager

Vicki is an experienced technology and marketing manager and has been living the start-up life since moving to SoCal in 1996. She has led a number of large technology deployments as well as client installations with top firms like Gibson Dunn, FiServ and Oversee. She enjoys startups and has helped launch both VC-backed tech companies and not for profit organizations including Rexter, Echo-factory and a political campaign.

Vicki is socially active in her community and volunteers regularly at the local elementary school and neighborhood council. She has a degree from the University of San Francisco in Communication Arts with a minor in Philosophy.

Steve Gilison headshot

Steve Gilison

Head of Programs and Operations

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Steve Gilison headshot

Steve Gilison

Head of Programs and Operations

Steve Gilison has over 20 years of hands on experience building, growing and managing tech and media businesses. Steve has held leadership positions in several startups as well as large corporations, most recently at Internet Brands, Inc. where he was the General Manager for a portfolio of web-based Health and Careers businesses targeting the SMB sector. Steve began his career in online advertising and then transitioned to market research and consulting for Jupiter Research (acquired by Forrester Research) and then at Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications practice. Steve holds a B.A. from the University of Maryland and received his MBA with a concentration in entrepreneurship and technology management from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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Katie Cameron

Admin and Development Manager

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Katie Cameron Headshot

Katie Cameron

Admin and Development Manager

Katie caught the start-up bug in 1998 when she and three attorneys founded an Intellectual Property law firm. After the little-law-firm-that-could was sold to the second largest firm in Indianapolis, she went on to help launch Gazelle TechVentures, the first tech-focused venture capital firm in Indiana. Katie not only supported the VC firm itself but took on whatever role was necessary to stoke its portfolio companies as well. The latter task led her to Burbank to fill a variety of roles for UNX, an online brokerage later acquired by Mantara. From there, she moved on to Momentum Venture Management (MVM), a venture fund/accelerator for early stage companies in Southern California, where she became an expert on both the pitfalls and the keys to success for start-ups. After MVM, Katie went on to help launch Rexter, a relationship management software and, most recently, served as interim COO (and later Head of HR and Admin) for Virtualitics, a VR data visualization and analysis platform.

Katie majored in Developmental Psychology at Purdue University/IUPUI with a minor in Business Management.

Gandalf

Gandalf

Chief Inspiration Officer

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Gandalf

Gandalf

Chief Inspiration Officer

Since being rescued by the Wilson family many moons ago, Gandalf has been dedicated to marking his territory in the SoCal innovation ecosystem. His first assignment as the Manager of Food Inspection at Rexter earned him an immediate promotion to Director of Food Consumption. Just a few years later, he pursued a career in politics as a volunteer canvasser, and once successfully winning the contentious campaign, was asked to serve as the Head of Security for Pasadena’s renowned councilman for District 7.

Currently, Gandalf is the Chief Inspiration Officer for the Alliance for SoCal Innovation where he devotes his time to keeping the Executive Director healthy with daily walks. But his most fetching contribution to the Alliance team was the obedience seminar he held only once. The entire staff has been fully trained to provide snacks before entering the office.

Eric Eide headshot

Eric Eide

Director of Ecosystem Development

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Eric Eide headshot

Eric Eide

Director of Ecosystem Development

Eric is a seasoned economic development professional with experience spanning the private sector, federal and municipal government, and academia. Before joining the Alliance, Eric grew the Government Relations team at Bird Rides and expanded electric scooter rental operations domestically and internationally. Previously, Eric served as Director of International Trade for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. In this role, Eric worked to increase international business activity, facilitate the import and export of goods, and attract investment to Los Angeles. Eric also served in the U.S. federal government as an Advisor for Strategic Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State, where he collaborated with U.S.-based entrepreneurs, firms, and universities with interests in South and Central Asia. In a prior role, Eric represented the U.S. Small Business Administration with the startup community and improved the overall performance of a $2.6 billion federal program that funds early stage technology companies.

Eric holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan, where his research focused on innovation ecosystems, industrial policy, and globalization.

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Raychel Espiritu

Venture Outreach Manager

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Raychel Espiritu

Venture Outreach Manager

She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Cal State University, Northridge, and has worked for large corporate brands, small businesses, marketing agencies, and start-ups. She previously taught Digital Marketing at General Assembly and has experience with influencer marketing and tech PR. 

While Director at Toolbox LA, Southern California’s Largest Innovation Lab, she received the California Small-Business of the Year Award in June 2019. Raychel is an enthusiastic, personable, go-getter that specializes in brand awareness, business development, community building, social media, and paid advertising. Meditation is a big part of her personal development and she loves being a connector in the SoCal startup ecosystem.