The Team

Gene Sykes

Gene Sykes, Chairman

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

Gene is chairman 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. 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.

Julie Hill

Julie Hill, Vice Chairman

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.

Steve Poizner

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.

Andy Wilson

Andy Wilson

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 (, 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.

Steve Gilison

Steve Gilison

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.

Eric Eide

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.

Jenn Fernandez

Jenn Fernandez,  Corporate Partnerships and Innovation

Jenn is a highly experienced strategic sales and marketing leader, with a strong background in strategic partnerships, having most recently held senior positions with the IBM cloud computing & digital business groups.  At IBM, she focused her efforts on building the IBM relationship with startups in California, marketing the IBM cloud and working within individual ecosystems to understand the needs of the startups and their partners.  Her past history also includes extensive experience in healthcare/medtech… from sales, sales training, managed care, marketing, advertising and consulting.

Jenn holds a degree in Social Sciences, with an emphasis in Economics from the University of California at Irvine.

Katie Cameron

Katie Cameron, Admin 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.

Vicki Vainshtein

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.