Mayor Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti is a fourth-generation Angeleno and the 42nd Mayor of Los Angeles. Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley — the son of public servants and the grandson and great-grandson of immigrants from Mexico and Eastern Europe — Mayor Garcetti’s life has been shaped by a deep commitment to the core values of justice, dignity, and equality for all people.

These ideals have fueled the Mayor’s relentless drive to fulfill our common obligation: to give children and families of every race, faith, background, and income the chance to get a good education, live on safe streets, earn a decent wage, breathe clean air and drink clean water, receive affordable medical and child care, and build a future of their own choosing.

Angelenos are experiencing the remarkable results of his vision and leadership: the Mayor led and won a campaign to pass the boldest local infrastructure initiative in American history, funding a once-in-a-generation expansion of public transportation. He launched the L.A. College Promise, the most ambitious higher education access program in the nation — serving more than 4,000 students, many of whom are overcoming poverty and are the first in their families to pursue the dream of higher education. He is confronting a homelessness crisis by leading an unprecedented regional alliance committed to getting people off the streets and ending chronic homelessness. He put more money in workers’ pockets by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and cut business taxes to help drive a historic economic recovery that has created a record number of jobs in legacy industries like entertainment and aerospace. And in 2018, he formed a historic partnership with the philanthropic sector to refurbish nearly 350 athletic courts across the city — to support his plan for universal sports and fitness programs that are both free and local for all children in Los Angeles.

The Mayor’s leadership is making an extraordinary impact on the national and international stages: he rallied more than 400 mayors in cities across America to adopt the Paris Climate agreement after the Trump Administration pulled out of the pact. He led the first National Day of Action on Immigration, and has put unprecedented local resources toward providing Dreamers and others with legal aid to fight deportation. He signed America’s strongest earthquake retrofit law to protect thousands of people’s lives from natural disaster. And he successfully led the bid to bring the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to the United States for the first time in more than 30 years. He has lived and worked in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and was the first Mayor in the United States to appoint a Deputy Mayor for International Affairs to coordinate trade policy and attract new opportunities for global investment.

While Mayor Garcetti has taken on these enormous challenges, he has also reimagined how city government delivers the most basic services. Since July 2013, L.A. has paved 10,754 miles of road; cut the average pothole repair time by half; implemented a $1.4 billion plan to repair every sidewalk in every community, and greatly expanded the number of trees in neighborhoods across the city. He created Clean Streets L.A. — a block-by-block assessment of 9,100 miles of streets that identifies neighborhoods with the most needs, and prioritizes delivery of resources. Under his leadership, L.A. has been rated the nation’s best-run city by the Bloomberg What Works Cities initiative and become the number-one solar energy city in America.

The Mayor’s government service began on the L.A. City Council, where he spent four terms as Council President before being elected Mayor in 2013 and winning re-election in 2017 by the widest margin in the history of Los Angeles.

Beyond his time at City Hall, Mayor Garcetti has served his country as an intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve, and taught at the University of Southern California and Occidental College.

The Mayor received his B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University, and studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and later at the London School of Economics. He is also a jazz pianist and photographer.

He and his wife, First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland, are the proud parents of a daughter, Maya, and have been foster parents for more than a decade.

Matt Barnes

NBA Champion Matt Barnes is an investor and entrepreneur. The Sacramento, California, native lends his voice in support of social justice and education via an array of initiatives, and runs a foundation that raises money for cancer patients.

Mark Ridley-Thomas

Since he was overwhelmingly elected in 2008, and reelected in 2012 and 2016 to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Mark Ridley-Thomas has distinguished himself as an effective leader for more than two million Second District residents. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission and LA Care, the nation’s largest publicly operated health plan.

Prior to his election to the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas served the 26th District in the California State Senate, where he chaired the Senate’s Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. While in the Senate, he served as Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus in 2008 and led the Caucus in unprecedented levels of cooperation and collaboration with counterparts in the Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucuses.

Mark Ridley-Thomas was first elected to public office in 1991 and served with distinction on the Los Angeles City Council for nearly a dozen years, departing as Council President pro Tempore. He later served two terms in the California State Assembly, where he chaired the Jobs, Economic Development, and Economy Committee and served the Assembly Democratic Caucus. His legislative work addressed a broad range of issues with implications for economic and workforce development, health care, public safety, education, budget accountability, consumer protection and civic participation.

He is widely regarded as the foremost advocate of neighborhood participation in government decision-making by virtue of his founding of the Empowerment Congress, arguably the region’s most successful 26-year initiative in neighborhood-based civic engagement. Ridley-Thomas’ political career was preceded by a decade of service as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (1981-1991).

The Supervisor graduated from Manual Arts High School (Class of 1972) and then earned BA and MA degrees along with secondary and adult education credentials from Immaculate Heart College. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas went on to receive his Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California focusing on Social Criticism and Social Change.

He is married to Avis Ridley-Thomas, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles. They are the proud parents of Sinclair and Sebastian, both Morehouse Men. Sinclair earned an MBA degree at USC’s Marshall School of Business, works in the investment banking industry, and resides in San Francisco with his wife Shaunicie, an attorney, and 1-year old son Duke Flynn. Sebastian formerly represented California’s Fifty-forth Assembly District (12/05/13-12/31/17). He will now turn his attention to political empowerment, millennial civic engagement, and training a new generation of leaders throughout the state of California as Chief Strategist for the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation Project beginning in March of this year.

Derek Smith

Derek Smith is the founder of Plug In South Los Angeles and Talk presents, a digital media think tank focused on addressing emerging opportunities shaping the intersection between Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley. In addition, he is a marketing and business development evangelist and branding expert by trade, Derek has worked with many leading global brands.

With a primary focus on digital media trends, he has developed a keen understanding of the complex relationship that exists between advertisers and brands. Derek has consulted and worked with some of the world’s most prominent brands, among whose number are SAB Miller Breweries, NBA, Microsoft Advertising, Nestle, UNCF, United Way of New York City, Dove, and Ritz Crackers.

Throughout his career, Derek has held a number of key positions, including that of business development director, brand strategist at Young and Rubicam and Wunderman. He enjoys good food, family fun and short distance trips with his four and six year old.  Derek received his B.S. from Morehouse College in Atlanta and his M.S. from the London School of Economics. He is also a former board member at Sustainable South Bronx.

Iddris Sandu

The​ ​cultivation​ ​of​ ​one’s​ ​gift​ ​is​ ​paramount​ ​to​ ​the​ ​foundation​ ​of​ ​success.​ ​From learning​ ​​Java at​ ​the​ ​age​ ​of​ ​10​ ​to​ ​developing​ ​the​ ​first​ ​Smart​ ​Store​ ​using​ ​advanced imaging​ ​processing​ ​systems,​ ​the​ ​award-winning​ ​innovator,​ ​​Iddris​ ​Sandu​​ ​is one​ ​example​ ​of​ ​the​ ​power​ ​of​ ​nurturing​ ​a​ ​child’s​ ​talents.

Iddris​​ ​was​ ​born​ ​and​ ​raised​ ​in​ ​Harbor​ ​City,​ ​California​ ​with​ ​parents​ ​from​ ​Ghana, West​ ​Africa.​ ​His​ ​love​ ​for​ ​engineering​ ​systems​ ​and​ ​software​ ​development​ ​stems​ ​from the​ ​societal​ ​structure​ ​and​ ​ecosystems​ ​of​ ​both​ ​continents.​ ​With​ ​the​ ​presence​ ​of​ ​bullying engraved​ ​into​ ​the​ ​fabric​ ​of​ ​his​ ​high​ ​school,​ ​​Iddris​​ ​began​ ​to​ ​explore​ ​a​ ​section​ ​of​ ​the library​ ​that​ ​ultimately​ ​sparked​ ​the​ ​creation​ ​of​ ​an​ ​app​ ​with​ ​turn-by-turn​ ​directions​ ​to​ ​any classroom​ ​on​ ​campus​ ​to​ ​help​ ​remedy​ ​the​ ​issue. He​ ​was​ ​​16​ ​years​ ​old.

Now​ ​​at​ ​the​ ​age​ ​of​ ​20,​​ ​​Iddris​ ​​has​ ​built​ ​a​ ​resume​ ​working​ ​with​ ​various​ ​companies, artists​ ​and​ ​professionals​ ​implementing​ ​his​ ​“future-proof”​ ​like​ ​qualities​ ​into​ ​his​ ​projects. The​ ​Wireless​ ​Charging​ ​Table,​ ​Lifestyle​ ​One​ ​Wearable,​ ​Project​ ​ACDI,​ ​Uber​ ​Self-Driving Cars,​ ​Kera​ ​(a​ ​new​ ​intelligent​ ​personal​ ​assistance​ ​system),​ ​Artificial​ ​Intelligence,​ ​Iris Scan​ ​Technology,​ ​AIPE​ ​(Advanced​ ​Imaging​ ​Processing​ ​Experience)​ ​and​ ​C-Space​ ​to name​ ​a​ ​few​ ​are​ ​some​ ​of​ ​his​ ​personal​ ​favorites.

Iddris​​ ​has​ ​created​ ​a​ ​niche​ ​for​ ​developing​ ​apps​ ​and​ ​futuristic​ ​technologies​ ​while keeping​ ​their​ ​potential​ ​implications​ ​in​ ​mind.​ ​With​ ​an​ ​audience​ ​base​ ​consisting​ ​of millennials​ ​and​ ​GenXers,​ ​his​ ​adaptive​ ​communication​ ​skills​ ​and​ ​demonstrations​ ​are reflective​ ​of​ ​placing​ ​our​ ​world’s’​ ​problems​ ​into​ ​perspective​ ​and​ ​providing​ ​solutions.

The​ ​young​ ​mogul​ ​has​ ​high​ ​aspirations​ ​for​ ​advocating​ ​and​ ​serving​ ​as​ ​the​ ​future and​ ​face​ ​of​ ​a​ ​new​ ​generation.​Iddris​​ ​has​ ​a​ ​140​ ​IQ​ ​that​ ​places​ ​him​ ​amongst​ ​the​ ​top ranks​ ​of​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​greatest​ ​minds.​ ​“He’s​ ​revolutionizing​ ​the​ ​way​ ​technology​ ​is created​ ​and​ ​used.”​ ​-​ ​says​ ​​Will.I.Am.

Despite​ ​the​ ​challenges​ ​he’s​ ​faced​ ​with,​​ ​Iddris​​ ​has​ ​never​ ​let​ ​the​ ​weight​ ​of unfortunate​ ​events​ ​deter​ ​him.​ ​In​ ​fact,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​his​ ​belief​ ​in​ ​God​ ​and​ ​his​ ​motto,​ ​“Implicated knowledge​ ​is​ ​true​ ​power”​ ​which​ ​has​ ​and​ ​contributes​ ​to​ ​propel​ ​him​ ​forward.

Tanya Leal Soto

VR Producer Tanya Leal Soto is a Creative Producer, Storyteller and Content Creator for multiple platforms. She has worked in theatre, film, TV and art exhibits for the last 15 years. Currently she is producing branded content and experimenting with emerging technologies. Most Recently, Tanya was selected to be apart of the Oculus Launchpad 2016, which is a program to support promising VR creators. (Via

Sky Kelley

Sky Kelley is the founder & CEO of Avisare, an enterprise software marketplace simplifying the government RFP process to foster an inclusive ecosystem for small businesses. Avisare is a Techstars company and is Sky’s second venture-funded technology start-up. Previously, she was Director of New Product Strategy at Disney and ESPN Media Networks where she created and launched multiplatform products across the Disney, ABC, ABC Family and ESPN brands. Prior to that, she served as Director of Business Development for Emerging Media Products at AT&T.  Sky also co-founded America’s Minority Health Network, which went public after a $5 million Series A round and was acquired in 2011.   She began her career on Wall Street at UBS Investment Bank where she worked in both New York and London.  Sky sits on the board of the LA Cleantech Incubator Diversity & Inclusion Committee as well as being a part of the Milken Institute’s Partnership for Lending in Underserved Markets (PLUM) Task Force.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied Entrepreneurship and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Tracy Gray

Ms. Gray is the Founder & Managing Partner of The 22 Fund, an impact, growth venture capital firm with a job creation mission and investment strategy to increase the export capacity of Southern California manufacturing companies, targeting women- and minority-owned businesses. She is also an Executive in Residence at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) and chairs LACI’s Diversity in Entrepreneurship Advisory Council. In addition, Ms. Gray is the founder of the non-profit We Are Enough (WAE). WAE’s only mission is to educate ALL women on how and why to invest in women-owned, for-profit businesses or with a “gender lens.” Ms. Gray was named one of the 50 “Women of Influence” in business in Los Angeles and is featured in the recently released book “200 Hundred Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World”.

Ms. Gray was formerly Senior Advisor to the LA Mayor, an investment professional at a venture capital fund and a systems engineer on the Space Shuttle program. Ms. Gray holds a B.S. in Mathematical Science with an aeronautics emphasis from the UC Santa Barbara and dual MBAs from Columbia University and UC, Berkeley.

Marlon Nichols

Marlon Nichols is a founding managing partner at Cross Culture Ventures (CCV), where he leads CCV in identifying game-changing entrepreneurs who are creating next-generation companies. Marlon draws from his unique and impressive professional background to drive CCV’s focus on using global trends and shifts in consumer behavior to capture high-potential investments. Prior to co-founding CCV, Marlon was an investment director at Intel Capital where he completed his Kauffman Fellowship. He also has led successful careers in enterprise software and strategy consulting in the technology, private equity, media and entertainment sectors. As a former professional athlete, Marlon takes a team-oriented approach to working closely with CEOs in the areas of operations and business model development to build tomorrow’s most innovative and notable enterprises. He engages a diverse network of creatives, entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 executives, and sports professionals  to develop strategic partnerships and promote brand expansion for CCV’s portfolio. Marlon’s portfolio demonstrates his leadership in “cultural investing” with companies such as Gimlet Media, MongoDB, Thrive Market,, LISNR, Mayvenn, Blavity, Wonderschool, and dozens of other transformational companies that reflect our increasingly connected world and overlooked markets.

Marlon is the recipient of MVMT50’s SXSW 2018 Innovator of the Year award and Digital Diversity’s Innovation & Inclusion Change Agent award. He has been recognized as one of Pitchbook’s 25 Black Founders and VCs to Watch in 2018 and Urbangeekz’s 20 Diverse Influencers to Watch in 2018. He is a TechWeek 100 winner and is listed as one of Silicon Republic’s 26 venture capital professionals spearheading change in technology investing. Some of Marlon’s other awards and recognition include Pitchbook’s 28 Black founders/investors making an impact in technology, theRegistry’s 40 under 40 Top Diverse Talent, and recognition among music, film and technology icons as a Culture Creator.

Marlon earned his Bachelor of Science in MIS from Northeastern University and an MBA from Cornell University. He is regularly featured as a keynote speaker and appears in media as a thought leader in investing and cultural trends. Marlon currently serves on the board of directors for private companies LISNR, mSurvey, Ready Responders, Shottracker and Wonderschool, and has been featured in a number of magazines, including Fortune, Blavity, and Black Enterprise magazine.

Anna Barber

Anna Barber is the Managing Director of Techstars LA, an accelerator program that invests in ten local startups each year. Early in her career she worked as a corporate lawyer, strategy consultant and employee at several tech companies in San Francisco. In 2006 Anna sat next to a woman on an airplane who had a great idea for a business and they became business partners in a startup, Scribble Press. During the past decade she has served as an advisor, strategy consultant and coach to many other entrepreneurs, with a focus on product roadmap, commercialization, business development and raising money.

Anna believes in the ability of small groups of people to change things, the power of storytelling, the business case for diversity and inclusion, and creating harmony between personal and work goals. Find her @annawbarber.

Keith Coleman

Keith Coleman is Chief Strategy Officer at the Tesla Foundation, a science and technology think tank focused on all things autonomous. An entrepreneur and activist in the field of governmental affairs, Keith’s role drives strategy that examines the collaborative nexus between policy and innovation.

He shapes creative solutions to complex legislative and business issues in Automation, Media, Technology Commercialization, STEAM Education and Workforce Development. He serves as: LA County representative on the Executive Council for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership of Southern California (AMP SoCal): a U.S. Department of Commerce – Aerospace and Defense Supply Chain initiative co-led by the City of Los Angeles + USC Center for Economic Development; a member of a statewide Automation Advisory Council focusing on nine colleges in Orange County aligning multiple career pathways with automation jobs; a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Intercultural Equity and Excellence Committee. He is a speaker to government agencies, private industry, academia, startups and non-profits.

Keith received a BA in Economics from Stanford University and studied at Stanford-in-Oxford/Magdalen College. He is a member of Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs (SA&E). He completed graduate level studies at the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate (SPIRE Program). Mr. Coleman resides in Santa Monica with his wife and two sons.

Oscar Menjivar

Oscar Menjivar is a social entrepreneur, leading and developing new programs for low-income communities in Los Angeles. Oscar is a dedicated individual and devotes much of this time to bettering his community. Oscar founded TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, a nonprofit organization that provides a program to help inner-city youth develop leadership, coding, and entrepreneurial skills through the use of technology.

TXT is revolutionizing the way teens use and learn about technology in the inner city. In 2016, Oscar Menjivar presented at the White House’s South By South Lawn event, earning recognition from President Obama. He was also a featured presenter at the 2017 SXSWedu Festival.

As a young man, Oscar was intrigued by computers and decided to attend a magnet high school for its technology program. However, to his surprise, not much technology existed on campus in 1996, and the most effective organizations in recruiting young men were gangs. Oscar saw one of his best friends fall victim to gangs and pledged that he would help create a program that would inspire at-risk youth to become leaders that impact their communities in a positive way. His experiences inspired him to start TXT in 2009.

Oscar received his Master’s degree from Pepperdine in Learning Technology and his Bachelor’s in Science in Computer Information Systems. He formerly served as Educational Technology Consultant for The Riordan Foundation (TRF). At TRF, he advised school executives on how to implement technology in the classroom and developed technology curriculum for Green Dot Animo Pat Brown High School. He also served as a multimedia arts and leadership consultant for the USC Upward Bound Math/Science Program. During his tenure at USC, he successfully implemented a leadership and digital arts course for youth in Los Angeles. The digital arts course produced winners for international and national website competitions.

Oscar has run a successful consulting business for over four years. He worked as a technology consultant for Small Businesses in the Los Angeles County. As a small business consultant, Oscar guided over 100 small business owners with business planning and budgeting. In 2004, Oscar joined the Long Beach YMCA Youth Institute as Multimedia Technology Program Coordinator. Oscar learned how to start and run a successful social enterprise at the Youth Institute.

Cassie Betts

Cassie Betts is CEO/Founder of the fashion-tech company District2.Co out of Silicon Beach. District2, is a virtual garment district that helps the apparel manufacturing industry reinvent and redefine the global supply chain in such a way that will empower “the little guy”, while simultaneously striving to reduce carbon footprint impact and increase sustainable practices. It is a B2B platform that connects designers with factories.

She is also the Director of Tech Learning for Black Women in Tech. She was a homeless teen who worked her way up the Apparel Industry’s corporate ladder to a six figure salary. District2.Co was founded in 2013, has won awards and accolades, and is revenue generating with a valuation of $3M. Cassie learned to code at age 9, but went into the apparel industry where there is very little coding applied. She started a youth initiative in South Central called MISLA or Made In South LA, to introduce at-risk youth to entrepreneurialism, coding and digital literacy. MISLA has now evolved to an Urban Economic Accelerator. Operating with an “Each One Teach One” approach, underrepresented minorities are trained in web development and software engineering while volunteering with local non-profits to train youth to code.

Cassie is currently taking advanced coding courses at Code District in order to empower herself as a tech CEO and teach youth to code. She is a single mother of two, who in her spare time enjoys hiking, boxing and teaching her boys to be gentlemen.

Brett Dulan

Brett Dulan is a Lead Software Engineer specializing in Artificial Intelligence and Infrastructure at the consulting firm Accenture. There he leads engineering teams to build scalable architectures for Media and Entertainment clients. His software specifically focuses on Machine Learning and Deep Learning data analysis and data pipelines that transform customer usage information into useful and actionable business metrics. These platforms have been implemented in multiple reputable media as well as energy companies who have now seen up to $15 million in additional revenue per year.

In addition to Accenture, he is the technical co-founder of a startup Seek Software Inc. aiming to commercialize and democratize health care and patient information, giving the knowledge-power back to the individual. He developed the application to adapt to the technical anachronisms in the health care industry. The software is currently in beta and is going to market in July.

Brett’s interests also include music, where he has produced and engineered orchestral tracks for games and films. He aims to marry his two interests of software and media in the near future. He is building an AI music composer assistant to help artists in their creative process.

Brett is a Los Angeles native who grew up around entrepreneurs and business-people. His family owns the Dulan’s Restaurant chain in the Crenshaw and Inglewood area, so he is community-focused and driven to help many underserved communities.

Brian Martinez

Brian Martinez is a Sales, Operations, and Growth Specialist. He joined Airbnb in 2015 as part of a special ops team that focused on turning around Airbnb’s toughest markets. Today, he is part of Airbnb’s Host Growth Team, where he leads Airbnb’s Referral and Field Sales efforts around the globe, placing him in charge of Airbnb’s most effective scaled-growth tactic. Brian is a serial entrepreneur who has helped multiple companies reach funding. In 2013, he co-founded 3D printing materials company MadeSolid, scaling the venture to 15-employees and a customer base in 40+ countries. Prior to MadeSolid, Brian ran EdTech startup Tioki (formerly DemoLesson) that connected thousands of education professionals around the globe. Tioki was backed by Kapor Capital and 500 Startups. Brian is a UC Santa Barbara graduate (2009), a Y Combinator alumnus (Winter ’14), and a UCLA Anderson Riordan MBA Fellow (2011). He has an obsession with effective leadership and devout customer development. Away from work, Brian is a self-taught guitarist, triathlete, and rock climber enthusiast.

Lori Schwartz

Lori H. Schwartz is a well known industry curator, host and moderator. She is a CNN Tech contributor and sits on the board of the Television Academy for the interactive media peer group. Her company StoryTech is responsible for curation at NAB, ADTECH, IMEDIA amongst others and is well known for leading VIP executive tours at CES, NAB and InfoComm. Lori has served as Chief Technology Catalyst for McCann Workgroup and was one of the principals that created and ran the highly respected Interpublic Media Lab. She has also served as Vice Chair of the Producers Guild Of American New Media Council and has been named one of the “30 Executives Shaping the Evolution of Media and Technology” by Variety.

Brian Everitt

Brian Everitt is the Founder and CEO of Creative Spoons, a tech start up with a mission to provide a suite of tech and creative services to small and medium sized businesses struggling to keep up with the rapid growth technology. He does this through designing and developing user-centered websites and mobile apps as well creating multi-media content, generating online traffic and increasing revenue for his clients.

After being turned down by several companies unwilling to hire him as a full-time front-end engineer despite his proven experience. Brian decided to build and open his own door, and to hire people who are facing the same challenges as he did when entering the tech industry. He didn’t wait for diversity, he created it.

Now that he has established himself in the tech industry, he is dedicated to building a tech ecosystem in South Los Angeles to create jobs that are inclusive to the underrepresented community. He simply wants to revolutionize South Los Angeles through the implementation of tech, creativity, and community. It is his personal goal to bring diversity and inclusion into the tech industry starting with our untapped talent here in the underrepresented communities of South Los Angeles.

“Without people from different backgrounds, the tech industry is ill-equipped to address the needs of a diverse population”.

In addition, Brian Everitt is the founder of the non-profit called Great Minds STEM Society (GMSS). The mission of his non-profit is to transform the minds of youth, living in underrepresented communities, through the integrated curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Giving youth in Los Angeles the foundation to succeed, the guidance to innovate, and the structure to build.

Through stimulating firsthand instruction, students will learn how to design, develop, and code web and mobile applications.

Brian felt that it is unfair for students of color to constantly hear about the school to prison pipeline. And if we didn’t stay on the right path we would end up dead or in jail. He wanted to change this conversation and so he did by building his own pipeline. He founded the nonprofit to provide underrepresented students with the opportunity to pursue a STEM field and he established a corporation that will be available and willing to hire them upon completion of college. The best part about all of this is the fact that Brian is establishing both his organization right here in South Central Los Angeles, the same community he was born and raised in.

Chris Denson

Chris Denson is an award-winning innovator, marketer, recovering comedian, and host of the Innovation Crush interview series, with over 200 episodes and 700,000 subscribers around the world. Having been a guest speaker, curator, and attendee at 100’s of industry events, Chris is an expert at uncovering the best thinking and commonalities across a diverse array of cultures. Applying his expertise to the likes of The White House, Google Launchpad, C2: Montreal, and Omnicom Media Group, his work has been featured in Adweek, Forbes, the New York Times, and Inc., to name a few.

As an industry taste-maker, he currently serves as Director of Omnicom Media Group’s Ignition Factory, the key group responsible for emerging innovations across media, technology, and culture for Fortune 50 clients including Warner Bros, Wells Fargo, The CW, Hilton, Asics and more.

With an early background steeped in stand-up comedy, screenwriting, and production, Chris conceived Innovation Crush in 2013, launching the series in 2014 alongside Levity Entertainment Group. Prior to his work in innovation, Chris worked in front of – and behind the camera for Paramount, BET, Playboy Television, Machinima, the American Film Institute’s Digital Content Lab, and more. He has also been a featured speaker and curator at numerous events around the world from The White House Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Innovate Finance Global Summit, and SXSW.

He is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds a degree in packaging engineering.

Jonathan Williams

Jonathan Williams is the founder of VRX, a creative studio focusing on virtual reality, art and culture.  As a  recipient of the Oculus launch pad scholarship, he has been focusing his efforts on creating experiences that both push the boundaries of virtual reality and combine different artistic mediums.

Before devoting his work full time to VRX, Jonathan served the community as a Project Manager for the Boy Scouts of America and worked as a freelance editor for other non-profits.

Andy Kleinman

Andy Kleinman, Chief Business Officer at Scopely, has a deep understanding of the gaming industry and has founded or held senior roles at a variety of top gaming companies during their height.

Prior to joining Scopely, Andy served as an advisor to the company as well as other early stage startups including Radical Studios, Urbita, Ideame, Tactivos, Fanwards and others.

Before this, Andy was general manager for Latin America at Zynga, focusing on the company’s International growth, business strategy, and monetization efforts.

Andy was VP of business development at Three Melons, a gaming studio that was later acquired by Playdom, which is now part of The Walt Disney Company. While there, he led business operations for the company and oversaw their hit social game, Bola.

Andy co-founded Vostu, one of the largest social gaming companies in the world, and Emepe3, the first and one of the largest online music websites in Spanish, which was sold to an international media company.

Andy has always had a passion for the film industry, and through his production company, Massive, advises, produces and invests in films. Andy has produced projects in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Miami, Austin and Los Angeles, and combines his producing experience with new media.

Carolina Huaranca Mendoza

Carolina Huaranca Mendoza joined Kapor Capital in 2016 and focuses on identifying early-stage investments and partnering with entrepreneurs to grow their companies. She is particularly interested in investments in future work, urban tech, and education. Prior to becoming Principal, she was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Kapor Center for Social Impact (KCSI) working on a tech platform for teacher professional development.

Carolina began her technology career as a Sales & Marketing Manager at SchoolNet; which was sold to Pearson for $230MM. In 2012, she founded Spriggle, a marketplace that helped parents identify science and math inspired products for children ages 3-9.

Carolina is a graduate of Cornell University and was awarded the Konologie MBA Fellowship at The Wharton School. As a woman and first-generation Peruvian-American hailing from Long Island, Carolina is passionate about ensuring that people from all backgrounds know how to navigate getting access to capital and advice. Based on her experience serving as the founding National Director of Girls Who Code Clubs, where she launched 186 Clubs serving approximately 2,000 girls, she is extremely passionate about working to close the gender gap in technology and mentors young women technologists.

Carolina has been recognized by Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) as a Latino Leader and a Cosmo Latina Fun, and Fearless Award Winner alongside Jessica Alba. She has also been featured in TechCrunch, CNN Money, Univision, SF Chronicle, USA Today, and Latina Magazine.

Eric Reed

Mr. Eric Reed has been President of Southwest Region at Verizon Wireless Inc since January 2015. Mr. Reed is responsible for Verizon Wireless ‘s sales, operations, financial performance and customer relations in Arizona, New Mexico, El Paso, Las Vegas, and the southern Utah markets of St. George and Cedar City. Mr. Reed serves as Executive Director of Verizon’s Hawaii market. He has worked for Verizon since 2002 where he served as national Account Manager in Southern California. He served as Director of Business Sales of Verizon since 2009.

D’Ontra Hughes

Fin-tech entrepreneur with experience in a variety of industry competencies including: operations, finance, and business development. Driven by the world of innovation and a main focus on disrupting current business models. Has a strong desire to lead a fortune 500 company before he hits the wise age of 40.

Lori Pressley-Mitchell

Black Women in Technology was created as a meetup group in late 2014 by Lori. New to Los Angeles and a self-described tech enthusiast, she attended technology events around the city. Much to her surprise, she noticed most of the events were not well attended by Black Women.

She asked several women of color why and found one nagging reason – they didn’t know the event was taking place. Lori began to post technology and technology related events held in Los Angeles and surrounding areas to BWiT’s Meetup page. The postings allowed members the support of knowing someone else, like them, would also be attend. Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. The group now boasts more than 400 Black Women, ranging in ages from 20 to 67, dedicated to learning our past in tech and becoming the future of tech. Lori’s goal for BWiT is to provide a cohesive platform for African-American and other women to develop relationships, receive recognition, network and learn. Black Women in Technology is dedicated to encouraging women to enter and stay in technology while encouraging startups and businesses founded by women of color. In 2015, Lori became one of two Community Leaders for the Anita Borg Institute’s dotLocal initiative. The ABI.LA (ABIdotLA) group’s launch was held at Google in October 2015. She also attended her first GHC conference last year with the ABI.Local team. Lori has also had the opportunity to judge a hackathon and present on a few panels around Los Angeles. Lori Pressley-Mitchell, BS, RRT has worked in technology since 1996. Self-taught to function as a system analyst in 1996 while a Respiratory Therapist, she eventually returned to school to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems from Pennsylvania State University (2002). She enjoys working in healthcare IT and is currently the Director of IT for a behavioral health company.

Sarah Koch

Sarah joined the Case Foundation 2012 as part of the Social Innovation team. With a background in developing and marketing online tools for nonprofits with, Sarah jumped right into the launch of Be Fearless and the Finding Fearless campaign to identify fearless changemakers around the nation. As Vice President of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation, Sarah leads the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, which works to create the opportunity for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color to grow and scale their businesses. Sarah also heads up the Foundation’s Be Fearless campaign to encourage more innovation and risk taking in the nonprofit sector. Sarah has a particular interest in issues such as technology for social good and prizes and challenges.

Previously, Sarah worked in Nonprofit Services at and in health education at La Clinica del Pueblo in Washington DC. Originally from Wisconsin, Sarah earned a bachelor of arts in sociology and Spanish from Luther College. She has spent time working with Latin American immigrants to the United States, particularly in the areas of culturally competent education and healthcare.

Travis Williams

Travis Williams is a Sr. Enterprise Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services. He has vast experience driving technical business strategies and architecting, building, and delivering enterprise business applications to some of the worlds largest companies. He has traveled the world working with large-scale enterprises across various industries such as banking, biotech, fashion, entertainment, gaming and media companies to name a few. Travis is a technical leader with experience working with C-level executives and engineers alike. He brings to the table top-tier tech industry experience from his nearly 20 years in the industry.

Travis is working to bring his expansive expertise to underserved community businesses to help develop technical solutions that allow businesses to scale and reach customers effectively. He believes the cloud is a game-changing technology platform and that it can play a vital role in helping to overcome the historic challenges faced by minority entrepreneurs, and rewrite the rules for emerging businesses.


Chamillionaire is a Grammy award-winning musician who is hailed around the world for his platinum-selling album, The Sound of Revenge, which spawned the multi-platinum single “Ridin’ Dirty.” More than a decade of success in the music industry has provided him with the entrepreneurial skills and business savvy that paved the way for his ascension into the tech industry.

He was previously an Entrepreneur in Residence at Upfront Ventures, one of the largest early-stage investment firms in Southern California, and now he is the founder and CEO of Convoz, a mobile video start-up focused on connecting people across the world through face-to-face conversations.

He has invested in more than a dozen tech companies including Maker Studios (acquired by Disney), Cruise (acquired by GM), and Lyft, and he also advises a number of high profile entertainers and athletes on their tech investments. Chamillionaire wants to lead by example, and hopes to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to believe they have the power to bring positive change and disruption to the world.

Amy DuBois Barnett

Amy DuBois Barnett
Chief Content Officer, TheGrio

An award-winning content and branding expert, Amy DuBois Barnett has held senior leadership roles at ESPN, Ebony, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen People, Essence and Honey magazine. She is currently the Chief Content Officer for TheGrio, a leading digiral media brand that serves the African-American audience. She is also EVP, Digital for Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, TheGrio’s parent company. In addition, Barnett is the author of an empowering advice book for women, Get Yours! How To Have Everything You Ever Dreamed Of And More (Doubleday/Broadway Books).

Prior to Entertainment Studios, Barnett was recruited by ESPN to lead the development and launch of a new digital brand focusing on multimedia content for a millennial audience.
Before ESPN, Barnett was the Editor-in-Chief of Ebony, (audience of over 10 million). At Ebony, Barnett executed the publication’s first top-to-bottom redesign in its 68-year history to critical acclaim. She also introduced key revenue-generating editorial franchises as well as groundbreaking editorial packages, including “Saving Our Sons,” which led to a partnership with the White House on a series of public town hall events. In addition, Barnett re-conceived and re-launched and developed a cross-platform marketing strategy for the brand.

In 2011, Ebony’s achieved rate base grew by 11{5be84514e8f68b2a600bba95dc743ad17e8b7c13eea9b1550b2859fef5fde271}, and Ad Age listed Ebony as one of the 25 fastest growing magazines in the country based on circulation. Since re-launch,’s unique visitors have grown by over 800{5be84514e8f68b2a600bba95dc743ad17e8b7c13eea9b1550b2859fef5fde271}. Ebony won a record-breaking eight Salute to Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists in 2012. Ad Age listed Ebony as a 2012 Magazine Brand to Watch and minOnline listed Ebony as one of the top five advertising gainers in the industry for the June 2012 issue. Barnett was named the 2012 Media Executive of the Year by Target Market News. In 2013, she was included on the Folio 100, a list that honors the most innovative and influential professionals in the media industry.
Prior to Ebony, Barnett was the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar where she managed both the print and digital editorial teams, and helped re-launch the brand’s digital platform. Barnett was also the Editor of Teen People, the teen version of People Magazine. With Barnett’s editorial redesign, Teen People grew to lead the teen category in audience (14 million) and reader satisfaction scores increased to their highest levels since the publication’s launch. Her groundbreaking redesign of made it the first media website to incorporate video into its regular content.

Before Teen People, Barnett served as Editor-in-Chief of Honey magazine (targeting urban millennial women) where she oversaw a major redesign of the magazine that doubled its rate base and generated national buzz for the previously unknown brand. She also launched and integrated the brand’s online and print content. Prior to Honey, Barnett was with Essence magazine, heading up the publication’s style content and lifestyle department. She was also a founding editor of the first comprehensive luxury style website,, and its sister magazine, Fashion Almanac.

Barnett has appeared weekly as an on-air correspondent for CNN’s American Morning and has been featured on many national television shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Katie Show, Nightline, and on various programs on MSNBC, VH1, MTV and BET.

A Brown University graduate, Barnett also has an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a certificate in Fashion Merchandising from Parson’s School of Design. In 2014, she served as an Adjunct Professor of Management & Organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where she taught a class on digital media and marketing. She is also a professional public speaker and a published fiction author whose work has appeared in various journals and anthologies.
For her pioneering work as a journalist, cultural expert and writer, Barnett received the Trailblazer Award from the New York Association of Black Journalists, an Aldo award for fashion journalism from the Fashion Association, and a Hurston/Wright award for creative writing. Barnett was on the board of the American Society of Magazine Editors for three terms, and is a current member of the Communications Coordinating Committee of the American Heart Association and the Brown University Media Relations Advisory Council.
Barnett has lived in 12 cities on three continents and is fluent in French. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her eleven-year-old son, Max.

Pete Mauro

Pete Mauro develops and launches innovative products that connect people in ways that nobody imagined before.

At Drone Squad, Mauro is building the worlds first immersive augmented reality robotic gaming platform. At Microsoft, he partnered with Fortune 500 companies to envision and prototype holographic computing solutions. At Nokia, Mauro developed a location-based AR gaming platform with Dreamworks that used live mapping, traffic, weather, POI and check-in data to transform the real world around players into the medieval world of How to Train your Dragon. As head of mobile product at Warner Bros., he developed their first mobile app portfolio delivering content for their biggest brands and franchises to consumers around the world.

Sheila Marmon

Sheila Marmon has a passion for the launch and operation of new businesses in the digital media industry and has created effective media programs for over 15 years. As Founder & CEO of Mirror Digital, an interactive media and advertising company, she helps Fortune 500 brands tap into the fastest growing U.S. consumer base – the multicultural market. Sheila has executed over 200 interactive campaigns in this space for clients including General Motors, Sony Pictures, Verizon, Marriott and Macy’s.

In addition to entrepreneurship, Sheila’s multi-faceted media career includes leadership roles in operations, new ventures, and finance at Time Warner and Morgan Stanley. Key to her success is the union of broad operating experience and growth innovation paired with her deep expertise in the multicultural consumer market. This expertise is both academic and hands-on. She has lived abroad, traveled to over 30 countries, and is proficient in Spanish.

Sheila has been featured as a multicultural expert in the Financial Times, a leading digital entrepreneur in Minority Business Enterprise Magazine and was published in the American Advertising Federation’s “Digital Resource Guide.” She serves on the advisory boards of two digital start-ups LLC and CrowdNoir. She is a Founding Member of the Council of Urban Professionals and the National Advisory Council of A Better Chance. She is also a member of CALIBR – an Executive Leadership Council (ELC) pipeline organization.

Sheila received a B.A. from Princeton University, cum laude and an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. She resides in Los Angeles, California and is an avid runner and yoga enthusiast.

Abraham Jankans

Abraham Jankans “AJ” is the Founder & CEO (Chief Enthusiasm Officer) of Launchpad a Silicon Beach based enterprise SaaS company providing a cloud CRM platform to government and non-profit agencies.

Founded in 2012 with $1,000, Launchpad reached its first $1 million year by 2015 and has scaled to over 70 government and non-profit clients including the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego and the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Tennessee with a $5 million run rate for 2018. Built on the platform, Launchpad is Salesforce’s leading application partner for Workforce Development.

In 2017 Launchpad raised $1 million in SBA funding from Umpqua Bank to expand sales and product development. Prior to starting Launchpad, AJ founded Launchpad Careers, Inc. a staffing and training company which he sold in 2010, and Workforce 2.0 a government consulting company. AJ is also a member of Entrepreneurs Organization, a global non-profit with a mission to promote and support entrepreneurs worldwide.

Jonathan Jennings

Jonathan Jennings is a software engineer with over 6 years of experience in Videogame and VR/AR development. He’s worked on more than 10 projects published to various app stores including Ghostbusters is Hiring ( Android), Animal Planet Wildlands ( iOS and Android), and Thunder Jack’s Log Runner ( Ios & Android), as well as many other private applications and canceled projects. The publicly released projects he has worked on have attained over 2 million cumulative downloads. His roles on projects have included rapid prototyping, gameplay and core functionality programming, network programming, UI engineering, AI programming, and more.

Natalie Bruss

Natalie oversees partnerships for LPs and portfolio companies, as well as marketing and brand strategy.

Previously, Natalie was Vice President of Digital Strategy and Partnerships at ID, where she built and ran digital partnerships and strategy for consumer and entertainment brands, and talent.

Natalie started her career as a trend forecaster and connector, bringing together innovators and creating new ecosystems across technology, entertainment, media and consumer brands. She’s been honored as one of The Hollywood Reporter’s 35 under 35, Fast Company’s MCP1000, Variety’s New Leaders, and Forbes 30 Under 30, among many other accolades.

Natalie grew up just outside of Washington, DC in Virginia and lives in Los Angeles. She has worked with a variety of philanthropic organizations including Stand Up To Cancer, JPHRO & Omaze and currently co-chairs the NextGen board of the Motion Picture Television Fund.

About Plug IN South LA

Plug In brings together entrepreneurs, founders, VCs, innovators and emerging talent for conversations and networking focused on creating a community and hub for innovation in South LA. Come join our kick off Tech Summit & Digital Media program in our movement to identify and accelerate the beautiful in tech and digital media.

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