2018 Food+City Mentors

Laurence Anne Mittlebronn, Managing Partner, Procurly

Laurence is a procurement specialist, management professional, operational expert and mentor/advisor with more than 20 years of national and international experience in the food and beverage, hospitality, food service and food-tech industries. Her well-established executive career and skills were partially influenced by her work at Sodexo and Accor Hotels, as well as her current role at Procurly, LLC. She serves on multiple boards, including  Copia and SNACK & Co, France. Laurence is passionate about applying her creative solutions, global networks and decades of experience to businesses and organizations with purposeful social and/or environmental missions.

Steve Pearson, Lead Strategist and Founder, Pearson Strategy Group

Steve’s passion is accelerating innovation and product development through targeted research. His company supports entrepreneurs through innovation-based consulting, discovery of competitive intelligence and patent and market research. Steve is an electrical engineer with experience in semiconductor manufacturing, machining and business analysis, and he served aboard a U.S. Navy submarine as a nuclear reactor operator. He is a past chairman of the Austin chapter of IEEE’s Power and Energy Society.

Robert (Bob) Metcalfe, Professor of Innovation, University of Texas at Austin

Bob is an electrical engineer who co-invented Ethernet, founded 3Com and formulated Metcalfe’s Law. He has more than 24 years of successful experience in science, engineering, high-tech entrepreneurship and venture capital. He is the Murchison Fellow of Free Enterprise and directs the Innovation Center in the Cockrell School of Engineering. He is also professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Cockrell School and professor of information management at the McCombs School of Business.

JP Kloninger, Supply Chain Manager, CocoJo LLC

JP is the supply chain manager for Austin startup CocoJo LLC, which will be launching a line of coconut water–based beverages from his home country of Costa Rica in 2018.  JP has uniquely diverse professional, academic and personal experiences, including food and technology import and export; sales and marketing; food production and agricultural engineering; business development in multicultural environments; finance and operations analysis and reporting; brand management; and team leadership. In Austin, he has worked with Dell, Sustainable Food Center, Apple, Whole Foods Market and Whole Planet Foundation. Over the last couple of decades JP has also enjoyed being a graduate and undergraduate professor of international business, economics and statistics.

Dulith Herath, Founder and Chairman, Kapruka

Dulith Herath is a Sri Lankan entrepreneur. He is the founder and chairman of Sri Lanka’s largest e-commerce organization, kapruka.com, and the co-founder of Grasshoppers Pvt. Ltd., which provides logistics to small enterprises in Sri Lanka.

Carol Thompson, Founder, The Thompson Group

Carol Thompson is an entrepreneur, economic development strategist and business advisor. After serving as CEO of a five-store Computerland franchise, co-founding Hiretech and Thompson Executive Search, Thompson founded The Thompson Group in 1993. The Thompson Group has served clients ranging from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Thompson has been recognized by the Austin Business Journal as “one of Austin’s five most powerful women” and named by the Austin American-Statesman as one of Austin’s “top 25 tech players to know.” She was on the cover of Digital South Magazine, which named her “A Real Hero of Southern Technology.”

Aaron Lyons, Founder, Dish Society

Aaron is the founder of Dish Society, a farm-to-table restaurant with two locations in Houston. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. Aaron holds B.S. and MBA degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. Prior to Dish Society, Aaron was a Venture Partner at Texas Venture Labs.

Chris Burke, lecturer, University of Texas McCombs School of Business

Dr. Christopher Burke is a lecturer in Supply Chain at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business where he teaches upper level and MBA courses in Operations Management, Program Management, and Procurement and Supplier Management. Chris also works for Dell Technologies overseeing the global depletion of excess and obsolete inventory and developing detailed planning parameters to optimize global inventory. Chris also was a project manager leading global, cross-functional core teams as a certified Project Management Professional to aid transformation activities. Chris served in the global operations secure supply chain, ensuring alignment with government regulations for conducting business with federal agencies. Previously, Chris lead the Program Management Office to standardize Dell Technologies program management policies, processes, and procedures via economies of repetition in the execution of programs. Chris was in charge of the supply chain alignment with the Agile transformation initiative to ensure improvements in communication, governance, and decision-making were standardized for senior executives to understand program status and strategic objectives. Prior to Dell Technologies, Chris served 27 years in the U. S. Air Force assigned to various logistics career fields.

Claudio Bauza, Principal, Food Connect LLC

Claudio Bauza is a food and beverage management executive with more than 16 years of experience in the industry. Among the highlights of his career are owning and managing two food manufacturing facilities and, more recently, running North American sales for a leading seafood importer. His areas of expertise include business strategy, sales and marketing, food safety and operations management. Claudio holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Puerto Rico.

Trish Wesevich, Founder, Capital Kitchens

Trish Wesevich has been in the food business for 20 years, starting out as a private dining chef and food writer. In 2012, she launched Capital Kitchens, Austin’s largest commercial culinary co-working space for established food businesses and startups. She currently writes for Austin Food Magazine, led a culinary tour to Italy in 2014 and still keeps a couple of personal chef clients. She helps entrepreneurs move their food business ideas into the kitchen and cultivates an environment for them to thrive.

P.J. Tanzillo, Head of Product, Favor Delivery

P.J. is head of product at Favor Delivery, an on-demand delivery startup determined to be the easiest way to get anything delivered to your door in under an hour. Prior to Favor, P.J. was CEO and co-founder of the mobile app development firm Bearded Pony, where he and his team developed hundreds of highly rated iOS and Android apps. He has also spent time leading teams at Evernote, RetailMeNot and National Instruments. P.J. holds a B.S.E.E. from The Ohio State University, and he lives in Austin with his wife and three kids.

Ramiro Cruz, Founder, Doble Erre

Ramiro has 23 years experience in the food industry, gaining expertise throughout the supply chain. Starting with farmers, he has worked at all stages of the food supply chain, including storage, processing, trading and commercializing products such as large-scale raw-material grains, oilseed and vegetable oils, from exporting countries to international food industrial clients. During his 22-year tenure at Cargill, Ramiro held various leadership positions throughout the value chain.

Marc Ferguson, Business Development Manager, Illumitex

Marc has 25 years of experience with imaginative and forward-looking startups in three distinct industry verticals, each involving disruptive technologies and transformative business models. Machine intelligence is without question the most important and exciting. It will transform indoor farming in ways we can only now imagine. Marc is leading efforts to bring intelligent applications to growers through a network of data analytics and machine intelligence partners.

Shelly Brenckman, Co-Founder, Startup Aggieland

Shelly is a member of the founding leadership at Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M University’s campus technology accelerator. Since 2012, she and her colleagues have helped launch 236 new ventures to launch with 66 clients reporting a combined $41 million in raised in funding from all sources (grants, revenue, awards, seed, LPOs). She’s a sought-after entrepreneurship speaker who also manages the campus Dormcubator, operated by Startup Aggieland and powered by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School.

Ben Lipson, Regional General Manager, DoorDash

Ben holds an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and is the former CEO of the Houston-based company Sports Tradex. Founded in 2013, DoorDash is a San Francisco–based technology company focused on transforming local businesses and dedicated to enabling new ways of working, earning and living.