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Meet the Team

Our team is dedicated to making Tennessee the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Join us in making this vision a reality. We want to hear your ideas and plug you in with the people that will expand your resources and lead to success.

  • Morgan Dent

    Market Building Manager

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    Morgan Dent

    Market Building Manager

    Morgan joined the Launch Tennessee team in October of 2018 to take over Talent Portfolio initiatives. She works with the program team to build a robust talent pipeline for future entrepreneurs, as well as address current talent needs for growing businesses.

    Prior to joining Launch Tennessee, Morgan spent three years in local economic development, focusing on workforce development programs and business recruitment. Most recently she ran operations for a local startup, Forward It On, and worked with the Social Enterprise Alliance to produce weeklong workshops for budding social entrepreneurs.

    Morgan graduated from the University of Vermont in 2012 with a degree in Political science and economics.

  • Katie Fuller

    Marketing Coordinator

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    Katie Fuller

    Marketing Coordinator

    Katie joined LaunchTN in February 2020 as Ecosystem Development Coordinator, supporting the Ecosystem Development Manager and the team to coordinate the execution of strategic initiatives and LaunchTN projects. Her responsibilities included coordinating execution with internal team members, network partners, stakeholders, and contractors.

    In October of 2020, Katie took on marketing needs and is now Marketing Coordinator, coordinating the execution of promotional materials and marketing campaigns that aligns with and reflects the Launch TN mission, vision, values, voice and brand.

    As a Nashville native, Katie graduated from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and has worked for various nonprofits, including a philanthropic foundation, social service agencies, and art museums.

  • Mahni Ghorashi

    Strategy Director

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    Mahni Ghorashi

    Strategy Director

    Mahni Ghorashi is a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and investor. He’s founded and help grow a number of ventures to exit in Silicon Valley, including Clear Labs, Bina (acquired Roche) , Trapit (acquired ScribbleLive), and LiteScape (acquired Dell). Currently, Mahni runs Strategy at Launch Tennessee the state of Tennessee’s economic development initiative to promote early stage startup ventures. In this role, he oversees venture capital and portfolio investments, seven entrepreneurial incubators, university and government-lab tech-transfer and licensing programs, university engagement, business development and policy outreach. He’s been interviewed in the The New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Wired, CNBC and CNN. Mahni attended MIT, Yale, and Vanderbilt Universities and studied piano at the Juilliard School. He has taught courses in entrepreneurship at MIT and Stanford Universities.

  • Khrys Hatch

    Capital Formation Manager

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    Khrys Hatch

    Capital Formation Manager

    Khrys Hatch is a Nashville native and Summa Cum Laude graduate of Fisk University.

    He currently serves as Launch Tennessee’s Capital Formation Manager where he works to expand and expedite the availability of capital to TN startups so that they can grow, be sustainable, create jobs, and build accessible economic prosperity. As part of those efforts, he manages LaunchTN’s investment fund, investor relations efforts, and several other capital-focused initiatives.

    Outside of LaunchTN, Khrys is an active musician. He is also an HBCUvc Fellow and a class 74 graduate of Young Leaders Council.

  • Robert Jackson

    Data & Grants Coordinator

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    Robert Jackson

    Data & Grants Coordinator

    Robert joined LaunchTN in early 2020 as the Grants and Data Coordinator. In his role, Robert coordinates existing report processes, helps identify and propose new grant opportunities, and coordinates the aggregation of LaunchTN’s organizational data.

    Robert is an Atlanta-area native whose family ties reach across Tennessee. He is a recent Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a degree in Economics.

  • Allie Mikels

    Tech Advancement Manager

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    Allie Mikels

    Tech Advancement Manager

    Allie joined LaunchTN in early 2019 to manage LaunchTN’s commercialization program portfolio. Prior to joining the team, she spent almost five years in workforce development at Project Return and managed the operations of their two social enterprises.

    Allie earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Economics and Public Policy and returned to Vanderbilt to complete a graduate degree in Community Development and Action. She is originally from Stroudsburg, PA.

  • Miranda Whitcomb Pontes

    Marketing and Communications Director

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    Miranda Whitcomb Pontes

    Marketing and Communications Director

    A Louisiana native that proudly calls Tennessee home, Miranda serves as the Marketing Director for LaunchTN, joining the team in October of 2020 after a 15 year career as a restaurant entrepreneur. The founder behind Frothy Monkey and Burger Up, she brings a unique combination of entrepreneurial thought-leader, insightful trend-spotter and compassionate cultivator of dreams and ambition.

     

    A lifelong learner and challenge seeker, Miranda completed the Harvard Business Analytics Program in 2020 and now applies her well-rounded experience and education to promote and support the community of Tennessee entrepreneurs.
    Miranda is also a member of the Nashville Visitors and Convention Bureau Events Committee.

  • Michaela M. Powell

    Office Manager

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    Michaela M. Powell

    Office Manager

    Michaela brings 10 years of office management and employee experience to the team. She thrives on providing unexpected joy to those around her and loves to collaborate, talk ideas, and set structure.

    Michaela holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska with an emphasis in photography and graphic design. While her background is art, she finds pure enjoyment in assisting people to make sure business runs smoothly.

    When not working, Michaela can be found in her ceramics studio, at the gym, supporting farmers at the market, or on an outside adventure with her dog, Juno.

  • Topher Price

    Ecosystem Development Manager

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    Topher Price

    Ecosystem Development Manager

    As Ecosystem Development Manager, Topher works to empower our statewide network of resources focused on supporting Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, creating collaboration among entrepreneurs, the private sector, capital sources, institutions, and policymakers. He oversees LaunchTN policy initiatives, connecting the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem with regional, state, and federal legislators. Topher also leads the annual 36|86 Festival, in collaboration with our statewide partners, guiding strategic direction and project management for the Southeast’s most dynamic gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, and ecosystem builders.

    Topher joined LaunchTN in 2019 to serve as Operations Coordinator in support of LaunchTN’s operations and strategic initiatives, government affairs, and organization of 36|86 Festival.

    Originally from central Georgia, Topher graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016 and worked as a federal contractor for the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. prior to moving to Nashville.

  • Katherine Reall

    Accounting Director

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    Katherine Reall

    Accounting Director

    Katherine serves as Accounting Director after joining LaunchTN in March 2020 as the Finance and Accounting Manager.

    Prior to LaunchTN, she owned a boutique accounting firm that focused on helping closely-held businesses and their owners navigate the worlds of accounting and taxes. Katherine has a background in both private and public accounting, which has given her a unique perspective into the entrepreneurial ecosystem in various industries, including real estate, hospitality, retail, country clubs, and healthcare. She has also been the CFO for several companies within these industries.

    A Nashville native, Katherine earned her BBA, majoring in Accounting, from Belmont University. She is a CPA and a member of the AICPA and TSCPA.

    Katherine serves on the Advisory Board for Restore Small Groups.

  • Abby Rodriguez

    Capital Formation Resource Coordinator

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    Abby Rodriguez

    Capital Formation Resource Coordinator

    Abby joined LaunchTN in April 2020 as Capital Formation Resource Coordinator. Prior to joining the team, Abby was a member of the ICC Venture Fellows program at LaunchTN. Abby earned her undergraduate degree from Tennessee Tech University in Bio-Molecular Engineering with a concentration in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and returned to TTU to complete her graduate degree in Business Administration in 2019. She is originally from Cookeville, TN.

  • Jeremy Tharp

    Head of Partnerships

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    Jeremy Tharp

    Head of Partnerships

    Jeremy joined the LaunchTN team at the start of 2021 as Head of Partnerships to guide and create in and out of network revenue opportunities. As an entrepreneur himself, he is a natural fit to identify mutually beneficial partnerships for the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem.

    Jeremy has worked in the entertainment industry for 12+ years with experience ranging from talent agencies to management firms, large event producers, and most recently in the brand partnerships sector. Jeremy has played a key role in the launch and success of several brand partnership agencies in Nashville and other major markets. He has led multiple national brand partnership programs and delivered quantifiable value for each. Jeremy studied entrepreneurship at Arizona State University and music business at CRAS.

  • Van Tucker

    President & CEO

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    Van Tucker

    President & CEO

    As President and Chief Executive Officer, Van Tucker supports the mission and vision of making Tennessee the best state in the nation for startups by empowering a network of resources across the state.

    Van spent most of her career in banking and finance, cofounding a startup community bank. Her time spent in the entertainment and fashion industries drives her appreciation for the entrepreneur and investor experiences. Leading teams to develop innovative solutions to problems, working with others who are fueled by purpose, and the human connection to technology are her passions.

    Van earned her MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and has donated her time to a variety of private and community boards.

  • Ashlin Wildun

    Strategy Coordinator

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    Ashlin Wildun

    Strategy Coordinator

    Ashlin joined the LaunchTN team in summer of 2019 as Partnerships Coordinator to support the Partnerships team. She was a former intern at Launch Tennessee, The Biz Foundry, and Tennessee Tech’s iCube which has given her exposure to the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem on multiple levels.

    A Nashville native, Ashlin earned her undergraduate degree in Finance and Economics from Tennessee Tech University, and returned to TTU to achieve her MBA concentrated in Management Information Systems in 2019.

Board of Directors

  • Bob Rolfe

    Commissioner Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (Chairman)

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  • Calvin Anderson

    President

    Clear Strategies Group

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  • A.J. Bahou

    Partner

    Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP

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  • Tom Ballard

    Chief Alliance Officer

    Pershing Yoakley & Associates (Emeritus)

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  • Alan Bentley

    Assistant Vice Chancellor

    Center for Technology Transfer & Commercialization Vanderbilt University

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  • Stephen Crawford

    Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer

    Eastman Chemical Company

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  • Bruce Doeg

    Shareholder

    Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz (Emeritus)

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  • Shawn Glinter

    Founder & Chief Executive Officer

    Pendant Biosciences, Inc.

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  • Marci Harris

    Chief Executive Officer

    POPVOX

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  • Dr. H.M. “Hash” Hashemian

    President & Chief Executive Officer

    Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation

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  • Rep. Patsy Hazlewood

    Tennessee General Assembly

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  • Rep. Susan Lynn

    Tennessee General Assembly

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  • Kristina Montague

    Managing Partner

    The JumpFund

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  • Dr. Brian Noland

    President

    East Tennessee State University

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  • Dawn Patrick

    Managing Partner

    Cherry Bekaert

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  • Dr. Stacey Patterson

    Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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  • Julia Polk

    Chief Strategy Officer

    Decode Health

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  • Denny Wayne Robinson

    County Executive

    White County Tennessee

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  • David S. Waddell

    President, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Investment Strategist

    Waddell and Associates, LLC.

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  • Sen. Bo Watson

    Tennessee General Assembly

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  • Marcus Whitney

    Managing Partner

    Jumpstart Nova

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  • Frank Williamson

    Founder & CEO

    Oaklyn Consulting

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  • Dr. Thomas Zacharia

    Laboratory Director

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Upcoming Board Meetings:

Thursday, Jan. 21 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., CT

Thursday, Apr. 15 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., CT

 

Our board meetings are open to the public. Please contact info@launchtn.org for more information.