Meet the VP5s
To learn more about Republic's Venture Programs, visit www.republic.co/venture-programs.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Jarrod Barnes currently serves as the Managing Director of the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute, a seed-stage impact fund that invests in minority founders across the Midwest and SouthEast. Jarrod began his career in collegiate and professional sports as a college football coach at the Ohio State University and as a front-office NFL employee with the Los Angeles Rams. Jarrod is actively investing in high-potential startups within ed-tech, the future of work, media, and sports technology.
Samantha Batista is a native New Yorker who deeply admires enterpreneurial hustle. Sam started her career on Wall Street before making her way to investing in 2015. Since then, she's worked on debt and equity transactions in both the U.S. and Latin America across several different industries. In 2017, she co-founded Who Is Raising?—a deal sourcing newsletter that aims to connect early stage founders to investors. Today, she is an investor at a Mexico-based family office and consults and advises companies on growth strategies, fundraising strategies and business development. She also runs syndicates on pre-seed and seed stage transactions.
Akash Bhat is an investor and community builder. He has played almost every role possible within the startup ecosystem including as a founder, accelerator leader, the first outside hire at a startup, and an investor. He is currently a VC at Scrum Ventures, an early-stage firm investing across the Japan-US corridor, and is also an active angel investor in India, with 11 startups in his portfolio. Akash is also the host of India's top-rated business podcast series The Desi VC, and runs a closed network of under-represented immigrant founders in the US.
Carlos Covarrubias is a Managing Director at Angeles Investors, a Latinx inspired and focused angel group on a mission to "Find, Fund and Grow the most promising Hispanic / Latinx ventures." In its inaugural year, Angeles grew to over 60 investors and deployed more than $1 million dollars into eight companies. Outside of Angeles, Carlos is an associate at a real estate fund focused on multifamily investments across the U.S and serves on the board of Chicago-ALPFA. Carlos holds a Bachelors from the University of Notre Dame where he double majored in Finance and Economics.
Mike Cozart is a product leader with more than 15 years of experience in finance, general management, and product management. He has built teams and products at companies big and small, and is an active angel investor and product advisor. He started his career in investment banking and venture capital and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Yasmin Cruz Ferrine
Yasmin is a General Partner at Visible Hands VC, a pre-seed fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups by providing company-building services and investments of up to $200k. Yasmin has 15 years of experience leading capital-raising rounds, deploying investment strategies, and advising foundations.
Arif Damji is an Investor at Conductive Ventures, a $250M AUM enterprise software and hardware fund. Prior to Conductive Ventures, he spent his career in operating and advisory roles including Kosta Browne and 500friends. At Kosta Brown he grew the company to more than 50 clients with a total of 40M active members. It was successfully acquired by Dentsu. Before that, Arif started his career at McKinsey & Company. Arif has an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business, an M.S. in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Cambridge.
Rebecca Danta is the Managing Director of Miami Angels, the largest angel network in Florida, which funds Seed and Series A technology companies with early traction across various sectors. Miami Angels has deployed $13.6M into 33 companies since 2014, and Rebecca built a sustainable, independent business model for the organization. Rebecca previously managed global campus operations for General Assembly in New York City, the first accelerated learning provider, and the "Top Most Innovative Company in Education" per Fast Company.
Taylor Durham graduated from Robert Morris University (PA) with a BFA in Television/Video Production and a MS in Education. He has worked in corporate, government, and education spaces leading various graphic, web, and video projects for broadcast and marketing campaigns. He is currently the Associate Director of Communications at Venture Lab, Penn's largest entrepreneurship center, and works with student and alumni companies on branding and marketing strategies.
Leah Fessler is a journalist turned investor presently backing exceptional early-stage entrepreneurs at NextView Ventures. Prior, Leah led editorial and brand voice as an early employee at Chief, was a staff reporter at Quartz, on the VC team at Slow Ventures, and in management at Bridgewater Associates. Leah regularly writes for The New York Times, Medium, Quartz and more on gender, race, and workplace equity. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner and pug, and studied English and creative writing at Middlebury College, Phi Beta Kappa.
Hannah Forbes is the Founder of The Funding Crowd, a research-led crowdfunding consultancy helping businesses raise on crowdfunding sites. Hannah is completing a PhD in crowdfunding and conducts research at Cambridge Judge Business School. In 2020 she was named on the Innovate Finance Women in FinTech Powerlist, as one of the Top 100 Women in FinTech by FinTech Magazine and won a Women in Finance Award by Finance Monthly. She's passionate about democratising access to capital, increasing financial inclusion and helping founders build communities through crowdfunding.
Af Hernandez is a Florida native and is the son of Colombian immigrants. He is a Senior Associate at the Ecosystem Integrity Fund. Before EIF, Af was a Senior Strategic Planner at the newly formed Lockheed Martin (LM) Energy. Af Hernandez is a founding member of VCFamilia, an organization on a mission to create an open and inclusive environment for current and future Latinx investors to thrive. Af received a BSc in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida and holds an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Mike Lightman develops programs and infrastructure for startups ecosystems. His consulting firm The Lightman Company designs accelerators, venture funds, and unique economic incentive programs around the world. Mike’s focus is predominately climate tech, food, and technology that drives social impact. He started his career serving as a small business development volunteer with the Peace Corps in Morocco. Since then, he has run an incubator, launched a venture fund, served on several boards, and built startup ecosystems for the World Bank around the globe.
A lifelong entrepreneur and investor, Andy Louis-Charles has spent the last decade as an executive-level intrapreneur, leading a corporate strategy team that has launched over $100M in new business line revenue and has helped drive nine-figures worth of corporate transactions. Andy was previously a financial writer, investment analyst, and “Rising Star” portfolio manager at The Motley Fool. Andy is an active angel investor, LP, and advisor to emerging entrepreneurs and fund managers.
Mike MacCombie is an Ohio-born investor who works at the intersection of behavior science, experience design, and storytelling to help startups grow from their first product to exit. Mike is Director of Platform at ff Venture Capital, a New York City-based early stage firm. Before joining ffVC, Mike worked as a behavioral consultant for a range of organizations creating communities, referral programs, and brand narratives to inspire increased loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
Jamie Melzer is an active angel investor, advisor, and mentor to early-stage founders across the consumer landscape. She is passionate about investing in female and underrepresented founders and emerging managers and is an advocate for diversity on cap tables. After graduating early from the University of Kansas, Jamie started her career in investment banking M&A, followed by high yield research at Bank of America covering natural resources and industrials where she was an Institutional Investor ranked senior analyst. She later moved to Brigade Capital and launched and exited a CPG brand.
Roxanne Mendez is the fifth executive director of the Riordan Programs and a certified career management coach. She was in the 2020 CORO Women in Leadership Program and Pipeline Angeles VC-in-Residence program. Roxanne was the 2017 recipient of the Women of Philanthropy Award for her positive community impact, by Comerica Bank and the LA Lakers. Roxanne is a graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a B.S. in business administration. She received her graduate degree from the University of Southern California.
Sian Morson is the ultimate multi-hyphenate; a change-agent, entrepreneur, author and investor. An accomplished entrepreneur, Sian has founded 3 companies and has been at the forefront of technology for the past 15 years. In 2015, Sian was named one of 3 winners of the L’Oreal Women in Digital Award for her app Cast Beauty. Sian is the author of the best-selling Learn Design for iOS with Sketch, and Design for iOS Development. She graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the arts with a BA in Film & Television and a master’s degree in Electronic Art from Middlesex University in London. Sian is now the Director of Strategy and Investments at the Starfish Accelerator – a new accelerator that invests in storytellers of color.
Marc Nathan is a consummate connector, assisting companies with seed and early-stage fundraising and business strategy. Marc enjoys facilitating meaningful collaborations between founders and advisors. Prior to joining Egan Nelson LLP, where he serves as VP of Client Strategy in the Emerging Technology and VC practice group, Marc founded T-Squared Agency, a boutique consulting firm supporting selected clients with comprehensive funding strategies. Through T-Squared, Marc launched the Texas-Squared Startup Newsletter that covers startup news, opinions and events that affect the startup and tech community in Texas, the Lone Startup Region.
Kira relishes working with new and disruptive technologies, discovering young companies, and nurturing the careers of Founders. She worked internationally with software giants before earning a Haas MBA. Kira is a principal at Bee Partners; her role is part pioneer--deeply exploring new areas like synthetic biology and blockchain--and part startup geek, co-reviewing over 2,000 new companies a year. She supports Bee portfolio companies with her unique combination of intellectual acumen and technical expertise, often applying wisdom gained as a woman in VC to the growth and funding challenges of female-led businesses.
Richard Odior is a business athlete with a breadth of experience in tech, VC, and entrepreneurship, including an artisan doughnut shop he founded where he created the S’mores doughnut. Richard has a passion for supporting early stage founders scale their tech enabled business.
Kim Patel is an angel investor and an investor at Sound Ventures. She has previous experience as an operator focused on business development, marketing, branding and culture cutting her teeth at Bubble.io, VICE Media, NBC, and HuffPost. She is a recovering investment banker and enjoys tackling problems in disruptive industries and across cultures.
Andrea Perdomo is the Network Catalyst for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Techstars. At Techstars her role is to plan, coordinate and ignite diversity, equity & inclusion initiatives across the Techstars network worldwide. She was previously the Co-Founder and President at Revolar, a 2015 & 2016 Techstars Accelerator company leveraging technology for good. Andrea and her co-founder built a diverse, inclusive & remote full stack team that successfully launched 2 hardware products worldwide. They were named among the first 15 Latinas to fundraise over $1M from VCs.
Siya Raj Purohit
Siya Raj Purohit is the co-founder of Pathway Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on the Future of Work. She was previously an early employee at Udacity and Springboard. Siya is the author of Engineering America, a book she published at age 19. She is an alum of the University of Texas and Harvard University.
Brahm Rhodes has extensive experience creating value in start-ups as a founder, engineer, manager, executive, and investor. He is an On Deck Fellow exploring responsible AI/ML and entrepreneurship in underserved communities. Brahm is an angel investor and works with Score 3 Ventures helping underrepresented founders access venture capital and building a diverse VC ecosystem. He was an NIH Fellow at Harvard Medical School and holds Bachelors, Masters, and a Ph.D. in Electrical, Aerospace, and Mechanical Engineering from Boston University.
Roger Roman is the co-founder of AfriBlocks, the Pan-African freelance collaboration platform and marketplace. He previously served as the Managing Partner of the award-winning agency Push Consulting & Marketing. He is also the founding board member of STEM advocacy organization Rythm Labs, and a recipient of the James P. Lyke African American Male Image Award and was named in the 100 Modern Men of Distinction in 2017 by Black Enterprise Magazine. He credits his upbringing on the west side of Chicago and his time at Howard University with sparking his passion for entrepreneurship and public service.
Winnie Sabbat, MBA has 13+ years of finance experience working with small to mid-sized businesses. Currently, she works as the Finance Director for a media start-up where she helps the CEO establish a strong financial structure as they work to raise their Series A round. Before that, she served as Director of Finance for Red Antler. She developed a new pricing model in addition to a new sales bonus structure for the company, increasing revenue from $11M to $21M in 3 years, which helped the company in raising capital for the first time at a healthy valuation of $60 million.
Phil Sanders is the Investment Principal at New Media Ventures. Phil previously worked at Ernst & Young and Rockwood Capital, managing financial duties for clients across technology, real estate, and VC. Most recently, Phil was a Fellow at Kapor Capital and an Investment Accounting Manager at the Kapor Center, where he managed various aspects of investing and financial processes at the fund. Phil also serves as Board Chair at the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. Phil is from Chicago and holds a B.S. in Accounting and Finance from Bethune-Cookman University.
Su is a tech entrepreneur with 10 years of startup experience, inspired by his two pioneering uncles, who started out as drivers in the 1980s and eventually grew their operations into two of the top five largest fleets in NYC by the late 2000s. In 2012, Su founded WeDidIt, a venture-backed startup that helped 2,000 nonprofits raise more than $60M online and was acquired in 2019. Su is an entrepreneur that focuses on social impact, but genuinely loves working with founders and helping early-stage startups grow into sustainable companies.
Elisa is a Puerto Cuban who grew up in rural Connecticut and only learned what VC was after joining her first startup. Elisa Sepulveda believes that investments in women of color provide a larger economic impact than white male run companies because of the multiplicative impact on their communities. Elisa spends her time working with founders through Founder Institute and spending time with her pets, Lola "Potato", a white mini schnauzer, and Watson, her off-the-track thoroughbred.
A 4x founder, Ajit Verghese started humble ventures in 2014 to address the gaps between enterprise organizations and startups. He leads a partnership with Ogilvy Consulting, advises Fortune 100 and is focused on digital transformation & innovation. He holds a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from Babson College.
Léonie Weerakoon is a 1st generation immigrant and a culturally united Luxembourgish, Sri Lankan, Austinite. She is an impact investor, growth strategist, and 3x founder. After working with 20+ early and growth stage companies she continued in PE/VC with Altpoint Capital as VP of Business Development and Strategy, then GP of And Culture Ventures, and now is GP of Kinetik Ventures. Léonie is a polyglot fluent in French, German, Luxembourgish, English and earned a B.S. in Behavioral Science, and Design and Conservation with an emphasis in Human Development from the University of Texas at Austin.
Jason Yeh is the founder of Adamant Ventures, a company focused on making fundraising easier and more accessible to as many founders as possible. Previously, Jason co-founded the venture-backed startup Tape (sold to Hustle), was a VC at Greycroft Partners, and ran New Media Products at MLB.com.
Elaine Zelby is currently a Partner at SignalFire, a $500M early stage VC fund. She previously led Growth and GTM teams at early and growth stage startups like Capriza and Slack and runs the GTM programs for the portfolio. She sits on the board of SVEN (Silicon Valley Executive Network) and is the Co-founder of Product Marketing Masters, an organization focused on education, empowerment, and community for Product Marketing leaders.