Updated: Jun 14
TechFW is nothing without the people connected to it. We are honored to see so many of our staff, clients (past and current) and Cowtown Angels members in Fort Worth Inc.'s 'The 400', Fort Worth's Most Influential People 2021.
1. Hayden Blackburn
Executive Director, TechFW
Hayden Blackburn has been executive director of the nonprofit, 23-year-old TechFW incubator and accelerator, and director of the Cowtown Angels angel investing group, since 2016. Blackburn moved to TechFW from the Idea Works collaborative. TechFW's programs include ThinkLab, Cowtown Angels, EpICMavs at the University of Texas at Arlington, Tech-Nest, and MCrew, a mentor match that brings in outside volunteer talent. TechFW has ambitious goals, moving to increase participation in its incubator programs and the Cowtown Angels and to potentially rebrand to acknowledge its geographical reach, including the UT-Arlington partnership and a new cohort that ThinkLab has launched in Dallas. Blackburn has been a founder or leading contributor to the major annual Fort Worth Business Plan competition, 1 Million Cups, Startup Weekend, and Entrepreneur Summit. Blackburn has a BBA from Texas Tech.
2. Brandy O'Quinn
Assistant Director, TechFW
Longtime development executive Brandy O'Quinn has her next charge: assistant director of the TechFW incubator and accelerator, where she's building support for ambitious goals. Previously, for several years, senior manager for public affairs, Blue Zones Project Fort Worth, helped obtain Blue Zones healthy city certification. Spearheaded fundraising for Dash circulator connecting downtown to Cultural District. B.A., political science, the University of Texas at Austin; master's, real estate sustain-ability, the University of Texas at Arlington
3. Darlene Boudreaux
Darlene Boudreaux, a pharma entrepreneur who came out of retirement to run the TechFW incubator for 12 years, continues to coach budding entrepreneurs through TechFW since she handed over the reins to successor Hayden Blackburn. Boudreaux founded the Cowtown Angels angel investing group within TechFW in 2016. Angel investors secured their first exit, with the $465 million sale of Encore Vision — a TechFW client and incubator tenant nurtured by Boudreaux — to Novartis in 2016. Boudreaux co-founded and was CEO of PharmaFab, a Grand Prairie third-party pharma manufacturer, from 1994 to 2006. She grew revenues to $28 million before selling the company.
4. Bruce Raben
Bruce Raben is highly visible on Fort Worth's startup and entrepreneurial scene, offering "targeted networking" and introductions, marketing and public relations, business development, and advertising and sponsorship creation. "Third best networker in area and can intro you to top two." Clients include banks, law and accounting firms, startups, real estate developers, venture capitalists, nonprofits and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. A longtime ex-newspaper executive, Raben formerly co-wrote the weekly B2B insider column "Mr. B" for the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
TechFW Board of Directors
5. Stella Robertson
Co-Founder and Partner, Bios Partners
Stella Robertson is co-founder of Bios Partners, a Fort Worth private equity firm. She’s a member of the Cowtown Angels investing group in Fort Worth and serves on its Steering Council. Robertson is known in the Fort Worth tech startup and angel community for her guidance on prospective health care investments. Robertson has over 25 years in pharmaceutical research and development, including R&D strategies, project management, clinical trials, regulatory filings for U.S. and international registrations, product launch, market support, translational medicine and medical communication. Robertson was a vice president in research and development at Alcon Laboratories. She received a PhD in biology- immunology from Johns Hopkins University. She holds a number of patents and is the author or co-author of over 50 publications.
6. Rodney D'Souza
Managing Director, The Davis Family Entrepreneur-in-Residence at TCU
A leader in entrepreneurship education and research and successful business owner and angel fund manager in his own right. He joined TCU Neeley as managing director of the institute and the Davis Family Entrepreneur-In-Residence.
D’Souza was formerly the Fifth Third Bank Endowed Professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University.
“I ran the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in rural Kentucky,” D’Souza said. “We started that in 2014, so I went back for a few years before I came here. I also started an accelerator on campus which was called The Inkubator. The reason we called it The Inkubator was because it had NKU in it, so we just spelt it INKU, The Inkubator.”
Inkubator grew to be one of the top five university business accelerators in North America.
D’Souza also helped start an angel group there called the Cherub Angels. He also worked with a variety of different companies in the area, including Whisper Pet, a company that had an odor eliminator for pet odors. The company got in Amazon’s Launchpad program and a couple of retail locations.
7. Laura Baldwin
Managing Director, Golden Seeds
Laura Baldwin is the chapter lead for the Dallas chapter of Golden Seeds. She currently serves as President of Waco Bend Asset Management Ltd.; she previously served as Vice President of Finance and Investor Relations at Triad Hospitals, Inc., a Fortune 500 company, and also worked in equity research and investment banking. She received her BA from the University of Texas at Austin, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and her MBA from Southern Methodist University.
Cowtown Angels Members
8. Bill Buechele
Managing Director, Business Development Capital CFO Partners
Bill Buechele is chairman of Fort Worth’s Cowtown Angels investment group, run by the TechFW incubator. He is a longtime business advisor and investor with diverse experience, including private equity, technology, health care, manufacturing and energy exposure. Buechele was formerly a leader of Deloitte’s Growth Enterprise Services practice in North Texas. He has a bachelor’s and MBA, both from Indiana University.
9. Carolyn Cason
Carolyn Cason, retired professor and associate dean for research in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at the University of Texas at Arlington, serves on the steering council of the Cowtown Angels investing group in Fort Worth. In 1997, she joined the College of Nursing, where she led in creating the research infrastructure needed to support the Ph.D. program, and was instrumental in defining and implementing the program focus on health care for diverse and vulnerable populations. She developed the model for the SMART Hospital, a virtual hospital in which high-fidelity interactive mannequins serve as patients. And as co-founder, she acquired private and governmental funding for it. Cason holds a bachelor’s, master’s and a Ph.D. in educational psychology.
10. Bob Ferguson
Bob Ferguson, a Fort Worth entrepreneur and investor, also is an angel investor and member of the Cowtown Angels Steering Council. Last year, the UNT Health Science Center gave Ferguson its Vision Award, the university’s highest recognition, for his work to raise the Health Science Center’s reputation. Ferguson has been a UNTHSC Foundation member since 2009 and has been a generous donor to the health science center. He served as foundation chairman from 2014 to 2016.
11. Tyler Head
President, Corbett Capital
Tyler Head is president and founder of Corbett Capital LLC, a closely held investment company focusing on growth capital investments in early-stage and lower middle-market companies. Prior to founding Corbett Capital LLC in 2011, Head served as an officer and F/A-18 pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1998 through 2009, attaining the rank of major. Head is a founding member of Cowtown Angels and serves on the group’s steering council. Head also serves on the board of Elevate Credit in Fort Worth, a publicly traded tech-enabled provider of innovative and responsible online credit solutions for nonprime consumers. Head serves on the board of directors of Little Passports, a monthly subscription company for children. Head has a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in Spanish from the U.S. Naval Academy and an MBA from Dartmouth College.
12. Les Kreis
Managing Partner, Bios Partners
Les Kreis has 25 years of investment background across the global public and private equity markets. He is managing principal at Steelhead Capital Management, a family office in Fort Worth that manages a portfolio of small business investments and startup ventures. Kreis is a founding member of the Cowtown Angels angel investing group. He was formerly a vice president at HBK Investments, a multi-strategy global hedge fund based in Dallas. During his 11 years with that firm, he managed a $3 billion global portfolio of stocks, bonds and derivatives. He was one of two professionals responsible for launching HBK’s London office, and he traded in financial markets including Japan, India, Europe, United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S. Kreis received a BBA in finance from TCU in 1994.
13. Bob Semple
Chairman, Tarrant County and Market Executive Bank of Texas Private Wealth
Bob Semple has a long history in banking, serving in various leadership posts at Bank One from 1977 through 1998. He also spent five years with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Semple is a director for Downtown Fort Worth Inc. He has served as an advisory board member of the TCU Neeley School of Business and as a director of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Foundation. Semple is a TCU graduate.
TechFW Clients and Client Graduates
14. Elyse Dickerson
CEO and Co-Founder Eosera
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO of Eosera, Inc., a fast-growing Fort Worth biotech company whose Earwax MD launch line of over-the-counter products for compacted earwax quickly reached national distribution. Dickerson, a former Alcon exec, was named one of the Top Women in Health, Wellness and Beauty by Drug Store News in 2019. Dickerson has a bachelor’s from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from SMU. Dickerson is a lifelong athlete and has completed marathons, triathlons, and an Ironman. A Fort Worth Country Day School alum, she is vice president of its board.
15. Brad Huntstable
Founder and CEO, Linear Labs
Brad served as CEO of Ustream, now an IBM Company. Under his leadership, Ustream grew to serve tens of millions of users globally and generated $40M in revenue. In 2016, Ustream was acquired by IBM for $150M and was turned into the basis of what is now IBM’s core Cloud Video division.
The San Francisco Business Times honored him as an influential young leader in their 40 Under 40 list, he was ranked among the 50 Digital Power Players by the Hollywood Reporter and honored as Variety’s Producers Guild of America’s Digital 25: Visionaries, Innovators and Producers. In 2017, he received The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business Entrepreneur and Innovation Alumni Award. In 2019, Brad was an EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.
Brad is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds an MBA from The Ohio State University.
16. Ryan Vinson
At the age of 30, with a newborn at home and a new home under construction, he quit his job to start a mineral management company called MineralWare with two other partners. They bootstrapped the company for three years with a $40,000 loan and grew the company with existing cash flow.
A new opportunity arose once Vinson met Larry Brogdon, whose investment and partnership fueled the accelerated growth of the company. Since then, each year MineralWare has doubled or tripled the prior year’s recurring revenue.
“We set a bold goal in 2016 to increase our monthly recurring revenue 10X by 2020,” Vinson said. “We achieved this milestone a year and a half early. Our team’s commitment to our success was the key reason we achieved it earlier than expected.”
17. Al Guillem, PhD
CEO and Co-Founder, Renibus Therapeutics
Al is a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry with nearly 40 years of leadership experience in bringing new therapies to the market and readying pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities for commercial production at both well-established and startup companies. Al brings deep knowledge and insight into pharmaceutical manufacturing across many dosage forms and manufacturing operations.
Before Renibus, he served at the following:
- ZS Pharma, as Co-founder, President, & CEO where he worked on developing a product for hyperkalemia or high levels of potassium in the blood. ZS Pharma was acquired by Astra Zeneca in 2015 for $2.7 billion.
- Adams Respiratory Therapeutics, where he, along with other team members, brought the Mucinex product line to the market. The company later was acquired by Reckitt Benckiser for $2.3 billion in 2007.
- Genzyme/Bone Care, Wyeth, Boeringher Ingelheim, and Medeva Americas, where he held senior positions
18. Jeff Keyser, Ph.D., RPh, JD
President and COO, Renibus Therapeutics
Jeff is a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry with 40 years of leadership experience in developing and commercializing new medical therapies. He has invented products leading to significant improvements in patient care and has numerous patents issued by the USPTO in healthcare. He has a track record of success in developing new companies from start-up, through IPO and M&A exits.
Prior to Renibus:
- Co-founder and COO at ZS Pharma, acquired by AstraZeneca in 2015 for $2.7 billion.
- Inventor of the Mucinex product line for Adams Respiratory Therapeutics. He developed and
executed the R&D and Regulatory strategy as VP of Development and Regulatory Affairs, which
subsequently was acquired by Reckitt Benckiser for $2.3 billion in 2007.
- Senior positions at Encysive Pharmaceuticals, Medeva Americas, Marion Merrell Dow and Abbott
Laboratories. He is currently serving as the Chairman of the Board for Lantern Pharma.
19. Red Sanders
President and Producer, Red Productions
Red Sanders started his first successful entertainment company at the ripe age of 14. Since then, he has combined his entrepreneurial spirit, media expertise, and love of visual storytelling to create one of the premier media companies in DFW.
Red Sanders graduated from Texas Christian University where he majored in Radio, Television and Film, and studied in the Neeley Entrepreneurship Program.
Red Productions is a full-service, award-winning, creative video production company based in Fort Worth and Los Angeles.
20. E.J. Carrion
CEO and Co-Founder, Student Success Agency
EJ Carrion is a transformational social entrepreneur, speaker, and thought leader who builds technology and innovations to create equitable people-powered solutions in education.
He is the co-founder and CEO of Student Success Agency, a digital mentoring platform that helps students get support anywhere, anytime from their electronic devices. Student Success Agency creates an environment for school systems to build, maintain, and mobilize their staff to deepen relationships with students in all learning formats and improve students' academic, economic, and emotional well-being.
In 2014, EJ Carrion was a special guest to the White House during the Obama/Biden Administration and recognized at the U.S. Departments of Education at their annual Education Datapalooza event: Promoting Innovation in Improving College Access, Affordability, and Completion, for his innovative work in student engagement and 360 view in supporting the whole child. EJ was recognized by Forbes Magazine as a top 30 Entrepreneur under 30 in Education in 2018. Student Success Agency was listed as one of the Top 300 startups to work for in 2020.
EJ is a first-generation college student who received the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship. He has become one of the country's top education speakers after his Goalcast video about his stepdad Mike hit over 35 million views on Facebook. He has presented to audiences across 48 states and around the world with the goal of being mind-expanding, dynamically enthusiastic, and a human possibility pusher for the audiences he has the privilege to engage.
21. Sid O'Bryant
Executive Director, Institute for Translational Research
Dr. Sid O'Bryant is leading the charge to use blood biomarkers to bring the first-ever primary care blood test to market for America's seniors. His work runs counter to the areas of focus of many other researchers, but his discoveries could pave the way for significant advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases. He recently received a $45 million grant to continue to study the ways that Alzheimer's Disease impacts people of different ethnicities and his work could hold the keys to understanding these complex diseases.