A-Rod, Maurice Ferre Jr. among 2018 judges

In honor of the 20th year of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, we’ve asked some top business and entrepreneurship experts to join with some past judges for an all-star judging team.

Community Track Judges

CT_JJ Desai

Dr. Arjun “JJ” Desai, chief operating office for JLABS. JLABS is Johnson & Johnson’s incubator for emerging companies focused on healthcare and science, including consumer, pharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic and digital health. He has degrees in economics (from the University of Oklahoma), medicine (from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine) and trained at Stanford, where he still lectures. Prior to his clinical training, he worked with the U.S. House policy committee on Medicare and Medicaid.

CT_Ferre Jr

Dr. Maurice Ferré: CEO and chairman, INSIGHTEC, is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in the medical device industry. Previously, he was chairman and CEO of MAKO Surgical Corp, a robotic surgical company that he co-founded in 2004 and sold to Stryker Corp. for $1.65 billion in 2013. Prior to MAKO, he founded and led Visualization Technology Inc. (1993-2002). In 2007, he was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and master’s in public health from Boston University.

CT_ghislain Gouraige

Ghislain Gouraige Jr., senior vice president, UBS, has acted as a private wealth advisor to high-net-worth families, foundations and endowments. Prior to joining UBS, he worked with Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Citibank. A graduate of Harvard Law, he has served on the boards of many South Florida nonprofits including Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, WPBT Channel 2, New World Symphony, the Miami Foundation, Frost Museum of Science and the Bayfront Park Management Trust.

CT_Melissa Krinzman

Melissa Krinzman is managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million Miami-based venture capital firm that actively invests in seed and early-stage technology companies in the financial services, real estate and healthcare sectors. Her fund has invested in 18 early-stage companies, nine of which have South Florida roots. Krinzman also founded Venture Architects, a business-planning firm that positions early- and growth-stage companies for success in the capital-raising process.


Raul Moas, Miami Program Director for the Knight Foundation, is focused on strengthening Miami’s startup ecosystem. Previously he was managing director of AGP Miami, an angel investor network for tech startups that has invested more than $7 million in 24 South Florida companies over the past four years. Before joining AGP, he was executive director of Roots of Hope, a nonprofit focused on youth empowerment, entrepreneurship and social ventures in Cuba. He is also a member of the Global Shapers Miami Hub, the young professionals wing of the World Economic Forum and a member of The Miami Foundation’s Miami Fellows program.


Alex Rodriguez, established Miami-based A-Rod Corp in 2003 to manage his diversified business interests. As CEO, he is actively involved in its holdings, which include real estate investment, management and construction, and activewear, gear and fitness firms in the U.S. and Mexico. He also holds investments in gaming content developer NRG; the art-news website Artsy; private jet provider Wheels Up and the eMerge Americas tech conference. The legendary baseball player appears as a commentator for Fox Sports and ESPN, and as a guest judge on investment reality show “Shark Tank.” His philanthropic endeavors benefit children’s programs, scholarships and the University of Miami.

FIU Track Judges


Karlene Cousins, Ph.D., is associate professor of information systems and business analytics in the college of business at Florida International University, where she teaches courses in technology innovation, information systems strategy and governance and healthcare information law. She is recognized for her research on mobile technologies and the legal and regulatory issues impacting the use and innovation of information technology. Her research has been published in journals such as the Communications of the ACM, Journal of the AIS, Decision Sciences, Communications of the AIS and the European Journal of Information Systems. In addition, she is director of the ATOM Think Tank, FIU’s first faculty technology consulting practice.


Orlando Espinosa is co-founder of Miami-based Emineo Media. He has counseled countless individuals and groups on higher education, presented to public and private business organizations, and has traveled nationally to conduct workshops on financial literacy, leadership, entrepreneurship, branding and marketing. Espinosa helps educate and train businesses on the importance of a solid business structure and the implementation of an effective marketing strategy. He also speaks on brand building, entrepreneurship, leadership and sales & marketing. and sits on various community and advisory boards. In 2016 he received the Small Business Advocate of the Year Award from the State of Florida.


Anna Etienne recently joined the Startup FIU team as the Program Director for its first Food Incubator. Startup FIU seeks to partner with local food entrepreneurs persuing sustainability and a scalable business model. Prior to joining the team, she helped launch the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Miami Dade College, where she served as the program manager for three years and connected over 200 graduates from among Miami’s local business owners. Etienne graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s in business administration and a master’s in higher-education administration. She is a doctoral student studying organizational leadership at Northeastern University.


Seema Pissaris, Ph.D., is a professor at Florida International University. She is also an avid entrepreneur responsible for launching numerous successful companies; one of them became a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. She enjoys working with students on their ventures, and empowers them to become agents of change and to launch ventures that also achieve a social good.


Ricardo Weisz is a versatile C-level executive expert in raising equity capital, finance, marketing, startups, turnaround management, content, brand development, licensing and marketing of products and services. He has headed various ventures with successful exits and today invests in early-stage companies and syndicates projects. During his tenure with The Walt Disney Company, he launched operations in multiple countries and served as a zone vice president and general manager. He is an early-stage investor and syndicator of projects. He has served on numerous boards and helped shape industry conferences. He currently is administrator/CEO of Interim Healthcare of Miami, a home healthcare provider.

High School Track Judges


Alice Horn is an innovator with extensive experience in building and leading entrepreneurial organizations. In her current role as CEO of Resort Homes of Florida, LLC, she has helped the company develop a strong presence as a forward-thinking marketing company in the rapidly growing vacation rental field. Prior to joining Resort Homes of Florida, she spent more than 10 years as the founding executive director of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE South Florida), providing entrepreneurship and career skills to over 40,000 at-risk youth.

HS_natalia3 martinez biz cmg

Natalia Martinez-Kalinina is leading the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in Miami and is founder of Awesome Foundation. CIC is the U.S.’s oldest and largest hub of startup activity and a leader in creating innovation districts. Prior to CIC, she was chief innovation and technology officer for a nonprofit focused on Cuba and has stayed involved with this issue, recently co-authoring the 10x10K Cuba innovation challenge, a startup competition for entrepreneurs on the island.


Stephanie Sylvestre is chief operations and programs officer of the Children’s Trust, and she is known for her community activism and professional history as a problem-solver and team builder. Previously, she worked in the private sector with Independent Purchasing Cooperative, Burger King Corp., Initiatives Corp. and Cambridge Technology Partners.


Correne Tabbah, a certified health coach and proprietor of Body and Soul Health Coach, is passionate about the benefits of using a health coach to attain previously unreachable goals. She particularly adept at helping clients identify obstacles to achieving the balance. She and husband Hassan Tabbah volunteer with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

HS_Hassan Tabbah

Hassan Tabbah, retired as head of sales force management at HSBC, is a senior wealth management executive with broad experience in the financial services industry. His background includes strategic planning, sales management and consensus building. He has been recognized for strong interpersonal skills and unique motivational approach to team building and leadership.