Business Plan Challenge

Meet the Business Plan Challenge judges

Sheri Colas-Gervais
Sheri Colas-Gervais


Sheri Colas-Gervais is vice president of Economic Development and Urban Initiatives for the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County’s official public-private economic development partnership. She serves to stimulate job creation with emphasis on small business growth in Miami-Dade, and new business investments and solutions in our urban communities. Colas-Gervais’ track record includes business growth achievements in both the entrepreneurial and Fortune 500 corporate sectors in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Jocelyn Cortez-Young is founder and CEO of Minerva Capital Group, a double bottom line impact investment firm focusing on emerging markets. Before founding Minerva, Cortez-Young’s career included financial management roles with significant responsibility at Citibank, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs. Cortez-Young is a member of the Alumni Board Council for Kellogg School of Management, serves as the Chapter Board Member for Young Presidents’ Organization and Women's YPO Regional Officer for the Americas and is a mentor for early-stage companies through Endeavor Miami.

John Hall is executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Miami Dade College. He has served as the managing partner, president and/or CEO of five businesses, including a venture capital fund and a publicly traded commercial bank. He was successful in the turn-around of three troubled companies and served on the strategic acquisitions team for successful mergers and acquisitions valued at over $300 million. Hall was inducted into the South Florida Business Hall of Fame by the Florida Council on Economic Education.

Melissa Krinzman is the managing partner of Krillion Ventures, a $50 million Miami-based early stage venture capital firm that actively invests in financial services, transportation, logistics, real estate and health startups. Krinzman is also the founder of Venture Architects, a business planning firm that has positioned early and growth stage companies for success in the capital-raising process since 1998.

Steven A. McKean specializes in starting and scaling technology companies. He is CEO of BILLSHARK, a mobile-first bill-negotiation service. Before, he was founder of Acceller, a company he grew to 300 employees before merging with Bridgevine in 2014; he is vice chairman of the combined company. He also co-founded Animusoft and advises early stage companies in team-building, culture, financing and marketing. He is on the boards of Miami Children's Hospital, the Orange Bowl Committee, YPO and the Zell Lurie Entrepreneurial Institute.

Ivan Rapin-Smith currently leads Watsco Ventures, the startup incubator and corporate venture capital fund of Watsco Inc., a fortune 1000 company headquartered in Coconut Grove. Before his current role, Rapin-Smith ran the startup accelerator program at the Venture Hive. Before moving to Miami in 2011, Rapin-Smith co-founded and ran Idealy, the first startup accelerator in Belgium, and before than he co-founded two technology startups.

Jacqueline Bueno Sousa is regional director of Florida SBDC (Small Business Development Center) at FIU. Before joining FIU, Sousa was a director with an international business-intelligence and strategic-advisory firm, advising multinational companies with business intelligence needs related to new market entries, regulatory issues and competitive analysis. Previously, Sousa was a reporter or editor with the Wall Street Journal, American Lawyer Media and the Miami Herald. She also launched and operated a regional media company.

Rob Strandberg is president and CEO of Enterprise Development Corp. of South Florida (EDC), a public-private partnership that assists emerging science and technology companies. He oversees EDC’s mentor program, a number of incubators, EDC conferences, administration of the New World Angels and other programs. He is executive director of Fusion Pointe in Naples and a board member of several early-stage companies. He has been a CEO of tech companies Xytrans, PSC and DATAMAX and a director of Sawtek/Triquint, Merix/Via Systems and Quipp/ITW.

Mike Tomás is president and CEO of US Stem Cell Inc., a Sunrise-based biotech company focused on developing and commercializing stem cell therapies. Previously he spent nearly 20 years driving the evolution of IT and communications technology in the United States and Mexico in executive roles. An active investor, Tomás serves on boards of Rokk3r Labs, Easy Solutions and US Stem Cell (f/k/a Bioheart). He chairs FIU's Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center board and serves on the boards of Career Source Florida, Miami Dade College's Idea Center and St. Thomas University’s Science and Technology Institute.

Rhys L. Williams is associate vice president and managing director of FAU Tech Runway. Williams serves as chairman of the board and is co-founder and the former president of New World Angels, a member-managed, structured angel investor group. Williams has been active in efforts to commercialize biotechnologies from Florida’s research universities and institutes, having co-founded several biotechnology spinout ventures. Previously he was a venture capitalist with SI Ventures and held executive positions with Ixion Biotechnology, Smith Barney, American Express and the U.S. Army Special Forces.

Jimmy Athanasopoulos is the head of social responsibility for the Libra Group and chairman of the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award, through which he has mentored and supported many startups. Before joining Libra, he held management positions at DNV, Tyco Healthcare, TetraPak, FreeSeas and G. Bros. Matitime S.A.


Nico Berardi is managing director at Accelerated Growth Partners, an angel investor network based out of Miami. He has been commissioned by Knight Foundation to bridge the funding gap that Miami entrepreneurs face. In the first year, AGP has grown to 80-plus members and made 12 investments totaling $2.2 million. Berardi is currently completing his Kauffman Fellowship. Berardi was CEO — U.S. at TECHO until December 2013.

Karlene C. Cousins is associate professor of information systems and business analytics in the College of Business at the Florida International University, where she teaches courses in technology innovation, information systems strategy and governance and healthcare information law. As an attorney, entrepreneur, business planning and commercialization expert, she has worked with technology, healthcare companies and government agencies on regulatory, data privacy, intellectual property and commercialization issues.

Nina Nikolic is founder and CEO of Idea Capital, a financial consultancy providing strategic advice, fund-raising, deal structuring, business model design and creative revenue strategy solutions. She currently consults BigSur Partners, an investment management firm based in Miami, and Neuroscience Centers of Florida Foundation. She also recently joined the Fort Lauderdale chapter of The Founder Institute as a mentor. Before starting Idea Capital, she worked as a financial analyst at JHS Capital.

Seema Pissaris is a professor at Florida International University’s College of Business. She is also an entrepreneur; she is co-founder and partner of Jubilee Blinds in Fort Lauderdale, founder of Big Ticket Video in Toronto and founder and former CEO of Games Trader of Toronto, which went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Pissaris has a passion for social entrepreneurship and also consults for social enterprise organizations.

Ricardo Weisz, an early-stage investor, is founder and president of Northvest, a consultant for the Small Business Development Center at FIU, president of the Miami Innovation Fund, and founder of Interim Healthcare of Miami. The former executive with The Walt Disney Co. launched operations in multiple countries. He has held a number of board positions, including Ogangi Corp., Consult A Doctor, NIP/The Winner’s Circle and the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University.


David M. Añón is vice president of marketing for eMerge Americas, overseeing global marketing and communications strategy. Before joining eMerge, he was vice president, general manager for WWE in Latin America, and was senior director of marketing for BlackBerry in Latin America. Additionally, Añón has held leadership roles such as vice president of marketing at The Beacon Council, director of global marketing at Brightstar Corp., and senior marketing communications manager at Sony Latin America.

Anna Etienne helped to launch the first cohort of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Miami Dade College, where she has been program manager for more than two years. She has managed the administration of the program that has connected more than 160 graduates from among South Florida’s local business owners to valuable skills for growing their businesses. This is Etienne’s second year as a NFTE judge in the High School Track.

Elizabeth Oates is AVP of corporate strategy at Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. Since joining the company in 2007, she has served in Revenue Management, Corporate & Capital Planning and Strategy. She also serves on Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) South Florida’s Advisory Board and on the board of the Chicago Booth Alumni Club of South Florida.

Cesar Quintero is an entrepreneur and author. After working for Procter & Gamble as a marketing manager for Latin America, he moved to Miami to start a business and help others achieve a healthier lifestyle by founding Fit2Go, a healthy meal delivery service leveraging technology and logistics. He has since founded RawBar2Go, the first licensed food boat in Florida, and The Profit Recipe, a coaching firm for restaurant owners to help them grow through delivery systems. He recently published a book, The Profit Recipe.

Andrew R. Wilson is the consumer sales registered executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch for the Merrill Edge Platform, responsible for the licensed associates in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade counties. He began his career in 1995 as a stockbroker in New York and has held several roles in the financial service industry. He joined Bank of America in 2011 after spending 10 years at JPMorgan Chase concentrating on building the investment platform across multiple states. He is a board member of NFTE South Florida.

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