• Innovation Awards Team

2018 Selection Committee Roster

A “Selection Committee” comprised of 60+ influencers from the Sacramento region’s civic, business, technology, and academic communities — all with experience pertaining to one of the program’s categories — carefully review the nominations during a six-week evaluation process in August and September.

Read on for words of wisdom to nominees for making the most of the submission materials.


Steve Mills, Partner, DCA Capital Partners Gino DiCaro, VP of Communications, California Manufacturing & Technology Association (CMTA) Tony Lopez, Vice President of Operations, Pride Industries Mark Haney, Host of The Mark Haney Show, CEO, HaneyBiz

Entrepreneurs are the heroes of American capitalism and the key to Sacramento’s economic future. Identify a risk taker that is changing the world. Help us celebrate their innovative venture. This is what Hometown Patriotism is all about! 

John Krueger*, Executive VP, Greater Sacramento Economic Council Jennie Ly, Manager, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Tom Henry, Stoel Rives LLP  [non-voting liaison]


Mary Busch, Director of Innovation, Blue Diamond Growers Julie Morris, Academic Coordinator, Food & Agriculture Industry Immersion at UC Davis

To ensure that you have the best chance of winning in your category, make sure that you provide all the information requested and ensure that it is as complete as possible. Those entries that do best are the ones that clearly explain their technology and the innovation, as well as the benefit it provides to customers.

Trish Kelley, Senior Vice President, Valley Vision Ryan Sharp, Associate Director, Venture Catalyst, UC Davis Ashish Malik, CEO, Bee Vectoring Technologies International, Inc. Parastoo Yaghmaee, Ph.D., VP of Process Solutions & Validations, Ziel Process Solutions, LLC John Selep, President, AgStart Jeremy McInturf, Senior Manager, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Melissa Jones*, Office Managing Partner, Stoel Rives LLP [non-voting liaison] Matt Struhar, Stoel Rives LLP [non-voting liaison]


Louis Stewart*, Chief Innovation Officer, MOFIE, City of Sacramento Amanda Blackwood, President & CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber Maya Wallace, Code for Sac Aaron Anderson, Principal, Impact Venture Capital

As an early stage startup, nothing is more convincing than traction. Be sure to emphasize what you’ve accomplished (particularly with sales!) and what you’ll be doing next to pour fuel onto that fire.

Diane Parro, Chief Innovation Officer, City of Davis Stuart Drown, Deputy Secretary for Innovation & Accountability, CA Government Operations Agency Khaim Morton, Deputy Secretary for Legislation, CA Government Operations Agency Brandon Weber, CEO, I/O Labs and Founder, The Urban Hive Chris Russell*, Partner, Stoel Rives LLP Emerging Companies [non-voting liaison]


Katherine Cota, Executive Director, Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Sac State Harry Laswell, CEO, Powerhouse Science Center

Submit more information not less. Many of the applicants have sent such general information that they have effectively disqualified themselves because we can’t really tell who they are and what they do from the material submitted. You only have one chance to make an initial impression.

Kristie Amanna, Senior Engineer, Intel Corporation Amit Gattani, Senior Director of Segment Marketing, Embedded Solutions Group, Micron Technology, Inc. Tim Keller, Founder, Inventopia

We want companies that can communicate well both how their product is a) innovative and b) useful. We like acknowledging companies that are going to make a difference in their respective markets.

Mike Rizzo, Chief Banking Officer, Capital Region, Five Star Bank Mang Fang, Senior Manager, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Philip Wang, Stoel Rives LLP Litigation [non-voting liaison]

MEDICAL & HEALTH: MedTech & BioPharmasupported by MedStart

Cary Adams, JD, CEO, MedForce Accelerator / Almond Tree Capital Judy Kjelstrom, PhD., Director Emerita, UC Davis Biotechnology Program Warren Smith, Ph.D., Professor, Electrical & Electronic Engineering Department, California State University, Sacramento Chris Wood, Senior Director, Mercy Neurological Institute, Dignity Health

Explain the key benefits of the technology – not just how it works but to ensure the value proposition is clear for the intended customer. Also, it is important to map out the business opportunity (if the innovation is pre-revenue, it needs a stronger explanation of the business model).

Dushyant Pathak*, Assoc. Vice Chancellor, Office of Research, ED Venture Catalyst, UC Davis Meg Arnold*, Managing Director, Valley Vision Matt Phillips, Director of Business Development, StemExpress Robert Groth, Head of Sales and BD, Twenty Billion Neurons GmbH Yasmin Seyal, CFO, Techiya Barry Curtis, Assoc. Dir., Strategic Technology Marketing, Office of Research, UC Davis Tracy Shafizadeh, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Communications, Evolve BioSystems [2016 WINNER]

Have a clear understanding what previous companies in this space have done well and where they failed. Given the high rate of failure in the MedTech/BioPharma space, the ability to articulate how your company will succeed where others have failed is critically important.

Zane Starkewolfe, Associate Director, UC Davis, Venture Catalyst Andrey Gaynaliy, Manager, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Matt Bethards*, Bart Giddings, Alex Oh, and Jon Miles, Stoel Rives LLP Tech & Life Sciences [non-voting liaisons]


Roger Akers, Managing Partner, Akers Capital LLC

Clearly describe your current path and that you have or are working on a clear mission, large market, Unfair advantage, superior management team, razor sharp operation method and a path to profitability; Don’t overvalue yourself, understand what a “proof of concept is”, stale bread is hard to eat; Identify stages of funding, who your customers will be, who are your compliments/competitors; Don’t apologize for asking for money, answer objections with facts, don’t oversell.

Laura Good*, Cofounder, StartupSac Vaibhav Nadgauda, Partner, Moneta Ventures Corley Phillips, Director, Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy Kim Box, President & CEO at Gatekeeper Innovation, Inc. John Peters, Chairman, Sacramento Angels Scot Sutherland, PhD., Director of R&D, Pondera Solutions [2017 WINNER] Jon Gregory, Venture Banking Manager & VP at Five Star Bank Mark Harrison, Partner, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Sylvia Arostegui & Eric Skanchy, Stoel Rives LLP Development [non-voting liaisons]


Gary Simon, Chairman, CleanStart, Inc. Nicole England, Teichert Construction Jim Alves, Economic Development & Partnerships, SMUD Dave Sanders, WorldBridge Partners Angela DePaoli, President & CEO, Bargas Environmental Consulting Rob White, Chief Strategist, Sierra Energy [2016 WINNER] Mark Humbert, Senior Manager, Moss Adams LLP [non-voting] Allison Smith and Sarah Kozal, Stoel Rives LLP Energy & Natural Resources [non-voting liaisons]

*Steering Committee Member

Conflicts of Interest Policy: In the event that a Selection Committee member has a “tie” or connection with a nomination, they will be asked to disclose the relationship to program organizers and abstain from voting on the category in which the related nomination is being judged. All Selection Committee members shall be objective and unbiased in group discussions and evaluations

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