The 2017 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition finalists will be pitching their companies to an impressive lineup of judges. The judges will decide the winner of the overall pitch competition, with the winner receiving $50,000. More details on the total prize distribution, the largest in the three-year history of the event, will be announced next week.
The 2017 finalist judges are:
William E. Cohn, M.D.
Dr. William E. Cohn is a vice president of medical devices at Johnson & Johnson and the director for the Johnson & Johnson Center for Device Innovation at the Texas Medical Center. He is also a professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and an adjunct professor of bioengineering at Rice University and the University of Houston. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Cohn was the director of the Cullen Cardiovascular Research Lab at the famed Texas Heart Institute (THI) and the director of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery at THI. A native of Houston, Cohn received his medical school education, general surgical training and cardiothoracic surgical training at Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as the last chief resident of the legendary heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey. After graduation, Cohn spent 11 years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and as an attending cardiothoracic surgeon at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Ashok Gowda, Ph.D.
Dr. Ashok Gowda is a founder and CEO of a Houston-based medical technology developer and manufacturer, BioTex Inc. Under his direction, the company has raised over $20 million to date in non-dilutive funding, successfully licensed numerous early-stage technologies, spun out two separate commercial stage companies, both of which successfully raised private capital. At BioTex, Gowda oversees internal development programs as well as partnering activities, where the company works with other entrepreneurs and startups to develop and bring novel medical technologies to market. Previously, Gowda co-founded and served as chief operating officer at Visualase Inc., which was acquired by Medtronic in late 2014. He is an active investor, advisor and board member for a number of early-stage medical technology companies. Gowda has served as principal investigator on more than 15 National Institutes of Health grants, authored more than 50 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts, and is an inventor on more than 20 issued patents.
Casey McNeil (2016 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition Winner)
Casey McNeil is the CEO and founder of REEcycle, a rare earth recycling company utilizing intellectual property developed at the University of Houston. McNeil has spent the past five years focused on maximizing the useful life of the electronics we use, including the materials within them. In 2010, he left Houston to become the third member of iCracked, a Y-Combinator backed, Silicon Valley based startup. After a stint with iCracked, McNeil decided to begin his own venture, Vendera Mobile, focused on managing the lifecycle of large mobile device deployments for enterprise clients. It was his background in both companies that led to his founding of REEcycle in 2013. To date, REEcycle has received $1.15 million in funding from awards and grants, and is currently in the process of building the pilot facility that will set the foundation for a commercial production facility in late 2018.
Robert Shaddox is the chair of Winstead’s Intellectual Property Group, and co-chair of the firm’s University Industry Group. Shaddox has litigation experience in a wide range of substantive areas and forums, with a focus on intellectual property (patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret and unfair competition). His experience further includes infringement and validity analyses and prosecution of patents in nanotechnology, the mechanical, electro-mechanical, electronic, chemical composition, medical device and software arts, and trademark, copyright and foreign patent applications and prosecution, as well as technology transfer and transactional licensing of patents, copyrights and trademarks. Shaddox has also served as an expert witness on patent prosecution and validity, and on reasonableness and necessity of attorney fees for intellectual property matters.
Graham Weston is an acclaimed technology entrepreneur, real estate developer, philanthropist and civic activist based in San Antonio. He co-founded Rackspace, a leading cloud computing company, which recently sold for $4.3 billion. His family owns the Weston Centre, the premier office building in downtown San Antonio. He is working to make the urban core of the city more attractive to startups and to the educated young, including through his real estate firm, Weston Urban, which is building the new Frost Bank tower downtown, and a new residential and commercial corridor along San Pedro Creek. Weston also founded Geekdom, a co-working space for startups in downtown San Antonio, and the 80/20 Foundation, which supports STEM education and entrepreneurship.
Michael R. Wilkinson
Michael R. Wilkinson leads Paragon Innovations’ business strategy and vision, product design and development, and customer relations. Since its inception in 1990, Wilkinson and his team have grown Paragon into one of the nation’s leading providers of product development and engineering services. Customers include 3M, B.Braun Medical, Hitachi, Matsushita, Motorola and Siemens, among others. Wilkinson is founder and chief executive officer of Kewl Innovations Inc. With more than 25 years of hardware and software experience in embedded systems design and development, he created the vision for Kewl Innovations and has led the design and development of the prototype Kewl products. He is a member of the advisory council of Texas A&M Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship and serves on the industrial advisory board for Texas A&M’s engineering technology and industrial distribution department.