INNOVATION MENTORS

Louie Balasny

Director, Tech & VC First Republic Bank; Founder, Botkeeper

Louie Balasny is Director of Tech & VC at First Republic Bank. His lifelong desire to build something from the ground up, led him to co-found Botkeeper. For over five years, Louie helped build the automated bookkeeping company to where it is, most recently securing a $25 million Series B round. His passion for helping startups and working closely with founders ultimately led him to join First Republic Bank in its Tech and Venture Capital group. Louie holds his Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School and is very active in the Boston community.

Kristin Barishian

CPA; Director, MARCUM 

Kristin has more than 15 years of experience in public accounting focusing on audits of public and private companies. works primarily with companies in the technology industry, particularly in software, life sciences and renewable energy. Kristin also has experience providing in-house technical consulting, including internal control assessments, for public and private companies. She has also worked for 4 years in private industry as a manager of SEC and financial reporting and as an accounting manager.

Patty Flaherty Donahue
Business Development Manager, 
EBS Employee Benefit Solutions

Patty’s career has centered around building relationships and delivering solutions for companies of all sizes and various industries, working closely with Human Resource and Finance leaders.  At EBS, Employee Benefit Solutions, Patty helps companies address healthcare cost-containment strategies, implement HR technologies that scale, get ahead of compliance & healthcare reform, and adopt corporate wellness initiatives. Prior to EBS, as an executive in a staffing firm, Patty delivered solutions for talent and human resource executives, managing complex customer talent acquisition programs. She is an active member of The Boston Club.

Dr. Robert Benson 

Principal, South Shaker Associates

Bob Benson is Principal of South Shaker Associates, LLC, a tech transfer consulting company. He has a PhD in chemistry, is a patent agent and is an experienced technology transfer practitioner.  He worked for over twenty years at the NIH and Harvard’s technology transfer offices handling a broad array of life science, chemistry, medical device, materials, and nanotechnology inventions.  Bob’s strength is at the intersection of technology, IP, and licensing to help clients/mentees make the right decisions about their business interests.  His Mentorship expertise is within the areas of technology IP and IP licensing. 

Sophia Kambanis

Executive Director, Massachusetts Innovation Network

Judge, MIT Enterprise Forum Greece

Mentor, Blue Incubator

Sophia has 25+ years of experience in profit and non-profit organization management, local and international market operations, multi-country management team building, and company culture crisis management during merger and acquisitions. Sophia started her career with the design and implementation of marketing research plans and strategic marketing guidance for multinational organizations like Unilever’s Food Division, PepsiCo,  KraftHeinz, CITIgroup, GlaxoSmithKline and PernodRicard. She moved on to leading the Marketing Division of a group of 5 merged companies that were operating in 5 different countries: Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Greece. One of her most challenging yet rewarding experience was to develop a common group culture working with diverse nationalities, languages, work ethics and business practices.  Sophia’s experience includes extensive development of communication plans, brand awareness generation, and effective story telling techniques for charitable organizations, chambers of commerce and business associations.   

Dr. Petros Kotidis

President, Miracor Consulting

Advisory Board Member - C2Sense,

Advisory Board Member - Mesodyne,

Advisory Board Member - Massachusetts Innovation Network 

Dr. Kotidis is a CEO-Level Executive with over 30 years of experience in a variety of industries, including Government and Defense, Security and Safety, Oil and Gas, Chemical, Industrial Process Control, Analytical Instrumentation, Biomedical, Photonics, Telecommunications and Data Analytics. Dr. Kotidis has served on Boston University’s Industrial Advisory Board and Princeton University’s MIRTHE Center Industrial Advisory Board. He has received several product awards, including the prestigious Best Product of the Year SPIE Photonics Prism Awards in 2010 and 2018. He has been awarded 26 US Patents, with several more pending.

Pamela Layton

CEO, 4Immune Therapeutics

New England Innovation Award Winner 2012

Advisory Board Member - Massachusetts Innovation Network

Prior to her current role at 4Immune Therapeutics, Pamela Layton was the President and a member of the Board of Bioarray Genetics (bioassay.us), a breast cancer molecular diagnostics company, where her role spanned the acquisition of capital, operations, reimbursement, regulatory path and partnerships. Prior to Bioarray, Mrs. Layton was the Founder and CEO of Parcell Laboratories, and responsible for taking the first pure stem cell product from bench to bedside for spinal fusion surgery. She holds multiple U.S. and European patents for the ELA® cell and its applications.  Prior to Parcell, Mrs. Layton was the Founder and President of TriGuard Group LLC, a security information company that brought the first interactive alarm notification platform to market, for which Mrs. Layton holds the patent. Mrs. Layton is a Certified Tissue Bank Specialist as designated by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). In addition to mentoring young companies throughout the U.S., she is a member of the Board of Pioneer Institute, the Board of XenoTherapeutics (NE Innovation Award Winner 2018), the Treasurer. of the Board of Mother Brooks Arts Center, and a long-standing Judge for the New England Innovation Awards. Mrs. Layton is a member of Launchpad and SkyVentures, as well as an individual Angel Investor. 

Dr. Val Livada

Executive Director, Boston Center of the EU ENRICH Program;

Research Affiliate, MIT Materials Research Laboratory;

Founder, Corporate Entrepreneurship Network;

Advisor, MassRobotics;

Advisor, Greentown Labs; 

Director, Built Environment Coalition.

Dr. Livada has been active in the innovation/entrepreneurship ecosystem for over 35 wars. He has advised Global 300 type companies, research universities, regional organizations and startups on commercializing technology. Presently Val leads the Boston Center of the EU Enrich program, connecting European ventures to the US, and is working with MIT's Materials Research and Deshpande Centers to better connect. academia and industry. He is founder of the Corporate Entrepreneurship Network, sits on the Board of Directors of Aphios Corporation, The Built Environment Coalition, AutoHarvest Foundation and Monarch Antenna. He is also advisory board member for Greentown Labs, Mass Robotics, NU's Advanced Manufacturing Group, and Portugal's. BGI Incubator. Dr. Livada holds degrees from MIT and Tufts' Fletcher School and has taught at the Sloan School of Management at MIT and the Questrom School at BU. 

David Martin

Program Director, Industrial Liaison Program, MIT Office of Corporate Relations

David Martin is currently a Program Director for the Industrial Liaison Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Office of Corporate Relations.  He works with a portfolio of companies in helping them to expand and deepen their interactions with MIT. Dave has deep and broad knowledge and expertise in program management, innovation, commercial and government contracting, and strategic planning. In his most recent position at Altran (Burlington, MA) as the VP Programs, Dave had many major accomplishments including leading an innovation team to develop new technology in the beverage-filling industry, and managing client-facing relations supporting sales and execution of projects. Before that, he was at Windmill International as VP, Product Development, R&D. There he spearheaded the move into new markets for an innovative satellite communications product including through the SBIR program where he secured funding and sponsorship. Martin also leveraged other government programs collaborating with the DoD and congressional contacts. 

He began his career in the US Air Force and served for 10 years as an Acquisition Manager, Scientist, Test Director, and finally as Executive Officer in the Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Systems in the Pentagon. Martin also served in the US Air Force Reserves. Mr. Martin earned his B.S., Physics from MIT, and his M.S., Systems Management from the University of Denver. He also earned a Certificate in Information Systems at the University of Denver.

Larry Nannis
Business Coach, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center

Larry Nannis is a Certified Public Accountant, who retired from Katz, Nannis + Solomon, PC of Waltham, MA in May, 2016, after a career of 47 years in public accounting. Over the last 35 years, Larry has worked with entrepreneurial companies that all levels of growth curve, providing accounting, auditing, tax and financial management advice designed to help the owners successfully grow their businesses and reach their desired exit strategies. In addition, he had provided advice on accounting for Federal awards for companies that received funding from the government for Research and Development.  Since retirement Larry has sub-contracted with Basic Business Concepts of Pittsburgh, PA, a contract CFO firm working to provide CFP services on a team basis for growing companies of all levels of technology. He also served as "Expert-in-Residence" at TechSandBox, a technology incubator located in Hopkinton, MA. Larry was a VBA for Cohorts 8 and 11 of the National Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. He is presently an adviser for the Southeast Region of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center. He has been a Judge for MassVentures START program at both the Phase I and II levels. The START program is a grant program designed to provide SBIR Phase II awardees with additional funding to cover those development costs not allowed by the Federal Government under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Over the past year, Larry has been a Mentor for the first two cohorts on E For All - Roxbury, a program accelerating economic and social impact in communities nationwide, through inclusive entrepreneurship.  Larry has earned is B.S. in Business Administration from Boston University School of Management and his M.S. in Taxation from Bentley University.

Andrea Pion
Vice President, Marketing, The Davis Companies; 
Executive Chair of Marlborough Economic Development Corporation

Andrea was elected Chair of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation in 2018, having served on its board since 2016; she had previously acted as both an Executive Committee and a Marketing Subcommittee member. She is the Vice President of Marketing at The DAVIS Companies, a Marlborough-based staffing firm and one of Massachusetts’ largest privately-owned companies. Since joining DAVIS in 1988, Andrea has launched and grown the firm’s Contract Administrative Placement division, developed and managed its national expansion plans, and directed and streamlined its New England operations. Currently, Andrea is focusing on DAVIS’ corporate nationwide branding, marketing and public relations initiatives. In 2016, she spearheaded the company’s rebranding, new website launch and alignment of various campaigns to generate strategic growth. 

Steven Saunders
Partner, Nutter McClennen and Fish, LLP; 
Angel Investor;
Adjunct Faculty, Boston University

Steven Saunders is an angel investor, entrepreneur,  engineer,  university lecturer, and a mentor to other entrepreneurs.  In  his  day job as a patent attorney, he chairs Nutter's Intellectual Property Department where clients of all sizes rely on Steven's counsel for managing their IP issues,  including portfolio development, strategy and evaluation, patent preparation  and prosecution, freedom to operate, IP litigation, and licensing. Steven also conducts extensive due diligence analysis for angel and VC investments, mergers, and acquisitions. Drawing on his engineering and scientific background, Steven works with a wide range of technologies, including medical technologies, electronics, computer software and hardware, cloud computing, routing, IoT, alternative energy, high performance computing (HPC), integrated circuit design, MEMS, semiconductor fabrication, and materials processing.  Steven is a member of Hub Angels and Launchpad Ventures and has advised numerous startups on growth strategy and raising capital. A leader in the legal industry, Steven has been involved in a wide variety of educational support activities, including as. adjunct faculty at Boston University, and a mentor for MIT's $100K Business Plan Competition, Venture Mentor Service, Sandbox, and delta v program.

Judith Underwood
Co-Founder and CEO, Blue Institute Labs

Judith Underwood is an entrepreneur, educator and an environmentalist. She is the Co-Founder of the Blue Incubator (Blue Institute Labs, PBC), a Public Benefit Corporation, which will be the first BlueTech hub (Blue Innovation Center) on the US Eastern Seaboard with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean serving entrepreneurs, and the Blue Cluster of academia, government agencies and established companies who need share, collaborative on-sight services and reliable ocean access for testing, training, and teaching. 

Judith is also the Founder of its sister institution, the Blue Institute at Cape Cod Bay, a non-profit global hub for water education & research. Both the Blue Incubator and the Blue Institute focus on water security and climate change solutions. Judith has 20+ years of scientific development & technology transfer work at research and educational institutions including MIT, the United Nations, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. 

She has a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts Boston, a Master’s from New York University, and has additional graduate environmental studies from Antioch University New England. Judith lives on Cape Cod where she serves on the Regional Wastewater Taskforce and as an elected Water Commissioner for the Town of Harwich.

Dr. Alina A. von Davier
Chief of Assessment, Duolingo;
Founder & CEO, EdAstra Tech;
President, International Association of Computerized Adaptive Testing

Alina von Davier, PhD. is a Chief of Assessment at Duolingo, an EdTech company, and Founder & CEO of EdAstra Tech, an education consulting company. At Duolingo von Davier and her team operate at the forefront of Computational Psychometrics. Her current research interests involve developing psychometric methodologies in support of digital-first assessments, such as the Duolingo English Test. Von Davier is an award winner author and sought after speaker. 

In 2020, von Davier was awarded a Career Award from the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). In 2018, she was a finalist for the “Visionary” Category from EdTech Digest.

Prior to Duolingo she was a Chief Officer at ACT, where she led ACTNext, a large R&D-innovation unit. Before that von Davier was a Senior Research Director at Educational Testing Service (ETS) where she led the Computational Psychometrics Research Center. Prior to that, she led the Center for Psychometrics for International Tests, where she was responsible for both the psychometrics in support of international tests, TOEFL® and TOEIC®, and the scores reported to millions of test takers annually.

Von Davier is currently the president of the International Association of Computerized Adaptive Testing (IACAT) and she serves on the board of directors for the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). She served on the Board of Directors for SmartSparrow, an adaptive learning startup. She has mentored for the Startup Weekend. She is a mentor in the via:mentor—Mentoring Programme for Female Postdoctoral Researchers, University of Kiel, Germany.

She earned her doctorate in mathematics from Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany, and her master of science degree in mathematics from the University of Bucharest, Romania.