Board of Advisors
Don Ball, MBA, CGBP® helps start-up and mid-sized businesses, organizations and government entities achieve success by providing Business Education, Plans (Business-, Visa, Sales/Marketing-, Feasibility-, Commercialization, and Strategic- Plans), International (Exporting, Local international business establishment), and Leadership/Management Coaching and Consulting. He has served in various leadership, marketing, and business development positions ranging from Technical Illustrator to Corporate Marketing Director, General Manager and Business Owner of two prior businesses. Most recently he served as a Senior Consultant in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of Lone Star College where he assisted with the launch and funding of more than 50 ventures, helped his clients to create/retain over 500 jobs and helped obtain over $60 million in capital for new and existing businesses. His clients have included child care facilities, hair salons, lawn care businesses, restaurants, software developers, new environmental products for the energy industry, franchises, immigrants moving to and starting businesses in Texas and even an owner of a coffee plantation in Brazil. He has assisted clients with both import and export projects. He serves as an Adjunct Instructor in the Business/Entrepreneurial Department of the University of Houston-Downtown (Management, Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship), and has written a book for start-ups entitled “3-2-1-Launch-Taking Your Idea from Concept to Reality” ©. He is a Certified Global Business Professional® (CGBP), has completed training as a Certified Growth Wheel® Coach (CGWC), Certified International Consultant (UTSA-SBDC-Global), and is a Certified Live Plan© Advisor. He is a military Veteran (Sgt., U.S. Army, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, South Korea).
Jill Almaguer is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Registered Professional Engineer in Texas. She provides leadership and project management to coordinate suppliers to deliver contract requirements on time and on budget while meeting or exceeding customer expectations for quality results. While working at HP for 20 years, she led a number of technical project teams implementing a broad range of projects from $10 million medical electronics for the new Brooke Army Medical Center built in San Antonio to nationwide high-speed telecommunications network monitoring systems. She also led software application engineering team for implementation of semi-conductor design software and was director of development for an RFID asset tracking system. At HP, she taught quality process improvement methods to over 600 employees in the southern US as part of the Voice of the Customer project implementation. In 2004, Mrs. Almaguer became an adjunct faculty member at DeVry University where she taught a variety of business and project management undergraduate courses. Professor Almaguer also provided project management and consulting services to clients such as BP Gulf of Mexico division for a major ERP conversion project. Jill co-authored a study guide for the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician exam published by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. She has presented at numerous national and regional conferences for Society of Women Engineers and Project Management Institute. Jill brings her breadth of experience from program management of an Emerging Technology Fund grant to project portfolio management for one of the largest public integrated healthcare delivery systems in Texas, she has a BS in Bioengineering and an MBA. Jill currently serves as Vice Chairman for the City of Bellaire Board of Adjustment and on the board of the Federation of Houston Professional Women, and Texas A&M University Biomedical Engineering Industry advisory board. She is current chairman of the Biomedical Engineering Society Houston Industry Chapter and past president of Association of IT Professionals in Houston
Mr. Royce Heslep began his career in corporate finance working for Fortune 1000 companies, American International Group and Global Marine Inc. He has held positions in the areas of financial analysis, budgeting, cash management, corporate planning, accounting, capital acquisition and human resources. He was also a Controller for Law Engineering and Environmental Services, an international consulting firm. At Law Engineering he started the company’s MIS department.
In 2002, Mr. Heslep Co-founded Aptia Systems, Inc. Royce capitalized on his finance experience and appreciation for technology to help businesses improve their bottom line by building custom designed web-based applications. Aptia has built over 300+ applications for large world-class organizations as well as startup entrepreneurial ventures. Aptia has won numerous awards for business growth and customer service.
Entrepreneurship is a passion as well as a career path for Royce. He is a graduate of the Houston Technology Center Acceleration Program, Vice President of the Houston Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), Vistage and The Entrepreneurship Institute.
As a Director of American Philanthropic Ventures, Royce looks forward to helping entrepreneurs turn their vision into reality. Royce understands the challenges of early stage ventures particularly building the right team, business systems and raising capital. He will leverage his extensive network in Houston and experience as a CFO and CEO to help bring “life changing” technologies to market.
C. Richard Piazza
With more than 35 years of CEO experience, Richard Piazza is a seasoned executive with a wide range of proven skills that lend themselves to established businesses as well as startups and turnarounds. He is a well-recognized strategist that approaches problem solving in a Rubik’s Cube fashion examining the situation from all perspectives and developing a well thought through and executable plan to achieve the desired results. Known as a consensus builder and strong leader, he gains team support and buy in to gain full commitment to the established goals.
He has gained a reputation of not only introducing new technologies and driving them to success but also recruiting and motivating “world class,” highly focused management teams. In addition to a highly successful business career, Mr. Piazza has served on industry association boards & committees (Advamed, Biocomm, BioHouston etc.) and was an industry representative working with the FDA and the Congress to craft the FDA Modernization Act for Medical Devices. His Board experience also includes numerous directorships and Chairman roles in both public and private healthcare companies. In addition to industry affiliations, he remains committed to working with well-known medical pioneers to identify and advance new technologies and acts as an advisor to some of world’s leading institutions. These include MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, University of California San Diego, University of Chicago & Kings College Hospital (London.) He has been a guest Lecturer in Sales & Marketing strategy at numerous Universities including Rice University, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, CAL Tech-MIT forum, University of British Columbia & University of California San Diego.
Richard has passion for success and achievement in all aspects of his personal and professional life that extends from his life long commitment to long distance running and marathoning to insuring shareholders receive maximum value in every business he has run. He uses his natural curiosity about developing the best practices possible which has resulted in a track record that includes a) ability to introduce new technologies in changing markets b) accelerating revenue growth, profits and market share in both dynamic as well as static markets c) effecting turnarounds of both compromised and under performing companies d) attracting capital from a wide range of sources including VC’s, institutional investors, banks and public markets.
Ashley Johnson founded Mouth Marketing in 2015 after recognizing the need for holistic marketing solutions. Prior to the launch of Mouth Marketing, Ashley managed social media marketing content for local businesses and went on to serve in executive marketing roles in the industrial and health tech industries. Since our launch, Ashley has helped unique organizations develop strategic marketing solutions and align the sales and marketing goals to achieve her client’s objectives both long-term and short-term. In addition to her professional experiences, Ashley is happily married with three rescue pups and serves on the executive board for several Houston community non-profits that address emergency planning and development across the region.
Barry R. Griffin DVM
In 1988 he began working with ozone on cooling towers and recognized immediately that ozone was a God given gift to be used in major problems of water treatment. Through his associations with leaders in ozone technology he saw the opportunity to improve many problematic waters. He has been responsible for the founding of Clean Water Tech LLC, a fluid treatment system for recycling produced oilfield fluids.
His interest in progressive science has kept him involved with expanding markets for medically related products and services. It was a natural progression to become one of the founding members of American Philanthropic Ventures Association. Dr. Griffin also serves on the Board for the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.
Catherine is the Director of the Rice Business Plan Competition at the Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship at Rice University. The business plan competition is the world’s largest and richest intercollegiate startup competition in the world, annually awarding over $1 million in prizes each year to 42 universities who are invited to compete. In this role Catherine will enhance and expand the competition globally, and widen its visibility and economic impact. Prior to the Rice Alliance, Catherine Head of Science & Innovation at the British Consulate-General in Houston, where she developed and delivered impactful multi-stakeholder research and innovation collaborations and opportunities for the UK and SW US; identified and supported emerging science and technology opportunities for the UK; and supported UK policy development with US insights and identified best practices. She also spent some time in the health & fitness field when a career change took her to the Jewish Community Center of Houston to serve as the Health & Fitness Coordinator and interim Fitness Director in their fitness center. There she managed the adult group exercise program and staff, designed health and wellness programs, and expanded the fitness center’s social media presence.
Catherine Santamaria is a fourth-generation Houstonian. She graduated from St. John’s School in Houston and graduated from The Colorado College in Colorado Springs, earning her B.A. in German and History and spending her junior year of university abroad in Germany. After university graduation, Catherine moved to Tokyo, Japan to teach English at a private conversation school company. Working there three years and rising to the position of Regional Trainer, she then left teaching to begin a job at a Japanese enterprise software company, communicating the company’s interests and products information to international clients. Catherine returned home to Houston in 2001, later working at the Houston World Affairs Council, an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting education and awareness of international issues and U.S. foreign policy. In her free time, Catherine coaches a marathon group for her running club, and volunteers for healthcare advocacy organizations. Her interests are distance running, cooking and exploring the city.
Dr. Martin Lindenberg
Dr. Lindenberg is a serial entrepreneur who has started or helped to build over two dozen organizations in the USA over the last 30 years. He was the founding chairman and has served as a director of the Houston Technology Center, a business accelerator, from inception in 1998 until 2016. He was a founder and director of Fannin Innovation Studio from 2005 to 2014, a biomedical development company. He was a partner / consultant in Newport Board Group from 2011 to 2014. Dr. Lindenberg served as Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Xeotron Corporation from 2000 to 2002, a company subsequently acquired by Invitrogen (IVGN, NASDAQ). From 1994 to 1996, he served as President, CEO and Board member of RGeneTherapeutics, selling it to Targeted Genetics (TGEN, NASDAQ). Earlier, Dr. Lindenberg was director of International Marketing for new cardiovascular drugs at Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals doing development and marketing for 42 countries. He served on the board of MDC Group, private investors in Israeli high technology companies. He has served as a director of several large community non-profits and as chairman of the audit committee of one of them. Dr. Lindenberg holds B.Sc. and Honors, M.D. and MBA, all from University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Martin has extensive management, operations and business experience and proven board experience over sixteen plus years with companies and non-profits. He grew up in a family owned manufacturing business in South Africa that grew from 24 people to a major brand with over 500 employees before divestiture.
Nicholas E. Rockecharlie
Nicholas E. Rockecharlie is Managing Director of Rockecharlie & Co., a financial advisory practice he founded in 1979. In its over three decades of existence Rockecharlie & Co. has sponsored and/or arranged a variety of transactions including the sale of privately owned corporations, management buyouts, corporate recapitalizations, mergers, acquisitions and private placements of minority interests.
In 1996 and again in 2001, Rockecharlie originated and co-invested with Tanglewood Investments Inc. in two acquisitions (Forged Vessel Connections Inc. and ITEQ Inc.) that became key components of the Ameri-Forge Group which was sold in 2012 with annual revenues approaching $1 billion to private equity group First Reserve. Between 2004 and 2013, Rockecharlie invested in and assumed operating positions with two former clients: a Houston-based importer and distributor of flexible packaging films and an exploration, production, and drilling company working primarily in Northwest Africa. From 2005 to 2008, Rockecharlie was one of three co-founders and the interim CFO of Seno Medical Instruments in San Antonio TX. Seno is commercializing instrumentation based on cancer detecting functional imaging technology on which it holds a world-wide battery of patents.
From 1977-1979, Rockecharlie was vice president of Charter New York Leasing Corporation (a unit of the Bank of New York, now BNY Mellon) and between 1972-1977, Rockecharlie was vice president of Commercial Credit Capital Corporation and was responsible for institutional sales of equity and debt in leveraged leases arranged by the firm. Between 1968 -1971 Rockecharlie served in the United States Army where he completed the Infantry Officer Candidate Program at Ft. Benning Georgia and subsequently served with the 52nd Signal Battalion in the Republic of Vietnam.
Rockecharlie holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Loyola University Maryland and a Master of Administrative Science Degree from The Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School.