The Team

Andrea Kates

For the past 20 years, Andrea has led large-scale initiatives designed to drive revenue growth for more than 200 companies. Her conviction that the enterprise needs fundamentally new innovation tools was inspired by her research with more than 25 organizations including GE ecomagination, General Motors/OnStar, EMC, Hyatt Hotels, P.F. Chang's, Johnson & Johnson, Zappos, and IndieGoGo which resulted in her bestselling book, Find Your Next.

Andrea is a globally-recognized speaker and strategist on bridging the gap between innovation and commercialization. She is on the faculty of the Business Institute in Aalborg, Denmark and was on the teaching team at Princeton University's eLAB Accelerator Program, where she guided multiple teams of entrepreneurs through the Lean Startup methods.

That first-hand experience in the crucible of the Lean LaunchPad led her to the insight that Steve Blank's methodology provided the missing link for Enterprise. She is now spearheading the LaunchPad for Enterprise initiative.

Most recently, Andrea was selected to be the key opinion leader for Cisco's Innovation Summit, Rueda de Innovación (Bogota), Insight One20 (Los Angeles), the Renaissance Executive Forum's 2014 Leadership Initiative, and Jones Lang LaSalle's global women's summit.

James O'Connor

James is a seasoned software industry veteran with over three decades of experience building software and software systems in Silicon Valley. James has a passion for building talented cohesive teams that execute on his visionary strategic business solutions.

Before joining LaunchPad he served as CTO of Search Initiatives where he built a scalable cloud based client server PPC lead generation platform to dynamically generate and manage SEO and SEM optimized web campaigns for hundreds of thousands of clients. James spent over a decade at Microsoft during the early days of the Internet revolution where he contributed as a principal developer for Entourage, an award winning market-leading Macintosh email, calendar, project management application that became a core component of Microsoft Office for the Mac. In prior roles he worked at Radius developing multi-processing systems for the pre-press industry and digital video products for consumer and pro markets. James has the unique ability to evaluate the big picture of a business opportunity, translate it into a strategy aligned with the business objectives and build a product that meets those needs.

James gets his adrenaline fix surfing and mountain biking. He also has a weakness for accumulating pre-owned audiophile equipment, some of which he actually uses.

Kevin Yien

Kevin brings a truly multi-displinary and customer-driven view to our team. Nothing makes him happier than hearing success stories from customers and figuring out ways to foster our Evidence-Based™ community. He experienced the power of Customer Development when creating a healthcare startup and worked in product at early stage startups like Indiegogo and POWERleap. Kevin is committed to making a dent in the universe to improve society via education, and his overflowing drive toward that goal help move this company forward every day.

Kevin can be found eating nut butters by the spoonful, and he is the resident grill master for team barbeques.

Blake Ross

Blake is a QA professional with over a decade of experience at Fortune 500 companies and numerous startups. He has held QA positions at Apple, IBM, Verizon and Bank of America. To Blake, the subjective idea of software “quality” is inherent in the principles of a lean business model because the customer response is built-in early in the development cycle. QA’s job is to monitor and assure the dialog between customers and software development is clear and concise.

When not writing up feature requests or verifying quality enhancements, Blake likes to hike in Marin county, travel and keep up on Big History.

Jonathan Wylie

Jonathan thrives on solving tough problems with a mix of technology, smart user experiences, and business model innovations. Jonathan also coaches Fortune 1000 executives on leading innovative change, in partnership with the Berkeley Center for Executive Education. Prior to his work with LaunchPad Central, he was VP of Product at and developed a consulting practice helping clients perform Customer Development, build viable business models, and manage change. His clients have ranged from early-stage startups to multi-nationals, including Nestle, American Express, Apax Partners, Bentley Forbes, Raymond James Financial, E&J Gallo Winery and Young Presidents Organization among others. Earlier in his career he was Strategic Projects Manager for The Crossings, where he led two substantial business model pivots that resulted in the sale of the company.

He is famous for both the quality of his insight and the quality of his beard. His beard has been known to ask tough questions that probe the depths of the human experience – such as “how does one ‘corn’ a beef” and “who originally thought that ‘perms’ were a good fashion trend?”

David Goldstein

David Goldstein has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of business strategy and management. Most of his work history has been spent with entrepreneurial start-up companies, or companies in transition, resulting in a broad background in strategic planning and implementation.

As part of a small management team at Houston-based Petrolon, he helped implement the marketing program that transitioned the company from $9 million to $150 million in annual sales in just four years. He then assumed management of the company’s international operations, headquartered in Monaco.

As a consultant, David has guided strategic development and go-to-market strategies for companies in a variety of business segments for clients including General Motors/OnStar (strategic project focused on innovation and cross-industry collaboration in the area of digital health); Copano Energy (large leadership project and strategic process that led to a $500 million new technology line of business and eventually the acquisition of the company by Kinder Morgan); Futures Forum (multi-month initiative focused on the future of health care facilities in collaboration with Irvine Team, Ascension Health, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Catholic Charities West, Children's Medical Center, Christus Health); as well as strategic growth projects for the Houston Texans, Air Liquide, Cameron, Boston Market and Jones Lang LaSalle.

In his misspent youth, David appeared with his band on StarSearch, the original talent search tv show. He lost.

michael shiplett

michael is a software engineer who doesn’t enjoy writing about himself. He does enjoy wrangling code, drinking acceptable espresso, and sailing. He has worked for a handful of companies over a 20-year career.

For some reason he is also known as “walrus”.

Nic Baughman

Nic is fresh out of college and has been bitten hard by the entrepreneur bug. His background encompasses business and scientific research in areas of Ecology, Molecular Biology, and Natural Products Drug Development. He was also fortunate enough to participate in NASA’s Microgravity University program.

He really enjoys learning from other entrepreneurs and how they utilize the canvas to create their own businesses. He really enjoys helping others and can not wait to learn more from the LPC team and community of users.

Marcus Ratzlaff

Marcus brings the high energy sales hustle to the LPC team. His past experiences include helping an early stage startup through the customer discovery and validation phase and later pivot into its most lucrative customer segment through data driven analysis and obsessive attention to user feedback. After a brief detour into the professional services world where he advised Bay Area based high growth technology companies and venture capital firms, he is back doing what he loves most- selling innovative technology products and services that deliver massive value to customers and make a real difference in the world.

Marcus is often mistaken for "that guy in the vampire movies."

Bill Merrill

Bill loves making and has been building solutions to new problems since 2000. Both as a member of multiple successful startup teams and as a consultant, Bill has defined needs and delivered solutions in live streaming video and video advertising, laboratory sciences, network security, data analytics, real estate, and personal photography.

In his free time if Bill isn’t riding his Long Haul Trucker he’s either on a mountain or writing software to build mountains.

Product Designer

As the Product Designer for LaunchPad Central you'll design and build our web interface, enabling thousands of entrepreneurs to accelerate learning and creating great companies. How would you make building great start-ups beautiful and simple?

Does this sound like you? Apply now and accelerate entrpreneurship with us.

UI/UX Developer

As a UI/UX Developer you will build out our user interface and help define a great design to make entrepreneurship and mentoring easy. You'll be a hands-on implementer, but there's plenty of opportunity to take ownership of defining design principles, pushing new front end technologies, and otherwise being a lead in determining where we're going.

Does this sound like you? Apply now and accelerate entrpreneurship with us.

Office Manager

Serving as the go-to person for all office needs and providing leverage to the management team with activities such as managing travel, expense reports, coordinating event logistics, scheduling, etc.

Does this sound like you? Apply now and accelerate entrpreneurship with us.


Jim Hornthal

Jim has decades of experience growing, leading, advising, and investing in explosively successful startups. He has been instrumental in shaping the Lean LaunchPad curriculum, always on the hunt to improve entrepreneurship education. His love for the game keeps us level-headed and always moving forward.

Steve Blank

Steve is a serial entrepreneur and the architect of the Lean LaunchPad framework. He has authored two ground breaking entrepreneurship texts: The Startup Owner's Manual and The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Steve's experience and knowledge are truly irreplaceable components to our DNA, which drive us with steadfast clarity.

Tom Baruch

"I am incredibly excited for LaunchPad Central. There are two kinds of startups which can result in creative destruction: (1) changing the way we do things; or (2) changing the way we think about things. LaunchPad Central has them both."

Prior to becoming a founding member of Formation 8, Tom formed CMEA Capital in 1988 with New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Tom was responsible for managing a total of $1.2 billion of capital across seven funds from inception to July of 2010. While at CMEA, Tom also led investments including major IPO’s and significant liquidity events for Aclara Biosciences, Codexis, Inc., Entropic Communications, Flextronics, Inc., Intermolecular, Silicon Spice and Symyx Technologies. He is now Partner Emeritus of CMEA. Earlier in his career, Tom worked at Exxon Mobil for 12 years. When he left in 1982, he was serving as President of the Exxon Materials Division. Next, he founded Microwave Technology, Inc., a manufacturer and seller of gallium arsenide (GaAs) integrated circuits for defense applications. Baruch served as CEO for 6 years prior to founding CMEA Capital.

Currently, Tom serves as Chairman of the Board of Codexis, Inc. (NASDAQ: CDXS) and Intermolecular, Inc. (NASDAQ: IMI). Tom also currently serves on the boards of CNano Technologies, Exela Pharm Sci, Foro Energy and Wildcat Discovery Technologies.

Tom is a member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), where he advises the U.S. Department of Commerce and the White House. Tom is a member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Council of Competitiveness and a member of the Steering Committee of its ESIS (Energy, Security, Innovation and Sustainability) Initiative and the U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative. Tom is also a member of the “Brain Trust” of the ARPA-E program within the U.S. Department of Energy. Tom recently served as a member of the IPO Task Force advising the U.S. Department of the Treasury in connection with necessity of programs to stimulate startup activity in the U.S. Tom is also a member of the board of directors of the Society of Kauffman Fellows, a member of the Climate Recovery Cabinet of the Sierra Club, and a trustee of the “That Man May See” program within the University of California San Francisco. Tom is an advisor to Hasso Plattner Ventures, a leading German venture capital fund.

In addition, Tom is a Trustee of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he was Co-Chairman of its recent $1.1 billion Capital Campaign. He and his wife, Johanna, are Founders of the Baruch Center for Solar Biochemical Energy Research at the School of Science of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Richard Baruch, M.D. Endowed Chair in metabolic pathways of the School of Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Tom holds an engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Juris Doctor degree from Capital University. He is a member of the State Bar of Ohio and is a registered patent attorney.

Jerry Engel

Jerry Engel is an internationally recognized expert in innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture capital, and lectures and advises business and government leaders around the world. After a successful business career, he joined the faculty of University of California, Berkeley in 1991 to found the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, of which he is a senior fellow and the founding executive director emeritus. He is an adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business and instructs in both the school's MBA and Executive Education programs, specializing in entrepreneurship, corporate innovation, new venture finance, venture capital, and private equity. Mr. Engel has testified in court cases and arbitrations in connection with venture capital transactions, venture management practices, and high-technology industries.

Mr. Engel is a general partner of Monitor Ventures, LLC, a venture capital firm organized in collaboration with the Monitor Group, a global strategic consulting and private equity firm. Over his career, Mr. Engel has founded, advised, and served on the boards of a number of highly successful companies and non-profit organizations. Current board positions include Adaptive Planning, Jupiter Systems, MedAmerica, Xmobb, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, and the Berkeley Entrepreneurship Laboratory. He advises major corporations as well as young emerging companies and private equity investors on corporate strategy and innovation.

An author and frequent speaker, Mr. Engel has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, and other media internationally. His awards and recognitions include the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Lifetime Educational Achievement Award and the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers Award for Outstanding Contributions to Advance the Discipline of Entrepreneurship. His most recent research and publications focus on venture capital and the nature of entrepreneurship and innovation processes in firms, communities, and global networks.

Mr. Engel is a CPA and received his undergraduate degree at Penn State University and his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School.