TSW Trailblazers

    Friday, June 12 - 14, 2015

  1. Overview
  2. Schedule
  3. Speakers
  4. Judges
  5. Coaches and Mentors
  6. Sponsors
  7. Organizing Team
  8. Blog
Buy Tickets

Event Alerts and Updates

Get the latest on Techstars Startup Weekend, Triangle, and other local events through Techstars Startup Digest.

Oops! Double-check that email address.

TSW Trailblazers

Friday, June 12 - 14, 2015

Friday, June 12 - 14, 2015
Event starts at 6:30 pm

American Underground @ Main
201 W. Main Street
Durham, NC 27701

Buy Tickets

CALLING ALL TRAILBLAZERS! - So, you want to be an Entrepreneur...Let's Do This! Problem-solve and discover your startup Genius!

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014. We believe that entrepreneurship is the most powerful force to improve education outcomes, prepare people for a rapidly changing world, and empower them to play a role in shaping the future.

TSW: Trailblazers is a 54-hour experience where participants pitch ideas, collaborate with others who have complementary skill sets, get coaching and produce startups that help solve problems around a variety of topics. 
Within the Triangle Startup Weekend, AT&T is providing a unique opportunity for developers and others to create new technologies to enhance the lives of people with physical, social, emotional, and cognitive disabilities. Dubbed Connect Ability, TSW participants will be able to receive feedback and assistance with their ideas and for those interested, these concepts can be submitted to participate in a global challenge held by AT&T in July. More on this initiative is here.  

Durham-based startup, Trinket, formed at last year’s event and have since raised nearly $400K in funding. It’s time for more successes like this to come out of Triangle Startup Weekend! Who: Passionate educators, students, entrepreneurs, developers, designers and you. When: June 12-14 Where: American Underground @Main in Durham, NC Why:Through collaboration, entrepreneurial thinking, and community building, we can positively impact the world around us.


Friday June 12th

6:30 pm
Arrive at the venue and get checked in

7:00 pm
Dinner & Networking
Eat food, share ideas, practice pitches, get to know fellow participants

7:20 pm
Welcome & Speakers
Review agenda for the weekend and introduce speakers, coaches, and community leaders

7:30 pm
Pitches Start
Optionally line up to give your pitch

9:00 pm
Attendees vote for the top pitches

9:15 pm
Form Teams
Teams start forming and discussing ideas

10:00 pm
Begin Work
Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Saturday June 13th

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

9:30 am
Begin Work
Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend

12:00 pm

1:00 pm
After-lunch check-in, status reports, call for help

2:00 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!

6:30 pm

7:30 pm
After-dinner check-in, status reports, call for help

10:00 pm
Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Sunday June 14th

9:00 am
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

10:00 am
Coaches arrive. Final opportunity to ask questions

12:00 pm

12:30 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS

3:00 pm
Presentation Prep & Tech Check
Final hours of worktime should be focused on perfecting your presentation, tech-check for final presentations also takes place

4:00 pm

5:00 pm
Final Presentations

7:30 pm
Judging & Awards

8:30 pm

9:00 pm
Go Home!


Bryan Young
Senior Strategy Consultant

Bryan Young is currently the youngest Senior Strategy Consultant for Marketo, Inc. based out of San Mateo, CA. He was brought in to help build and lead more strategic offerings to global Fortune 1000 clients. In this role he will work across both North American and International territories to help marketing executives understand how they are making money, saving money or building a more efficient organization through marketing automation. To drive greater value for clients his initiatives are both internal and external within the educational process to help all see the larger picture from both a tactical (technology) and marketing perspective. He's already started building strictly strategic workshop offerings within the team and working with companies like the NBA, Time Warner Cable and Recall Corporation. He is former CEO of BEC Digital a digital marketing firm in which his award winning digital strategies generated over $750 million in revenue since 2013. Before BEC he led the marketing efforts of a logistics company he started at 17 to $5 million in revenue within two years. With no previous Telecom experience, he most recently helped build the digital strategy from scratch for DukeNet Communications, a company acquired by Time Warner for $600MM. At 25, he led the national digital strategy for the Democratic National Convention. Bloomberg Businessweek, Black Enterprise and numerous other publications for his uncanny knowledge on digital marketing and data driven marketing techniques. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek named him one of the 25 Best Young Entrepreneurs in America for his promising work growing his digital marketing agency BEC. Bryan is also a 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominee and 2011 Black Enterprise Innovator of the Year.

Ramona Moore Big Eagle, M. Ed
Day One Speaker

Ramona Moore Big Eagle, M.Ed. (Tuscarora/Cherokee) is an Oral Historian and Legend Keeper of the Tuscarora Nation of North Carolina. An enrolled member of the Nation, Ramona has served on the Tribal Council and in various other capacities for the Tuscarora. She earned a Master of Education Degree from East Tennessee State University in Reading and Storytelling and a Bachelor of Art Degree in Psychology from Catawba College. As the Director of Heritage School, Ramona taught students for over ten years. Ramona travels throughout the United States and Canada as a Motivational Speaker, Cultural Educator, Consultant, Workshop Facilitator and Storyteller. Her workshops and programs of American Indian culture and history delivered through the art of Storytelling, authentic artifacts, music, drumming, dance, and crafts have been educating and empowering audiences of all ages since 1976.
In addition, Ramona does many corporate workshops on Leadership through Storytelling, Finding Your Corporate Story, Team Building and Motivation. Ramona is the CEO and President of Dare to Soar Enterprises, founder and president of the Storytellers Guild of Charlotte, Inc., a member of the National Storytelling Network, and the NC and SC Storytelling Guilds. A winner of numerous awards and recognition as a professional Speaker and Storyteller, Ramona has been a featured speaker at various Literacy and Association Conferences, schools, libraries, corporate meetings, museums, historical sites, Red Ribbon Week, festivals, churches and camps. Ramona also teaches at the University of Phoenix and was honored as Teacher of the Year in Drama for 2001-2002 at Community School of the Arts.
When presenting American Indian Culture, Ramona erases stereotypes and myths concerning the culture and provides programming that covers aspects of daily life in lodging, clothing, survival techniques, artifacts, foods, art, dance, stories, language, music and beliefs from the past to the present. All programs are custom-designed to be age appropriate and curriculum based. Ramona enriches any curriculum subject with her interactive and entertaining storytelling. Participants experience American Indian culture through hands on and engaging activities. Listeners have the opportunity for a question and answer period during each presentation. Ramona also offers programming addressing History, Social Studies, Character Education, Literacy through Storytelling, Drug/Tobacco Prevention, Conflict Resolution, Diversity and Multiculturalism, Motivation and Self-Esteem, and Leadership by Storytelling.

Event Judges

Sharon Hill
Author, Speaker

Sharon A. Hill, author, speaker and MBA spent more than 20 years as a development and marketing manager at Fortune 500 giant IBM.   She is the president of Sharon Hill International which is her motivational and educational speaking business. Sharon is a certified etiquette trainer, trained by the American Business Etiquette Trainers Association, member of the National Speakers Association, and a Toastmasters International Director responsible for setting strategy for the organization.   Sharon is also a Certified Communicator from Duke University and frequent speaker at corporations, universities, and associations. Sharon has served on several Boards of Directors and is currently: ·       2013-2015 Toastmasters International Director ·       2014-2015 Board of Directors President for Big Brothers Big Sisters – Raleigh Chapter ·        2013-2014 Past President for the National Association of Women Business Owners- Raleigh Chapter.   Sharon is the author of four books that focus on etiquette, succeeding in college and corporate America.  She has appeared on NBC’s MyCarolina and has been heard on numerous radio programs throughout the country. She is a member of the National Associate of Black MBAs (Raleigh Chapter). Finally, Sharon is a weekly talk show host called “Today’s Business” in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for station 97.9 WCHL. She is married to her soul mate, Elmer Hill, and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Dragana Mendel
Management Consultant for Early Stage Technology Companies

Dragana Mendel, a management consultant and a founder of ANAGARD, LLC, works with startups to develop their technology commercialization pathway, and with small business owners to develop their growth strategy.
She has over eighteen years of experience in launching new high-tech products to the market with a specialization in software, IT, clean tech and telecom sectors. She works with executive management to identify the best market segment for a startup to enter the market, grow, or pivot, and then she develops a comprehensive business plan and strategy.Prior to founding ANAGARD, LLC, Dragana has been in charge of corporate and business development for a number of emerging growth high tech startups (renewable fuels, renewable chemicals, LED lighting, digital signal processing, small wind turbines).Previously, she has been working for 15 years as a product manager and software engineer for IBM and Alcatel-Lucent. She honed her new product development skills with these multinational corporations where she was instrumental in successfully launching dozen of new software, IT and telecom solutions to the market.

John Austin
Director @ Groundwork Labs

John is the Director of Groundwork Labs, an NC IDEA supported program to help selected entrepreneurs test their idea and get expert guidance to reach their next goal.  Prior to Groundwork, John headed up Joystick Labs, an accelerator for video game studios, was CEO of Numerical Design Ltd., a software company acquired by Emergent Game Technologies, and COO of Division, Inc., a virtual reality startup that was acquired by HP.

La-Tasha Best-Gaddy
Business Counselor @ Small Business & Tech Dvlpt Center (SBTDC)

La-Tasha Best-Gaddy is a Business Counselor at Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at NC Central University.  She provides services to existing business owners in Durham and Person Counties.  Prior to SBTDC, she worked in various management positions at NC Institute of Minority Economic Development (The Institute).  She was the Executive Director of Public Allies North Carolina, a program of the Institute and AmeriCorps national service network.  Through her leadership at The Institute, the organization received state and national recognition and funding on entrepreneurship, student debt, housing, and credit.  As a result of her work, research and policy has changed in the areas of credit and student debt.

Dana Calder
Campus Director, The Iron Yard

I am the Camus Director At The Iron Yard Academy Durham, NC.

The Iron Yard exists to create exceptional value for people and their ideas through code education, startup accelerators and coworking spaces.

Through our broad, deep and growing network of teachers, programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, investors, employers and coworking spaces, we have developed a thriving community where serendipity happens en masse.

We are committed to training the highest-quality developers and startups in the world, both in skill and in character. Our mission is to find people who want to pursue the craft and life-long adventure of technology, teach them the tools of the trade, and then release them into the world with the drive and capability to make a difference. We believe that passionate, talented people who love what they do will create great families, jobs, companies and solutions to the world’s problems.

David Watkins

David Watkins currently leads product marketing for AT&T’s eCommerce Application Services in which he is responsible for strategy, technical direction and product marketing of the company’s managed eCommerce services. David helps customers leverage eCommerce, Cloud and Mobile technologies to compete in an omni-channel world. Prior to leading product marketing, David managed a consulting practice helping clients in Entertainment, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Pharmaceutical and Retail achieve business results through the development of eCommerce, content management and custom built applications. David’s experience over 15 years includes strategic and tactical activities to help companies with market analysis, market definition, business case development, buyer and user persona development, launch planning and sales enablement.  Additionally he has experience establishing software development practices and “as a service” business models.

Coaches and Mentors

Amal Essader
Research Chemist

Amal Essader is a research chemist with 15+ years of industry experience with an MBA in strategy and leadership with a focus in marketing. She is a sought-after coach and mentor in highly-driven team environments with a passion for discovering talent within individuals and teams.

Amal leads cross-functional team efforts for strategic planning, marketing, and innovative thinking. She is a champion for diversity and inclusion to enable global business expansion and to maximize operational efficiency. For example, by engaging a diverse set of stakeholders, Amal recently led a team focused on improving operational efficiency. Under her leadership, the team realized annual cost savings in excess of $200K.

Her proactive challenge-the-status-quo attitude has encouraged her team to embrace new, innovative ways of bridging the gap between business and science. Seeking another outlet to leverage her science and business skills, Amal joined the TSW: Health in August 2014 and contributed to the winning team’s strategy and marketing ideas. Her experience in TSW: Health and her passion to embrace opportunities for change enables her to provide you and your team the coaching experience for the TSW: Trailblazer.

Dr. Terrance Jackson
Certified Executive Coach, Leadership Development Coach

Terry Jackson is a highly accomplished, experienced and dynamic Certified Executive Coach, Leadership Development Coach, Life Coach, Sales Trainer, Business Coach and Consultant. Terry’s passion and purpose is helping others improve their quality of life. Terry has an established history of helping others improve their skills sets, their ability think and process information and change their behaviors. Terry is a visionary with 25+ years of progressive leadership experience in sales, marketing, operations management, and business consulting within startups and Fortune 500 companies. Terry holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change. He has demonstrated success catapulting sales, expanding existing markets, building strategic business relationships, and developing staff to achieve client and corporate goals. Terry has extensive experience in P&L management, new product launches, territory turnarounds, brand management, contract negotiations, auditing, people development, and Six Sigma methodology implementation. He also has been an entrepreneurial coach and leader designing as well as executing business and marketing strategies driving market penetration and client revenue. Terry has led large scale consulting and coaching engagements in the following industries: Education, Financial, Petroleum, Telecommunications, State and Federal Government, Retail and Consumer Package Goods.

Dr. Rosana Garcia
Professor and Entrepreneur

Rosanna Garcia is a professor, an entrepreneur, an innovator with three
patents, an author and a world traveler having gone to the last seven
Olympics.  She is the co-founder of Vijilent, a company that provides trust
scores for individuals looking to join the sharing economy.  Vijilent is
currently in the Durham-based Groundworks Lab Spring 2015 cohort. She is
also Associate Professor of Marketing at North Carolina where she is a
Chancellor's Faculty of Excellence in Innovation+ Design.  Her role within
the Innovation+Design Cluster is to develop curriculum and student-focused
programs that help develop and launch technologies germinating from student
ideas and faculty research, especially those around environmental
sustainability.  As an expert in the diffusion of innovations, Dr. Garcia’s
research has focused on how to introduce ‘resistant’ innovations to a
reluctant marketplace. Her recent research and teaching centers on
sustainable innovations and the role of trust in collaborative consumption
communities.  Dr. Garcia’s teaching focuses on entrepreneurial marketing
and new product launch.  She is author of the textbook, *Creating and
Marketing New Products & Services*.

Sandra Johnson

Sandra K. Johnson is the CEO, SKJ Visioneering, LLC, an IT consulting firm focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. Her previous roles include CTO, IBM Central, East and West Africa, Business Development Executive and Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM Middle East and Africa, CTO, IBM Global Small and Medium Business, the Linux Performance Architect, and managing the Linux Performance, WebSphere Database Development, and Java Server Performance teams within IBM R&D.

She has conducted research in several computer performance related areas and was
a member of the IBM Academy of Technology, which consists of the top 1% of IBM's over 250K technical professionals. Dr. Johnson has received numerous technical and professional awards, and is a Master Inventor with over 40 issued and pending patents. She has authored and co-authored over 80 publications and is Editor-in-Chief of the book Performance Tuning for Linux Servers.

Dr. Johnson earned B.S. (summa cum laude), M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, all in electrical engineering, from Southern University, Stanford University, and Rice University, respectively. She is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). She is also an IEEE Fellow and an ACM Distinguished Engineer.

Teiji Kimball
Fab Lab Program Manager @ NCCU

Teiji Kimball has spent his life trying to make a positive difference in the lives of others. His career spanned over thirty-five years in technology beginning with the first personal computers; software and hardware development; network design and implementation; and consulting. As an IBM employee he helped design and develop seven patentable technologies in cable modems, network load balancing and routers. He led three research facilities in the development of event driven business intelligence systems for the Global Financial Services sector. He is currently working on new technology patents in Biometric Data Security and Personalization; and Artificial Wisdom, which is the next step beyond Artificial Intelligence and the utilization of “Big Data” in holistic artificial decision making.   He recently left a mobile technology company as the Chief Technology Officer to pursue his dream and passion of preparing people to engage and change their futures with a “Pay it Forward” attitude.   He founded the Education to Excellence Foundation (E2E), whose goal is to develop Middle and High School Students thinking at a graduate level, College Students thinking at a Corporate Executive Level and Vocational Students thinking like entrepreneurs.  

Brian Moynihan
Health Strategy Director

Brian Moynihan is the Health Strategy Director at Thrive 4-7, a local women-owned mobile health platform focused on helping people improve their health and well-being. He has far too many masters degrees – in Business Administration and Information Science from UNC, and in Comparative Religion from Miami University – and he’s a big proponent of health IT and local startups. He is a founding organizer of TSW-Health, and co-founder of Health 2.0 – NC. 

Frank Pollock
President, The Pioneer Group

Frank is the President of The Pioneer Group, a consultancy that provides Marketing, Business Strategy and Innovation expertise to clients in several industries. The firm's prior clients include Thinking Maps, SportTracks, NXT Health, Lift23 and The Boston Center for the Arts.

He has a broad experience base that includes several roles in the consumer packaged goods industry, in higher education and in high growth technology ventures. Before forming The Pioneer Group he worked on sales and marketing strategy for Frito-Lay, marketing initiatives for Betty Crocker baking and called on Target’s headquarters for Colgate-Palmolive. In 2008 he was appointed Director of the MBA program at NCCU and, after leaving higher education, co-founded 2 startups.

In his spare time he is an avid college basketball fan and a passionate fitness enthusiast. Frank holds an MBA from the McCombs School of Business and a BS from UNC-CH.

Andy Roth
Head of Customer Success @ RocketBolt

Andy Roth has two degrees from Duke Law School, including one specializing in entrepreneurship. Prior to law school he spent several years in New York City pursuing professional acting. He is currently in charge of Customer Success for RocketBolt, a Durham startup which took part in The Startup Factory's Fall 2013 program. This is his seventh Triangle Startup Weekend.

Tiadra Simpson

Tia Simpson is a current ThinkHouse Fellow and local entrepreneur with her own design consulting firm called Vibrance Studio. She is very involved in the Raleigh startup community and is NC State's Entrepreneurship Initiative's Garage Manager. The Garage is a prototyping lab for students interested in entrepreneurship, with 3D printers, laser cutter, shopbot, and electrical equipment. She graduated from NC State in Electrical Engineering with a Design Studies minor. 

Charles Campbell
Web Software & Application Developer

Since my humble days in undergrad I have acquired over 15 years of software development and engineering experience in a variety of development environments and platforms. I have a wealth of knowledge in web application development, software as a service application development and the entire software development lifecycle. 

My expertise is in backend web application development, specifically LAMP stack, Java/J2EE, along with frontend frameworks such as Backbone.js, ExtJS and Jquery. In addition to my technical skills I have a wide range of skills developed through the years in planning, design, and managing application development teams.

I have helped startup companies deliver innovative solutions in the areas of knowledge management, search, social networking, social fundraising, and e-commerce.

Event Sponsors, and Partners

The TSW Trailblazers team is grateful for the support of local community partners without whom this event would not be possible.
Learn how to become a sponsor here.




Organizing Team

Techstars Startup Weekend Triangle is 100% led by volunteer community leaders.
Learn how to get involved here

  • Jesica
  • Glenda
    Clare, Ph.D.
  • Adam
  • Corey
  • Ramon
  • Austin
  • Frank
  • Talib


Lee Ngo
Educational Technology Community Architect

Lee Ngo is an educational technology community architect and founded his startup Scholar Hero through Startup Weekend. Previously, he served as Regional Manager for UP Global (acquired by Techstars) and has worked for educational organizations such as Strayer University, Galvanize, and Metis. Lee is currently the Chief Operating Officer with the Greater Foundation (begreater.org).

Event Blog

See Full Blog