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Exploring Careers in Innovation: Start-Ups to Larger Enterprises is a collaborative series developed by the Center for Careers and Internships and Middlebury in DC with content contribution from members of the Middlebury Professional Network and Middlebury students. This series is made possible by the enthusiastic efforts of Marco Casas ’07 who conceptualized the series and recruited several other alumni to contribute their time and experiences to the content of each episode throughout the series.

Innovation exists all around us and comes in different forms within small start-up organizations to large organizations that have been in existence for many years.  This series includes interviews with many different professionals who are engaged in applying innovation skill sets within varying functions who will share their perspectives on the challenges in financing and growing early stage ventures, as well as, bringing innovation within larger organizations.

Careers in Innovation Videos

Episode 1: Venture Investing: Discussion About the Job and About Raising a Fund (29 minutes)
Guest Speakers: Lacey Johnson ‘08, Partner, Alumni Ventures Group and Marco Casas ’07, Venture Investor, Basecamp
Interviewer: Adrienne Coslick ‘21

Episode 2: The Technical Side: Building a Digital Product, Managing a Product/Engineering Team (28 minutes)
Guest Speakers: Brian Sirkia ’12.5, Co-Founder & CTO at Lately and Nima Alidoust ‘09, VP of Strategy and Head of Product at Rigetti Computing
Interviewer: Jason Schneiderman ‘23

Episode 3: Marketing and Customer Success: Growth Hacking, Brand and Customer-Centric Innovation (21 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Olivia Lew ’07.5, Chief Commercial Officer, Heart Health Intelligence
Interviewer: Serrin Kim ‘22

Episode 4: Product Manager Role - Ideal for Liberal Arts Students (33 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Caroline Goodwin ’14, Senior Product Manager, PlacePass
Interviewer: Adam Wisco ‘22

Episode 5: People: Attracting and Retaining the Best Possible Talent (20 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Pete Steinle ‘92, Partner, Lightspeed Ventures
Interviewer: Lucas Cappelletti ‘23

Episode 6: Quantum Computing and Innovation in Large Organizations (20 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Nikitas Stamatopoulos ’07, Vice President Quantum Computing R&D at Goldman Sachs
Interviewer: Graham Rainsby ‘21

Episode 7: Opportunities in Fintech: Crossroads of Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Financial Services Industry (49 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Andres Fontao ‘96, Partner at Rainmaking for Spain and Latin America and Co-founder of Finnovista
Interviewer: Michael Calvey ‘21

Episode 8: Starting Your Own Company - Ideation, Lean Launchpad, Product-Market Fit, Go-To-Market Strategies, and Early Financing (25 minutes)
Guest Speaker: Craig Wilson ’07.5, Managing Director at Data Future Lab
Interviewer: Madeleine Riordan ‘22

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Innovation Guest Speaker Biographies

Nima Alidoust ‘09 majored in Physics at Middlebury and received his Ph.D. in Quantum Chemistry from Princeton University. He worked for Mckinsey for a number of years serving clients in high-tech industries. He subsequently served as Vice President of Strategy and Head of Product at Rigetti Computing. Nima is now the CEO of a new company that is working on quantum simulation of materials.

Marco Casas ‘07 is a venture investor at Basecamp, one of the most active early-stage funds in the world. In addition, Marco serves as board observer, advisor, and mentor to several private companies and nonprofit organizations; he is a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Term Member. Previously, Marco led the expansion of several emerging market financial institutions in the Americas. Marco completed the IB Program at the United World College (UWC) of Southern Africa, and he holds a BA in political science from Middlebury College, where he was a Davis UWC Scholar, and MBA degrees from Columbia University and London Business School.

Connect with Marco in Midd2Midd.

Andrés Fontao ‘96 is a Partner at Rainmaking for Spain and Latin America. As part of Rainmaking, Andres helps corporates solve big challenges by unleashing the power of entrepreneurship. In 2012 he co-founded Finnovista, an organization that promotes the development of Fintech and Insurtech entrepreneurship in Latin America and Spain. Finnovista and Rainmaking work with organizations of all shapes and sizes, from early-stage startups to Fortune 500 corporations, to solve challenges across the ever-changing landscape of innovation. Prior to starting Finnovista, Andres spent time with a Silicon Valley-based Fintech startup leading expansion into Europe and LatAm. Before that, he was head of mobile banking at Bankinter. Andres has also worked as a strategy consultant to mobile operators in Europe and Mexico. Andres holds a BA from Middlebury College, class of 1996 and an MBA from IE Business School in Madrid.

Caroline Goodwin is a Senior Product Manager at PlacePass, a Boston-based travel technology startup. Her responsibilities include strategic planning with the executive team, coordinating software development with the engineering team, and measuring engagement with end users and external partners. Prior to PlacePass, Caroline held various roles at San Francisco travel tech startup Peek including customer success and product marketing. Caroline earned her B.A. in International and Global Studies from Middlebury College in 2014.

Connect with Caroline in Midd2Midd.

Lacey Johnson ‘08 is a Partner at Alumni Ventures Group (AVG), where she identifies, evaluates, and executes on investments in early & growth stage companies. Lacey joined AVG in 2017 from CareGroup Investment Office, a $3B manager of combined endowment and pension assets. As a member of the investment team, Lacey was responsible for investment sourcing and due diligence. Lacey managed investment opportunities across asset classes and strategies, including venture capital, growth equity, buyout, private credit, and hedge fund vehicles. Previously, she was an Associate at J.P. Morgan Asset Management and an Analyst in the Securities Division of Goldman Sachs. Lacey has a BA in History from Middlebury College and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Olivia Lew ‘07.5 went into the non‐ profit sector after graduating from Middlebury, where she quickly became engaged in recruiting and activating passionate business leaders to support environmental causes. She felt that lessons from the corporate world could offer an opportunity to make a larger impact, leading her to earn an MBA at Georgetown. From there, she went into public and private sector consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton and then Capgemini, which included opportunities to work in Europe and Asia. Implementing enterprise transformations while consulting Global 500 companies allowed Olivia to develop valuable experience in collaboration, creative thinking, and change management which she applied to her role on the early stage investment team at General Catalyst.
At General Catalyst, her investment focus was on early‐stage founders building transformative companies at the intersection of software and health care. Earlier this year, Olivia joined the team at Heart Health Intelligence as Chief Commercial Officer. Their goal is to enable healthcare in the home.

Brian Sirkia ’12.5 is the CTO and Co-Founder of Lately, a marketing AI platform based in NYC. He leads the company’s product development and engineering, which is focused on using AI prediction models to augment and create marketing content for customers like Foursquare, SAP, Microsoft, and Samsung. Before Lately, he co-founded a Craigslist competitor startup and ran a digital marketing agency building websites for clients including Mass MoCA, Ellsworth Kelly, and the San Francisco Film Festival. At Middlebury, he studied Economics and Computer Science and played rugby.

Connect with Brian in Midd2Midd.

Nikitas Stamatopoulos ‘07 is a Vice President in the R&D Engineering Division at Goldman Sachs, with research focus on applications of quantum computing in finance. After graduating from Middlebury in 2007 with a joint major in Physics and Computer Science, he moved to Dartmouth College to pursue a PhD in Physics, continuing research started at Middlebury on nonlinear field solutions of relevance to cosmology. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, he was a quantitative researcher at JPMorgan Chase for 7 years focusing on High Performance Computing solutions for quantitative problems in derivative pricing and portfolio optimization, and from 2018 to 2020 leading the investment bank’s research in quantum computing.

Peter Steinle ‘92 joined Lightspeed as Executive Talent Partner in early 2020, he has been working in the Venture Capital ecosystem for 25+ years. Early in his career, Pete spent 10 years operating inside two successful venture funded enterprise technology companies, including time at Salesforce when the company grew from $5M to $100M and went public. Prior to joining Lightspeed, he spent 15 years at Kindred Partners recruiting C-level executives into venture funded enterprise technology companies. Pete majored in History at Middlebury.

Craig Wilson ‘07.5 is the Managing Director at Data Future Lab and majored in Economics and Russian at Middlebury. His career has been focused on a few things, but the thread that connects it all is a focus on growing early-stage companies. Craig has done this through a variety of outlets, both on the operational and investing side. He helps start companies and advise them formally & informally on product, business and financing. The NYU Tandon Future Labs are the first public-private partnership with New York City tasked with creating a sustainable incubation program focused on increasing the success rate of new ventures and generating positive economic impact.

Connect with Craig in Midd2Midd.

Jay Yonamine ‘07 is Head of Data Science for the Global Patents Team at Google. Previously, he held data science and product management positions at legal, insurance and social media companies and consulted at e-commerce companies and various government agencies. Jay has a PhD in political science from Penn State University, where he leveraged machine learning to forecast political instability, and an undergraduate degree in political science from Middlebury College.