The Apex Center Advisory Board recently appointed John Kinzer, Kim Shanahan, and Paul Lombardi as board chair and vice-chairs, respectively.
The Apex Center Advisory Board recently appointed John Kinzer, Kim Shanahan, and Paul Lombardi as board chair and vice-chairs, respectively.

Since its inception in 2014, the Apex Center for Entrepreneurs has become a globally recognized center for entrepreneurship and the premier resource for Virginia Tech students to actively build, scale, or fund new business ventures. In 2016, Apex Center leadership was challenged by Virginia Tech leadership to grow and scale programs to include all nine colleges and serve 10 percent of the student population. 

This past year, the Apex Center engaged 2,971 students from across 78 different majors at Virginia Tech and incubated 93 student-led teams. 

Recently, the Apex Center Advisory Board was expanded to meet the demand of more than 3,000 students the center anticipates engaging with this academic year. According to Derick Maggard, executive director of the Apex Center, the new advisory board members bring an added depth to an already all-star list of alums building entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech. 

The program announced the selection of 18 new members to serve on its advisory board, including: Bart Butler, Jeff Conroy, Nick Cullen, Jack Dziak, TJ Eberle, Lara George, Ken Jackson, Kevin Jones, Erick King, Phil Kyle, Dom LaPore, Gene Lowe, Daniel Lundberg, Dan Maguire, Kyle Miller, Caroline Pugh, Adam Rossi, and Jennifer Van Buskirk.

The advisory board, now comprised of 44 members, will be led by board chair John Kinzer, former CFO of HubSpot, and vice-chairs Kim Shanahan, founder and CEO of AccelHRate, and Paul Lombardi, founder and former chairman of TeraThink. This is the first advisory board leadership change since it was established in 2015. Win Sheridan (co-founder, Apex Systems) and Todd Headley (former CFO, Sourcefire) served as chair and co-chair for 5 years and led the Apex advisory board during its inception.

According to Maggard, Apex Center board members have been critical in financially kickstarting the Apex Center and are working hard to financially sustain the Apex Center over the next few years. Board members also serve as mentors, entrepreneurs-in-residence, visiting entrepreneurs, judges, speakers, and more. 

“We have built one of the most powerful and purpose-built boards at Virginia Tech,” said Shanahan.

We are building a board that is reflective of the community of students we serve. It is critical for us to have a diverse group of backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, and more to carry out our mission of inspiring and empowering students to turn their passion, purpose, and ideas into action.” 

She continued, “I am thrilled to see entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech continue to grow and for our advisory board to grow and expand to include new faces on our board, which will allow our students to continue to excel in entrepreneurship.”

“We are poised to accomplish our strategic objectives with our incredible crew of advisors and will continue to grow and impact the student experience as we serve student startup companies and entrepreneurs from all across campus,” said Maggard. 

“The interdisciplinary approach and culture created around entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech have made for a comprehensive set of programs for students. Any Hokie, from any major and any year, has the opportunity to engage in all phases of the entrepreneurship and innovation process, which also encourages alumni to interface with the next generations of entrepreneurs.”

One key component in how Apex has changed its program offerings has been to engage alums as Venture Mentors for Hokie-led startups. The program pairs student founders from the Startup Hokies Accelerator with experienced entrepreneurs. Together, they work closely with one another to move the student's new venture forward.

“Whether students are looking to connect with fellow entrepreneurs, build something new, or launch their own venture, Apex has a program built to meet them where they are in their entrepreneurial journey,” added Maggard.

Unfortunately, the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed countless events and activities and continues to shape how work is done. 

“Through the lens of entrepreneurship, we at the Apex Center can see that, among the many challenges we are facing, there are an equal or greater number of opportunities,” said Maggard. “The Apex Center for Entrepreneurs was quick to move their nine programs to a virtual format and launch the Startup Hokies Accelerator to meet the growing demand of students starting their own companies.”

“Apex has put Virginia Tech on the map globally for entrepreneurship and we are building world-class programs for our student founders,” said Kinzer. “Our approach at Virginia Tech brings together successful alumni-entrepreneurs and investors to work with our students to help advance their ideas and products to the marketplace. 

“We engage our alums and industry leaders through our Entrepreneur-in-ResidenceVisiting Entrepreneur, and Venture Mentor programs, as well as by offering the opportunity to serve as judges, guest speakers, and more.”