top of page

2021 Speaker Bios

The 2021 Symposium featured the following speakers:

Charli Cooksey Head Shot - New.jpeg


Founder and CEO, WEPOWER

Charli Cooksey is a proud and committed native and resident of North St. Louis City. 

Charli developed a passion for political change and grassroots movement building early on in her journey. During college, she helped lead several initiatives that involved hundreds and sometimes thousands marching and protesting to demand voting rights for Black folks and young folks. She also ran for the elected school board in Waller County, Texas, to ensure that Black and Brown families had a voice in public education policy decisions.

After completing her studies at Prairie View A&M University, she returned to St. Louis as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member. During her second year in the classroom, Charli co-founded inspireSTL, which existed to ensure city students from under-resourced backgrounds had access to transformative college-prep high schools and opportunities that would put them on a path towards college completion. inspireSTL grew from a small group of volunteers into a high-performing team that has supported hundreds of scholars with gaining access to top-performing high schools, college acceptance, securing scholarships, and matriculating through some of our nation’s top universities like Stanford, Saint Louis University, and Washington University. Ultimately, inspireSTL merged with Wyman Center (a local youth development agency with national impact). While navigating the merger, she successfully ran for the St. Louis City Board of Education, working to realize educational equity through policy change. After transitioning from her role as the Executive Director of inspireSTL, Charli served as an Executive in Residence focused on education innovation at the United Way of Greater St. Louis. 

This commitment to equity further deepened after the death of unarmed Michael Brown Jr. in 2014. Charli spent many nights protesting on the streets of Ferguson. She also partnered with other local young leaders to launch an initiative to mobilize and elevate youth voices during regional discussions about how to respond to the Ferguson Uprising. 

Before launching WEPOWER, Charli served as the interim Executive Director/Lead Catalyst of Forward Through Ferguson where she partnered with the team, board, and many others across the region to develop a set of action strategies to catalyze the Ferguson Commission report to become a tool for action and impact. 

In 2018, Charli founded WEPOWER. WEPOWER’s mission is to activate community power to redesign systems to be just and equitable for all. Through this work, Charli and her team and many amazing partners like the Clark-Fox Policy Institute work with everyday folks to support them with building political and economic power in service of community led systems change. To date, WEPOWER has activated over 200 community members who have launched four different advocacy campaigns, completed comprehensive policy design to improve K12 education, early childhood education, and economic policy change, and who are leveraging entrepreneurship to spark job growth across the St. Louis region. In partnership with a beloved community of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs and changemakers, WEPOWER has secured over $10 million in public funding for early childhood education, helped businesses increase their revenue 3.5x, and grow a coalition of residents and community-based organizations committed to economically just policies such as Community Benefits Agreements. She is grateful to engage in hard, but high impact work daily with oppressed communities full of brilliance and resilience.

Peter Lupoff.jpg


CEO, Net Impact

Peter Lupoff is CEO of Net Impact, a 160,000+ member organization with a mission to inspire, equip and activate emerging leaders to build a more just and sustainable world and the Founder and Principal of Lupoff/Stevens Family Office the holding company of the various activities the family, including investments, social and environmental programmatic activations, academic work, advisory and projects, of Peter M. Lupoff and Family. The Lupoff/Stevens Family Office is committed to fomenting a just and sustainable planet, seeking acceptable financial returns alongside demonstrable social/environmental impact benefiting people and planet from our 100% Impact/Responsible Investment Portfolio. Their investment mandate and policy objectives support social and climate equity and justice.


Peter previously founded Tiburon Capital Management, running Tiburon as CIO until acquired by a consulting firm (remaining on as CIO of the acquirer). Peter is President of Clean Power for Humanity, bringing green electrification projects to rural Asian villages and schools, and is a judge/mentor with Defy Ventures, training the previously incarcerated. Since 2016, Peter has taught Responsible Investing classes as Special Lecturer at Yale School of Management and Fordham University (where he was Entrepreneur-in-Residence 2018-19 and remains a Gabelli Fellow).

D'Andrea Casual 1 (Small).jpg


General Partner and CFO, Global Impact Fund

Harry D'Andrea has over 40 years of experience in venture investing and corporate finance. He is currently a general partner and chief financial officer of the Global Impact Fund, a venture capital fund with a social impact mission. Prior to his work at the Global Impact Fund, he was a co-founder and the Managing General Partner for Valhalla Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm based in the Washington DC area. Prior to his venture capital work, Harry held the chief financial officer position for several high-tech startup companies in the telecommunications industry, including Advanced Switching Communications, Inc., Call Technologies, Inc., and Yurie Systems, Inc. In other positions, he served as chief financial officer and treasurer for the world's largest in-flight catering company and as a controller for overseas (Europe) operations for Marriott Corporation. He began his career as a financial analyst for Xerox Corporation. Harry has served on the board of three public companies and twelve private companies.  He is currently a member of the Nasdaq Stock Market Listing and Hearing Review Council and served for ten years as a member of the Nasdaq Stock Market Listing Qualifications Panel. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Washington chapter of the Private Equity CFO Association and was a charter member of the CFO Steering Committee of the Maryland Tech Council. Harry was a member of the Advisory Board of MTECH Ventures and for several years, a judge for the Greater Washington Technology CFO Awards. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from Drexel University.



Co-Founder and Managing Member, Gaingels

David is a co-founder/managing member of Gaingels, which invests in great companies with LGBT leadership in the management team. The Gaingels network aims to increase diversity in hiring by combining the most accomplished founders and investors committed to supporting the portfolio. Through the power of the Gaingels network, founders are connected to a valuable, global network of LGBT/Ally investors, gaining access to capital, investors’ business acumen, and contacts.  In addition, as an affinity network, Gaingels cares more, offers assistance, mentors, and makes introductions to propel these companies for further growth and M&A opportunities.


As well as co-founding Gaingels, David is also a co-founder of Digital Irish Angels, investing in companies on the island of Ireland. Born in Ireland, David started his career as a headhunter in London before being transferred to the USA in 1990 by IMI computing. David is Chairman of Empire Messaging, Inc., a company he started in 1993 and ran until 2004, which provides enterprise messaging solutions to corporate clients.


David has co-founded 3 other tech-enabled companies with successful exits. He lives in NYC with his partner Ryan on the Upper West Side.



Portfolio Manager, Acumen

Mike is a Portfolio Manager on the Acumen America Team. Prior to joining Acumen, Mike was an associate on the investment team at Huron Capital Partners, a private equity firm that makes control and minority investments in the consumer, specialty industrial, and business services industries. Before Huron, Mike was the manager of the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund’s (“REDF”) impact lending arm where he started and led REDF’s efforts to make loans to social enterprises that employ people facing barriers to work. Mike began his career as an investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse in New York. Mike holds a B.A. in Public Policy Studies from the University of Chicago, where he was a 4-year member of the school’s football team, and he is originally from Detroit, MI.



Senior Consultant, Junxion Strategy

An inaugural 2013 graduate of Dalhousie University’s Environment, Sustainability and Society bachelor program, Shayla’s university project turned into a full-time environmental consulting role supporting heavy industry to engage more effectively with Nova Scotian communities. Shayla first joined Junxion in London (U.K.) in 2016, where she supported organizations like The Body Shop, WJS Canada, and MacKay CEO Forums to; Strategize and plan for enterprise success, Measure, evaluate and report impact, incl. B Corp and build better brands for the world, leveraging impact to enhance company culture and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

In 2019 Shayla was selected to join the U.K. leadership development program On Purpose and later Big Issue Invest as an Investment Associate. At Big Issue Invest Shayla led on financial, operational and impact due diligence; played a key role in managing social impact bond, social care and education investments; supported impact evaluation and reporting; and improved origination and the building of a pipeline of feasible, impactful investment opportunities.  Shayla re-joined Junxion Canada in September 2021 to bring her knowledge of the U.K. investment market into the social impact advisory work Junxion does here at home, in Canada, and internationally.

Shayla recently returned home to Canada and lives in Toronto, ON.



Director Portfolio Acceleration, SJF Ventures

Emma Sissman is a Director, Portfolio Acceleration based in the SJF Ventures New York office.  While supporting SJF’s investment work, Emma also focuses on post-investment initiatives, including impact management and acceleration, value-add work with portfolio companies, support to SJF Ventures limited partners, and industry-building collaborations.

Prior to joining SJF, Emma worked in Community Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, a function of the Fed that leads research and programmatic efforts in low- and moderate-income communities.  Emma graduated from Davidson College with a B.A. in Economics, a minor in French and Francophone Studies, and internship experience at the Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds and SEAF.  While at Davidson, Emma was a four-year member and senior captain of the College’s Division I Women’s Lacrosse Team.



Director of Investor Relations, Ad Astra

Lauren is the Director of Investor Relations for Stella Angels, providing investment opportunities for those passionate about funding more female entrepreneurs. She is also an FP&A Manager with Good People, a startup providing consulting and community for all aspects of the cannabis and hemp industries. Lauren brings 10 years of experience in finance, business development, and social equity strategy for social enterprises focused on education, public health, and wellness. 

She serves on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Young Leaders Board and is a San Diego Chamber LEAD Impact graduate. She previously served on the Dean’s Steering Committee and the student board of the Rady School of Management, University of California-San Diego. Lauren holds an MBA from the Rady School and a BSW from the University of Kansas. 

Eva Sander.jpeg


Co-Founder and CRO,

Eva Sander specializes in creating content strategies for multiple distribution channels, focused on audience development by leveraging on the opportunities that the social economy has brought on. She holds 20 years of experience in media production, including radio, press, television, internet and social media. Some of her more relevant work has been showcased in Grupo Milenio, Excélsior, Televisa, Grupo Reforma, CNN en Español, and The News to name a few. 


As a social entrepreneur, she helped launch Citivox, a #Tech4Dev startup that created crowdsourcing solutions for civic engagement through the use of new media. This project led her to collaborate with key players in the technology field: Google, Twitter, U.S. Department of State, World Bank, Lift Conference, to name a few. Eva led the consulting team of Ondore, a tech startup that focuses on developing artificial intelligence algorithms focused on digital reputation management through big data. 

She is now committed to empower creators and makers from the creative industries and to launch Accountability Lab in Mexico and, an insuretech startup that seeks to bring affordable coverage to Millenials, GenZ and GenY, in an easy, transparent and 100% digital way.

Fabian Aguilar.jpeg


Principal, Angel Ventures

Fabián is a Principal at Angel Ventures and its Investment Funds division with more than $100 million in assets under management. He has collaborated in the development of their operations strategy as well as the investment analysis methodology, which includes the structuring of foreign and domestic vehicles to accommodate investors of 15 different nationalities.


Fabián is also an advisor in several startups in Mexico, the United States (US), and Argentina in the fintech, entertainment, and information technology sectors, where they have jointly raised over five million dollars in investments.


Fabian has consulted on matters related to entrepreneurship, valuation and fund management for the Inter-American Development Bank, the Development Bank of Jamaica, Fundación Bolívar Davivienda, among others. He has also collaborated and helped structure and restructure several different investment vehicles in hydrocarbon and impact investing sectors. Fabián was also part of the advisory team for the structuring of Amplifica Capital, the first investment fund manager operated by women to invest in women entrepreneurs in Mexico.


Lastly, Fabián is also a Professor at the Universidad Anáhuac and ITAM on topics related to entrepreneurship, corporate finance, and alternative assets. He also has participated as a panelist and guest lecturer in different events and conferences related to Venture Capital in over 7 countries. Fabian has a bachelor's degree in International Business and Entrepreneurship from Universidad Anáhuac Norte.

Suresh Samuel.jpeg


Deputy Chief Investment Officer, Lendable

Suresh Samuel is Deputy Chief Investment Officer for Lendable, a provider of growth debt for financial technology companies working in emerging and frontier markets globally.

Prior to Lendable, Mr. Samuel was Head of Capital Markets for Tala, a leading emerging markets fintech expanding financial services to underserved populations, where he was responsible for global capital markets activities.  Prior to Tala, he was Managing Director for Africa at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) where he led business development and execution of investments across sectors including financial services, energy, infrastructure, and healthcare.

Mr. Samuel has executed over $1 billion of transactions in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe and is based in London, England.

Amie Patel.jpeg


Managing Director Capital Partnerships, Elevar Equity

Amie joined Elevar in 2016 and manages and cultivates Elevar’s global partnerships including LP and co-investor relations. 

Amie has over 20 years of experience working in a variety of organizations, with a focus on emerging market investing. Prior to Elevar, she was a Vice President with Goldman Sachs Asset Management which she joined through the acquisition of Imprint Capital. Amie focused on the firm’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and Impact Investing capabilities within the emerging markets. Prior to Imprint she was with the Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF) where she concentrated her efforts on early to growth stage investments. She managed SEDF’s investments in Haiti and worked on several other investment opportunities in Palestine, India and parts of East and West Africa. 

Amie also worked with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation as a Presidential Management Fellow and Investment Funds Officer responsible for developing and evaluating top-quartile and first-time emerging market private equity fund managers. Amie began her career as an M&A analyst with Merrill Lynch and First Union Securities, covering the automotive, healthcare and telecommunications industries. She has volunteered in Nepal with Students Partnership Worldwide as a Program Manager working on environmental education and women’s issues.

Amie holds an MBA from Georgetown University and a BS in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. She serves as the Finance Chair on the Board of Education Through Music, a New York based non-profit focused on music education. Amie likes to explore new places and hold dance parties with her two daughters.



CDFI Director, Rise Community Development

Colleen is Rise’s CDFI Director, a role she began full-time in 2021. In this capacity, she guides the CDFI’s lending and capitalization strategy and directs the growth of its operations. Colleen joined Rise in 2018 as a Project Manager, where she helped coordinate the real estate development process for Rise and its partners. Prior to joining Rise, Colleen was Asset Manager – Compliance for St. Louis Equity Fund, and Vice President of its affiliate CDFI, Gateway Community Development Fund, Inc. She has over 14 years of experience in the housing and community development finance field. 

She received both her Bachelors in Business Administration and Masters in Public Policy Administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, along with a Graduate Certificate in Local Government Management. Colleen has received her Low-Income Housing Tax Credit compliance certification from Novogradac.

Colleen is an active Board member for Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC and the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis and a committee me



Director, Mercy Partnership Fund

Sarah B. Smith is the Director of Mercy Partnership Fund, the global community investing program of Mercy Investment Services, the socially responsible asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries.  Smith oversees a portfolio that includes below-market rate investments to 60 mission-driven organizations working around the globe on projects that provide high social and environmental impact.


Sarah has spent more than 30 years working in the community development field as a community organizer, housing developer, program administrator, strategic planner and impact fund manager. Prior to joining Mercy Investment Services, Sarah served as president and CEO of Community Development Ventures, Inc., a professional services consulting firm specializing in organizing community and economic development projects and related public policy initiatives for corporate, nonprofit and public sector clients. 


Among other positions, she served as founding president and CEO of Mercy Community Capital, where she developed and managed operations of one of the nation’s first community development financial institutions. In addition, she previously served as a project manager at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., a developer of farmworker and self-help housing in rural Colorado and a community organizer in Wilmington, Delaware. 


Sarah holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Boston College, a master's degree in urban and regional planning from George Washington University, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Michael Headshot.jpg


Managing Partner, CNTRD

Four years ago, Michael dropped out of Olin’s Ph.D. Econ program to start a management consulting firm -- CNTRD. Since then his firm has helped clients such as Microsoft and various NGOs invest in impact with a focus on quantitatively measuring impact in various organizations.

Howard Fischer.PNG


Founder and CEO, Basso Capital

Howard is co-founder and Chief Evangelist of Gratitude Railroad. Gratitude Railroad is an educational, community building, and impact investment organization focused on catalyzing positive social and environmental change through for profit businesses. GRR’s core focus is an active investment process led by its Founders, Advisors and Partners guided by its full time diligence team.

He is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Basso Capital Management, L.P. a hedge fund management company focused on Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations (SPACs).Howard is the portfolio manager for the firm’s dedicated SPAC fund and oversees all operating and marketing efforts.

Previously, Howard was  co-head of the institutional convertible trading desk at Smith Barney. Before Smith Barney, Mr. Fischer was a convertible trader at Drexel Burnham and at Cohen Feit & Company. Prior to his trading career, Mr. Fischer was a Certified Public Accountant in both public and private practice.

Howard is the CFO of the Board of Trustees of the International Mountain Bicycling Association . He  serves on the Boards of 1% For The Planet, The Carbon Underground, and advices BrightEdge, the investment fund of the American Cancer Society.  He also has advisory/board roles at DoneGood, Builders Fund, Atlas Impact Partners and Blackdirt Capital.

Howard holds a B.S.E. in Accounting and Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and was a 2013 and 2014 fellow in the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.

Perfil Slack.jpg


CEO, Rewarded

Cum Laude graduate in Business Administration and International Relations, co-founder of Aiden Technologies and current CEO of Rewarded, an edtech startup with a high social impact. He is also in a Circular Economy joint research team between Madrid's City Council and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, and mentor at one of the top pre-accelerator programs in Madrid, Tetuan Valley. He aims to be part of projects that, through technology and disruptive business models and ideas, generate a direct positive social and environmental impact.



COO and CFO, Nest

Christopher van Bergen is an Adjunct Professor at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at NYU, teaching coursework on Operationalizing Sustainability & Social Impact within the Executive MBA Program.


Chris is also the CFO/COO of Nest, a nonprofit building a new handworker economy to generate global workforce inclusivity, improve worker wellbeing beyond factories, and preserve cultural traditions, using radical transparency, data-driven development, and fair market access to connect craftspeople, brands, and consumers in a circular and human centric value chain.

In his capacity, Chris oversees Nest’s programming, partnerships with pioneering brands from luxury fashion houses to $70B+ retail operations, as well as Nest’s business training and mentorship of over 1,500+ artisan businesses across 100+ countries, and strategic initiatives to solve universal sector challenges. He directs all financial activities for the Nest organization including annual budgeting and auditing, as well investment of assets.


A member of the Nest team since 2011, Chris has helped spearhead Nest’s ethical compliance program, and has worked to guide the organization through years of exponential growth and impact.


Prior to his work at Nest, Chris was an Orchestral Trumpet Player and Orchestra Administrator, with regular appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony, and many other ensembles.


Chris received an Executive MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at NYU, specializing in Global Business, Strategy, and Leadership. He also holds music degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern University, and a degree in Psychology from the University of Rochester.

WhatsApp Image 2021-11-09 at 1.52.09 PM.jpeg


Managing Partner, Semillero Partner

Alex Borschow is co-founder and Managing Partner of Semillero Partners, a Puerto Rico-based early stage VC fund focused on food & beverage and food tech. A native of the island, he returned after 14 years between working in investment banking at BNP Paribas and as Director of Finance at Eataly USA, the largest Italian food marketplace in the world. Since 2012 he has been investing directly in innovative startups like Imperfect Foods, Jane Technologies, and Spyce. Alex is a Mentor for Parallel18 as well as the Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize. He serves as Director at Seal the Seasons, Gfree Foods, and Foundation for Puerto Rico.  Alex holds a BS in Chemical/Biological Engineering and an MBA from MIT, where he also completed a Certificate in Sustainability with a focus on Food Systems.



Managing Director, One Planet Ventures

Lauren Burnhill is the Founder and Managing Director of  One Planet Ventures LLC (OPV), a think tank and consultancy that works with clients in the corporate, non-profit & development sectors to catalyze maximum integrated returns - investments that deliver financial, social, environmental and ethical returns. A multi-faceted sustainable investment professional, Lauren has deep expertise in emerging markets finance and investment strategy, structuring, management and governance, with emphasis on capital for micro, small & medium-sized businesses. Her strategic approach, maximum integrated returns, optimizes for positive financial, social & environmental results.  In addition to working as an investment practitioner, Lauren is active in the field of governance, currently serving as a Non-Executive Director of Shared Assets UK, and Just Share South Africa, as an independent member of the Helenos Fund (Inpulse AIM, Belgium) Investment Committee. She recently joined the Board of the Bolsa Social (Spain).


Prior to establishing OPV, Lauren oversaw the global expansion of Accion International’s impact investment activities, building team and pipelines across four continents and generating results that increased the organization’s asset base by more than 200%. Earlier in her career, Lauren co-led the  Barclays Bank Miami-based Latin American project finance team and served as an investment officer at the Inter-American Investment Corporation.


Lauren holds an MBA in Finance & Strategic Planning from Wharton & an MA in Social Change & Development from Johns Hopkins SAIS. She is also a CDFA certified US development finance professional and an instructor of Tai Chi & QiGong.

Tyler Headshot.jpg


Staff Writer, GQ Magazine

Tyler R. Tynes is an award-winning Staff Writer for GQ Magazine where he focuses on sports, and the intersection of athletics, fashion, and activism as the first staff sportswriter in the magazine’s history. 


His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing Anthology, by Longreads and he’s been noted by the Jack Jones Literary Arts book company as a Cultural Critic of Color worth reading. He can occasionally be heard on NPR. 


Prior to joining GQ, he was a staff writer at The Ringer, where he focused on the convergence of race, politics and sports and hosted & produced podcasts. Previously, Tynes was a staff writer at Vox Media’s SB Nation with a similar focus, was a politics journalist on HuffPost’s civil rights desk, based in Washington DC, and a reporter at the Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey, and contributed to The Philadelphia Daily News & Philadelphia Inquirer. 


He is a 2015 graduate of King's College in Wilkes Barre, PA, where he finished his Mass Communications degree with concentrations in print journalism and broadcast journalism. Tynes won four national awards in college journalism. He placed first for "Best Feature" at the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System National awards in New York City in 2014. He also placed top-five for the same awards in the categories of "Best Campus News Coverage" and "Best Sports Talk Show." Tynes was also awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists for his participation on 88.5 WRKC's News at 5 team with the "Mark of Excellence" Award, winning Region 1 and then being named the National Runner Up.


In 2018, Tynes had his work honored in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and won a Salute To Excellence award from the National Association of Black Journalists, both recognitions surrounding his work covering race & sports in America. In 2019, Longreads considered two of his pieces on race & sports as the “Best Of Sportswriting” for the year. 


In 2020, The Atlantic named Tynes’ six- part audio documentary on the life of quarterback Cam Newton as one of the 50 best podcasts of the year. In 2021, the Podcast Academy from the Awards for Excellence in Audio nominated “The Cam Chronicles” for an Amby for “Best Sports Podcast.” New York Magazine went on to say that Tynes was “a revelation behind the mic,” that he, “sounds like the future” and named his series as one of the best projects of the year. 


He currently resides in New York City.



Head of Original Development and Production, The Players' Tribune

Ashly Robinson is a multimedia storyteller who produces short and long-form video features as well as episodic franchises for The Players’ Tribune.


Building on her experience working with the world’s greatest athletes and covering top sporting events such as the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, Ashly continues to find ways to innovate and produce compelling content in both the audio and video space.

Prior to joining The Players’ Tribune, she worked at ESPN where she produced numerous features for and SportsCenter. Currently, in her role as Head of Original Development and Production, she oversees the creation of all original content such as the award-winning podcast Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles and Houseguest with Nate Robinson.

bottom of page