I believe that for the first time in human history we have the real opportunity, the tools and the will to end our world’s most pressing problems. We’re at an inflection point, and what we do over the next decades can lead to a just, sustainable future or it can mean utter failure. We get to choose.
Etan leads operations for StartingBloc, organizing flawless logistics and cultivating community. When not traveling the world, Etan has spent his career helping mission-driven businesses run more smoothly. He's worked with the Urban Farm Company, developed market strategy for an India-based startup, and served as Executive Chef at the Unreasonable Institute. Above all, Etan is happiest cooking up tasty things for people he loves.
Molly is a StartingBloc Fellow with passion for sharp communications, strong and flexible relationships, and seamless community experiences. StartingBloc's LA '12 Institute was a meaningful inflection point in her life, and she's excited about working to offer the StartingBloc experience to movers, shakers, and change makers.
The Board of Directors
Mitchell Wade helps innovators turn insights into change. He was lucky enough to work with public policy analysts at RAND, executives at Schwab, technologists at Accenture--plus architects, priests, and rowing coaches. Then Mitchell struck gold, teaming up with seven social entrepreneurs working in the poorest villages of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They helped 60,000 people escape extreme poverty, quadrupled per-dollar impact, and launched their organizations toward sustainability. Mitchell's latest project is creating Institute3, a thinktank for practitioners obsessed with
Mary currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Tecovas Foundation. Mary's experiences in the interactions between philanthropy and social entrepreneurship space have driven her to become a leader in the emerging generation of philanthropists. She also serves on the board of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs and the City Club of Cleveland Endowment Foundation. In 2010, Mary was a participant in the Next Generation Leaders summit at the White House. She graduated with a BA in Political Science and History from Kent State University lives with her husband in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cheryl Yaffe Kiser
Cheryl is the Executive Director of The Lewis Institute and The Babson Social Innovation Lab, and is responsible for leading a critical aspect of the growth strategy for Babson by promoting broad support for Babson's work in integrating social innovation and social relevance into its curriculum and co-curricular activities. She is a recognized leader in corporate social responsibility and social innovation. Before coming to Babson, Cheryl was the Managing Director of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. For more than 12 years she played a central role in creating the largest research center of its kind in the U.S. Cheryl is also the co-creator of Food Sol an 'action tank' at Babson’s Social Innovation Lab dedicated to using entrepreneurship to redesign the food system.
Vikas manages a structured finance business called CIBL Management, LLC, and works with a number of technology start-ups both as an advisor as well as an angel investor. Vikas has previously held positions at UBS Investment Bank in the Structured Products & Strategic Solutions Group working to develop novel solutions for a variety of the bank's clients. He has previously worked with Ashoka as a pro bono consultant to their Social Financial Services Group. Vikas received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science from Duke University with a Minor in Economics, and an MBA from Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
J. Todd Smith
Todd is the co-founder and CEO of Oxen, a food systems innovation company enabling the next generation of hyperlocal, sustainable, and transparent agriculture through its farm-to-consumer subsidiary The Trusted Table, patented technologies, and a proprietary food metric. Prior to co-founding Oxen, Todd co-founded Gratio Capital, an investment advisor that launched the Values Fund, a socially responsible mutual fund that garnered the top 2009 Wall Street Journal. He later founded The Longitude, and while there, BloombergBusinessweek named Todd and his team 'America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs' for their launch of Hello Rewind. In 2010 spurred by the problems in our national and local food systems, Todd began focusing full-time on the agriculture space. He is an alumnus of the University of Delaware.
Whitney is an associate at Alliance Bernstein Global Wealth Management and the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Strength. Whitney works with a team to manage approximately $2.1 billion of private funds, with global placement using research based investment strategies. Whitney also acts as Executive Director of Sustainable Strength a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization focused on sustainable economic and infrastructural development in urban areas, with current projects in Newark, NJ and Brooklyn, NY. Whitney received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology with a focus on Markets Management and the Economy from Dartmouth College, and holds a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with a focus in Urban Sociology, also from Dartmouth College. Whitney has completed additional work at Oxford University and Columbia Business School and he is a London 2008 StartingBloc Fellow.
Sophie Waskow (BOS '07) is currently a project facilitator in the Office of Sustainability at The George Washington University. Sophie previously worked at SustainAbility, a corporate social responsibility consulting firm. She helped to found the Washington DC Regional Board of StartingBloc and has served as chair and co-chair for five years. Sophie is actively involved in the Women's Launch Pad mentorship program at Brown and helps to advise student projects at Brown's Social Innovation Initiative. Sophie graduated with honors from Brown University with an A.B. in English Literature and is pursuing an MPA with a focus in sustainability management at GW.
The Fellow Advisory Committee
StartingBloc is constantly looking for new ways to offer Fellows the resources that they need to achieve dramatic impact. The Fellow Advisory Committee (FAC) is a group of highly engaged Fellows who serve as representatives of StartingBloc’s community of Fellows as we continue to improve our programs and services.
The purpose of the FAC is to support StartingBloc in the design and delivery of high quality services to the global Fellowship. The FAC also serves to promote StartingBloc’s values by fostering collaboration between Fellows. We’re serious about this commitment: The chair of the FAC serves as a voting-member of StartingBloc’s Board of Directors.
Members of the FAC represent a wide range of geographies, cultures, and Institute classes. Currently the FAC members include:
- Abe Taleb (BOS ’10)
- Claire Penicaud (LA ’11)
- Jess Yueh (LON ’07)
- Laura Tomasko (LON ’08)
- Luke Barbara (NY ’10)
- Michelle Ng (LON ’08)
- Rebecca Offensend (LON ’08)
- Richard Johanson (BOS ’09)
- Ronjon Bose (BOS ’09)
- Sophie Waskow (BOS ’07), Chair
- Taylor Buonocore (LA ’11)
- Vinay Nagaraju (LON ’07)
The Regional Chapter Leaders
Karthik Kittu (LA ’11) is passionate about social development, traveling & education. He has served for Rotaract, the youth wing of Rotary in various capacities, from being a member to being the President, Rotaract South Asia where he led more than 20000+ Rotaractors. He also is a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Foundation Alumnus & has represented Rotaract in India at various forums around the world. He has a wealth of experience working with various departments in the Government, NGO’s, Schools, Colleges & Media Houses. He has also led the Project Team that set up the Wireless Network for TEDIndia 2009. He used to work as a Network Security Consultant & currently is restructuring the educational system at a underprivileged school where he also teaches science. He holds a Bachelor’s in Science & Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration from Bangalore University and a Certificate in Cosmology from the Center for Theology, Berkeley, USA. He is married to Dr Raksha, who runs a dance academy for the visually impaired.
Zhang Dongli (BOS ’09) is passionate about driving social and environmental changes through market innovations, technology, youth empowerment and cross-cultural collaboration. She is currently building a start-up in Beijing that leverages crowdsourcing and technology to provide fair and flexible job opportunities for the underprivileged population. Prior to this, she was an energy consultant, designing frameworks and tools for policymakers and enterprises to drive large scale action in energy efficiency and sustainability. Dongli has also lived in India and South Africa and serves as a youth advisor for two non-profits and a foundation in the Greater China region.
Stephanie Koh (NY ’11) brings to StartingBloc a passion for network-building and connecting fellows in the Boston community. She works at a consulting and research firm called Root Cause, focusing on project management and performance measurement for clients in the social sector. Previously, she worked in Kenya at a forestry social enterprise and studied abroad in London and the South Caucasus while in college. Stephanie holds a BA in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis.
Vlad Antohi (BOS ’12) strives to live an exceptional life. What makes him really come alive? Connecting like-minded people in memorable ways! As one of the Boston Co-Chairs for StartingBloc, Vlad strives to surround himself with inspiring people from all walks of life. In the past, Vlad has done fun things ranging from starting his own club promoting business in Barcelona, to working as a top-performing sales professional at a tech start-up while in college, to advising Fortune 500 clients on how to manage their application security programs. You can read more about Vlad, including current projects and interests, at vladantohi.com. Feel free to reach out – he loves meeting interesting people! :).
Shane Rasnak (LA ’12) works with ReWork in Boulder, CO, a start-up that connects exceptional young professionals to work opportunities at impact-driven organizations. Since graduating from college in 2010, he has taught English in Venezuela, volunteered for a social enterprise that supplies solar systems in developing countries, and led a pilot project on the ground in rural Kenya. He holds a BS in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University and studied abroad in the Mediterranean with Semester at Sea. Shane loves traveling, Thai food, and is passionate about helping others build careers doing meaningful work.
John Hoeppner (LON ’07) is a ‘Product Specialist’ at a mainstream asset management firm where he is charged with product management for passive equities and driven by the opportunity to lead the firm’s Socially Responsible Investing product development. Prior to his current role, John worked at an investment consulting firm which helps endowments and foundations with their investing strategy. John received a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Saurav Patyal (BOS ’10) graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Economics from BITS Pilani in the summer of 2011. Currently, he is pursuing a full time fully sponsored Liberal Arts Fellowship – The Young India Fellowship – under UPenn in New Delhi for a year. The non-profit venture he founded in 2009 with his college buddies, The Parivartan Foundation, works out of Southern India in the areas of community development, digital divide alleviation, e-education, support for marginalised farmers and telemedicine. Currently, he serves the organization in an advisory role. He has worked for a year with HSBC in its Risk Management department at Bangalore and is currently acting as an external consultant to a solar energy developer, SunBorne Energy at Gurgaon. He is adventure sports enthusiast and loves fantasy fiction literature.
Vinay Nagaraju (LON ’07) is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Riders for Health. Riders for Health is an award winning international social enterprise. Riders has managed vehicles in Africa for over 20 years to overcome the barriers that distance and isolation cause, for delivering equitable health care. The organization runs fleets of vehicles in sub-Saharan Africa for ministries of health and other partners on a non-profit basis, ensuring health workers regularly reach isolated and vulnerable people on an efficient and cost-effective basis. Riders has its operations in The Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Lesotho. Vinay is responsible for the operations in their Africa based programs through the Country Directors and in-country management teams.
Vinay holds an MBA from Said Business School, University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from Bangalore University, India. Prior to his MBA, he worked with Honeywell Aerospace for six years. In 2001, he co-founded an NGO called ‘Spandana’ aimed at empowering underprivileged children in their education in Bangalore, India. He is an ardent writer, passionate traveler, a numismatist and an international award-winning philatelist. He finds it fulfilling and purposeful in making a difference to communities.
Nikki Bruce (NY ’11) works at Teach For America in strategy and operations for internal talent acquisition. She is just as passionate about innovating efficient systems and processes to maximize results and get the right talent in the right role as she is about meeting new people and learning what really makes them move. She previously managed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Somerville, MA and has worked in the social sector since graduating from Tufts University with a BA in Economics in 2008. She occasionally consults for her parents’ small businesses and dreams of one day earning an MBA and owning a pug.
Allie Treske (BOS ’11) is passionate about grassroots development and empowering individuals with the tools and skills they need to succeed. Currently, Allie works with Nourish International (nourish.org) as the Chief Operating Officer. Her previous experience with Nourish includes working on the programmatic staff as the Chapter Coordinator, mentoring and supporting 24 college chapters around the U.S. and on the marketing and publicity team as the Chapter Founders Team Leader, recruiting students to join the Nourish movement. Allie holds a B.A. in political science and international studies with a focus in social movements, nation states, and international politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, Allie enjoys playing tennis, dancing, reading, cooking and planning her next adventure.
Rebecca Offensend , (LON’08), is passionate about connecting people. Currently, she heads up the San Francisco/Bay Area chapter of StartingBloc and leads a team on the Fellowship Advisory Committee for the Board of Directors. She does online marketing and social media for Viator.com, a travel and ecommerce site in San Francisco, as well as serves the Kravis Leadership Institute as a Kravis Fellow. In previous lives, she was a snowboarding instructor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, worked in finance in London, and researched the Vietnamese coffee industry. She holds a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Claremont McKenna College with a minor in Leadership Studies.
Beeta Ansari is Ashoka U’s Exchange Manager, the world’s only global convening on social entrepreneurship in higher education. Each year, the Exchange brings together hundreds of innovative faculty, students, social entrepreneurs and Ashoka Fellows and arms them with the resources to disseminate and embed social entrepreneurship at their institution. In addition to managing all logistics related to the Exchange, Beeta serves as the main point of contact for all attendees, develops content to be shared and presented at the Exchange, and moderates an online community for participants. In addition to the Exchange, Beeta also manages Ashoka U’s communications and finances. Previously, Beeta worked as a Procurement Manager at a tech startup and tutored students at KIPP Academy in Houston. Beeta graduated from Southern Methodist University with a BS in Economics.