Greg McKee, Chief Executive Officer
Greg McKee brings nearly 30 years of experience in the healthcare, investment management and investment banking industries to CONNECT. He was co–Founder of Global Bio Link, a global Specialty Pharma company focused on the commercialization of novel and niche compounds in markets outside the United States. Prior to Global Bio Link, he was Chairman and CEO of Akela Pharma Inc. and its predecessor company, Nventa Biopharmaceuticals. Previously, Greg held roles as Head Corporate Development, Valentis, Inc., and Senior Management roles with Genzyme Corporation in the US and Asia. Greg lived and worked in Japan and in Singapore for nine years and speaks fluent Japanese.
An active member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO)/World Presidents Organization (WPO), Greg earned a B.A., Economics from the University of Washington, a M.B.A from the Wharton School, and a M.A., International Studies from The Joseph H. Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.
Kevin Carroll, Executive Vice President
As Executive Vice President at CONNECT, Kevin oversees membership and programming for Small and Medium size companies (SME). Kevin works with the SME community to serve the specific needs of this segment of the San Diego innovation economy community.
Prior to CONNECT Kevin was Regional Vice President, TechAmerica where he oversaw the management of their Southern California operations. Prior to this Kevin was the Executive Director for the AeA San Diego Council where he worked with a diverse group of small and midsize technology companies. Kevin started his career serving technology companies as Special Projects Director in 1996 and several other positions thereafter.
Kevin has served on several boards in San Diego including the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, North County Economic Development Corporation and CONNECT.
Kevin graduated with a B.S. from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ginny Merrifield, Vice President of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships
As Vice President of Business Development & Strategic Partnerships Ginny Merrifield builds relationships with businesses in San Diego that support the innovation economy by investing in CONNECT.
Prior to joining CONNECT, Ginny was the Executive Director & Officer at The Gary and Mary West Foundation, a private family foundation whose mission is to lower the cost of health care and develop greater opportunity, lasting independence, and a path to a better way of life for younger and older Americans alike.
For 24 years Ginny served as Director & Principal at Clark Security Products, the largest national wholesale distributor of mechanical and electronic security hardware; first as Head of Marketing and then leading operations for the Southern California Region during her tenure. Ginny and her husband successfully sold their business in 2010.
Ginny’s distinguished work in education has been recognized on the state and local level. Ginny is a Founding Trustee of e3 Civic High and Co-Founder and Trustee of Pacific Ridge School and was recognized as Woman of the Year in 2007 by the California State Senate for her efforts in school reform.
Ginny holds a B.A from Princeton University.
Ruprecht von Buttlar, Vice President, Business Creation & Development
Ruprecht von Buttlar is the Vice President, Business Creation & Development. He directs the execution and development of: the Springboard program and the Nearsourcing Roundtable program. Ruprecht serves on the executive boards of CCAT (Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technologies), San Diego Advanced Defense Technology cluster and the Biomimicry BRIDGE. Springboard, CONNECT’s flagship program, assists innovators and entrepreneurs with the definition of a compelling commercialization strategy through mentoring by seasoned, C-level executives – CONNECT’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs). Under Ruprecht’s leadership, Springboard has become an internationally renowned business creation program. Since 2005, more than 200 companies have completed the Springboard process and over 50% of these companies are still in operation. These companies have raised over $ 310Million in seed-, venture- and debt financing and have created 1000 jobs in San Diego.
Prior to CONNECT, Ruprecht held global chief executive, general management and business development positions in the Internet and communications industries with companies including Motorola, DSC Communications (Alcatel), Nortel Networks, Scientific Atlanta and Aegis Broadband.
Ruprecht has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Hamburg and a MBA from Loyola College in Maryland.
Karen Winston, Vice President, Program Development
Karen Winston joined CONNECT in 2007. As a senior member of the CONNECT team, Karen serves as an advisor and resource across the platform to create target specific and engaging programming. Key program focus includes the CONNECT Global Innovation Summit and Frontiers in Science & Technology. Also, with a focus on ensuring that CONNECT’s stakeholders have a local supply of highly skilled talent available for hire, Karen’s role includes programs and initiatives that influence students to pursue studies and develop careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as develop opportunities that engage industry involvement in education. One such program is CONNECT’s Entrepreneurs for Young Innovators which introduces local entrepreneurs with exciting technology to middle and high school students through dynamic classroom presentations.
Prior to her role in workforce development, Karen led the production and implementation of many of CONNECT’s programs, including the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego for which she served as executive director for six years, which included responsibility for the operations and administration of the chapter, including program management, budget, sponsorship, marketing, and strategic partnerships. Additional programs under Karen’s past program leadership were Global CONNECT Summit, Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, FrameWorks Workshops, Most Innovative New Product Awards, Frontiers in Science & Technology, and the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance during its early development years.
Karen has more than 25 years of experience in marketing and public relations, including 12 years as a marketing consultant. Her clients and past employers were lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, professional speakers/authors and other professional services in San Diego, New York, Massachusetts and Florida. Karen is presently a member of the San Diego Leadership Council for Women in Technology International (WITI), and serves on various advisory committees, including the STEM Collaboratory, ARCS Scholars Foundation, and GirlTECH. She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in communications and sociology, and a minor in French literature from UC San Diego.
Claire E. Bula, Esq., Director of Marketing & Communications
As Director of Marketing & Communications for CONNECT, Claire Bula is responsible for setting CONNECT’s marketing strategy, overseeing their communications and digital presence, promoting CONNECT in the market, and building relationships to further CONNECT’s mission of creating and scaling great companies.
Prior to joining CONNECT Claire consulted on marketing and communications for apps, start-ups, and large technology companies with AuthenticMatters as a Digital Strategist. She also ran the Visionary Awards for LEAD San Diego. Before moving to San Diego, Claire built and ran the marketing department at Electronic Ink, a design-based technology & business consulting firm in Philadelphia. Prior to that Claire held development roles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at Villanova University. Claire also practiced law in the Criminal Division of the Attorney General’s office for the State of Delaware.
Claire received her J.D. from Villanova University, School of Law and a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Claire is a licensed attorney in the states of Delaware and New Jersey.
Gary Klein, Vice President, Public Policy
Theresa Andrews, Director, Public Policy
Theresa Andrews is the Director of Public Policy for CONNECT. Theresa is responsible for managing CONNECT’s Public Policy Committee and Innovation Institute along with all corresponding functions. In addition, Theresa manages state and local public policy and assists in identifying business growth opportunities. Prior to CONNECT, Theresa was Senior External Relations Officer for University of the Pacific, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy where she was responsible for renewing and enriching alumni connections and forging Corporate and Foundation sponsors. Previously, Theresa was Director of Membership and Manager of Government Affairs for the California Pharmacists Association. Theresa hold a Bachelor’s of Science degree from San Diego State University.
San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI) Team
Lisa Freedman, Executive Director – San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI)
With almost 20 years experience, Lisa brings to SDSI strong credentials in business development, management, marketing, operations and event production. While her career has mostly kept her working with the traditional sports such as football and baseball, she is very proud to have been part of the Sport and Venue team running the inaugural Olympic Mountain Bike Events at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Over the course of her career, Lisa has worked on some of the world’s most prestigious events with some of the foremost sports architects including the Event Group at the international sports architecture firm, Populous. Over the years and while working for her well respected mentors, she had amazing experiences working on NFL Super Bowls, MLB all Star Games, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the 2012 London Olympics, as well as special projects for the International Olympic Committee. As a result, she has a vast network across many aspects of the Sports and Events Industries. Most people, when asked to describe her, say that she knows everyone as she has a wonderful memory for names, faces and fun facts about the people she has met.
Lisa’s responsibilities at SDSI include growing membership, maintaining relationships and ensuring member and sponsor fulfillment, creating and implementing new marketing strategies, business operations and budget management and creating meaningful events. Lisa is very excited to have joined such a unique organization with such a dynamic staff, board and membership base. She is looking forward to a very successful and productive future where SDSI has a significant positive social and economic impact on Southern California’s Sports Community.
Renne Catalano, Program Director – San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI)
Renne manages all aspects of program development including membership, marketing, programs and events. Renne manages SDSI’s Springboard business mentoring program which has established Southern California as the center for sport innovation by driving the growth of the next generation of sports businesses. Renne is Editor-in-Chief of the SDSI newsletter, manages marketing initiatives and works with Lisa and Garrett to produce SDSI’s annual, quarterly and special events.
Renne has been with SDSI since its infancy in February 2010. She was brought on as the second full time staff shortly after Bill Walton was announced as the Executive Chairman of the Advisory Board. Together with Garrett Hale the two worked to establish a membership program and organizational structure that now services more than 80 members and an active community of more than 2000 individuals and provides collaboration, networking, education and capital opportunities.
Renne relocated from New York in February of 2010 where she received an associate’s degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in public relations for a women’s fashion house based out of NYC. Renne has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Conflict Resolution from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.