About the team


Over the past decade, Ali has been a global keynote speaker on the topic of generational diversity; a regular contributor on the BBC radio show In the Balance; an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School; and a forum facilitator for the Young Presidents Organization. She guides fast growing tech start-ups in building strong organizational cultures, and has helped successfully integrate new employees and executives post-acquisition. She supports partners and executives from the world’s largest and most successful law firms, asset management organizations and insurance companies in leveraging their talents and learning to motivate and develop others. She specializes in helping individuals and teams thrive in high performing environments. Ali has thousands of hours of one-to-one coaching sessions with senior leaders, executives, partners and associates.


Gillian Hayes is a solutions-focused Senior Executive, Thought Leader, and Board Member with 20 years of success across the technology, telecom, healthIT, EdTech, supply chain, logistics, and distribution industries. Leveraging extensive experience with research and technology management, she will describe her experiences in bringing new products to market, working with donors and venture capitalists, and growing young organizations. Gillian is currently the CEO of AVIAA, a global group purchasing organization for business aviation, and the Kleist Professor of Informatics at UC Irvine. She has served as Chief Science Officer at Tiwahe Technology as well as led consulting and engineering teams at Deloitte, Avanade, and Roundarch.


With over a decade of building highly effective, cross-functional global teams and leading marketing communications for highly successful companies, Lori has earned a reputation as a transformational executive who drives integrated marketing strategies to support revenue growth. She develops and executes metric based, data and insight-driven marketing strategies designed to retain existing customers, build brand loyalty and enhance the customer experience to increase their lifetime value. As a strategic planner with expertise in eCommerce, product marketing, sales enablement, SaaS, and marketing communications and operations with in-house resources and agency sourcing for maximum ROI and productivity, Lori has played a significant role in driving market expansion, customer acquisition and retention. She is a digital expert who is responsible for the adoption of digital technologies across business units after consulting with internal stakeholders, strategizing their specific marketing needs and determining the technology infrastructure best aligned with organizational growth and to deliver the optimal customer experience.


Marinela Gombosev has spent her entire career in regulated industries, including the medical device, aerospace and energy sectors. Her expertise spans product development, scaling operations, and executing marketing strategies. Marinela Gombosev is President and COO of Evoke Neuroscience, a commercial stage diagnostic company focusing on early detection of Alzheimer’s and other dementias with a bold vision of ultimately eradicating dementia. Over 50,000 patients have been assessed using Evoke’s technology and under Marinela’s leadership, the company has twice been ranked in the Inc. 500|5000 fastest growing private companies. Prior to Evoke, Marinela led product development for diagnostic devices at BIT Group, an integrated, multi-national R&D and manufacturing firm. Early in her career, Marinela designed flight controls for Embraer’s executive business jets at Parker Hannifin – Aerospace. Marinela completed her undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. Marinela received an MBA from Pepperdine University. In 2015, Ms. Gombosev was inducted into the University of California, Irvine School of Engineering Hall of Fame for her professional achievements as the youngest recipient of this award. Marinela is a passionate advocate of young people pursuing an education and career in STEM disciplines and enjoys mentoring young women as well as early stage start-ups on business strategy and commercial launch execution.


Shawn Dougherty is a trailblazer. With her innovative talent and creativity she co-founded mophie, the #1 selling battery case manufacturer for mobile devices in North America. With Shawn as COO and founder, mophie created the first juice pack battery case for the first generation iPhone in North America and built an exclusive partnership with Apple. Shawn created a solid business structure at mophie, allowing the company to thrive and withstand rapid growth, both in the U.S. and internationally. She is a master negotiator and raised millions of dollars in multiple rounds of capital and debt facilities. Under her guidance and strategic vision, the company grew from 3 employees in a barn in Michigan to a multimillion dollar business with 300+ employees in 5 facilities in California, Michigan, China, Hong Kong and Amsterdam. A Michigan native, Shawn values determination and is respected for her relentless work ethic and open door policy. Always remaining focused, Shawn never shies away from a problem, rather she sees problems as opportunities for growth and elevating a brand. As a leader she has established longstanding relationships with national and global retail partnerships and collaborations with top industry icons including Apple, Amazon, Verizon, AT&T, Best Buy, Uber and Valentino. Shawn is passionate about developing products. Prior to mophie, she led products development for several notable tech-based companies, including Directed Electronics where she led the outsourcing of the entire audio line to Asia, Orion, ADST and Stryker. Shawn currently resides in Newport Beach, California with her partner and two daughters. She also has a Cavalier King Charles, names Cali.


Nicole Washington, M.S., currently works with OCTANe of Orange County, CA, as the Director of Innovation and Growth. In this role, she focuses on engaging with strategic partners to accelerate the growth of early to later stage ventures and small to medium size businesses throughout the entire Southern California Ecosystem and beyond. Nicole has nearly 20 years of systems integration experience, including systems implementation, design and programming from her previous career with Ernst & Young, Whittman Hart and MarchFirst management consulting firms. She is the founder and owner of Micro Biz Coach®, a firm that focuses on educating the micro and small business owner to leverage various aspects of internet technology in their business operations in order to maximize efficiency and to effectively compete with larger businesses. Its clients have been featured on CNBC, Fox Business News, TheStreet.com and a host of Clear Channel radio stations. Nicole is also the founder of Nicole’s Naturals® Inc. (Est. 2014). Nicole’s Naturals is a gluten free food manufacturing company specializing in the development of gluten free grain products with the texture and taste of traditional gluten products. She is a member of the Angel Capital Association and the Ohio TechAngel Fund, the 2nd largest Angel Investor Network in the United States, where she served as the due diligence team technology lead for several years. She currently serves as Chair of the Academic Committee and Trustee of the Board of Education for Samueli Academy.


As City Manager and Head of Sales & Operation for Google Fiber, Erin oversees all sales, marketing, and business operations for Google Fiber in Southern California. Erin looks after the overall growth business strategy for the market including subscriber acquisition and growth, community impact, and oversees retail locations and events. Since Google Fiber’s launch in 2012, Erin has served on several early stage development teams including the Content Licensing and Development team. She was responsible for managing partnerships and securing carriage agreements with major media companies including Disney, ESPN, Fox Networks & NBC Universal. In her 18-year career at Google, Erin has led and scaled several early stage sales and strategy teams across Google’s suite of digital advertising solutions including search, display, video, and mobile. On the Mobile Ad Sales team, she led partnerships with companies such as Sephora, The Gap, Marriott, Expedia, TripAdvisor, American Airlines, Paramount, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures & Sony TV to evangelize the need for mobile marketing and advised advertisers on their mobile marketing strategies. She was named a Mobile Woman to Watch in 2012 by Mobile Marketer. Erin is an original founding member of the first Southern California Google Office in Irvine in 2001. She graduated from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and lives in her native Orange County with her husband and two young children.


Kim Kovacs is a serial entrepreneur and investor in software-as-a-service, technology, agriculture and health companies with a distinguished, result –driven, track record in executive leadership and finance. Kovacs has personally raised more than $100 million dollars for ventures she’s lead — all resulting in successful exits. A champion of women’s wellness, to empower women with natural solutions in their health decisions, she entered the cannabis space as an investor and entrepreneur. Her goal is to raise awareness about how cannabis use can help find solutions for America’s opioid epidemic. As the Founder and President of MyJane Inc., acquired by Manifest 7 in January 2019, Kovacs aims to normalize cannabis use and give women the confidence to make informed health and wellness choices while creating personalized, data-backed routines just right for them. Kovacs is a member of OCTANe and President of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) Board of Directors, a member of OSEA Angels and the Women’s Founders Network. The moderator of the first jointly hosted signature event ‘Women in Cannabis: Women Entrepreneurs Forging New Paths in The Cannabis Industry’ with Women in LAVA (The Los Angeles Venture Association) in conjunction with the newly defined Green LAVA, which is solely focused on cannabis, Kovacs is paving new pathways in the cannabis industry. She has been nominated for the Connected Women of Influence Gamechanger and the Orange County Business Journal Women in Business awards. She is also an active angel investor, advisor and executive consultant for emerging companies. Passionate about the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Kovacs provides mentorship to students and startups in Los Angeles and Orange County.


Michelle Khine was an Assistant and Founding Professor of the School of Engineering at UC Merced. She received her BS ('99) and MS ('01, under Dennis Lieu) in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley and her PhD ('05, under Luke P Lee) in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley and UCSF. While in graduate school, she worked at Sandia National Labs as a MESA Fellow as well as co-founded Fluxion Biosciences (San Francisco, CA), which was based on her dissertation work. Michelle joined UC Irvine in 2009 and co-founded Novoheart and TinyKicks. Michelle has since founded and raised funding for several companies.