The people behind the ESHIP Summit


Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Team

Philip Gaskin

Vice President of Entrepreneurship

Philip has a decorated history of creating the conditions for entrepreneurs, teams, and organizations to reach their potential. If you haven’t heard him speak at a Summit, you’ve still felt his impact through his extensive work in building and refining ecosystems. He looks forward to continuing to grow the strategies he has been working on in this promoted role. Read more about Philip here.

Laura Barrett

Senior Program Officer – Ecosystems Operations and Performance

While you may not have met her yet, Laura Barrett has been working hard making an impact on communities since she joined the Kauffman Foundation in 2019. Laura comes to us with a passion for process, strategic oversight, and financial management. Read more about Laura here.

Andy Stoll

Senior Program Officer, Entrepreneurship

Andy Stoll is a senior program officer with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he is part of the team responsible for the implementation and management of the Foundation’s ecosystem development strategy. Before joining the Kauffman Foundation, Stoll co-founded Seed Here Studio, a social good company specializing in building entrepreneurial ecosystems in unexpected places. He is the co-founder of six entrepreneurial-focused organizations, most recently the Startup Champions Network, the nation’s first professional association for full-time innovation ecosystem builders. His past work includes projects with The Case Foundation, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and The Bohemian Foundation, building innovation ecosystems in technology, global health, and music, respectively. Read more about Andy here.

Evan Absher

Senior Program Officer, Entrepreneurship

Evan Absher is a senior program officer in Entrepreneurship with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where his work includes identifying ways to help cities further innovation and growth in their communities. He is also focused on helping to educate policymakers on new insights and understandings that result from Foundation-supported research and providing support for the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship and Education departments in the formation of applicable local policies and programs. Read more about Evan here.

Lauren Aleshire

Senior Content Marketing Specialist, Public Affairs

Lauren Aleshire is the senior content marketing specialist in Public Affairs with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. She helps define and execute how the Foundation plans, curates, and creates content that supports new entrepreneurial learning user engagement, including strategies for Kauffman FastTrac and 1 Million Cups. Read more about Lauren here.

Lauren Higgins

Program Officer, Entrepreneurship

Lauren Higgins is a program officer working on ecosystem product design in Entrepreneurship with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Higgins was a program lead and strategy support consultant for the Foundation, where she designed, developed, and managed the Innovator in Residence program, a two-year initiative that facilitated the collaboration between Kauffman associates and seven experienced community leaders to develop systemic change projects which address significant barriers within entrepreneurial ecosystems. Read more about Lauren here.

ESHIP Community Activators

The ESHIP Community Activation Team works to support the ESHIP Summit community by fostering interactions, communication, and collaborations across the community. The team also supports the ESHIP Goal Champions and other emerging leaders, hosts monthly virtual meetups and works directly with numerous national resource providers to help link ecosystem building resources to the communities that need them. You can learn more about the community itself by visiting the ESHIP Goals community Dashboard, joining the ESHIP community Facebook Group or connecting with Cecilia and Christine directly at

Cecilia Wessinger

Cecilia Wessinger is an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder and founder of Mass Collaboration. Her current role supporting ecosystem building practitioners as a consultant with the Kauffman Foundation unites her dedication to empowerment and equity, with her love of community culture. As a certified Cultural Competency and Unconscious Bias facilitator, she moves conversations beyond diversity and inclusion to connecting, engaging, and belonging. Her entrepreneurship path led to winning start-up competitions, and she also served as a former lead organizer of the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups, SXSW Pitch Advisory Member and a multiple year US delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. In addition, she co-founded the Future Agro Challenge USA.

Christine Lai

Christine Lai is a cross-sector collaboration catalyst, connecting capital, ideas, opportunities, and people for positive social change. She serves as a Community Activator on the ESHIP Summit Team, where she focuses on partnerships, strategy, and supporting the community. Previously, Christine served as Chief of Staff with Delivering Happiness, a coachsultancy [hybrid coaching + consulting] creating more successful, sustainable cultures with corporations, governments, universities, and other organizations. She also has prior experience in education, hospitality, and sports. Christine graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Political Science and is inspired and invigorated by bringing people together to strengthen communities of action and belonging.

ESHIP Goal Champions 2020

These leaders are at the forefront of the entrepreneurial world with their innovation, dedication and passion for pushing progress forward in the growing professional field of entrepreneurial ecosystem building.

ESHIP Goal Champions are identified and nominated by the ESHIP Summit community as individuals who have demonstrated ongoing efforts to move the ESHIP Goals forward. These Goal Champions serve as ambassadors, cheerleaders, passionate advocates for the field, and exemplary examples of servant leadership. ESHIP Goal Champions meet regularly and provide leadership for the ongoing ESHIP Goal Meetup calls, the ESHIP Summits, and additional programs that help move this work forward.

Anika Horn

Anika Horn is a consultant, storyteller, and community builder driven by social impact. Through Social Venturers, she is building a network of ecosystem builders for social change to equip them with the insights, resources, and peer community to lead fulfilling lives and purpose-driven careers. She is an avid writer, dedicated ecosystem builder, and advisor to social entrepreneurs.

Goals: Inclusive field, connected networks, and storytelling

Beth Zimmer

Beth Zimmer is a founder of the Innovation Collaborative in Erie, Pennsylvania, an organization that has served northwest Pennsylvania as an influential advocate and catalyst for changing the region’s culture to encourage and support entrepreneurial thinking and acting, as well as the essential development of more startups. Beth’s involvement has led to local K-12 schools and other public organizations adopting entrepreneurial education programs and services to support aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.

Goals: Practical metrics and methods, universal support, sustainable work, and storytelling

Chad Renando

Chad Renando focuses on data, mapping, measurements, and establishing collaborative bodies as a means to support regional ecosystems. He does this as the director of the nonprofit Startup Status and as the managing director of Australia’s Global Entrepreneurship Network, exploring the connection between entrepreneurship ecosystems and community resilience. Check out the current map of Australia’s ecosystem, created by Startup Status.

Goals: Connected networks, practical metrics and methods, universal support, and sustainable work

Eric Renz-Whitmore

Eric Renz-Whitmore is a community organizer and ecosystem builder working in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His experience includes building statewide community efforts to support the state’s film industry, lead the New Mexico Technology Council (a trade association for New Mexico’s IT and tech businesses), and a variety of ecosystem development projects for Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department. He’s a founder and organizer for several local events for entrepreneurs and innovators, including the city’s 1 Million Cups chapter and the Code for Albuquerque. He also currently serves as Director of Entrepreneurship Communities with Forward Cities, assisting in the development of more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems in several regions around the United States.

Goals: Inclusive field, collaborative culture, and practical metrics and methods

Hassan Bazzi

Hassan Bazzi is an entrepreneur and ecosystem builder based in Detroit, Michigan. Hassan serves as Director of Community Innovation with Forward Cities, a national nonprofit that equips communities and cities with the tools and resources to grow and sustain more equitable ecosystems.

Goals: Inclusive field, collaborative culture, and universal support

Jeff Bennett

Jeff Bennett grew up in Reno, Nevada, and is currently an ecosystem builder at StartupSac in Sacramento, California. He is also a co-founder and editorial director of as well as a freelance writer and content creator. He finds that one essential piece to growing communities is to create and share meaningful stories.

Goals: Storytelling, connected networks, and universal support

Katie Gailes

Katie Gailes is the Director of Entrepreneurship at Wake Technical Community College. In her current position, and as a small business consultant and coach, Katie has counseled and supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs. She came to entrepreneurship after a 27-year career with an international IT company, where she refined her executive communication skills and developed her experience using systems and processes, which are now powerful tools she utilizes in the world of entrepreneurship and ecosystem building. Creative problem solving is her superpower.

Goals: Inclusive field, collaborative culture, shared vision, and connected networks

Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence is based out of Bowie, Maryland, and is the founder and managing partner at Inncuvate, a professional services firm that takes a systematic view of innovation and entrepreneur-led economic development to create solutions for economic equity. Mark is passionate about enabling the power of entrepreneurship to create new industries and new opportunities that directly impact lives.

Goal: Sustainable work

Norris Krueger

Norris Krueger likes to engage with ecosystems from multiple angles. His roles inside ecosystem building include scholar, educator, entrepreneur, mentor, and the community Energizer Bunny. When it comes to titles, he prefers “action leader” as opposed to “thought leader.”

Goals: Practical metrics and methods, universal support, and sustainable work

Srijita Dia Ghosh

Srijita Dia Ghosh is an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder in Oklahoma working in economic development. She enjoys cultivating startup communities, planning people-gatherings, and connecting resources to those who need them. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, diversity, and inclusion, as well as education through exploration — otherwise known as traveling.

Goals: Inclusive field, collaborative culture, and universal support

Tiffany Henry

Tiffany Henry supports rural entrepreneurs by connecting them with resources, training, and tools that specifically address the challenges and opportunities that are found in small and rural communities. She works with Conductor, a public-private partnership in Central Arkansas where she facilitates ecosystem building across an 11-county region.

Goals: Inclusive field and shared vision

Valto Loikkanen

Valto Loikkanen is an internationally-awarded serial entrepreneur with over 23 years of experience, who has built companies across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and currently lives in Helsinki, Finland. At 24 years old, he started his first company which grew to be an international business. Valto is a visionary strategist with deep knowledge in innovation, entrepreneurship, investing, and digital technology. He advises public policymakers in various countries on economic development and the platform economy. Valto is also a public speaker and plays an active role in strategizing private ventures as the co-founder and senior advisor in Startup Commons, co-founder and CXO in Prifina, and founding partner in Grow VC Group.

Goals: Shared vision, connected networks, practical metrics and methods, and sustainable work

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