Burgess New Venture Challenge 2021 Judges

Burgess New Venture Challenge Announces 2021’s Judges Panel

East Lansing, Mich — The Burgess New Venture Challenge (BNVC) announced today the lineup of judges deciding the fortunes of fifteen semifinalist teams at the third annual student startup competition. On April 1, 2021, Fifteen Student Semifinalist teams will compete for a chance at $40K in total prizes.

2021 Burgess New Venture Challenge Judges

BNVC judges are passionate about venture creation and Michigan State University's entrepreneurial community. From prosperous entrepreneurs to venture capital and angel investors to c-suite executives, the Burgess New Venture Challenge 2021 judges are experts with deep ties to the university.

"Spartan alumni play a critical role in our entrepreneurial community. Serving as a judge for our premier student venture competition is a significant commitment. We're thrilled to have some incredible Spartans and friends involved in this capacity," said Christopher Sell, director of alumni and entrepreneur engagement at the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "This year's panel of BNVC judges includes accomplished founders, investors, and executives at high-growth ventures, and we appreciate the time they're giving to our student semifinalists."

Joining 2021's panel of Burgess New Venture Challenge judges are:

  • Kavita Bouknight — Co-founder and CEO, Match Health

Kavita Bouknight (Eli Broad College of Business, '99) is an entrepreneur, digital health maven, patient health advocate, investor, and speaker. Her mission is to connect people to targeted health innovations, enabling them to lead healthier lives. Bouknight is the co-founder and CEO of Match Health, a digital health platform that brings greater awareness and accessibility to transformative health innovations. Match Health has developed and maintains a vast video library that reviews various medical conditions and the innovations to treat them.

  • Brian Burgess — Co-Founder, VROMP; Managing Member, Glengarry Partners

Brian Burgess (Eli Broad College of Business, '01; MBA, '12) is co-founder and CEO of Veterinary Rehabilitation Orthopedic Medicine Partners (VROMP). His company is the nation's first group of standalone veterinary practices focused on high-quality, non-surgical rehabilitation and orthopedic medical care. Before launching VROMP, Burgess had a 15-year corporate career in Finance & Business Development.

  • April Clobes — President/CEO, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union

April Clobes (Eli Broad College of Business, '94) has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Michigan State University Federal Credit Union since March of 2015. MSUFCU has an asset size of over $6.1 billion, 305,000 members worldwide, 990 employees, and 22 branch locations throughout Michigan. Clobes has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing from Michigan State University, a Master of Arts degree from Michigan State University in Advertising, and a Master of Business Administration from Western Michigan University.

  • Shaniqua Davis — CEO and Founder, Noirefy

Shaniqua Davis (Communication Arts and Sciences, '13) is a digital marketing and technology enthusiast with an eye for detail beyond conventional digital-relations norms. A Detroit-native, Davis learned early on to use innovative techniques to gain both experience and significant opportunities for advancement. Davis launched the job referral website, Noirefy, in June of 2016, connecting qualified job seekers of color with top-tier companies.

  • Kelly Ford — General Partner, Edison Partners

Kelly Ford (Communication Arts and Sciences, '94) is a tech industry executive turned equity investor with a specialty in accelerating growth and building enterprise value for software companies, from startup to $100M.

  • Anurag Kumar — Managing Director, Improving Nearshore

Anurag Kumar (Eli Broad College of Business, '96) has over 35 years of executive experience in the outsourcing services and technology industries, including more than 21 years as president or CEO. He has founded five companies and led two rapid turnarounds. Kumar co-founded iTexico in 2010, a nearshore software service leader with operations in Austin, the Bay Area, Guadalajara, and Aguascalientes. Before selling it to Improving Nearshore in 2020, he grew iTexico into a multimillion-dollar company with over 300 employees and 250+ clients in the US, Canada, Mexico, and the UK.

  • Rebecca Roman Landini — Co-Founder and Creative Director, StarForged Studios LLC.

Rebecca Roman Landini (Communication Arts and Sciences, '19) is a game developer with a passion for all things creative. She graduated with a Masters in Media and Information and a certificate in Serious Game Design from Michigan State University. Roman Landini first came up with the idea, Edge, StarForged's debut title, in 2017. She gathered a group of friends who worked on the game in their spare time until they decided to apply for 2020's BNVC as StarForged Studios. The team won 3rd Place, opening many doors to StarForged, including being part of the Conquer Accelerator's 2020 cohort.

  • Tom Ryan — Co-Founder, Smashburger

Tom Ryan (Agriculture and Natural Resources, '79) is an amalgam of many things. He is a food scientist, earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry from Michigan State University. During his doctoral studies, he became intrigued with Marketing and Consumer Research, which set him on the career path of a lifetime. In 2007, Tom co-created Smashburger, an industry icon for quality, growth, and business acumen. He currently holds Global Taste Advisor's title to Jollibee Food Corporation, focusing on optimizing concept and menu elements.

  • Jun Wang — Director, Engineering & Data Science, Twitter

Jun Wang (Natural Science, '04) has been leading the software engineering and data science teams for Twitter's revenue business since 2013. He ran data science and product development at a venture-funded startup in the fin-tech space before joining Twitter's team.

  • Jeff Wesley — Executive Director of Venture Investment, Red Cedar Ventures

Jeff Wesley was the CEO of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK, the nation's largest local moving company, where he received national recognition as a top franchise executive. Before joining Red Cedar Ventures in 2018, Wesley also served as the President of Accu Bite Dental Supply, an Inc. 100 company that a Fortune 500 company acquired. Wesley is an angel investor and is a member of both Capital Community Angels and the Michigan Angel Fund. Wesley served on various economic and community boards including, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). He holds his bachelor's degree in accounting from Central Michigan University.

This year's BNVC competition is fierce. But, as every judge knows, to win, competitors must demonstrate they have listened closely to their customers and responded to their needs with game-changing solutions. 2021's BNVC semifinalists will pitch their ideas during a private, virtual session on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. With only five finalist slots available, student venturers will need to convince this year's panel of judges they have what it takes to compete. On April 1, 2021, every BNVC team will showcase their ventures in a virtual setting. Who will take the top prize? Register for the Burgess New Venture Challenge here and find out!


About the Burgess New Venture Challenge

The Burgess New Venture Challenge promotes entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation at Michigan State University. The competition identifies strong Spartan startups, provides mentorship and team development workshops, and culminates in a year-end showcase event. 2021's virtual event launches April 1, 2021. Find out more at eship.msu.edu/burgessnvc 

About the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation empowers students to learn through action by providing programs, courses, and resources to foster an entrepreneurial mindset, develop empathy, and create new ventures. Our program is designed to prime students to embrace failure mindfully, explore unknowns, and develop skills that matter. Find out more at eship.msu.edu.