Guest Speakers

Technology Panel:

Van Espahbodi portrait

Van Espahbodi
Co-Founder, Manager & Partner
Starburst Accelerator

As Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Starburst Accelerator, Van Espahbodi is championing today’s aerospace renaissance, uniting early-stage technology innovators with private investment to modernize infrastructure in mobility, communications, and intelligence. Van launched Starburst in the US in 2015, and today the company operates globally with offices in Los Angeles, Paris, Munich, San Francisco, Singapore, and Montreal. His team works alongside 400+ technology startups developing new aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, drones, sensors, autonomy, robotics, and much more.

An entrepreneurial futurist, Van has over 15 years experience in aerospace, identifying future trends, shaping product strategy, and investment trade policies. Having worked in Government and Corporate strategy positions in both defense and commercial aviation markets, Van started his career as a congressional aide before joining Raytheon and later UK NATS, the British air navigation service provider. Following graduate studies at George Mason University, Van participated in executive programs at Thunderbird School of Management in Arizona and Cranfield School of Management in the UK. He currently serves as a member of the Economic Development Advisory Council for the City of El Segundo and the Advisory Board of the MIT Enterprise Forum.

Phillip Weicker

Phillip Weicker

For more than 15 years, Phillip Weicker has been committed to the advancement of battery technology and electric vehicles, earning him 36 patents along the way. After completing his Masters in Computational Electromagnetics from Canada’s McGill University, Phil started as an engineer in 2004 at Mentor Infolytica, now a Siemens company. In 2008, he joined EnergyCS, a California-based company specializing in integration and controls for high-energy, large format batteries. From 2008 to 2011, Phil worked his way up from Senior Electrical Engineer to Engineering Manager and ultimately to Engineering Director. Phil joined his first electric vehicle startup in 2011 when Coda Automotive acquired EnergyCS and Phil became the Senior Director of High Voltage Engineering. He later progressed to Senior Director of Battery Engineering. From 2013 to 2015, Phil worked as Director of Battery Systems for QuantumScape, a top venture capital backed San Jose startup working on advanced energy storage technologies. Prior to PROJECT EVELOZCITY, Phil spent more than two years at electric vehicle startup Faraday Future where he held various senior roles in the area of battery systems. Phil is the author of the book ‘A Systems Approach to Lithium Ion Battery Management’ and has appeared on Jay Leno’s Garage for holding the world record for fastest land speed in a hot tub.

Leonard Sender portrait

Dr. Leonard Sender
Co-Director & Senior Vice President
Chan Soo-Shiong Institute of Medicine, NantkWest

Dr. Sender completed his medical school training at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He went on to complete his internship and residence in pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine.  To round out his medical training, Dr. Sender completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. In his more than 20 years of experience treating pediatric, adolescent, and young adult cancer patients and survivors, he has seen how the field of oncology has changed and how concerted efforts are now made to address patients’ ancillary needs, including fertility preservation, management of acute and chronic treatment effects, and sensitivity to the psychosocial impacts of a cancer diagnosis on those just beginning their most productive years. Dr. Sender's research interests are comprehensive and multidisciplinary, extending from epidemiological components (incidence, prevalence) to biological factors (genomic or cellular differences), to the psychosocial impact of cancer, to long-term cancer survivorship. In 2011, Dr. Sender was the recipient of a $10 million Hyundai Hope on Wheels grant to study the genomic basis of pediatric, adolescent, and young adult cancers to test the hypothesis that genomic knowledge can enable clinical decisions related to treatment options. In 2010, he founded two entities critical to the development of the emerging adolescent and young adult (AYA) oncology subspecialty, as President of the Society for Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (SAYAO) and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (JAYAO).  Dr. Sender currently serves as the Medical Director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children's, and in 2016 was named as the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs for Pediatric, Adolescent, and Young Adult Oncology for NantKwest. Prior to joining NantKwest, Dr. Sender was the Medical Director of Clinical Oncology at the University of California’s NCI designated Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Sender is also the Co-Director of the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Medicine.

monica-jan-photoMonica Jan
Senior Director of Strategy & Customer Experience
Virgin Orbit

Monica's career spans research and development, investment, and business strategy in the technology and aerospace sector. She has been involved in research and development in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, networking architectures and hardware, telematics systems, and space systems. She has worked with both entrepreneurs and corporations on product development, business development, strategic partnerships, operations and cross-functional process improvement, and supply chain alignment. In her strategy consulting career, she worked with Fortune 500 corporations on domestic and international market expansion, and advised high-tech start-ups on their venture strategy.

Prior to joining Virgin Orbit, Monica co-founded LightSpeed Innovations, an aerospace accelerator, working with new space entrepreneurs on launching their ventures.  During her tenure at Northrop Grumman and TRW, she managed various satellite and spacecraft test environment developments and led enterprise resource planning initiatives, where her architecture and implementation of a satellite switching subsystem won the Chairman’s Innovation Award. As the vice chair of the Wharton Angel Network and part of the steering committee for Wharton Aerospace Ventures, Monica works actively with investors and entrepreneurs from diverse industries.

Monica holds both BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, a Systems Engineering certificate from the California Institute of Technology, and an MBA from The Wharton School. She held a faculty position at The Wharton School with the Global Consulting Practicum Program.

South Bay Economic Panel:

Jennifer Brodmann

Dr. Jennifer Brodmann
Assistant Professor of Finance

Dr. Jennifer Brodmann is an assistant professor of finance at California State University Dominguez Hills. She graduated from the University of New Orleans with her Ph.D. and M.S. in Financial Economics. Her research focuses on corporate and entrepreneurial finance. Dr. Brodmann has presented her research at several conferences, including the Eastern Finance Association, Southwestern Finance Association, Academy of Financial Services, Academy of Economics and Finance, and the Gulf Research Council. Dr. Brodmann’s research is published in several peer-reviewed journals, including the International Review of Economics and Finance, Journal of Economics and Business, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Journal of Business Accounting and Finance Perspectives, Journal of Economic Cooperation and Development, and Borsa Istanbul Review.

Dr. Brodmann has multiple years of experience teaching and mentoring students.  She has served as a mentor for the CSUDH Innovation Incubator, faculty mentor for the South Bay Economics Forecast Student Research Competition, and a research mentor to undergraduate students for the Privateer Undergraduate Research and Scholarly UNO Experience (PURSUE) program. Her students and mentees have published their work with her in peer-reviewed journals and presented their research at the South Bay Economic Forecast, Academy of Economics and Finance, CSUDH Student Research Day, and Innovate UNO, an annual student research conference at the University of New Orleans.

Jose Martinez

Dr. Jose Martinez
Associate Professor, Accounting, Finance and Economics
California State University Dominguez Hills

Jose Martinez, Ph.D., received his bachelor's degree in economics from California State University, San Marcos and his master's and Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, San Diego. He is currently teaching microeconomics and macroeconomic principles and international business in the Accounting, Finance, and Economics Department at CSUDH. His research interests are labor economics, applied micro, migration, crime, and time series econometrics. Dr. Martinez also is co-director of the CSUDH Economics Institute.

Prager Fynnwin portrait

Dr. Fynnwin Prager
Assistant Professor, Public Administration
California State University Dominguez Hills

Fynnwin Prager, Ph.D., is co-director of the Economics Institute at CSU Dominguez Hills, College of Business Administration and Public Policy. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at USC’s Price School of Public Policy and Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), and he remains affiliated with the center.

He received his Ph.D. in policy, planning, and development from the Price School. His research has focused on the policy and economics of disasters, particularly environmental and terrorism policy, and the impacts to regional economies and transportation systems. Dr. Prager’s dissertation focused on climate policy, and used Computable General Equilibrium modeling to analyze the economic and distributional impacts of US federal emissions trading policy. He has also worked on similar assessments of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32)and co-founded Carbon Retirement, an innovative London-based carbon offsets company.

William Yu portrait

Dr. William Yu
UCLA Anderson Forecast

William Yu joined the UCLA Anderson Forecast in 2011 as an economist. At Forecast he focuses on the economic modeling and forecasting of Los Angeles economy. He also conducts research and forecast on China’s economy, and its impacts on the US economy. His research interests include a wide range of economic and financial issues, such as time series econometrics, stock, bond, real estate, and commodity price dynamics, human capital, and innovation. He has published over a dozen research articles in Journal of Forecasting, International Journal of Forecasting, Journal of International Money and Finance, etc. He also published op-ed articles in Los Angeles Times and other newspapers. He developed the City Human Capital Index and the Los Angeles City Employment Estimate and has been cited in the local, national and overseas media frequently including Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Time, Bloomberg, CBS Money Watch, Al Jazeera, U-T San Diego, LA Daily News, LA Daily Breeze, Straits Times, NBC, ABC, CNBC, CNN, and NPR, as well as various Chinese and Korean media. He received his bachelor’s degree in finance from National Taiwan University in 1995 and was an analyst in Fubon Financial Holding in Taipei from 1997 to 2000. In 2006, he received his Ph.D. degree in economics from the University of Washington where he was also an economics instructor and won two distinguished teaching awards. In 2006, he worked for the Frank Russell Investment Group for Treasury and corporate yields modeling and forecasting. From 2006 to 2011, he served as an assistant and an associate professor of economics at Winona State University where he taught courses including forecasting methods, managerial economics, international economics, and macroeconomics. Currently, he teaches business forecasting courses at UCLA Anderson School of Management and UCLA Extension

Emcee & Moderator:

Frank Mottek

Frank Mottek
Senior Money Anchor

Frank Mottek is the voice of business news in Los Angeles. An award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 25 years of experience, Frank is currently Senior Money Anchor at KNX 1070 Newsradio and provides listeners with “Your Money” reports weekdays at 20 and 50 past each hour between 6am and 1pm.

On Saturday’s at 11am, he hosts “Mottek On Money,” the number one source for business and consumer news in Southern California. “Mottek On Money” also airs Sundays at 8pm and is also podcast.

He is frequently called to lead the highest profile economic and business discussions in Southern California including events for the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Business Federation, LA County Economic Development Corporation, California State Forum, Milken Institute, UCLA Anderson School of Management, and the Association for Corporate Growth.

Mottek has won numerous awards from the AP, UPI, RTNDA, Florida Medical Association, L.A. Press Club and the Radio-TV News Association of Southern California including many Golden Mikes.  He was honored  in 2013 as Outstanding News Professional by the Public Relations Society of America’s Los Angeles chapter.

Mottek currently serves on the Board of Directors of the The Society of Professional Journalists-Los Angeles Chapter, the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California and the Concern Foundation for Cancer Research in Beverly Hills.


Past Speakers

Heidi Pease portrait

Heidi Pease
Los Angeles Blockchain Lab

As a leader in the Los Angeles blockchain community, Heidi cofounded the Los Angeles (UCLA/USC/UCI/City of LA) Blockchain Lab -- a partnership of academia, government, businesses, nonprofits, and the community focused on developing the Southern California blockchain ecosystem. In addition, Heidi is CEO of Proof Of Art – a social publicity network used to promote and fund artists using blockchain; and CoFounder of HomeSidekick – a peer-to-peer mortgage-lending platform. She is also an advisor for numerous startups including Spire (mobile crypto wallets for emerging markets) and DApperNetwork (developing blockchain technical talent), a guest lecturer at UCLA and USC, and a hand-selected participant for Richard Branson’s Blockchain Summit where 40 global thought leaders were invited to address blockchain’s potential for social impact. Prior to her blockchain activism, Heidi focused on turning around distressed assets, growing small businesses into top-tier national firms, and leading sales teams for companies including Ascension Insurance Services and AIG.

Aziz Ucmakli portrait

Aziz Ucmakli
Principal Research Analyst
Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

Aziz Ucmakli is a principal research analyst with Honda R&D Americas, Inc. Ucmakli started his career as an industrial designer in Honda R&D’s Power Equipment division. After obtaining his MBA, Ucmakli transferred over to Honda’s automotive Advanced Product Planning Division. Since then, he has held various specialist, program management, and department management positions in consumer research and strategic planning. He has been involved in the planning and development of most existing Honda and Acura models, including new concepts. In addition to the N. American market, Ucmakli conducted research in South America and Asia. Most recently, Ucmakli’s focus has been on the rapidly changing pace of personal mobility options and technology, and their long-term impact on society’s mobility needs. Ucmakli received a B.S. in Industrial Design from Art Center College of Design, and a MBA from Loyola Marymount University.

Matt Staal portrait

Matthew Staal
Senior Engineer and New Business Advisor
Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

Matt Staal is a senior engineer with Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA), working on automotive planning and future mobility in its Advanced Product Planning division. Staal joined Honda in 1988 as a technician, soon advancing to vehicle performance and durability testing for Honda and Acura models. In the late ’90s, he moved into market research and was project leader on several automotive development teams (2006 Honda Civic Coupe, 2007 Honda CR-V, 2011 Honda Odyssey, 2017 Acura NSX, and the forthcoming next-generation Acura MDX). The 2006 Honda Civic went on to win the North American Car of the Year award, while the 2017 Acura NSX was awarded Performance Car of the Year by “Road & Track” magazine. Staal has set various product requirements for Honda’s “Fun to Drive” characteristics, pick-up truck innovation, performance, and emotional attributes. During a one-year training assignment at Honda R&D Co., Ltd. in Japan, Staal caught the Honda Racing spirit and, after returning to HRA’s Torrance, California center in 1994, he chartered the company’s first LA-based Honda associate racing team in 1996. He served as team principal for 20 years, achieving endurance championships by harnessing the diverse team skillsets within the Honda family. Most recently, Staal’s focus has been on new mobility business models in an era of disruptive innovation and advising and mentoring HRA’s junior associates innovating in high-tech areas to ensure Honda continues as a global mobility leader. A South Bay native living in Torrance with his wife and three daughters, Staal received an Associate Arts Degree in Automotive Technology from El Camino College before joining Honda.

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Pete Wendt
Senior Planner, Advanced Product Planning Powersports Division
Honda R&D Americas, Inc.

Pete Wendt is a Senior Planner in Advanced Product Planning for Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA).

In this role, Wendt’s focus is on understanding the future of Honda’s Powersports product lineup and its impact on customers’ functional and emotional needs. His team is spearheading new products that the public will see in Honda showrooms five to 15 years from now.

He has spent the last 11 years in HRA’s Powersports division conceiving, planning, and launching various motorcycle, ATV, and utility vehicle concepts. In managing the division’s ideation activities, Wendt prides himself on always promoting a culture of innovation and change.

Most recently, Wendt has been leading Honda’s 3E-D18 Workhorse concept, an autonomous off-road vehicle with extreme four-wheel drive capability that can tackle mud, rock, and snow. The “autonomous workhorse” utilizes advanced sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) to support people in a broad range of work activities, such as search and rescue, construction, farming, and firefighting.

Wendt is a South Bay, Los Angeles native who went to South Torrance High School, after which he received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from San Diego State University. He has lived in Germany and Japan and has travelled to 45 countries; however, the current resident of South Redondo has always returned home to the beach lifestyle that he loves.

Shan Sundar

Shan Sundar

As Founder and CEO of Edgesoft, Sundar is responsible for the overall operations of the company as well as establishing strategic partnerships and overseeing business development. His energy, vision and integrity make Edgesoft a world-class company. Edgesoft works with local California cities to make them smarter cities.

Prior to making his vision a reality in founding Edgesoft, Sundar served as Chief Information Officer for a leading medical publication company and the largest medical education provider in the world. He has more than 17 years of experience in various industries including healthcare, manufacturing, publications, telecommunications and government, and has trained IT staff at several Fortune 1000 companies.

Shan has experience in various aspects of smart city initiatives all over the world.

He holds a Master of Science Degree from Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Madras University.

Shan is a member of the Millennium Momentum Foundation board and also serves as an advisor to the management school at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Bree Nguyen headshot

Bree Nguyen
Head of Talent and Creator Partnerships

Bree Nguyen is Facebook's Head of Talent and Creator Partnerships leading the talent partnerships team that works with celebrities, actors, creators and public figures to utilize Facebook and Instagram in impactful ways. At Facebook, Nguyen also works closely with the media product development teams to develop best in class product experiences on Facebook for media and talent partners. Prior to Facebook, Bree has worked for music and entertainment companies like Maverick Records and Warner Bros. Records pioneering the way artists define and establish their brands online and through technology to generate sales. Nguyen has worked directly with artists like Mariah Carey, *NSYNC, Linkin Park, Michelle Branch, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Talib Kweli, Neil Young, E-40, The Veronicas, Ashley Tisdale and many more.

In addition to her entertainment industry experience, Bree is an experienced startup entrepreneur with a strong technical background. She has worked with early stage technology companies like CampusExplorer.com, where she led the Internet Marketing team and helped raise nearly $9 million in funding, and Rent.com, which was acquired by eBay for $415 million in 2005.

Bree Nguyen is a magna cum laude graduate of California State University Dominguez Hills where she earned her B.S. with honors in Business Administration: Finance. While at CSUDH, she earned 1st place in the CSUDH Business Plan Competition, two 1st Place Student Research Day awards and a California State University state title for her research on Venture Capital Growth in Southern California. As a proud alumna, she now serves on the board of the College of Business and Public Policy for CSUDH.