Brad Burke, Managing Director
Brad Burke is the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance. Most recently, he founded and managed the local office of Viant Corporation, a premier internet consulting firm, delivering internet strategy, creative design, and web technology implementation. Viant went public through an IPO in 1999. Prior to Viant, Brad was a Principal with CSC Index, the management consulting division of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Before consulting, Brad held management positions with Exxon Corporation. He received his M.B.A. from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management and his B.S. from Vanderbilt University. 

Mary Lynn Fernau, Director of Marketing
Mary Lynn Fernau is the Director of Marketing for the Rice Alliance. Mary Lynn shares the entrepreneurial spirit fostered by the Rice Alliance, having launched a successful child safety product and serving as a child safety advisor to cities of New York and Houston. Previously, Mary Lynn led her own independent marketing and strategic planning consultancy with clients including Korn Ferry International, AIG, UT-Health Science Center at Houston and Texas Children’s Hospital. She received her MLS from Rice University and B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Thomas Kraft, Director of Technology Ventures Development
Dr. Kraft is the Director of Technology Ventures Development for Rice Alliance. His academic background covers mechanical and electrical engineering and Math and business from Stanford and UCLA before his doctoral program at Rice. Dr. Kraft holds 19 US Patents and has found several medical device and medical robotics companies after being part of the NASA Mission Control Center design effort. In addition to teaching at UCLA, Dr. Kraft was previously an adjunct Professor of Math for HCC and a visiting lecturer on creativity. At Rice, Dr. Kraft is focusing on increasing collaboration between Rice MBA students and the science and engineering departments at Rice in developing new commercialization ventures.

Lea Aden Lueck, Director of the Rice Business Plan Competition
Lea Aden is the Director of the Rice Business Plan Competition. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, Lea Aden served as Associate Director, Kids and Family Ministry, First Presbyterian Church. While there, she led all aspects of the children’s ministry department serving the 4000 member church including program development, budget administration, recruitment, training, management and evaluation of more than 300 volunteers and paid staff. Her corporate roles included recruiting positions for Andersen Consulting, The Boston Consulting Group, Comerica Bank, KPMG and Aquent. Lea Aden is a graduate of Texas A & M University. 

Quynhmai Nguyen, Senior Director of Operations and Event Planning
Quynhmai Nguyen is the Senior Director of Operations and Event Planning for the Rice Alliance. Prior to joining the Rice Alliance, she worked in public affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. Quynhmai graduated with a B.A. in Sociology (cum laude) from Rice University in 2000 and earned her J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Texas 

Kerri Smith, Managing Director, OwlSpark and Associate Managing Director, Rice Alliance

Kerri J. Smith is the Associate Managing Director for the Rice Alliance. Kerri has broad experience in developing programs and strategies that help maximize the success of technology-based startups. Her experience includes entrepreneurship, startup acceleration, educational programming, technology licensing, and commercialization. During her 14 years at the Houston Advanced Research Center, Kerri provided leadership, oversight, and strategic direction for commercialization and technology transfer initiatives. In 2004, Kerri joined Rice University where she currently serves as the Associate Managing Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, Rice’s flagship initiative for entrepreneurship education and startup formation. Additionally, Kerri manages the Rice University startup accelerator (OwlSpark) and the NSF sponsored I-Corps Grant program. In all positions, she plays a lead role in encouraging and accelerating the formation of technology-based startups in the areas of energy, clean technology, life science and information technology.



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Company Spotlight
  • Tympanogen (2016) takes research to new heights aboard the International Space Station 
  • Acquired by Home Depot, Black Locus (2011) serves as the Innovation Hub for the retail giant
  • Making a spectacular exit, Auditude (2005) is sold to Adobe for $110M 
  • Dynamics (2009): designing & manufacturing battery powered, interactive credit cards
  • Adhesys Medical (2014) wins big at the 2016 MassChallenge 
  • From Malta to London & New York to Shanghai, essDOCS' (2004) paperless trading platform powers international shipping
  • A76 (2015), developing anti-corrosion coatings and lubricants, rebrands as Aidant Brands
  • Neopenda (2016): finalist at the 2016 SXSW Startup Showcase  
  • SiNode Systems (2013): collaborating with the Argonne National Laboratory to build better batteries
  • Soko (SasaAfrica, 2012) chats with Forbes about fashion-tech 
  • Allyson Sawyer, a woman succeeding in the energy space with Rebellion Photonics (2010) 
  • Polytorx(2003) Helix Steel reinforces the underground tunnels linking the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Station
  • Broadway & baseball, Qcue (2008) provides dynamic ticket pricing for events across the continent
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