The mentor network with The Land Accelerator supports the cohort members before, during and after the program.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor for 2021, please visit our Mentorship Program page for more details and to sign up.
2020 Land Accelerator Highlighted Mentors
The Land Accelerator is excited to have confirmed over 25 mentors for the program for 2020. Below are profiles of a few of the mentor pool.
Anupam Biswal is an associate director at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where he leads the initiatives related to nutrition, water and agriculture in India. In 2010, Anupam received a postgraduate diploma in rural development and rural management from the Xavier Institute of Social Service. He has previously worked as an implementation specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADP), a senior manager for Government Advisory at EY, and a consultant at Accenture.
Anuradha Bhavnani is an independent consultant working on advising and mentoring startups and social enterprises to build a road map for sustainable business. Anuradha previously worked as regional director at the Shell Foundation, where she focused onbuilding enterprise solutions to poverty issues through varied programs and partnerships. She also worked as an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation on their Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCRN).
Chandan Gadgil is an advisor for renewable energy at the BAIF Research Development Foundation, which is a grassroots NGO in India, where he is planning their Integrated Renewable Energy and Sustainable Agriculture (IRESA) program. He is also the President and a Trustee at the Sankalp Medi-Edu Foundation. Chandan received his Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Mumbai in 1981.
Ganesh Neelam is the head of Innovation and Technology at Tata Trust and director and the co-founder of the Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship. Ganesh obtained his MS in geoscience from the University of Pune in 2000. After receiving his master’s degree, he worked as a hydrogeologist at BAIF Development Research Foundation where he worked on horticulture development and ground water management programs for rural tribal communities.
Hemendra Mathur is a venture partner at Bhrat Innovation Fund, which is a venture capital fund focused on deep-tech investments in emerging sectors including agriculture, clean technology, healthcare and digital technology. Hemendra also co-founded ThinkAg, a non-profit platform for accelerating innovation in agriculture. He is also the chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which helps connect AgriTech startups with members of the industry and key policy makers.
Raj Jani is the director and co-founder of Indigreenz Innovations Private Limited. He is also the director of strategic initiatives at Katori Fresh Private Limited, which is a social enterprise dealing with specialty food products. Raj previously worked as a freelance development consultant on projects in India and Africa in the field of agriculture.
Suraj Sudhakar is the CEO of CoolCoach, which he founded in May 2016. Suraj is also the founder and CEO of ScaleX Initiatives Private Limited, which he started in January 2016. Suraj previously worked as a regional fellow’s manager at Acumen and an independent consultant for 2 years. During this time, he facilitated the expansion of a development media company in Kenya and streamlined operations for a sanitation company in India.
Ajay Kori is the co-founder and chairman at UrbanStems, which is an online flower delivery company that was founded in 2014. Ajay previously worked as an associate director at Quidsi Inc., where he was charged with creating and executing a pharmaceutical strategy for Quidsi and Amazon. Ajay obtained his MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011.
Ben Britt is a general partner at Route 66 Ventures, a private investment firm seeking to invest in emerging financial technology and services companies. Ben previously worked as management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he advised global organizations on lean operations, strategy, product development, and organizational design. He also co-founded the start-up, WiseChoice, an online college planning service that helps high school students, and their families, navigate the complex world of financial aid and college selection.
Ben Knelman is the CEO and co-founder of Juntos, a platform for banks and financial services providers to connect with their customers in a personalized way. Ben was previously a Special Project intern at the World Bank and a Writing and Research intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Ben obtained a BA in economics from Stanford University in 2006.
Catherine Connelly is the co-founder and senior vice president of marketing at The Meet Group, a company with a portfolio of mobile social entertainment apps. Catherine obtained an MBA from The Wharton School, where she graduated with honors.
David Simnick is the CEO and co-founder of Soapbox and a managing partner at Impact Driven Brands. David is also a strategic advisor at SPERO, a creative and digital strategy studio that helps independent businesses solve government agency and private enterprise problems. David obtained a BA in government from American University in 2009, where he graduated with Latin Honors.
Eric Insler is an internal audit manager at Olam, a leading food and agri-business operating in more than 60 countries. Eric was previously an internal audit manager at Olam and an associate in their Future Leaders Program. He was also an MBA marketing intern at United Parcel Service (UPS), where he helped create strategic pricing policies for emerging business models.
Evan Smith is a managing partner at Cogent Law Group, where he assists entrepreneurs with business formation, intellectual property protection, negotiating and closing joint development and marketing agreements, licenses, sales and service agreements, leases, and capital investment transactions. Evan was previously general counsel at the Autoscribe Corporation, a financial information and transaction processing company. He obtained a JD and an MBA from Georgetown University in 1990.
Heminda Jayaweera is the co-founder and director of Venture Frontier Lanka, Sri Lanka’s first integrated entrepreneurship platform dedicated to the development of early stage startups. He is also the COO of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) and director of Ceylon Graphene Technologies, a graphene and advanced material company in Sri Lanka.
Jeff Hoffman is the chairman of the board at Global Entrepreneurship Network and global chairman at Dream Tank. Jeff is also the Chairman and CEO of Driving Forces Enterprise, where he hosts workshops for entrepreneurs and startups. He was also a part of the successful start-up, Priceline.com, where he ran their internal development company, Atlantis.
Jeff Sheely is the co-founder and a summer associate at UrbanStems, a growth tech startup that utilizes new technologies to deliver a curated selection of flowers to customers across DC. Jeff was previously a marketing consultant at Blue Egg Marketing, where he developed and implemented strategic marketing programs for growth-stage businesses. Jeff obtained a BA in political science from Duke University in 2006.
Mark Thirman is the CEO of dot(loT) LLC and a chair of the Connected Things conference held at MIT Media Lab. Mark is also the co-host of the podcast, Failure, where he talks about the importance of learning from failure to achieve success. He was also the CEO and founder of AirPrint Networks, a mobile commerce software company.
Prachi Vakaria is the co-founder and funder of WOMANIUM, a science and entrepreneurship organization that has worked with NASA, NIH, ARPA-E, etc. for women’s advancement in STEM and entrepreneurship. Prachi is also a chairperson on the Transportation Research Board and a global chairperson on SAE International’s Shared and Digital Mobility Committee.
Rushikesh Bandekar is the CEO and founder of Learning Hyperdrive, Inc., where he is responsible for strategy and execution of online learning products and services. Rushikesh was previously the CTO of Megavision Technologies and CTO of Ultimedia Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Rushikesh received a postgraduate diploma in computer science and software technology from the The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing in 1997.
Santiago Tenorio is a principal at Full Circle Capital, a private investment firm focusing on alternative investments. Santiago is also a project sponsor and partner at Aguadulce Energy Terminal, the developer of a $1 billion energy infrastructure hub on the Pacific coast of Colombia. Santiago graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.
Scott Gillespie is the co-creator of Aquaritas Group, where he works to source and deliver resilient solutions to disaster impacted communities. Scott is also the founder and director of the Jigsaw Group, a boutique investment and advisory business.
Simon Obstbaum was the CTO of Ellation, a platform that provides a premium video experience for audiences and sustainable business models for content creators. Simon was previously the founder and CEO of YOPESO, where he helped both established companies and startups with software development.
Shyam Paliwal is a seasoned executive with 32 years of successful commercial leadership experience, including P&L management, Country leadership & Operational Excellence in leading global companies. He is an MBA from NMIMS and is a globally certified facilitator, ROI practitioner with 15 years of hardcore experience.Shyam is the founder & Principal of ValueValt Consultants, a team of business consulting advisory in the Performance consulting, Organizational development and Sales force excellence. He is a mentor for start ups, leader’s coach, speaker at industry forums and has been a guest faculty at ISTD & Narsee Monjee Institute of Management, Mumbai.
Shantanu Rudra is a Senior finance & management professional with over 39 years experience as a corporate strategist with a focus on financial management, governance & company development. He is currently a financial & business advisor and the interim CFO at Birlasoft, a $500M IT Services Company. Shantanu is also a member of the Lead Angels Network, an angel funding and support network.
Sajid Ali leads the Direct Implementation Portfolio for the Tech Mahindra Foundation in India. Prior to this, he was CSR leader at Danone India where he was responsible for implementing projects on biodynamic farming, training of dairy farmers, F1000 days and healthy nutrition. The World CSR Day recognized him as one of the 50 Most Impactful Social Innovators (Global Listing) in 2016.
Ashish Paliwal is the sector expert on agriculture and food for the South Asia region at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ashish provides consulting services such as market entry, regulatory assistance and sales and marketing support to companies. He also leads strategic and bilateral initiatives between Denmark and India. He is a horticulture graduate with a post-graduate degree in Agricultural Business Management.
2019 Land Accelerator Mentors
Adam Camenzuli has experience in finance, international trade and has also founded an award-winning social enterprise in East Africa. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK), a Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary), a Laureate Global Fellow, a UN Global Accelerator, a Canadian Top 30 Under 30 and has a US patent. His work has been featured in Forbes Africa and CNN. He has language skills in Swahili, German, Spanish and French and has presented and won awards on five continents. He is a CFA Charterholder and has an International Bachelor of Business Administration (iBBA) degree from the Schulich School of Business, York University (Canada).
Camille Rebelo is the Co-Founder & COO of EcoPlanet Bamboo and is responsible for the origination, implementation and management of the company’s commercial operations in Nicaragua, South Africa, Ghana and Rwanda. Through EcoPlanet Bamboo, Camille developed global and local frameworks within which bamboo can be a positive tool for achieving landscape restoration. Prior to co-founding EcoPlanet Bamboo, she managed forestry projects ranging from large-scale commercial plantations to smallholder operations in more than 20 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia. Camille is an expert in forest certification and carbon markets.
Charles Tonui is a Research Fellow at the African Centre for Technology Studies www.acts-net.org in Nairobi, Kenya. Charles participates in action research, policy analysis, capacity building, building networks, negotiations and discussions on leveraging community-based adaptation to climate change. Charles has co-authored several articles on green economies and infrastructure (water, energy & transport) in East Africa, and climate change impacts and adaptation in Africa, especially in relation to agriculture. Charles provides guidance to African entrepreneurs to integrate environmental concerns into their business and financial plans.
Dow Maneerattana is a Manager at the World Resources Institute (WRI). She oversees projects and research in Rwanda, including funder-to-farmer finance matching and measuring country-wide progress of restoration. In her previous role as a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Manager, she supported monitoring systems, reporting, and evaluations with the Forests Program. Prior to WRI, Dow managed performance and impact evaluations of governance programs in Asia and Africa and built M&E capacity through e-learning at the National Democratic Institute. Dow has an MA from George Washington University and a BA from University of California, Irvine
Iain Church is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. He has been the COO of a 3,500 strong Army organisation and has managed equipment budgets of £1.7 billion. In 2016 Iain traded a career in bomb disposal for a career in establishing a social enterprise based in Malawi – Moringa Miracles Limited (MML). A firm believer that actions speak louder than words, Iain will oversee the denotation of 3.4 million trees to 66,000 smallholders across southern Malawi. Iain aims to make MML the largest moringa producer in Africa and in so doing aims to demonstrate how the aid cycle can be broken within rural Malawi. He graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.
Kuki Njeru is a founder of Green Pot, which was established in 2014, with the aim of afforesting and offering alternative investment options. Her blend of training skills, energetic personality, passion, and people skills have seen her open new markets and frontiers. She has gone to lengths to master what she now considers her new path – trees and the environment. Her bamboo expertise has seen her train many stakeholders including government officers, farmers and private landowners. She is the Vice Chair of the Bamboo Association of Kenya and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems and Technology. She graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.
Lauren Fletcher is the inventor and pioneer of tree planting drone technology for ecosystem restoration. He is the founder of β-Earth which focuses on finding solutions for global scale, environmental problems. He has 20+ years of experience as an Engineer and Scientist for NASA and Lockheed Martin across Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and Mars exploration programs. He is a serial entrepreneur, a member of the founding faculty of Singularity University, and is on the Board of Trustees for the Desert Research Institute (Nevada, USA). Lauren holds a PhD in Physics (Oxford) and an M.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering (Stanford
Laurie Gelb is a freelance strategist, content/copywriter, and market researcher, utilizing traditional, digital and social platforms. She has worked in, consulted to, and mentored startups to multinationals, in scientific, commercial and operations capacities. Clients have included Sustainable Seattle, Sustainability Ambassadors, and Seattle Parks, along with municipalities, tourism/economic development bureaus, public utilities, and transit agencies, toward stronger infrastructures, value-added offerings, and improved stakeholder engagement. Laurie has mentored social entrepreneurs for more than a decade and holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Texas.
Margaret Barry is a seasoned operator, financier and entrepreneur, having been the CFO and COO of growth retail, wholesale, and CPG startups. Recently she moved into the agriculture space, which sits at the intersection of her two passions: environmental conservation and sustainable food. She is the Senior Director of Development at myAgro, a nonprofit that supports smallholder farmers in Africa by using a novel layaway financing technique. Margaret’s experience spans three continents and includes her own retail coffee startup. Margaret has a B.A. from Brown University and an MBA from The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania
Mavis Nduchwa is the founder and managing director of a Kalahari Honey (previously Chabana Farms), in Francistown, Botswana. The business was established in 2011 and occupies 247 acres. A huge part of the farm is focuses on conservation, with a large part of the farm being used as a demo. Mavis is currently doing her Masters in Agribusiness at Rome School of Business, Italy, and she is an executive committee member of the African Union AYL-FAIN as a Financial Controller for SADC region. She is a 2018 Tony Elumelu Outstanding Entrepreneur awardee. She graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.
Moses Kimani is a social entrepreneur who started Lentera to address the need by smallholder farmers for improved soil health and a more balanced crop nutrition regime. “At Lentera, we aspire to grow into an African multinational that has immense impact on farmers across Africa, being at the forefront of helping farmers adapt to the new reality of climate change while creating a profitable business.” Prior to starting Lentera, Moses worked at TechnoServe Inc. and the Dow Chemical Company. He has an MBA from IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland. Moses graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.
Naveen Sikka is the founder and CEO of TerViva. He is a recognized thought leader at the intersection of agriculture and renewable energy. Prior to starting TerViva™, Naveen completed his MBA from UC Berkeley, where he focused on energy and resource economics. Prior to earning his MBA, Naveen worked as a management consultant at Gemini Consulting and TPI (formerly a part of the Monitor Group), in the realms of biotech, finance, and human capital. Naveen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University, during which time he also studied and worked in France and West Africa. He is fluent in French
Rebekah Braswell is a founding member of Land Life Company and leads its commercial activities globally. In her capacity as COO, she works with global corporations, governments and NGOs to develop large-scale reforestation projects that mitigate climate change and revitalize ecosystems. Prior to Land Life Company, Rebekah was an associate partner with Monitor Group and worked on issues of economic development and food security across the Middle East and Africa. She received her B.A. in Political Science at Brown University and her Masters in International Development from Oxford University.
Ryan Ramkhelawan is a serial entrepreneur. After taking two medical device startups through FDA clearance, market entrance, scale and one to exit, he joined Start Co. as Director of Acceleration. He oversees investment opportunities for accelerators focused on agricultural technology, medical devices, logistics, smart cities and smart home technology. Also, he teaches lean startup principles and acts as an executive coach to new startup CEOs. His accomplishments have allowed him to become a founding member of the Forbes Technology Council and a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council. He was recognized in the Memphis Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40
Samuel Rigu is an environmental conscious agribusiness manager, a social entrepreneur and an innovator with a BSc. in Agribusiness Management from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Samuel comes from a rural Kenyan farming family and grew up witnessing how farms in his village were degraded by the dependency of synthetic fertilizers. Samuel founded Safi Organics in 2015 a company that decentralizes fertilizer production, converting farmers’ crop waste into high-yielding, carbon-negative organic fertilizers. Previously he founded a company producing eco-friendly mosquito coils from biochar. He graduated from the Land Accelerator in 2018.