Lavin Mentors

Entrepreneurial SDSU students selected for the VentureStart Program

 Lavin VentureStart Program 2017 — 2019 

Adam Weiler

Adam Weiler is the founder and CEO of Sunken Stone, a consumer product company that specializes in selling on Adam started Sunken Stone in 2007 during his Master's program at SDSU. Before Sunken Stone, Adam held various positions in sales and operations. Adam holds both an MBA and BS in Political Science from San Diego State University. He's fanatical about fantasy football and enjoys hiking and going to San Diego's dog beaches. Adam is also involved with the San Diego Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) chapter where he serves on the board. Sunken Stone founded in 2007, distributes, manufactures and sells consumer products through e-commerce channels. Their largest distribution channel is through The 3 main revenue streams for Sunken Stone include 1)OEM/Manufacturing items under their own house brands 2) Distributing existing brands and 3)Amazon consulting for other brands.

Craig Stern

Craig started two companies in college. After college, he worked for himself as a marketing consultant for seven years and then joined a company related to the original company he started in college. Craig is a dynamic, entrepreneurial leader specializing in implementing innovative marketing strategies that increase profits and build community. He is a gifted data-driven, analytical thinker with over 7 years practice in product creation, marketing and sales.


Daniel Obodovski

Daniel is an Internet of Things thought leader, keynote speaker, and founder/CEO of the The Silent Intelligence - a boutique management & technology consulting company, focused on IOT & digital transformation. Most of their clients are Fortune 500 companies. Prior to starting The Silent Intelligence, Daniel worked as Director of Business Development at Qualcomm Inc. Daniel has extensive background in new business incubation and technology commercialization. Throughout his career at Qualcomm, Daniel led commercialization and market launch of multiple businesses, many originated as R&D concepts. After leaving Qualcomm in 2013, Daniel co-authored "The Silent Intelligence: the Internet of Things", one of the first books about an upcoming technology revolution, which the following year became a top 10 book on technology and investing on Amazon. In 2016 Daniel organized the Diego Smart City hackathon, focused on the Climate Action Plan and bringing together the City of San Diego and University of California San Diego along with multiple corporate partners. In 2017 Inspired by the success of the hackathon and having passion for smart city solutions, together with a group of investors Daniel co-founded SCALE San Diego (Smart Cities Accelerator, Labs + Environment).

Michelle Weinstein

This time-tested entrepreneur has the unique ability to immediately identify business strengths, create a unique plan of action, and more importantly zero in on the hidden trip wires and financial traps that keep you from achieving your financial goals and dreams. She has impressed CEO’s at billion dollar companies such as The Vitamin Shoppe, buyers at Costco Wholesale, and various Coaches from the NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL with her honed skill sets to create strong sales & mutually beneficial relationships. Moreover, she did it facing stiff competition, difficult odds, and having limited resources. Lastly, one of her most in demand talents is creating bulletproof pitches to get you all of the revenue you've been looking for. Michelle's extremely varied experience and successes in the world of finance, real estate, fitness, prepared food delivery, manufacturing, and sales put her among an elite group of executives that have taken an idea all the way across the finish line. Currently, Michelle is building a platform of measurable deliverables in several different arenas working with individuals to set specific goals that capture their definition of success and walk them through the steps to reach it.

Larry Peterson

Larry Petersen is Founder and President of LP Marketing, a sales and marketing organization in Northern California for major consumer and professional electronics manufacturers. Mr. Petersen focuses on strategic and tactical marketing, new product planning, and product development for these manufacturers. LP Marketing has received over 100 national awards for sales and marketing excellence. Mr. Petersen is a founder of Bayview Distributing, an electronics distribution arm for 30 manufacturers, and Bayview Development, which builds custom homes in the Oakland area. He helped design, develop, and market George Radio to over 1400 retail outlets across America and won Co-Best of Show at Mac World in 2007. Mr. Petersen also started the Entrepreneur in Residence Program at the Lavin Center.


Thom McElroy

Thom McElroy has brought the youth market to the masses through his creative design and advertising approach. McElroy Designs was formed in 1989 servicing national and international clients. In 1994 McElroy Designs evolved into a full service agency, and a name change to McElroy Communications. Thom has been the force in developing Branding for Volcom, X Box, Activision, Vans, Quiksilver and Taco Bell. Thom sold the agency to Foote, Cone, and Belding in 1999, the 5th largest advertising agency in the world. McElroy:FCB became a major marketing force not just in Orange County but worldwide. Thom left FCB in August 2002 to join forces with Volcom, a youth lifestyle label that he co-founded in 1991. He spent time as Volcom's Chief Brand Officer before semi-retiring. Semi-retirement did not last long. He consulted with O'Neill Sportswear as their Brand Manager for a period before accepting the position of SVP of Marketing. His knowledge of brand building and grassroots marketing helped grow O'Neill's business by 50% over two years. When Volcom went public in 2005, Thom went on a leave of absence that eventually lead to his retirement. For the past ten years he has consulted with many new companies and young CEOs and invested in several emerging brands. Thom currently sits on the Campanile Board of Directors and Chairs the Alumni Engagement Committee. He also mentors at the Lavin Entrepreneur Management Center and is involved in the School of Business, the Zahn Center of Engineering and The College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts at SDSU.

Jim Kalb

I am currently the President of OptiFuse, an innovative high-growth manufacturer of power protection components distributed by high-quality select wholesalers throughout the world. My passion is the creation and growth of start-ups companies and the overall management and leadership of entrepreneurial operations. Philosophically, I believe in and practice the 6 business principles of: Values (higher purpose), Company Culture, Fostering Relationships, Leadership by Example, Community Investment, and Sustained and Profitable Growth... In terms of technology, I am an expert in the field of low voltage power protection especially in area of over-current and over-voltage component protection.

Damian J. Esparza

Mr. Esparza has a diverse background with extensive experience in finance, real estate, technology, and non-profit organizations. He is currently Founder of SmartProperty, a real estate technology startup. Over the past 16 years he has worked in the real estate industry, and served as CEO of Barrera & Co., a reserve study firm that specializes in financial planning for community associations. Prior to working in real estate, Mr. Esparza worked in technology for the investment banking industry in San Francisco. He helped raise over $2 billion in the initial public offering (IPO) process, secondary offerings, and private placements. He began his career in the mailroom of a Hollywood talent and literary agency. In college, he served as a congressional intern. Damian has also served in a non-profit capacity as the Director for Stewardship and Development for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego. In that role, he helped establish the Catholic Community Foundation of San Diego, the Bishop Flores Scholars Tuition Assistance Program, the Mental Illness Network partnership with San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, the “Strengthening Our Catholic Schools Research Project” with University of San Diego, the Healthy Lunch Program for Catholic Schools partnership Neighborhood House Association, and the Stewardship and Sustainability partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric.

Brad Chisum

Brad Chisum is an Angle Investor, Entrepreneur and serves as an Advisor to several startup companies. He is the former CEO and co-founder of Lumedyne Technologies a MEMS Inertial Sensor company acquired by Google. While at Google, Chisum served as the Product Manager for the technology acquired from Lumedyne. Prior to Lumedyne, Chisum has held engineering and management positions at the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Defense Systems Command (SPAWAR), and with semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics. Chisum holds for patents (3 issued and 1 pending) and three degrees: an MBA from San Diego State University, a B.S. Electrical Engineering and B.S. Mathematics from Southern Methodist University.


Jim Burdick

I am a results driven sales and management executive with national and international leadership capabilities. I have consistently produced strong results in large and small companies. My background spans diverse industries including semiconductors, computer hardware, environmental sensors and instrumentation. My areas of expertise are turnarounds and large-scale sales and marketing deployments of up to $900m in annual revenue serving commercial and government markets worldwide. Some of my more notable highlights include: Successfully executed the financial turnaround of an $85m business unit, resulting in EBIT of $11m versus a loss of $5.5m Successfully led a team of 600 people generating over $900m in annual revenue Transformation and subsequent sale of a small company as interim EVP Founder CEO of a start-up semiconductor distribution company that grew to $440m in 4 years I am in expert in helping companies identify and reach their potential. I can see where hard decisions need to be made to help a company go from survival to thriving. I develop leaders and implement processes to ensure organizational success.

Mark Schmid

Mark developed multiple industry leading companies in the action sports space. He has 32 years of experience in product design, brand launch, management, manufacturing, marketing, professional athlete management & distribution in both hard goods & soft goods resulting in the sales of hundreds of millions of dollars in branded product.

Nick Rhea

Nick is the president of Lunatec, Inc., a company that designs innovative practical gear to simplify your outdoor lifestyle, so you can spend more time complicating it with adventure. He is on the board of directors of Outdoor Outreach, a non-profit that works with at-risk kids to help them build self-esteem through challenging outdoor activities such as rock climbing, surfing, and snowboarding.


Rick Day

Rick founded, built, and sold Daycom Systems, a telecommunications VAR and Avaya-authorized dealer based in San Diego. The company, with revenues of $26 million, was the largest Avaya VAR on the West Coast, and the only to have both US and Mexican nationwide authorizations. Rick sold Daycom Systems to Carousel Industries (Exeter, RI) in April, 2009. Since the sale of Daycom, Rick co-founded, serves as CFO, and is a Director at South Coast Yachts, the Beneteau-authorized sailboat & powerboat dealer in San Diego. He is also founder of, and Steadfast Finance, a California-licensed financial lender. Rick is a Managing Partner in Phenix Salon Suites, and is a Limited Partner in Moore Venture Partners. Rick is a member of executive search firm Bente Hansen & Associates’ Board of Advisors, and is on the Board of Directors for Bird Rock Systems, a data networking VAR in Southern California. He is a US Navy veteran and holds a BS in Finance from San Diego State University. Rick’s business passions are new business development and growth, sales, organizational design, team building, and leadership. In his free time, Rick enjoys his family, keeping fit, travel, Formula 1, and boating in Southern California.

Kristian Rauhala
 In 2010, Kristian Rauhala founded PEAR Sports as a way to provide personalized training programs to runners and athletes of all levels. He is an entrepreneur who seeks to turn his passions and interests into new endeavors. Prior to founding PEAR Sports, Rauhala was the CEO and Co-Founder of H2O Audio (est.2003), the leading water sports music company offering waterproof headphones and accessories designed for athletes. (He re-acquired H2O Audio in September 2015) At H2O Audio, Rauhala created and patented a new category of products that has revolutionized water sports. He also developed partnerships Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin and waterman Laird Hamilton. Born in Finland, Rauhala moved to the U.S. in 1997. For more than 7 years, he worked in business development and wireless engineering for Nokia. Mr. Rauhala has also worked for Bridge Water Private Equity Fund managing portfolio companies and founded Elektrobit Inc. branch in San Diego. Rauhala holds a MS degree in Electrical Engineering from Helsinki University of Technology (Finland) and a MBA in Entrepreneurship and Finance from San Diego State University. In his spare time, Rauhala is an avid surfer and triathlete.