"The Startup Tucson Team is enjoyable to work with, in addition to breaking new ground, creative, professional, and collaborative"
- Katina Koller, Mentor & Strategic Advisor
As CEO of Startup Tucson and the TENWEST Impact Festival, Liz has helped lead Startup Tucson in serving over 500 entrepreneurs a year and grown TENWEST to over 12,000 attendees. Previously the COO of Startup Tucson, Liz has more than seven years of experience has over years of leadership experience in economic development, community building and non-profit organizational management. She believes in building strong programs focused around the needs of Tucson businesses and entrepreneurs to ensure that the organization grows and delivers on its mission to help Tucson strive.
Licensed in Arizona, Liz received her J.D. from UA and is a trained mediator. Prior to joining Startup, Liz was the Supervising Research Attorney and Development Director for the National Law Center where she implemented international legal commercial reform and training projects for the State Department, USAID, and the World Bank and facilitated trainings for over 2,000 judges, lawyers and ministry officials throughout the world. Outside of Startup, Liz is a member of the Downtown Tucson Partnership Board, a Google Women Techmaker and a member of the SBDC Advisory Group.
Dre Thompson is the Executive VP at Startup Tucson and the Festival Director of TENWEST Impact Festival. She is delighted everyday that she has landed her dream job which brings together her diverse background in community development, research and education, startup businesses, and also creative entrepreneurship. Her passion is to build a more beautiful, more innovative, and more equitable community where all people have the opportunity, resources, and support to build their own dream jobs too.
Dre's prior work includes owning her own creative agency, being a founding member of two startup companies, being a research faculty and master trainer at New York University Department of Population Health, a researcher at the Chicago-based social science think-tank Chapin Hall, and numerous nonprofits and social service agencies. Dre is also and Adjunct Instructor at the Arizona State University.
Dre has Master's degree in social science from the University of Chicago. In the Tucson community, Dre serves as the Governance Chair on the Board of Tucson Young Professionals and serves on the Talent Attraction and Retention Taskforce at the Tucson Metro Chamber.
Keneshia is the Program Manager at Startup Tucson. For 10+ years, she has provided online and in-person education through her current company Blissful Creatives. Previously, she was the VP of WedTech Summit--the first of its kind technology conference. After developing successful conferences and summits, and speaking at various events and conferences, she knew she wanted to do even more. She found a love for tech, mentoring and educating small businesses, early-stage startups with a focus on women in business.
Responding to the gap in the market for early stages, Keneshia found entrepreneurs who needed support in turning their vision into action. She became a mentor for Femigrints a start-up based out of San Francisco, working with women to define and grow their business and prepare to pitch to investors. She also teaches and mentors through Skills for Change, a program based out of Toronto that lays out business foundations.
Originally from California/Bay Area, she is excited to embrace Tucson's way of life and help grow business here. Having started in the food, tech and wedding sector, Keneshia offers her background as an entrepreneur, mentor, educator, and coach. Her favorite part of mentoring is working with people who are passionate about their ideas, taking them from A to Z.
Fun Fact: After taking on over a hundred different students, clients, and mentees, she couldn't tell you the number off the top of her head, but can tell you exactly where each one is at in their professional or business journeys.
As the Community + Event Coordinator, Sophia oversees the hospitality and activations of the innovation center, Arizona FORGE at Roy Place, and Startup Tucson events.
Combining an urban development and experiential education lens with a background in food festivals, cultivation, and ecosystem, she is energized to enter the entrepreneurial ecosystem to make, facilitate, and encourage connections across Tucson, the region, and beyond. Innovation and creativity are already taking place here and she is eager to affirm and draw out the good work and actors committed to making Tucson an exciting place to grow.
Nilam is a third year student at the University of Arizona studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Eller College of Management with a minor in Fashion & Consumers through the Norton School. Previously, Nilam worked as a vocational nurse for 7 years in several different fields where she had opportunities to work in marketing, administration, and management while honing her interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills. These experiences have given her a chance to find her true passion in the business field, driving her to pursue an education at the Eller College of Management.
Nilam’s ambitions are to become a creative entrepreneur and contribute to the community by helping local businesses be successful. At Startup Tucson, Nilam is building long-lasting connections, expanding her real-world experiences in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and gaining marketing and administrative skills with which she plans to fulfill her long-term dreams and goals.