Join WeWork as we hear from up and coming veteran innovators and entrepreneurs who share how their military experienced prepared them for entrepreneurial success and discuss the community’s role in supporting our nation’s heroes as they transition from military to civilian life.
Opening remarks from the LA City Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs:
Blas Villalobos, Veterans Affairs Manager: Mr. Villalobos currently serves as the Veterans Affairs Policy Manager for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Veterans Affairs. Under this position, Mr. Villalobos is responsible for the development, and implementation, of Mayor Garcetti’s strategic vision to leverage private and public resources to assist veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian life. Prior to his current position, Mr. Villalobos served as the Executive Director of Community Programs and Veteran Services for U.S.VETS, where he managed/supervised the Outside the Wire program, the Career Development Initiative, and Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Mr. Villalobos served in the United States Marine Corps from October 1999-October 2003. In 2010, Mr. Villalobos was selected as the Veteran of the Year for California’s 54th district, and was recognized at the State Assembly by Bonnie Lowenthal
Panel: Veterans as Innovators and Entrepreneurs
Moderated by Meredith Davis from Tech Qualled: Meredith graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a BS in International Relations. There, she served as 18th Company Commander before transitioning to the US Marine Corps as a Logistics Officer at the Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. Following the Marines, she completed seven years as a consultant for multiple US Federal Government clients, specializing in IT Strategy Communications and Security Clearance Investigation Systems.
- Nathan Graeser - Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative: Currently serves as a community program administrator for the Center for Innovation and Research for Veteran and Military Families at the USC School of Social Work. Mr. Graeser directs the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative and Innovation Fund—a collective-impact group that consists of more than 2,000 different veteran service providers throughout Los Angeles County with over 250 regularly attending monthly meetings. For several years, Mr. Graeser has also worked extensively with representatives of the VA West Los Angeles Campus in Los Angeles, CA, and is familiar with its history, current goals and objectives. Mr. Graeser has educated and trained hundreds of veteran service providers on: military culture in general; how to support soldiers and airmen transitioning out of the military and into the civilian community; and how communities and service providers can develop better community policies as people return home from deployments and war. Mr. Graeser has also served in the U.S. Army National Guard for nearly 17 years, including the last five as a chaplain for a Field Artillery Battalion.
- Michael St. Denis - Lawyer / K&M Products LLC: Michael St. Denis is a US Army Veteran who served 5 years primarily in the Special Forces. He is admitted to the California State Bar as a licensed attorney. Mr. St Denis has run several businesses in California, and currently serves as the Managing Member of K&M Products LLC, an oil and irrigation pipe refurbishing company located in Long Beach, CA. Mr. St. Denis is also currently enrolled at the University of Southern California pursuing his Master in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work as a 2018 candidate. Michael is also an intern at the Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans and Military Families (CIR) that administers the Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC) which comprises of community stakeholders and representatives from more than 400 organizations, coordinating services and addressing needs of veterans and military families in the Los Angeles area.
- Nathan Lenahan - WeWork, General Manager: As the Head of Operations, Nathan Lenahan leads all on the ground efforts, including Sales, Marketing, Community and Operations, for WeWork’s southern region. Nathan started at WeWork in 2016 after launching and selling a real-estate and property management company, Redleg Property Group. Before starting his business, Nathan served as a Facility Manager at Lockheed Martin. During his 13 years of service in the US Army, Nathan completed two combat tours to Iraq, earning five commendation medals, two army achievement medals, and Soldier of the Year 2004. In 2005, he was inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Currently, Nathan Lenahan serves in the Texas Army National Guard in Austin, Texas, as a Field Artillery platoon sergeant. Nathan graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an MBA and received a B.S. in Facility & Property Management from BYU. Nathan now lives in the DFW area with his wife and the next generation of entrepreneurs, his four children.
Seth Smith, MPA - SC Veteran's Alliance, Partner/VP Communications & Public Affairs:
Seth served in the US Navy from 2002-08 as a cryptologic interpreter and airborne mission supervisor, leading teams of intelligence personnel on reconnaissance and surveillance missions. He worked closely with US, British, Australian and other coalition partners to provide real-time intelligence to warfighters and strategic planners in support of OIF and OEF. Seth joined the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance team in January of 2017 in a communications and public affairs role to help the organization obtain cannabis business permits so that SCVA would be able to continue its mission of ensuring safe access to quality, lab-tested medicinal cannabis for veterans and the public. Seth is a graduate of UCLA and he received his master’s degree in international and public affairs from Princeton University.
Sarah Serrano - Hollywood Veteran Center Mobile App Project, Senior Project Manager:
Sarah Serrano is a Los Angeles native who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Post-9/11 era. She worked for the Training Command and administered company-wide legal operations. After the military, Sarah became involved with many initiatives for the veteran population, serving a broad range of needs such as workforce development, academic rehabilitation, housing, employment, and mental health. Currently, she is Senior Project Manager of a federally-funded technology project that integrates on-demand peer support, mobile app technology, and reintegration for Post 9/11 veterans. Like many veterans, Sarah struggled during her transition after the military, experiencing first-hand the many programs that exist for veterans and for women. She has learned what works and what doesn’t work, and continues to write grants and proposals in support of agencies that promote what she is passionate about.
Rich Suttie - Jump Holdings, Inc.: Rich is an entrepreneur and VP for Business Development for JUMP, an intelligent mobile app that will help people establish, set and achieve goals in alignment with their skills, passions, aptitudes and aspirations. JUMP is designed to help students, including veterans who are attending schools to assist with transition, find resources and connections that are highly personalized and tailored to help achieve their goals. JUMP is due to launch before the end of the year. Rich served in the United States Navy for 32 years as a naval aviator, diplomat, senior staff officer, and educator. As a naval aviator, Rich flew 4,000 hours primarily in the P-3 Orion anti-submarine aircraft. He commanded two Navy squadrons, and served on the USS Missouri battleship and the USS Midway aircraft carrier. Rich works for the Center for Homeland Defense at Security program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His role is to manage a partnership of over 350 universities and agencies to share curricula, research, and best practices.
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