A collection of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders from the Greater New Orleans ecosystem
Our board provides oversight of investments, interacts with prospective and current fund recipients, and monitors the overall health of the fund. Each are active in the startup ecosystem and can provide insights to growing companies.
Meet our Board
Matt Wisdom (Chair) – CEO, TurboSquid
In April 2000, Matt co-founded TurboSquid as one of the web’s first digital marketplaces for user-generated content. The company is now the world’s leading seller of 3D models used to create imagery in feature films, computer games, architecture, defense and a variety of other industries. Matt served initially as the company’s CIO until 2006, when he assumed the role of CEO. TurboSquid has closed several venture funding rounds from firms such as Intel Capital, Kodak Ventures, and Advantage Capital Partners.
Matt graduated from Brown University in 1994. In his senior year he co-founded Chimera Digital Imaging, a visual effects and 3D animation firm that became part of TurboSquid in 2000. During his time at Chimera, Matt contributed 3D visual effects for hundreds of television commercials, and created the Brimstone plugin software for Discreet Logic products.
Matt is a director for TurboSquid, and serves on the boards and executive committees of GNO, Inc and Idea Village. Additionally, Matt is a trustee for the RosaMary and Mary Freeman Wisdom philanthropic foundations.
Matt has been frequently featured in the media, and has received several honors, including being named “Technology Leader of the Year” for the State of Louisiana Governor’s Technology Awards. In 2005, Matt contributed the idea and co-authored the legislation for the Digital Interactive Media incentives for the state of Louisiana. Matt feels that serving on The New Orleans Startup Fund is a way for him to share the hard lessons of starting up companies and seeking investment.
Ben Allen (Vice Chair) – CEO, Dolphin Debit EVP
Ben Allen currently serves as the Vice Chairman and is a co-founder of The New Orleans Startup Fund. He is the founder and President of Dolphin Debit Access, a national provider of outsourcing services to community banks and credit unions. Previously, Mr. Allen spent 15 years in corporate finance with Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, where his responsibilities included advising on mergers & acquisitions and capital raising for early-stage companies. Ben received a Bachelors Degree in finance from Texas A&M University and a Masters Degree in Economics from The Johns Hopkins University. Ben also serves as Chairman of the Board of KIPP New Orleans Schools, the largest charter school operator in New Orleans.
George Wilson (Secretary and Treasurer) – CEO, Barriere Construction Co., LLC
George Wilson serves as President and CEO of the Barriere Construction Company, a third-generation family-owned highway and heavy construction asphalt company. As a leader in the industry, Mr. Wilson is a former chairman of the Highway Division of the Louisiana Association of General Contractors, former chairman of the Louisiana Associated General Contractors for the New Orleans District, and a former industry head for the United Way of Greater New Orleans. In 2010, Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business presented George and his brothers with the Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year award. George Wilson received BA and EMBA degrees from Tulane University.
Jimmy Roussel – President and CEO, New Orleans Startup Fund
Jimmy is a native New Orleanian. A 1988 graduate of Dartmouth College, Jimmy has worked for the past 25 years in a variety of startup environments, taking many of the companies from idea to revenue.
Jimmy has experience in all aspects of the startup arena from raising money, to building teams, to setting up sales and marketing plans, and product development. Jimmy’s past experience includes being Marketing Manager for Intralox, CEO of ProTier, EIR for the Idea Village, Managing Member of Global Medium/Clearwater Partners/Mehl Research Labs, and business consultant for Makebuzz.
Today, Jimmy is the President and CEO for the New Orleans Startup Fund. Jimmy is married with 3 children and lives in New Orleans.
Leslie Jacobs – Strategic Comp
Leslie Jacobs is the former co-owner and president of The Rosenthal Agency, a family business she helped build into one of the top 100 independent insurance agencies in the nation, prior to selling it to Hibernia National Bank (now Capital One). She is also the former co-owner and remains Executive Vice President of Strategic Comp, a Louisiana based workers’ compensation insurance company.
Leslie currently serves as Chairman of the Southeast Regional Business Council Coalition, Vice- Chairman of The New Orleans Business Council, Vice-Chairman of NOLA Business Alliance and is on the executive committee of Greater New Orleans Inc. Leslie is also the founder of 504ward, an initiative focused on retaining young talent in New Orleans.
Leslie has been engaged in education reform for more than twenty-five years, including twelve years on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Leslie is considered the architect of Louisiana’s accountability reform, and was instrumental in passing the constitutional amendment that created the Recovery School District.
Leslie has received numerous honors, including the “Distinguished Service Award” from the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, DC and the National Governor’s Association’s Award for Distinguished Service to State Government. She has also been named one of the Top 100 Female Insurance Executives by Business Insurance and was selected as one of the “Twenty People Who Influenced Louisiana 1981-2001,” by Louisiana Life magazine.
Michael Hecht – President & CEO, GNO Inc.
As the Chief Executive of Greater New Orleans, Inc., Michael leads an organization whose mission falls broadly into two categories: business development – marketing the region to businesses – and product development – creating better conditions for business. The ultimate vision of GNO, Inc. is to make the Greater New Orleans region one of the best places in the country for both a business and a family.
Before being tapped by the area’s business community to lead GNO, Inc., Michael served as Director of Business Recovery Services for Louisiana Economic Development, where he led the federally-funded $232M Small Business Recovery Program. Designed to revitalize the independent and small business sector devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Recovery Program helped over 5,000 Louisiana businesses with grants, loans and technical assistance.
Prior to repatriating to Louisiana, Michael worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City. As Assistant Commissioner for NYC Business Solutions, Michael designed and ran a nationally-recognized initiative to help the 200,000+ small businesses of New York City prosper and grow.
Michael also brings the experience of starting and managing his own business, having founded a conglomerate of restaurant ventures in San Francisco, including the award-winning “Foreign Cinema,” which just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
In addition to his public and private ventures, Michael also has experience in the nonprofit sector, where he was Director of Business Development for the Food Bank for New York City, the largest of its kind in the country. Michael began his career as a strategic management consultant to Fortune 100 multinationals including Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and IBM, in Europe, North America and Australia.
Michael holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was a member of the Public Management Program, and an undergraduate degree in Race Relations from Yale University, magna cum laude. He is a member of Coro Leadership New York, and has lectured nationally and internationally on entrepreneurship and economic development.
Recently Michael has been recognized as one of the 25 “Most Powerful” People in the 10/12 Corridor, a New Orleans Living “Person to Watch,” and a Junior Achievement “Rising Star.”
Allen Square – Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, PosiGen Solar Solutions
Allen Square, Chief Information Officer of the City of New Orleans, is the head of the Information Technology and Innovation (ITI) department for the City of New Orleans. As CIO Allen and his team are responsible for developing and executing the technology strategy to support the delivery of City Services. ITI is also accountable for driving innovation and cultivating a culture of performance improvement throughtout City Hall.
Mr. Square is well trained and experienced in performance improvement and technology to accomplish and support the City’s ambitious goals. Allen has over 15 years of experience across private, public, and non-profit sectors and has developed expertise in technology (IT, telecommunications, semiconductors, and manufacturing), transportation, business process outsourcing, healthcare and private equity industries. Prior to joining the City of New Orleans, Square spent the past five years working as a strategic management consultant, most of that time with Bain & Company, Inc. While at Bain, Allen was instrumental in identifying and implementing strategic and operational impovements for clients creating over $400M in annual value for clients.
Allen holds a Masters of Business Administration (majors in Operations, Strategic Management, and Entrepreneurship) from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Allen also holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University and an MS in Telecommunications from Southern Methodist University. Prior to attending business school Allen was well respected in the wireless telecommunications industry as an expert on GSM and CDMA technologies; lastly serving as Director of Engineering for Verizon Wireless’ Gulf Coast Region.