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
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.
Damon Burns is a New Orleans native with executive leadership and entrepreneurship experience spanning the areas of investment banking, economic development, climate sustainability, and financial technology. His professional career began in 2004 and includes time with financial institutions, a financial technology startup, and public sector organizations. Since July 2016, he has served as Chief Executive Officer of Finance New Orleans, a quasi-governmental green financial institution with a vision and mission to invest in affordable housing and economic development projects that create a more climate resilience New Orleans for all.
G.F. Gay Le Breton heads the Mergers & Acquisitions group of Chaffe & Associates, Inc., with emphasis in services to privately held companies. She has more than 35 years’ experience in the structuring and negotiation of transactions, the valuation of mid- and small-sized companies, and the development and execution of competitive processes for the sale or purchase of businesses. Ms. Le Breton is also President of Chaffe Securities, Inc., the firm’s broker dealer subsidiary. She began her career in 1977 with the Trust Company in New York. She returned to New Orleans in 1980 to join First National Bank of Commerce in commercial lending and was then involved in the negotiation of several bank acquisitions on behalf of the First Commerce Corporation. She joined Chaffe in 1987. Ms. Le Breton is licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) as a registered representative and holds the Series 7, 24, 63 and 79 licenses. She is qualified as an expert witness in U.S. District Court on matters relating to bank and corporate valuation and merger and acquisition process, and has appeared as a speaker on these subjects. She also authors a monthly column for New Orleans City Business on the subject of M&A activity in Louisiana. She was active in community affairs and served on a number of civic boards, including served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of GNO, Inc., as a Board Member of the Coalition for Coastal Resilience and Economy, and as a member of the Advisory Council of the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University. She is active in the NO/LA Angel Network, and is a member of its Board of Directors. Ms. Le Breton holds a B.A. from Newcomb College and an M.B.A. from the A.B. Freeman School.
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.
Courtney Williams was born in Jamaica, grew up in New York City and now lives in New Orleans. He received his bachelor’s degree in Government, with Honors, from Oberlin College in 1992 and his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1995. As a seasoned tech executive, Mr Williams got his start in the tech industry at AOL where he served in several senior roles including VP, Business Development, AOL Europe, VP, Business Development, AOL Inc., and Legal Counsel, AOL Inc. After AOL, he went on to help launch Interactive One LLC, a subsidiary of Radio One, Inc., as its SVP of Development & Strategy. He is currently the Founder and CEO of Torsh Inc., a New Orleans based education technology company that provides a leading coaching and professional learning platform to educators in K12 and early education settings. Courtney has been a board member of the Johns Hopkins School of Education National Advisory Council since 2015, a board member of YouthForce NOLA since 2018 and a member and former monarch of Krewe De Nieux since 2017. Mr. Williams is also engaged in a number of other projects that are focused on increasing diversity in tech and reducing the wealth gap that exists between the black and white communities in New Orleans.
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.”
Sharonda Williams currently serves as General Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for Loyola University. Prior to that, Sharonda was Special Counsel at Fishman Haygood, LLP in New Orleans. Sharonda served as City Attorney for the City of New Orleans from May 2013-November 2015. As City Attorney, Sharonda was the lead attorney handling the most
comprehensive police consent decree in the history of the United States. At the same time, she represented the City in another consent decree aimed at reforming the Orleans Parish Jail, which was then-recognized as one of the worst prisons in America. Both of those consent decrees required Sharonda to engage in negotiations with the United States Department of Justice on a near daily basis. Sharonda also was the lead attorney representing the City in settling a more than 30-year dispute relating to back pay and pension issues for the New Orleans Firefighters. Sharonda had served as Chief Deputy City Attorney from October 2011 until May 2013.
Prior to joining the City of New Orleans, Sharonda was a partner in the general litigation section at Sher Garner, where she handled cases ranging from construction disputes, medical malpractice, insurance coverage disputes, entertainment law contract negotiations, intellectual property licensing issues, and bankruptcy adversary proceedings.
She was recently appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards to serve as a Commissioner for the Board of the Port of New Orleans, and she has served as the Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Regional Transit Authority, the Chair of the Louisiana Judiciary Commission (appointed by Gov. Kathleen Blanco), as well as being involved in numerous other professional and civic organizations.
Peyton Bush is currently the Chief Investment Officer of Bollinger Enterprises, LLC, a single-family investment office located in New Orleans, LA. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing all investment activities and asset allocation for a portfolio that includes publicly-traded debt and equity securities, hedge funds, and direct investments in both real estate and private equity.
Prior to his current role, he was a Vice President at LongueVue Capital, LLC, a New Orleans based private equity firm. At LongueVue, he was primarily engaged in performing financial and operational due diligence, processing and executing transactions, and supporting and monitoring portfolio companies.
Prior to LongueVue, Mr. Bush was employed by Highland Capital Management, a multi-strategy alternative investment firm in Dallas, TX with over $30 billion in assets under management, where he identified, analyzed and structured investments across a variety of asset classes.
Prior to Highland, he was an Investment Banking Associate for JP Morgan Securities, focusing on corporate finance and M&A advisory for clients in the Consumer and Retail sectors. Mr. Bush earned a Bachelor of Science from Tulane University, an MBA from Vanderbilt University, and served four years as an Intelligence Officer in the United States Marine Corps.