Six accomplished businesspeople with dozens of startups under their combined belts, and a wealth of experience nurturing other early-stage enterprises, will bring their wisdom to the Hofstra University Center for Entrepreneurship this spring.
The center’s first-ever entrepreneurs-in-residence – Aaron Foss, Kevin Hesselbirg, Peter Kestenbaum, Jeff Leventhal, Mike Quilty and Barbara Roberts – will mentor students through interactive workshops designed to help the next generation of entrepreneurs turn ideas into successful business ventures.
Mark Lesko, former executive director of regional business booster Accelerate Long Island and now heading the Hofstra center, called the inaugural collection of resident mentors “a world-class team of serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives and investors.”
Foss, who has launched five different companies and teaches entrepreneurship classes at Molly College in Rockville Centre, is best known for the cloud-based robocall blocker Nomorobo, the flagship product of his Port Jefferson startup Telephone Science Corp. Foss’ Nomorobo technology won the $50,000 first prize at a 2013 Federal Trade Commission contest and now boasts 400,000-plus users and is credited with snuffing out nearly 60 million robocalls.
Hesselbirg, an experienced CEO and well-known angel investor, is the former chief executive of financial-institution consultant Primatics Financial. Prior to Primatics, he spent 14 years at OpenLink Financial, serving alternately as the software developer’s CFO, COO and CEO. Hesselbirg also served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Accelerate Long Island.
Also familiar to the rigors of being a resident entrepreneur is Kestenbaum, who’s done it – and filled various adjunct professor slots – at universities across New Jersey. The former managing partner of 1099Partners, which unites ex-senior executives to service early-stage startups, Kesetnbaum is already a coach, investor or advisor at eight regional companies, according to Hofstra.
Leventhal’s track record of building market-moving companies includes stints as founder and CEO of such firms as OnForce (ultimately bought by Adecco), Remote Lojix (sold to AvTel Communications) and Spinback (purchased by Buddy Media/Salesforce.com). Most recently, he founded Work Market, a software-as-a-service enterprise providing end-to-end solutions for managing freelancers and independent contractors.
Quilty is managing director of Saltaire Capital Partners, which invests in and acquires early-stage healthcare-services organizations. The founder and former CEO of Matrix Medical Network – which was recognized as one of Inc. magazine’s fastest-growing companies in 2009 and 2010 – is a Harvard-educated U.S. Navy veteran who serves on the boards of numerous health- and financial-services firms in New York, Maryland, Minnesota and Florida.
Roberts, a former Wall Street executive, is an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Columbia Business School. A member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission and the New York Angels, she also chairs Tiger 21, a peer-learning group for entrepreneurs who sell their businesses for $10 million or more and other high-net-worth individuals. The well-known public speaker on topics including entrepreneurship and women’s leadership also serves on the boards of several privately held companies.
Together, the six entrepreneurs-in-residence – who will keep regular office hours inside the Center for Entrepreneurship, according to Hofstra – provide a deep resource for the center’s business-development programs, including insider advice on preparing investor pitches, building corporate foundations without investor capital and other critical early-stage topics.
The resident entrepreneurs will also work with students creating simulated startups for courses in the Frank G. Zarb School of Business, and assist student teams participating in the Hofstra-CPXi Venture Challenge, an annual business-plan competition sponsored by Hofstra grad and CPXi founder Mike Seiman.
“[The entrepreneurs-in-residence] have tremendous experience to share with the community at Hofstra University,” Lesko said in a statement. “Tapping into their experience and knowledge is an extraordinary opportunity for our students.”