BOARD OF DIRECTORS
SDSI’s Board of Directors serve as the decisions makers who lead the organization’s growth and oversees the SDSI staff’s day to day operations to ensure fulfillment of our mission. The Board of Directors is a cross section of industry veterans and leaders from the Southern California’s sports and active lifestyle (SAL) community as well as Service Providers with a focus on the SAL industry.
Contact Renne Catalano for more information on Board of Directors seats at
Bill Walton – Executive Chairman of the Board, SDSI
William Theodore Walton, III (Bill) was born on November 5th, 1952, in San Diego, California. He was introduced to the game of basketball while in the fourth grade at Blessed Sacrament Elementary School by Coach Frank “Rocky” Graciano. Walton then attended Helix High School, where the basketball coach was Gordon Nash. At Helix, his team won the California Interscholastic Federation High School title two years in a row, while winning their final 49 consecutive games. Walton enrolled at UCLA in 1970 and played center for John Wooden’s Varsity team for three seasons (1972-1974). He was a member of two NCAA championship teams compiling an NCAA record 88 consecutive game winning streak. He was the recipient of several awards, including the NCAA Player of the Year Award in 1972, ’73 and ’74. At UCLA Walton was a scholar-athlete who also earned Academic All-American honors three years in a row. He graduated with honors earning a B.A. in History. Walton’s professional career began when he was the number one overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. He won championship titles with the Blazers and the Boston Celtics. He also played with the San Diego Clippers, and the relocated Los Angeles Clippers. Over the course of his NBA career, he was honored with numerous awards, including NBA’s MVP and All-Star Team. Eventually Bill was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Walton started his broadcasting career in 1990 as an analyst for the then Prime Ticket Network. Walton worked for CBS Sports in the early 90’s during the NCAA Final Four and then for NBC for many years, including work on the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games. Over the last 15 years he has worked for ABC, ESPN, NBC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC, Turner Sports, KCAL, and the NBA. In 2001, Walton won an Emmy for best live sports television broadcast. Walton looks forward to building the San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI) program with CONNECT. SDSI is a business accelerator that connects and drives the growth of San Diego’s vibrant sports economy by offering innovative programs and services for start ups, mature companies and service providers.
John Sarkisian – Vice Chairman & Founder, SKLZ & Industry Chairman of the Board, SDSI
John Sarkisian, is Vice Chairman & Founder of SKLZ, the innovator in Athletic Training. John is also the Founding Investor and current Chairman of the Board of Semtek Innovative Solutions which developed and is commercializing patented encryption technology protecting sensitive data for the credit card industry. John is the Chairman of the Board and Founding Investor in Brightscope which has developed the industry standard for measuring company 401(k) performance. With his family he founded and developed Pat and Oscar’s Restaurants which was sold in 2001 to a public company. John is active in Real Estate development and investment in San Diego County through his company Del Mar Heritage. John was awarded the 1999 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for San Diego County. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of San Diego County and as a Trustee of the San Diego Sports Commission.
Michael Brower – CFO, Sente
Michael Brower is the former CFO for Gunnar Optics, a market leader in the $24 billion Digital Performance Eyewear Category. Previously he was the CFO for Event Network, the leading retail operator of gift shops in cultural attractions across North America. Prior to Event Network Michael was the Additional prior experience includes; CFO for Cleatskins; CFO for Triple 7 Group, a holding Company for several companies who design, develop, and distribute products for the cycling and moto-cross markets; General Manager and CFO for PowerMetal Technologies, an advanced materials company providing nano-enabled components for the sporting goods and consumer products markets (investors included DuPont); CFO for Orange 21, a leading provider of eyewear products to the action sports and youth markets where he led an IPO. From 1993 through 1999 he held various positions with Odyssey Golf, a manufacturer of golf equipment, including Chief Financial Officer, Vice President and General Manager and Executive Vice President. As VP/GM, Michael managed Odyssey Golf through their rapid growth period in which sales grew from $6 to over $60 million in sales in two years and became the global market share leader in the putter category. Odyssey was sold to Callaway Golf for $130 million. Over this career, Michael has raised over $80 million in private and public equity and debt capital. Mr. Brower began his professional career as a staff accountant with KPMG LLP. Michael received a Bachelor Degree from Chico State, and earned an MBA from USD. He is also a CPA.
Danny DeMichele - Chairman, Quiverr
Danny has been building and managing online businesses for the last 17 years. In 2010, his company eVisibility.com was Inc Magazine’s 169th fastest growing company in the US.
He sold the company in late 2010 to LSF Network, Inc., a top 5 private digital agency. Danny is currently the CEO of Elevated.com, a premier Internet marketing agency located just a block from Quiverr. Danny brings his experience and connections in the online marketing space to help facilitate the growth of Quiverr — and ease the pains of online brands.
Melissa DeVita - VP Division Counsel, Qualcomm
Melissa DeVita is Vice President, Division Counsel for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., overseeing the legal team which supports Qualcomm Research and Qualcomm Engineering. Melissa is responsible for advising the CTO and his organization in cutting edge areas of new development, which currently include 5G wireless solutions, autonomous driving, drones, robotics, machine learning and satellite communications. Melissa joined Qualcomm in 2006 to lead content licensing at FLO TV, a subsidiary which provided live television to mobile devices. Prior to her current role, Melissa supported several Qualcomm emerging global market development efforts through entire business life cycles- from conception to launch to spin out - including businesses focused on wireless health, education, geolocation advertising triggers and Bluetooth low energy proximity beacons. She served as chief counsel for Qualcomm’s smart cities and industrial internet of things business before accepting her current role.
Melissa is an elected member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (which determines the EMMY® Awards), served on the Board of Directors for the Marshall Faulk Foundation for over five years and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts San Diego, where she is the Chair of the Development Committee and sits on the Executive Committee. Melissa volunteers her free time at the Humane Society.
Melissa received her B.A. from University of California, Los Angeles, cum laude, receiving the UCLA President’s Medal and the Chancellor’s Service Award. She received her J.D. from University of Southern California, after serving on the board of the Hale Moot Court Honors Program.
Steve Espino – SVP Commercial Banking Center Manager, Banner Bank
Steve Espino brings over 25 years of experience in commercial banking to Banner Bank, formerly AmericanWest Bank and Security Business Bank. As a founding member of Security Business Bank, Steve served as Executive Vice President, Senior Lending Officer. He served on the Executive Management Committee, Loan Committee and Asset Liability Committee of the publicly traded company. Founded in 2002, Security Business Bank built a reputation for providing small and midsized business customers with financial innovation, access to management and superior client service. The Bank merged with AmericanWest Bank on July 2, 2012. Prior to joining Security Business Bank, Mr. Espino served as Senior Vice President for California Bank & Trust, managing its downtown San Diego Commercial Office. He was responsible for the management of a full service bank office serving commercial banking, real estate and private banking clients. Before joining CB & T, he was Senior Vice President and Regional Manager for Manufacturers Bank serving San Diego County from 1991 to 1998. Mr. Espino has been active in commercial lending to small and midsized businesses in the greater San Diego area since 1981. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of LEAD San Diego, Downtown San Diego Partnership and the Advisory Board of San Diego Sport Innovators (an affiliate of CONNECT). Mr. Espino has also served as the Chairman of the Board of LEAD San Diego, President of the Hispanic Bankers Association and Chairman of the Board of the Centro Cultural de la Raza. Steve is married to Sandy and has a son Adam.
Jason Femrite – Partner, Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP
Jason Femrite is a Partner in the Sports and Active Lifestyle Group of the largest San Diego corporate law firm, Procopio. His practice focuses on assisting entrepreneurs and executives commercialize their business concepts, from idea to exit. In such capacity Jason has represented companies in a wide range of transactions, including more than 150 financings and acquisitions, while simultaneously assisting them to protect and expand their brands on a worldwide basis. Although Jason represents clients involved in many industries, his emphasis is representing companies in the sports and active lifestyle community. Prior to joining Procopio, Jason spent more than 12 years with Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps LLP, where he formed and led the firm’s Action Sports Group. In addition to his law practice, and his position on the advisory board at SDSI, Jason is an active member of the San Diego community, where he holds memberships with and has sponsored several other organizations, including: the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association, the San Diego Venture Group, the Association of Corporate Growth, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, San Diego Chapter. A Southern California native, Jason earned his B.A. in Political Science at UC San Diego in 1996 and his J.D., cum laude, at the University of San Diego in 1999.
Chris Finley - Senior Manager, KPMG LLP
Chris Finley is a Senior Manager at KPMG LLP and is responsible for delivering audit and accounting services to large and small, global and local, public and private clients in San Diego, and is primarily focused on life science, consumer markets, and retail industries, including start-up and middle market companies. Chris has provided professional audit services to public and private multinational companies in accordance with SEC and PCAOB requirements and U.S. GAAP, as well as is fully certified in IFRS. His audit experience ranges from initial public offerings to stand-alone financial statements of small, privately owned organizations. Chris is active in civic and charitable organizations, including serving of the board of directors for Junior Achievement San Diego. He was born and raised in San Diego, and earned his B.A. in Economics from UCLA in 2007. Chris currently lives in San Diego with his wife of 5 years and his young son.
Norb Garrett - EVP Sports & Entertainment, The Enthusiast Network
Norb Garrett is the Executive Vice President/General Manager of TEN: The Enthusiast Network’s Sports & Entertainment Group, which includes TEN’s action/adventure sports business featuring brands such as SURFER, SNOWBOARDER, TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, and TRANSWORLD MOTOCROSS as well as BASEBALL AMERICA, SLAM and TEN’s Home Tech Group. Since joining the company in 2010, Norb has overseen the acquisition and integration of the Grind Networks digital media group (October 2010), which includes a content partnership with GrindTV.com and Yahoo! Sports, the re-branding of the Action Sports Group into GrindMedia (July 2011), and the acquisition/integration of TransWorld Media (May 2013). Norb also is an entrepreneur who started and owns Picket Fence Media, a Southern California-based community media business that includes San Clemente Times, Dana Point Times, and The Capistrano Dispatch. Prior to joining TEN, Norb served as VP Content at Miller Publishing Group, where he oversaw and directed all editorial, online, and new media efforts for Tennis, Smash, Spin, Vibe, and Where magazines and websites. Before that, Garrett was VP, Group Publisher/Editorial Director for Primedia from 2001-2004, after serving as creative director at EMAP Metro Sports Group, running properties such as NFL Insider, Sport magazine, and celebrity annuals with Dick Vitale, Joe Montana, and Bob Griese. He joined Petersen Publishing in 1997 as Sport magazine’s Editor-in-Chief. A graduate of the University of Maryland’s Journalism School, Norb lives in San Clemente, CA, with his wife Alyssa and children Taylor and Peyton.
Jason Meerbergen – Executive Director of Corporate Development, Sony Electronics Inc
Jason (Jay) Meerbergen is Executive Director of Corporate Development of Sony Electronics Inc. Headquartered in San Diego, Sony Electronics serves as the U.S. sales and marketing arm of Sony’s global electronics business. Jay began his career with Sony in 2006. He is responsible for the formation and execution of business development, investment and M&A transactions within Sony’s consumer (CE) and professional electronics and services businesses. During his tenure, he has lead the formation and execution of hundreds of strategic content distribution and technology partnerships, many with some of the largest technology and media companies in the world. Prior to Sony, Jay worked as an Associate in the investment banking firm Appleby Capital. He was also a founding member and early employee in two technology start-ups, Mediconsult.com and Operon Networks; and served as an Analyst within a strategic marketing consulting group operated by Columbia Business School professors. Jay has a Bachelor degree in Environmental Design Architecture from the University of Colorado, Boulder and an MBA in Finance from New York University, where he served as Co-President of The Entrepreneurs’ Exchange, a non-profit 300+ member organization focused on the development of start-up businesses associated with NYU. As an avid surfer and scuba diver, you will likely find Jay spending his free time somewhere in the waters off Encinitas.
Dave Nash – President & CEO, Sun Diego Board Shops
David Nash has over 40 years of retail experience and is the founder, president/CEO of Athleisure, Inc., dba: Sun Diego Boardshops, an eight store chain of retail stores doing business throughout San Diego County since 1981. Sun Diego Boardshops was voted the best beach wear/surf shop for eight straight years by the readers of The San Diego Union Tribune. Sun Diego was also voted Retailer of the Year in 2005 and Women’s Retailer of the Year in 2008 by the Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association and their retail peers though out the country. Dave is a founding and active board member of the Board Retailers Association (formed in February 2003), a non profit trade association representing over 550 action sport retailers in the surf, skate, snow, wake, kite and wind industry with approximately 3000 storefronts across the country. Dave and Sun Diego are actively involved in the community and promoting the industries Sun Diego represents. Dave and Sun Diego work with The Surfrider Foundation, Feeding America and Keep a Breast Foundation as well as helping local high school find funds for their programs. Sun Diego also provides a competitive surf series for surfers of all ages as well as AmSlam a competitive skate series. Prior to Athleisure, Inc., Dave was the EVP of Snowden-Mize Companies, Inc., dba: Snowden-Mize Sports and The Athlete’s Foot, a leading retailer in the 70’s and 80’s in the athletic shoe and apparel industry. A chain of 26 company owned stores in five states and a Franchisor of 150 The Athletes’ Foot stores.
Nate Raabe - Equity Sales, ROTH Capital Partners
Nathan Raabe joined Roth Capital Partners in 2014 to lead the venture group within the investment banking firm. Nathan has extensive experience in the healthcare market having served in both finance and operational roles. Prior to Roth, Nathan was part of the founding team of Sapheon, Inc, which was acquired by Covidien/Medtronic in 2014. At Sapheon, Nathan held various management roles in business development, sales, and marketing. In addition, Nathan spearheaded Sapheon’s fundraising efforts raising $40M through high net worth accredited investors. Prior to Sapheon, Nathan was president/CEO of various healthcare practice management companies, including Acamedic which was sold in 2009. Nathan graduated from Santa Clara University with a B.A in Finance.
Adam Roth - VP, Investment Banking, ROTH Capital Partners
Adam Roth is a Vice President in the Investment Banking department. He joined the Institutional Sales group at ROTH in 2003, and transitioned to Corporate Finance in 2005. He has assisted in public and private equity financings in the healthcare, clean energy, and consumer sectors. Mr. Roth is currently a key participant in ROTH’s development of the OpenRound online investment platform, where accredited investors can obtain access to investments in early stage growth companies. Adam holds a degree in Business Administration from the University of Colorado.
Ken Schmitt - CEO & Founder, TurningPoint Executive Search
Ken, a San Diego native, has been placing mid and senior-level professionals for more than 18 years. After entering the executive search industry in 1998, after working for local, regional and global firms, Ken launched TurningPoint Executive Search in 2007. Based in North County, TurningPoint works nationally, placing top notch, mid and upper level marketing, sales, operations and general management talent. Ken and his firm are committed to providing a research-based, customized, direct recruiting solution to start-up ventures and legacy operations, publicly traded businesses and family owned operations. TurningPoint is proud of its 96% fill ratio, 94% retention rate, combined 70 years of experience, and a network that spans multiple geographies and sectors.
Prior to launching his recruiting career, Ken spent 5 ½ years with Enterprise Rent A Car, advancing through the organization in San Diego and Orange Counties.
In 2011, Ken also founded the Sales & Marketing Leadership Alliance, a professional organization committed to providing peer-2-peer networking and professional development to the region’s mid and senior sales and marketing leaders. In 2015, Ken launchd the Dynamic Disruption Summit in San Diego, showcasing some of the country's most innovative and disruptive businesses.
An avid user of social media to identify top talent and brand his business, Ken has been educating professionals on the merits and use of this medium since 2006. With one of San Diego’s largest LinkedIn networks and a profile that ranks in the top 1% of all users, Ken has developed a reputation as the “go-to” professional for LinkedIn in San Diego. He served as the Social Media Instructor at Cal State University, San Marcos for their “Career Transition & Development” program, and has presented to nearly 75 organizations and companies, about the value of “Leveraging LinkedIn”.
Ken earned his BSBA in Economics from the University of San Diego and is a former board member of USD’s School of Business Alumni Association. Ken serves as an Executive Board Member for Junior Achievement, San Diego, and the San Diego HR Roundtable. Ken lives in North County with his two kids and wife of 24 years, a Marriage and Family Therapist.
Dana Shertz – Managing Partner, Contineo Ventures
Dana Shertz has a 30-year history of record sales growth, marketing innovation, revenue enhancement and expense reduction in management, sales and marketing roles at EnDev Enterprises, MacGregor Golf and Callaway Golf. From 2006 to January 2009, Shertz was COO and CMO of EnDev Enterprises, a partnership that owned and operated several nightclubs and restaurants in San Diego. Prior to EnDev, Shertz spent more than 20 years in the golf industry. He served as president and COO of MacGregor Golf. Prior to MacGregor, Shertz spent 13 years in senior sales and executive positions at Callaway Golf. His ability to consistently deliver unprecedented results led him through a rapid rise in the company’s ranks, eventually resulting in an appointment as Callaway’s Vice President of Sales. As a leader of the company’s sales and marketing, he oversaw revenue growth from $5 million to $840 million, annually. Prior to Callaway, Dana founded and operated a successful retail golf operation in Palm Springs, Desert Golf and Tennis. Shertz also brings a unique understanding of business financial management. Prior to the golf industry, he worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Shertz is a business consultant at Contineo Ventures who provides consulting and successful growth strategies to the Hospitality industry, Retail, Apparel, Consumer products and the Sports and Golf industries.
Steve Stoloff – CEO & Co-Owner, VAVi Sport and Social Club
Steve Stoloff, CEO of VAVi, is a sports innovator who brings fun to life. VAVi is the largest organizer of adult social sports leagues in Southern California and is a leading producer of nationally-touring 5k obstacle races and fun runs. Over 250,000 people per year participate in VAVi activities, and with signature events like the Del Mar Mud Run and Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge, VAVi offers something for everyone. In addition to offering sports leagues and large-scale events, VAVi also provides an experiential marketing platform for brands to reach active young professionals aged 21-40. VAVi provides the perfect opportunity for a large national brands to build a grassroots connection with a highly targeted and engaged audience. Steve is also active on many non-profit boards, including San Diego Sports Innovators and the Sport and Social Industry Association, an organization that represents 70 sports clubs nationwide with a participant base of over 1.2 million active young professionals.
Marco Thompson – Serial Entrepreneur
Marco Thompson is the founding board member of SDSI. Marco advises several local firms on finance and growth, and successfully raised growth capital in 2008 for a Connect S.I. member company. Marco is also a Managing Director of Express Ventures, an early stage technology venture firm. He has operational experience at up to $50-million revenue run rates, and he has led marketing & sales strategy development for diverse technology enterprises. He founded and self funded Doctor Design, which grew to become San Diego’s most successful Engineering Design Services firm and was eventually acquired by Wind River and then Intel. Marco has founded, financed, guided, and mentored numerous startups, and he currently sits on the board of directors or advisors of several early stage companies. Some of these companies include: MaintenanceNet, Entropic, Profitline, Intellitouch, Rosum, Drivecam, Objectiva, V-Enable, Benchmark Revenue Management, Qthink, and Philometron. Marco has been very active as a startup CEO mentor in the San Diego community, thru programs such as Connect Springboard, Commnexus Next Stage, and the Chairman’s Roundtable. Marco is a founding board member, past president, and past chairman of CommNexus. He holds three patents and has written a book on memory design. He has been honored as “Technology Supporter of the Year,” and is the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Alumni of the year for 2003. Marco has also been awarded the Gray Cary Award for Technology Innovation in 2003. Marco graduated with a BSEE from UC San Diego.
Header Photo: Celso / Tower paddleboards