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2022 Finalists Mentoring Phase: 18 Weeks
Monday, June 13 - Wednesday, October 12

The Mentoring program is the one of the most important benefits provided to those Innovators that make it to the Final stage of the competition. It is a 16-week immersive experience during which  experienced Mentors are paired up with the Finalists and help them develop and master perspectives  and soft business skills that will help them set themselves apart, and grow. Moreover, Mentors can help their Mentees address specific challenges particular to their business/startup. 

In addition to the Mentor-Matching program, Educational Classes/Modules are added to each year's competition, that offer insight into different aspects of running a successful business (Funding Alternatives, Intellectual Property considerations, Tax & R&D, Successful Marketing and Sales Practices). The modules are presented by highly qualified field experts, willing to share their expertise, and help startups owners and managers in their entrepreneurship journey.  

Our Mentors are experienced and passionate business leaders that selflessly make time off their busy schedules to provide support and counseling to all Finalists. They generously share their management and leadership know-how, communication cognizance and message delivery empiricism, to help Finalists convey a strong Innovation Message during the Final Stage of the competition (The Eddies Innovation Showcase on 10/6/2022) and well beyond. They establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the Innovators, and many times they are asked to offer their opinions on general matters of importance to their Mentees, well beyond the scope of The Eddies.


Depending on their own availability and work schedule, Mentors may change from year to year. As they become confirmed, for 2022, their names and short will be posted on this website, Under the "People" page ("Mentors" sub-page.)

Mentors and members of the Massachusetts Innovation Network Team get together immediately after the Finalists are announced, to discuss how to best match each Finalist with their respective Mentor.  Oftentimes, Mentors ask to be matched with Innovators from a particular industry, so they can best leverage their own knowledge and experience during the Mentoring period; their requests are very seriously considered. 


The Mentorship Program is optional but Strongly Recommended; it provides a support in a highly personalized way. The Mentors know exactly what the Judges are looking for in the finals, and can help participants tailor-make their message to the specific audience. Furthermore, the Mentors represent sources of knowledge, expertise and connections during the startup's journey to succeed and scale (or get acquired).


The frequency of meetings/phone discussions between Mentors and Mentees is decided upon between Mentor and Mentee, and depends on the needs and work schedules of the parties involved. 

Meet Our Mentors

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Eric Achtmann

Founder and Managing Director, Global Capital X

Prof. Eric Achtmann: Award-winning innovator, entrepreneur, executive, and investor. He started his career fighting fires in the Middle East after Gulf War I before moving on to the US Congressional Lean Aerospace Initiative and McDonnell-Douglas Phantom Works, and McKinsey & Co. where he served as an Aerospace & Defense and Automotive expert and ultimately pioneered the Firm’s highly successful product development practice (DTC/DTV). Thereafter, Eric moved into venture capital, serving as a Managing Partner for two pan-European tech and life science (therapeutics, diagnostics, devices) venture funds. Following his transition into operational and executive management, Eric proposed, architected, and brought to market the global fresh drinks vending system underpinning Coca Cola’s $5.1b acquisition of Costa Coffee and co-founded V-Nova, a London-based software company providing leading advanced video compression solutions (MPEG-5 II: LCEVC and VC-6). Eric is a Senior Advisor to McKinsey, Arowana Capital, and VivoPower plc; Non-Executive Director of Celdara Medical, Aclys Biotechnologies Corp., TargetArm, and VeriTX; as well as Founding Member of Meggitt PLC’s Technology Advisory Board, and AFWERX Mentor, and Expert Advisor to the European Commission (H2020 and European Heath & Digital Executive). Eric holds degrees from MIT and other universities and is a Professor of Practice at MIT-cofounded Skoltech.


Louie Balasny

Director, Tech & VC First Republic Bank; Founder, Botkeeper

Louie Balasny is Director of Tech & VC at First Republic Bank. His lifelong desire to build something from the ground up, led him to co-found Botkeeper. For over five years, Louie helped build the automated bookkeeping company to where it is, most recently securing a $25 million Series B round. His passion for helping startups and working closely with founders ultimately led him to join First Republic Bank in its Tech and Venture Capital group. Louie holds his Juris Doctor from Suffolk University Law School and is very active in the Boston community.


Dr. Piali De

Co-Founder and CEO, Senscio Systems

Dr. Piali De is a co-founder and CEO of Senscio Systems. She is the co-inventor of Senscio's patented framework, the artificially intelligent inference engine that contextualizes data in ay domain into actionable intelligence. Built upon Scio, Senscio Systems' Ibis Health Program is a complex chronic care management system designed to improve self-management for patients with complex chronic conditionals designed to enable coordination with multiple care team members resulting in early intervention to avoid complications. She is the author of many publications, three patents, and one patent pending as well as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi and Sigma Pi Sigma honor societies. Piali is the recipient of the National Women of Color's 2009 Technology Innovation Award. in 2005, she received the Ratheon CEO Award, Raytheon IDS President's Award, and Raytheon Business Development Excellence Award, for her work on profiling Marine Corps missions. A recognized thought leader in digital health innovation, she is a speaker and guest lecturer at digital health summits and health care conferences. 

Prior to Sensicio Systems, Piali was an Engineering Fellow at Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems, where she developed Confluence™, a system designed to deliver knowledge-based decision support for public safety missions, pandemic crises, natural disaster responses, and military missions.


Dick Downey

Dick Downey is an innovative executive experienced in every facet of building and developing profitable organizations in today's competitive, fast-paced global economy. He was Co-Founder, President and CEO of Hypertronics, leading the three-person start-up to a global corporation with 150 employees and annual revenues exceeding $30 million. His career highlights include experience as Vice President of Chase Walton Elastomers, President of Test Devices, and President of Boyd Coatings Research Company. Dick has an impressive track record of consistently generating profits and growing sales in a variety of industries. A hands-on, pro-active executive who can rapidly identify business challenges, formulate strategies and implement new approaches in demanding and diverse environments, Dick is known for spearheading technology and utilizing technical innovations to streamline operations.


Barbara Finer

Northeast MA Director, FORGE

Barbara Finer is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully launched many companies and products to market, energizing and aligning teams. Barbara leads the FORGE Northeastern Massachusetts presence. Barbara identifies and manages opportunities to engage and grow the rich network of manufacturing resources offered in the region with the startups we serve, providing connections and support for both suppliers and startups. With an extensive background helping technology-based, business-to-business companies across industrial, automation and medical sectors, Barbara has a technical background and degree (BS, Northeastern University) and MS in management of innovation and technology (MSA, Boston University). With a superpower in product marketing, Barb has developed the messaging, business models and go-to-market plans for large and startup companies. She has helped attract funding for dozens of startups, and founded the STEM incubator TechSandBox, Southie Autonomy, TeleRadx, and CxO Management Group

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Patty Flaherty Donahue

Business Development Manager, EBS - Employee Benefit Solutions

Patty's career has centered around building relationships and delivering solutions for companies of all sizes and various industries, working closely with Human Resource and Finance leaders.  At EBS, Employee Benefit Solutions, Patty helps companies address healthcare cost-containment strategies, implement HR technologies that scale, get ahead of compliance & healthcare reform, and adopt corporate wellness initiatives. Prior to EBS, as an executive in a staffing firm, Patty delivered solutions for talent and human resource executives, managing complex customer talent acquisition programs. She is an active member of The Boston Club.


Sophia Kambanis

Executive Director, Massachusetts Innovation Network; Judge, MIT Enterprise Forum Greece, Mentor, Blue Incubator

Sophia has 25+ years of experience in profit and non-profit organization management, local and international market operations, multi-country management team building, and company culture crisis management during merger and acquisitions. Sophia started her career with the design and implementation of marketing research plans and strategic marketing guidance for multinational organizations like Unilever’s Food Division, PepsiCo,  KraftHeinz, CITIgroup, GlaxoSmithKline and PernodRicard. She moved on to leading the Marketing Division of a group of 5 merged companies that were operating in 5 different countries: Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Greece. One of her most challenging yet rewarding experience was to develop a common group culture working with diverse nationalities, languages, work ethics and business practices.  Sophia’s experience includes extensive development of communication plans, brand awareness generation, and effective story telling techniques for charitable organizations, chambers of commerce and business associations.


Dr. Petros Kotidis

Senior Commercialization Advisor- In-Q-Tel;  President/Founder- Miracor Consulting; General Manager, US Operations-; Advisory Board Member - Mesodyne;  Advisory Board Member - Massachusetts Innovation Network

Dr. Kotidis has been in the high-tech industry for more than thirty years and has commercialized numerous technologies in Life Sciences, Safety/Security, Industrial Process Control and Energy markets. He is currently serving as a Senior Commercialization Advisor for In-Q-Tel, the investment branch of the CIA and the Intelligence Community, with particular focus on commercializing technologies with critical implications for US national competitiveness and security. He has advised numerous small and large high-tech companies in the areas of strategic business development, technology commercialization, capital raising and expansion into new markets. Most recently, he was CEO at Block Engineering and Block MEMS, offering laser-based, chemical analysis systems for the Oil & Gas, Defense & Security and Environmental Monitoring markets. Prior to that, he was VP of Marketing & Business Development at Axsun Technologies, a high-tech, optical Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) company with products in the Telecommunications and Medical Devices markets. He joined Axsun from Nortel Networks, a leading optical telecommunications company, where he led strategic acquisitions and corporate investments. Prior to that he worked at Textron Systems, a defense manufacturer of smart weapons, industrial control and optical systems, where he was responsible for the development and market introduction of new optoelectronic products. Earlier in his career, he worked as a Principal Scientist at AVCO Research Laboratory, a legendary organization that led the early development of new lasers and aerospace applications. Dr. Kotidis has Ph.D. and M.S. in Aeronautics from MIT with a minor from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens. He has been awarded 26 patents for various optoelectronic and algorithmic inventions.


Pamela Layton

CEO, 4Immune Therapeutics;NE Award Winner 2012;  Advisory Board Member - Massachusetts Innovation Network

Prior to her current role at 4Immune Therapeutics, Pamela Layton was the President and a member of the Board of Bioarray Genetics (, a breast cancer molecular diagnostics company, where her role spanned the acquisition of capital, operations, reimbursement, regulatory path and partnerships. Prior to Bioarray, Mrs. Layton was the Founder and CEO of Parcell Laboratories, and responsible for taking the first pure stem cell product from bench to bedside for spinal fusion surgery. She holds multiple U.S. and European patents for the ELA® cell and its applications.  Prior to Parcell, Mrs. Layton was the Founder and President of TriGuard Group LLC, a security information company that brought the first interactive alarm notification platform to market, for which Mrs. Layton holds the patent. Mrs. Layton is a Certified Tissue Bank Specialist as designated by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). In addition to mentoring young companies throughout the U.S., she is a member of the Board of Pioneer Institute, the Board of XenoTherapeutics (NE Innovation Award Winner 2018), the Treasurer. of the Board of Mother Brooks Arts Center, and a long-standing Judge for the New England Innovation Awards. Mrs. Layton is a member of Launchpad and SkyVentures, as well as an individual Angel Investor. 

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Dr. Val Livada

Research Affiliate, MIT Materials Research Laboratory; Founder, Corporate Entrepreneurship Network; Advisor, MassRobotics; Advisor, Greentown Labs; Advisor, Massachusetts Innovation Network;  Director, Built Environment Coalition

Dr. Livada has been active in the innovation/entrepreneurship ecosystem for over 35 years. He has advised Global 300 type companies, research universities, regional organizations and startups on commercializing technology. Presently Val leads the Boston Center of the EU Enrich program, connecting European ventures to the US, and is working with MIT's Materials Research and Deshpande Centers to better connect. academia and industry. He is founder of the Corporate Entrepreneurship Network, sits on the Board of Directors of Aphios Corporation, The Built Environment Coalition, AutoHarvest Foundation and Monarch Antenna. He is also advisory board member for Greentown Labs, Mass Robotics, NU's Advanced Manufacturing Group, and Portugal's. BGI Incubator. Dr. Livada holds degrees from MIT and Tufts' Fletcher School and has taught at the Sloan School of Management at MIT and the Questrom School at BU.

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Larry Nannis

Business Coach, Massachusetts Small Business Development Center

Larry Nannis is a Certified Public Accountant, who retired from Katz, Nannis + Solomon, PC of Waltham, MA in May, 2016, after a career of 47 years in public accounting. Over the last 35 years, Larry has worked with entrepreneurial companies that all levels of growth curve, providing accounting, auditing, tax and financial management advice designed to help the owners successfully grow their businesses and reach their desired exit strategies. In addition, he had provided advice on accounting for Federal awards for companies that received funding from the government for Research and Development.  Since retirement Larry has sub-contracted with Basic Business Concepts of Pittsburgh, PA, a contract CFO firm working to provide CFP services on a team basis for growing companies of all levels of technology. He also served as "Expert-in-Residence" at TechSandBox, a technology incubator located in Hopkinton, MA. Larry was a VBA for Cohorts 8 and 11 of the National Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program. He is presently an adviser for the Southeast Region of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center. He has been a Judge for MassVentures START program at both the Phase I and II levels. The START program is a grant program designed to provide SBIR Phase II awardees with additional funding to cover those development costs not allowed by the Federal Government under the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Over the past year, Larry has been a Mentor for the first two cohorts on E For All - Roxbury, a program accelerating economic and social impact in communities nationwide, through inclusive entrepreneurship.  Larry has earned is B.S. in Business Administration from Boston University School of Management and his M.S. in Taxation from Bentley University.


Andrea Pion

Vice President, Marketing, The Davis Companies; Executive Chair of Marlborough Economic Development Corporation

Andrea was elected Chair of the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation in 2018, having served on its board since 2016; she had previously acted as both an Executive Committee and a Marketing Subcommittee member. She is the Vice President of Marketing at The DAVIS Companies, a Marlborough-based staffing firm and one of Massachusetts’ largest privately-owned companies. Since joining DAVIS in 1988, Andrea has launched and grown the firm’s Contract Administrative Placement division, developed and managed its national expansion plans, and directed and streamlined its New England operations. Currently, Andrea is focusing on DAVIS’ corporate nationwide branding, marketing and public relations initiatives. In 2016, she spearheaded the company’s rebranding, new website launch and alignment of various campaigns to generate strategic growth. 


Steven Saunders

Partner, Nutter McClennen and Fish, LLP; Angel Investor; Adjunct Faculty, Boston University

Steven Saunders is an angel investor, entrepreneur,  engineer,  university lecturer, and a mentor to other entrepreneurs.  In  his  day job as a patent attorney, he chairs Nutter's Intellectual Property Department where clients of all sizes rely on Steven's counsel for managing their IP issues,  including portfolio development, strategy and evaluation, patent preparation  and prosecution, freedom to operate, IP litigation, and licensing. Steven also conducts extensive due diligence analysis for angel and VC investments, mergers, and acquisitions. Drawing on his engineering and scientific background, Steven works with a wide range of technologies, including medical technologies, electronics, computer software and hardware, cloud computing, routing, IoT, alternative energy, high performance computing (HPC), integrated circuit design, MEMS, semiconductor fabrication, and materials processing.  Steven is a member of Hub Angels and Launchpad Ventures and has advised numerous startups on growth strategy and raising capital. A leader in the legal industry, Steven has been involved in a wide variety of educational support activities, including as. adjunct faculty at Boston University, and a mentor for MIT's $100K Business Plan Competition, Venture Mentor Service, Sandbox, and delta v program.


Judith Underwood

Co-Founder and CEO, Blue Institute Labs

Judith Underwood is an entrepreneur, educator, and environmentalist. She is the Co-Founder of the Blue Incubator (Blue Institute Labs, PBC), a Public Benefit Corporation, which will be the first BlueTech hub (Blue Innovation Center) on the US Eastern Seaboard with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean serving entrepreneurs, and the Blue Cluster of academia, government agencies and established companies who need share, collaborative on-sight services and reliable ocean access for testing, training, and teaching. Judith is also the Founder of its sister institution, the Blue Institute at Cape Cod Bay, a non-profit global hub for water education and research. Both the Blue Incubator and the Blue Institute focus on water security and climate change solutions. Judith has 20+ years of scientific development and technology transfer work at research and educational institutions including MIT, the United Nations, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. 

She has a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts Boston, a Master's from New York University, and additional graduate environmental studies from Antioch University New England. Judith lives on Cape Cod where she serves on the Regional Wastewater Taskforce and as an elected Water Commissioner for the Town of Harwich.

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Dr. Alina A. von Davier

Chief of Assessment, Duolingo; Founder & CEO, EdAstra Tech; President, International Association of Computerized Adaptive Testing

Alina von Davier, PhD. is a Chief of Assessment at Duolingo, an EdTech company, and Founder & CEO of EdAstra Tech, an education consulting company. At Duolingo von Davier and her team operate at the forefront of Computational Psychometrics. Her current research interests involve developing psychometric methodologies in support of digital-first assessments, such as the Duolingo English Test. Von Davier is an award winner author and sought after speaker. In 2020, von Davier was awarded a Career Award from the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). In 2018, she was a finalist for the “Visionary” Category from EdTech Digest. Prior to Duolingo she was a Chief Officer at ACT, where she led ACTNext, a large R&D-innovation unit. Before that von Davier was a Senior Research Director at Educational Testing Service (ETS) where she led the Computational Psychometrics Research Center. Prior to that, she led the Center for Psychometrics for International Tests, where she was responsible for both the psychometrics in support of international tests, TOEFL® and TOEIC®, and the scores reported to millions of test takers annually. Von Davier is currently the president of the International Association of Computerized Adaptive Testing (IACAT) and she serves on the board of directors for the Association of Test Publishers (ATP). She served on the Board of Directors for SmartSparrow, an adaptive learning startup. She has mentored for the Startup Weekend. She is a mentor in the via:mentor—Mentoring Programme for Female Postdoctoral Researchers, University of Kiel, Germany. She earned her doctorate in mathematics from Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany, and her master of science degree in mathematics from the University of Bucharest, Romania.

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