Techstars Foundercon 2020 Techstars Foundercon 2020

Invitation to Founders: Holding the VC Community Accountable to Funding More Diverse Entrepreneurs


Kristen Sonday
Paladin, Co-Founder and COO - Techstars Chicago 2017

Kristen Sonday is the co-founder and COO of Paladin, whose mission is to increase access to justice by helping legal teams run more efficient pro bono programs. In her role, she works with law firms and Fortune 500s to staff, manage, and track their pro bono programs, focusing on the organization's impact. In addition, Kristen currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Legal Services Corporation’s Emerging Leaders Council, working to highlight the value of legal aid in the United States.

Prior to Paladin, Kristen worked on international criminal matters for the U.S. Department of Justice and served on the founding team of a New York City-based tech start-up. As a result of her work to close the justice gap, she has been named a 2017 ABA Woman in Legal Tech to Watch, ABA Journal Legal Rebel, and FastCase50 honoree. Kristen also served as a Code2040 Entrepreneur-in-Residence, supporting black and Latinx founders, and co-hosts the Latinx Founders Collective to increase diversity in tech.

Stella Ashaolu
WeSolv, Founder and CEO - Techstars Seattle 2018

Stella Ashaolu is the Founder and CEO of WeSolv, a hiring platform connecting companies to more diverse candidates and leveraging performance data from real projects to reduce bias.  As an alumna of the renowned Techstars Accelerator, Winner of the USC Marshall’s New Venture Seed Competition, and Startup of the Year finalist, WeSolv has been recognized for its innovative approach and data-driven approach to diverse hiring. WeSolv is currently the largest network of diverse MBA level candidates with partnerships with leading universities, diversity organizations, and fortune 100 company partners.  

Prior to devoting her full time to WeSolv, Stella earned her MBA from USC, Marshall School of Business and went on to serve as a Senior Management Consultant in Gallup’s Chicago office. There, she led teams in using data to solve companies' most challenging issues around enterprise performance and optimizing marketing, operations, and workforce strategies.  She has 9+ years of experience in growth strategy, client development, and operations. 

Stella also holds a BS in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles.  While studying at UCLA, she created and scaled Westside Student Tutors (WST), an affordable tutoring company aimed at providing supplemental education college prep assistance for elementary and high school students. Stella is devoted to the intersection of social impact and value creation and has devoted her career to advancing such.  

Ablorde Ashigbi
4Degrees, CEO - Techstars Chicago 2017

Ablorde is the CEO of 4Degrees, a Chicago-based technology company, applying machine intelligence to help teams in relationship-driven industries manage their most important source of opportunity - their professional networks.  When he's not doing that, you can usually find him lifting weights, reading books or eating BBQ.

Garry Cooper
Rheaply, CEO - Techstars Chicago 2018

Dr. Garry Cooper is the CEO/Co-founder of Rheaply, Inc. Dr. Cooper is also a Scholar at Google for Entrepreneurs and an Adj. Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Department of Physiology. Before Rheaply, Inc., Dr. Cooper was a Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young, LLP in the Life Science Advisory practice where he worked in performance improvement and supply chain for pharmaceutical clients. Before joining Ernst & Young and his current position in the physiology department at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Cooper was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in the department of physiology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, where he worked with Profs. Richard Silverman, Eric Weiss, and D. James Surmeier in furthering efforts to develop and identify a therapeutic measure to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Before his postdoctoral training, Dr. Cooper was a consultant at Promidian Consulting, a NY-based pharmaceutical consulting firm. In Promidian’s Chicago office, Dr. Cooper worked on projects concerning late-stage clinical trial/pre-market launch strategy. Before joining Promidian, Dr. Cooper worked on drug development for Parkinson’s disease at Northwestern University. Much of this work was done while completing his PhD in neuroscience at Northwestern University under the supervision of Richard B. Silverman (inventor of Lyrica®) and D. James Surmeier. While at Northwestern University, Dr. Cooper received several awards for scientific merit and presentation, published in high-impacting peer-reviewed international journals (i.e., Nature Communication), and participated in a drug development effort that led to a US patent. Before coming to Northwestern, Dr. Cooper worked in the department of chemistry at Indiana University where he facilitated the organic teaching laboratories. Prior to joining the chemistry department, Dr. Cooper was a student at Indiana University completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Chemistry.

Neal Sales-Griffin
Techstars, Managing Director - Chicago

A few Black and Latinx Techstars Alumni are building a public coalition of founders to hold the VC community accountable to funding more diverse entrepreneurs in light of the conversation around racial inequity. Join the conversation to learn more about how to take action against racism and be a part of this movement.