Carnegie Mellon University
raji sankar talk

James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Leadership Series

The James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Leadership Series provides a forum for the Carnegie Mellon University community and its entrepreneurial network partners in Pittsburgh to discuss issues central to entrepreneurial leadership. The series brings to campus entrepreneurial thought leaders from centers around the country to exchange views on leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation in today’s competitive, global economy. Speakers include successful entrepreneurs, investors and innovators who are focused on emerging and growing market sectors that are important for competitiveness in the global economy. All lectures are open to Carnegie Mellon faculty, students, staff and select guests.

2018-2019 Speakers

Ophir Tanz

James R. Swartz Leadership Series and the Dietrich College Entrepreneurship Speaker Series:

Ophir Tanz


The Paradigm-Shifting Power of AI

Wednesday, March 27, 2019
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
CMU, Tepper Quad, Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

Alumnus Ophir Tanz is an award-winning entrepreneur and technologist. He is the founder and CEO of GumGum, an AI company focused on computer vision, which is currently approaching $1B in value. Under Ophir's leadership, GumGum has revolutionized the digital media and sports marketing industries––and now has its sights on the healthcare category.

Prior to founding GumGum, Ophir co-founded and sold two successful digital media companies: the mobile-media sharing platform Mojungle and the award-winning interactive and branding agency Fluidesign.

An active member of the Los Angeles startup community, Ophir has been featured on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine and was named one of Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs in 2017. He holds a B.S. and an M.S. from Carnegie Mellon.

Raji Sankar

James R. Swartz Leadership Series:

Raji Sankar

Co-CEO, Wholesome International
Co-Founder, Choolaah Indian BBQ
Franchisee, Five Guys Burgers and Fries

FROM TECH TO TIKKA: An Honest & Frank Conversation About the  Delight & Difficulties of Entrepreneurship

Friday, March 22, 2019
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
CMU, Tepper Quad, Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

Raji co-founded Wholesome International in 2004, a multi-concept restaurant development company, which owns and operates Choolaah Indian BBQ restaurants and franchised Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants.

She is co-CEO and is responsible for people, operations and infrastructure. Previously, she held executive and operational leadership positions in technology and media companies. She has served as adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University and as a member on the Board of Directors for Pittsburgh Habitat for Humanity.

Raji earned a Bachelor’s degree in Metallurgy from VNIT India, Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

Homaira Akbari

W.L. Mellon Speaker: Dr. Homaira Akbari

(MSIA 1996), President and CEO of AKnowledge Partners LLC

Friday, Jan. 18
12-12:50 p.m.
Simmons Auditorium

Homaira Akbari is President and CEO of AKnowledge Partners, LLC, a global strategy advisory firm providing services to leading private equity funds and large corporations in the sectors of internet of things, cyber security, big data and analytics, and supply chain visibility. She serves on the board of directors of several Fortune 500 companies including Banco Santander S.A., Landstar System Inc., Gemalto N.V., and Veolia.

Akbari has held senior management roles in Fortune 1000 companies including Microsoft, Thales S.A., and Liberty Media subsidiary Trueposition. Dr. Akbari has served as the President and CEO of SkyBitz Inc., a leading provider of remote asset tracking and security solutions. Under her leadership, the company had record performance. She successfully sold SkyBitz to Telular Corporation.

She holds a Ph.D. with honors in particle physics from Tufts University and an MBA with distinction from the Tepper School. Throughout her life, Dr. Akbari has been active in and a contributor to many non-profit organizations. She has served as the Chair of Johns Hopkins University Physics and Astronomy Advisory Council, and established Akbari-Mack Postdoctoral Research Fellowship.

Club hosts — Tepper Women in Business, Smart Woman Securities, Consulting Club, and Graduate Entrepreneurship Club — and the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

2017-2018 Speakers

Sanjay Patel

James R. Swartz Leadership Series and the Dietrich Entrepreneur Speaker Series:

Sanjay Patel

Founder and CEO

Everything I Learned in the 17 Years
Since I Graduated

Wednesday, February 28, 2018
CMU, Baker Hall, 125 C

Sanjay Patel (DC’00) is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of GuestBook, a hospitality enablement software platform. 

Since receiving his degree in information systems, Patel has proven to be able to foresee opportunities new technologies have in business. He previously founded Perpetuating, a services company focused on the leading edge of technology, successfully taking the company from eCommerce, to business IT, to becoming one of the premiere companies in the mobility industry. Patel's career has covered the intersection of technology, business and the arts.

Rob Cochran

Rob Cochran

President and CEO
#1 Cochran

Stray the Course: Driving Change in Traditional Industry

Monday, November 13, 2017
12:30-1:30 pm
Tepper School of Business, Cooper Auditorium

Rob Cochran sits atop Western Pennsylvania’s most successful automotive dealer group. But when it comes to running the enterprise that bears his name, there is little sitting involved. President and chief executive officer since 1992, Rob directs all facets of the organization’s operations. His presence is ubiquitous. From boardroom to showrooms, in communities and on TV, Rob drives the company with vigorous leadership, spirit and vision.

Rob joined the family business as executive vice president in 1987 after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in Applied Mathematics and Industrial Management.

2016-2017 Speakers

Vishwas Prabhakara

James R. Swartz Leadership Series and the Dietrich Entrepreneur Speaker Series: Vishwas Prabhakara

General Manager
Yelp Reservations

What They Don’t Want You To Know

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Navigating through a career often requires making decisions without all of the information. Prabhakara, an information systems and economics major, will share some of the decisions he made throughout the first 15 years of his career, and what he wishes he knew when making those decisions.
Prior to joining Yelp Reservations, known as the easiest to use and fastest growing restaurant management and reservations software, Prabhakara was CEO of BeRecruited and helped millions of high school student-athletes pursue their passions while saving over half-a-billion dollars in tuition. He has also held senior level positions at ESPN, Digg and was founder and CEO of Fanvibe.


Adam Gross

Dietrich College Entrepreneurs Speaker Series:
Adam Gross

Chief Executive Officer

After CMU: Building a Career in Technology

November 1, 2016

Adam Gross has always charted his own course. Gross graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1994 with a B.S. degree in New Media Systems and Policy, which he designed through the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Student-Defined Major Program.

Co-sponsored by The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship

Deepak Ahuja

W.L. Mellon Speaker Series:
Deepak Ahuja

Chief Financial Officer, Retired
Tesla Motors

October 4, 2016

Deepak Ahuja (MSIA ‘93) served as Chief Financial Officer of Tesla Motors from 2008 to 2015. One of Tesla’s longest-serving executives, Deepak played an important role in the company’s rise from startup to highly-valued electric car maker and was its first finance chief.

Deepak holds an M.S.I.A. from Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, an M.S. in materials engineering from Northwestern University and a Bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from Banaras Hindu University in India.

Co-sponsored by The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship 

photo of Susan Gregg Koger

Susan Gregg Koger

Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer

September 22, 2016

ModCloth started as an outlet for Susan’s love of thrift shopping. In 2002, her then-boyfriend (and now husband), Eric, created a website to help her turn her thrifting hobby into a business. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006, they made ModCloth their full-time careers.

Boris Sofman and Hanns Teppeiner, Co-Founders of Anki

Boris Sofman & Hanns Tappeiner


September 2, 2016

Boris is co-founder and CEO of Anki, an artificial intelligence and robotics company focused on using these technologies to reinvent everyday consumer experiences. He earned a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.

Hanns is co-founder and President of Anki. Before moving to the US for his MS and PhD in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon, Hanns earned a Dipl. Ing. in Computer Science in Europe with minors in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. He is mainly interested in the application of Robotics and AI in real world consumer products.

April 19, 2016

Lane M. Bess
Board of Directors

Lane Bess

April 13, 2016

David Hersh (DC 1989, TPR 1993)
Peter Pezaris (S 1992)
Michael Gersh (TPR 1990)
Founders of, and Glip, Inc.

photo of David Hersh photo of Peter Pezaris photo of Michael Gersh

watch video | view photos

February 26, 2016

photo of Eric Vishria

Eric Vishria
General Partner

January 21, 2016

photo of Matthew Humphrey

Matthew Humphrey
Co-founder & CEO

view presentation deck

October 22, 2015


photo of Glen de Vries

Glen de Vries
Co-founder & President
Medidata Solutions

watch video

October 7, 2015

Javier Soltero

       Javier Soltero
       Acompli, Inc. (acquired by Microsoft)


October 8, 2014

photo of Monte Zweben

Monte Zweben
Co-founder & CEO
Splice Machine

watch video

January 23, 2014

photo of Matt Rogers

Matt Rogers
Founder & VP of Engineering
Nest Labs

September 12, 2013

photo of Lila Ibrahim

Lila Ibrahim
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

watch video

March 21, 2013

photo of Bill Campbell

Bill Campbell
Chairman of the Board, Intuit
Board Member, Apple

February 26, 2016

photo of Bill Seibel

Bill Seibel
Founder & CEO

February 8, 2013

photo of Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor
Founder & Managing Partner,
Venture Partner, Mayfield Fund

October 4, 2012

photo of Brian Frezza

Brian Frezza
Co-founder & Co-CEO
Emerald Therapeutics