Our Leaders


 
Photo of Karl R. LaPan Karl R. LaPan Director, Incubation Services

Karl leads both of UF Innovate’s award-winning incubators, Sid Martin Biotech in Alachua and The Hub, a mixed-use incubator, in Gainesville. Under his leadership, UF Innovate | Incubation Services provides a place and a program, coaching and connections to give emerging companies the best chance for ongoing success.

Before joining UF Innovate in late spring of 2021, Karl served as president and CEO of the NIIC, a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since its inception in 2000. Like UF Innovate’s Incubation Services, the NIIC supports entrepreneurs as they plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures so companies can “move ideas into action.”

Under LaPan’s direction, entrepreneurs through the NIIC have launched 499 products, applied for 196 patents (most have been granted), created 2,351 jobs, and attracted more than $100 million in grants and capital. He also established a Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center to serve women business owners more effectively, built a portfolio of inclusive support grants to give underrepresented groups greater access to entrepreneurial services, and launched a Kiva Hub in collaboration with the City of Fort Wayne and two other organizations to crowdfund inclusive and diverse entrepreneurs in Northeast Indiana.

LaPan graduated with a master’s degree in human resources from American University after earning a bachelor’s degree in business management from Franklin Pierce University. He has a number of certifications related to entrepreneurship, mentoring, emotional intelligence, leadership and management, and financial management. He is a licensed real estate broker.

Photo of Jennifer Harrell Jennifer Harrell Assistant Director, The Hub

Jennifer manages the day-to-day operations of the business incubator in order to facilitate a supportive and encouraging environment for aspiring entrepreneurs to grow. She works with UF Incubation Services leadership to meet occupancy and revenue goals; implement programs, new initiatives, and special projects; monitor client performance; meet social media metrics; and establish operational goals and objectives that align with the overall strategic plan. She oversees facilities, reception, financial and contractual functions, and event management for The Hub.

Jennifer is an experienced manager with a history of working in both the private and public sectors of sales, hospitality, real estate law, finance, and accounting. She has been with The Hub since 2016 and was part of the team when The Hub was awarded the 2018 International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Global Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year award.

Jennifer obtained her accounting degree from Fisher School of Accounting at UF and is currently the Treasurer of the Florida Incubation Association. She holds an Incubation Management Certificate from the InBIA as well as both Fiscal and HR certificates from UF, and was a Leadership Gainesville Graduate (Go Green!).

Photo of Elliott Welker Elliott Welker Assistant Director, Sid Martin Bio

Elliott works on programs and progress for startup companies and recently launched the Innovate NaviGator pilot program, which includes gathering and posting information for communitywide events for entrepreneurs.

Before joining UF Innovate, Elliott was a business development intern for ReliOx Corporation, a resident startup at Sid Martin Biotech; a legal assistant for Robert S. Griscti, Esq., assisting him in his practice of white-collar criminal law, criminal defense, federal and state litigation, professional licensing and appeals; and volunteered with the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

He earned his BA in history with a minor in teaching English as a second language (2013) and MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing (2017) from UF. He was a Bob Graham Center for Public Service Student Fellow and Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research MBA Fellow.

 

Accelerate Staff

Photo of Lauren Asmus Lauren Asmus Client Experience Manager

As UF Innovate | Incubation Services’ first Client Experience Manager, Lauren Asmus is proud to offer premier service to all Hub and Sid Martin Biotech clients and affiliates.

When she isn’t problem-solving or finding ways to surprise and delight her 80+ startup portfolio, Lauren fine-tunes the incubators’ innovative programming and offerings. She also serves as the Innovation NaviGator, helping all entrepreneurs land where they belong by partnering with and promoting state and community support organizations.

Lauren brings 10 years of experience in communications, community organizing, public outreach strategy, and program development. Her diverse portfolio includes work in the nonprofit, corporate, public affairs, and entrepreneurial space. She previously served as the Director of startGNV, a nonprofit dedicated to growing the innovation ecosystem of Greater Gainesville, and as the Communications Director for CareerSource North Central Florida, the region’s local workforce board.

Lauren earned her master’s degree in Communications and Media from Florida State University and an undergraduate degree from the University of West Florida. She is a structure-loving free spirit and uses her weird powers for organizing the world’s dreamers, artists, and innovators.

Lauren’s daily goal: bump our international award-winning reputation to the intergalactic next level of greatness.

Photo of Sara Dagen Sara Dagen Marketing & Communications Manager

Sara handles marketing and communications for all of the entities under UF Innovate. On any given day, she might mine news about our startups or innovators to share on social media, edit website content or find a fix for one more glitch, create flyers or documents for events, plan events, or write articles about the exciting happenings at UF Innovate.

After joining the UF Innovate team in 2014, Sara worked her way up from a technical editor to the communications manager. In these capacities, Sara is forced to use both sides of her brain, interpreting science speak to communicate to a business audience. Previously, she used both sides of her brain teaching Algebra and English to middle and high school students. She also worked at The Gainesville Sun as a writer and editor.

Sara holds a B.S. in journalism and a M.Ed. in educational technology from the University of Florida.

Photo of Lissette Garces Lissette Garces Accountant

Lissette is The Hub’s accounting extraordinaire. She prepares monthly invoices for Hub clients and maintains the sub-ledger accounting system. Lissette processes Pcard transactions, expense reports, accounts payable, and monthly reconciliations reports. She assists the incubator manager with financial reports and monthly auditing as well as provides support for all internal and external Hub events.

Before joining The Hub in 2017, Lissette worked in many industries including a law firm in Miami and some of the best food and beverage establishments in Chicago. She has many years of experience in customer service, sales, marketing/social media, billing, and administration.

Lissette graduated from Florida International University in Miami with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has completed her Fiscal Management Certificate at UF and is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish.

Photo of Jennifer Harrell Jennifer Harrell Assistant Director, The Hub

Jennifer manages the day-to-day operations of the business incubator in order to facilitate a supportive and encouraging environment for aspiring entrepreneurs to grow. She works with UF Incubation Services leadership to meet occupancy and revenue goals; implement programs, new initiatives, and special projects; monitor client performance; meet social media metrics; and establish operational goals and objectives that align with the overall strategic plan. She oversees facilities, reception, financial and contractual functions, and event management for The Hub.

Jennifer is an experienced manager with a history of working in both the private and public sectors of sales, hospitality, real estate law, finance, and accounting. She has been with The Hub since 2016 and was part of the team when The Hub was awarded the 2018 International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) Global Mixed-Use Incubator of the Year award.

Jennifer obtained her accounting degree from Fisher School of Accounting at UF and is currently the Treasurer of the Florida Incubation Association. She holds an Incubation Management Certificate from the InBIA as well as both Fiscal and HR certificates from UF, and was a Leadership Gainesville Graduate (Go Green!).

Photo of Tess Hutchins Tess Hutchins Receptionist

Tess works part-time at the reception desk. She greets visitors and assists clients with a variety of questions. Tess also checks out resources to new employees and helps with the on-boarding process. Most important, Tess makes sure coffee levels stay above emergency levels.

Before accepting her receptionist position, Tess interned with the UF Innovate | The Hub administrative team where she completed numerous projects to help improve building operations. She also worked part-time at the University of Florida’s Office of Admissions and tutored at a local Gainesville elementary school.

Tess is a full-time student at UF, where she will earn a bachelor’s of science in accounting as well as her master’s degree in accounting.

Photo of Courtney Janka Courtney Janka Facilities Manager

Courtney oversees the maintenance, housekeeping and general upkeep of the 100,000 square foot technology incubator. She manages the inventory of building assets, space allocation, as well as the accounts payable approver. She also serves as the liaison between the resident clients at The Hub and UF departments such as Information Technology, Facilities Services and Environmental Health and Safety. Courtney interfaces with clients on a daily basis to solve problems, manage space and create growth opportunities. She also handles event management, including room layouts, catering management and scheduling. She manages data input and data management for IncutrackTM, the contact management system for The Hub.

Before joining UF Innovate in 2017, Courtney was the Facilities and Administration Manager at Naylor Association Solutions located in Gainesville. She was responsible for a 60,000 square foot commercial building, served as executive assistant to the CEO, as well as coordinated events. Prior to relocating to Gainesville, Courtney worked for 13 years in the print media industry in a variety of roles including media buying, sales, and production.

Courtney earned her B.S in advertising from the University of Florida.

Photo of Karl R. LaPan Karl R. LaPan Director, Incubation Services

Karl leads both of UF Innovate’s award-winning incubators, Sid Martin Biotech in Alachua and The Hub, a mixed-use incubator, in Gainesville. Under his leadership, UF Innovate | Incubation Services provides a place and a program, coaching and connections to give emerging companies the best chance for ongoing success.

Before joining UF Innovate in late spring of 2021, Karl served as president and CEO of the NIIC, a non-profit entrepreneurial support organization in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since its inception in 2000. Like UF Innovate’s Incubation Services, the NIIC supports entrepreneurs as they plan, launch, and grow successful business ventures so companies can “move ideas into action.”

Under LaPan’s direction, entrepreneurs through the NIIC have launched 499 products, applied for 196 patents (most have been granted), created 2,351 jobs, and attracted more than $100 million in grants and capital. He also established a Women’s Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center to serve women business owners more effectively, built a portfolio of inclusive support grants to give underrepresented groups greater access to entrepreneurial services, and launched a Kiva Hub in collaboration with the City of Fort Wayne and two other organizations to crowdfund inclusive and diverse entrepreneurs in Northeast Indiana.

LaPan graduated with a master’s degree in human resources from American University after earning a bachelor’s degree in business management from Franklin Pierce University. He has a number of certifications related to entrepreneurship, mentoring, emotional intelligence, leadership and management, and financial management. He is a licensed real estate broker.

Photo of Allen Morgan Allen Morgan Maintenance Specialist II

Allen provides maintenance services for both The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. He maintains and repairs our #hubsweethome in order to support our innovation ecosystem. Allen obtains proposals from private vendors and coordinates with UF Facilities Services, PD&C, contractors, and program clients on a wide range of building projects. He prepares offices and labs for new startups, manages bio-hazard waste activities, performs water and autoclave testing, and resolves various building issues.

Before joining Incubation Services at UF, Allen worked at the UF Warrington College of Business. He has also been a business owner, and was the facilities maintenance engineer for Le Triomphe Golf Club, a private golf club that hosts the PGA Tour’s Louisiana Open each year.

Photo of Brittany Mosher Brittany Mosher Administrative Support Assistant

Brittany provides general administrative functions for the Sid Martin Biotech, including handling reception, scheduling meetings, coordinating calendars, preparing correspondence, and providing routine office support.

Before joining the team at Sid Martin, Brittany worked in customer service and multiple medical environments.

Brittany has earned two A.S. degrees from Santa Fe College, one in health information technology and the other in cardiovascular technology.

Photo of Veronica Talavera Veronica Talavera Public Relations Specialist II

Veronica is the public relations specialist for UF Innovate. In that role, she handles a number of projects from Tech Licensing, The Hub, Sid Martin Biotech, Ventures, and Pathways, which includes working with student interns, editing and marketing non-confidential summaries of innovations from UF researchers, creating flyers, updating the UF Innovate website, promoting UF and incubator startups on the website and on social media, and so much more. She also reaches out to media contacts across campus and beyond in an effort to build relationships between UF Innovate and them. The goal, of course, is to share the good news about UF Innovate and all those touched by it as widely as possible.

Veronica has gained extensive experience in the production of various marketing and public relations materials, large-scale event planning, marketing campaigns, and research. As program coordinator for the Collaboratory for Women Innovators (now known as the Collaboratory for Inclusive Entrepreneurship), Veronica gained experience working with entrepreneurs and innovators as well as a passion for the entire innovation ecosystem that exists under the UF Innovate umbrella. She is a former Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for a supermarket chain and a Public Relations Executive for a full-service, global creative boutique that specializes in marketing and communications strategies, among other roles in her field of expertise, in Honduras.

Veronica obtained her bachelor’s degree in communications and advertising from the Central American Technological University (UNITEC) in Honduras, a specialization in public relations and organizational communication at the Journalism and Advertising University (CUPP) in Mexico, and her master’s degree in marketing management in UNITEC.

Photo of Elliott Welker Elliott Welker Assistant Director, Sid Martin Bio

Elliott works on programs and progress for startup companies and recently launched the Innovate NaviGator pilot program, which includes gathering and posting information for communitywide events for entrepreneurs.

Before joining UF Innovate, Elliott was a business development intern for ReliOx Corporation, a resident startup at Sid Martin Biotech; a legal assistant for Robert S. Griscti, Esq., assisting him in his practice of white-collar criminal law, criminal defense, federal and state litigation, professional licensing and appeals; and volunteered with the North Central Florida Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

He earned his BA in history with a minor in teaching English as a second language (2013) and MBA focusing on entrepreneurship and marketing (2017) from UF. He was a Bob Graham Center for Public Service Student Fellow and Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research MBA Fellow.

Photo of Chris Wiley Chris Wiley Technical Services Manager

Chris is the Sid Martin Biotech technical services manager. He provides facilities management, laboratory equipment supervision and training, and coordination of laboratory management.

He is a Marine Corps Veteran and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in chemistry from UF. He is a trained analytical chemist and also operates as an independent consultant for analytical testing, drug development projects, and regulatory strategy. In the past, he has worked as a contract researcher and a math/chemistry tutor.

Chris has attended several professional continued education short courses on subjects such as scientific instrument qualification/calibration/maintenance, gas chromatography (GC) and liquid chromatography (HPLC and Prep-LC), quality assurance (QA) and internal auditing procedures, mass spectrometry and cell culture.

Outside of his career, he is a proud husband and father as well as an active performer in the UF Classical Guitar Ensemble. He also repairs/modifies/upgrades electric guitars and related musical equipment, and enjoys camping and hiking.

X