February 20, 2020

Newly Appointed Chair Kelly Gay & CEO Allyson Eman Reveal Additions to Board and Plans for Venture Atlanta 2020

Throughout Venture Atlanta’s 13-year history, our board members and leadership team have worked tirelessly to connect companies to capital — a mission that has since expanded beyond the southeast to connect companies at all stages of growth from across the country with the resources, network, clients, partnerships, and talent they need to grow.

In the process of forging connections and facilitating growth, we’ve managed to incite some growth of our own. Looking back, Venture Atlanta started with just 20 funds and a couple hundred attendees. Now, the conference boasts over 1,000 annual attendees with over 250 funds that have led to $4.4 billion in funding raised and $14 billion in successful exits.  

In 2020, Venture Atlanta extends that growth to our leadership team, announcing a new chairman, CEO, and additions to the Board of Directors — all moves that demonstrate Venture Atlanta’s evolution since its humble beginnings back in 2007.

Kelly Gay Steps In as Chair of Venture Atlanta 2020

During the 2019 conference, Venture Atlanta announced Kelly Gay as this year’s chair.  Serving as an active VA board member for many years, Gay has extensive experience as the chairman and board member of many organizations, including the 35,000+ member Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), KnowledgeStorm, OnBoard, Omnilink Systems, Atlanta CEO Council, 1105 Media, and more. In addition to chairing Venture Atlanta, she is currently the chairman and CEO of OnBoard and vice chair of TAG, and has recently been named as an Atlanta Top Entrepreneur by TIE and an inaugural recipient of both IoT Now’s Top Women of IoT and Connected World’s Top Women of M2M. 

Over the years, VA has enjoyed remarkable support from all constituencies involved in the conference – including the investment community, emerging and growth companies, and partners – and Gay is focused on ensuring VA 2020 continues to innovate, provide new experiences, and be “fresh” and relevant in order to serve those communities well.

“We have a responsibility to continue providing superior programming and content while making it easier for entrepreneurs to find investment and for investors to find great companies,” said Gay. “Our 2020 plans are already in the works to accomplish that.”

Former VA Director Allyson Eman Ascends to CEO

Working alongside Gay to support these initiatives is newly appointed CEO Allyson Eman. In her previous role as Executive Director, which she has held since 2007, Eman worked diligently to manage all aspects of the conference, including everything from contract negotiations to event logistics. 

“She [Allyson Eman] has been the one constant, the one point of consistency that connects all of the pieces that make up Venture Atlanta,” said Gay of Eman’s promotion. “With the support of our partners and colleagues, she has taken Venture Atlanta from a small conference with under 200 attendees to the incredible experience that it is today.”

Her promotion is a testament to the conference’s growth as well as her own, and Eman hopes to continue that trajectory for Venture Atlanta in 2020. 

“We want Venture Atlanta to always be relevant; to be the go-to place for companies raising capital,” Eman shared. “Our mission from day one [connecting companies to capital] hasn’t changed — we just want to continue to elevate that experience.” 

“Part of that,” she continued, “is expanding to different markets [outside of the southeast]. Last year, about a third of our participating companies were from out of state. That was huge, and we want to continue that reach for 2020.”  

Founding Member David Hartnett Weighs In

David Hartnett, the chief economic development officer at the Metro Atlanta Chamber and one of Venture Atlanta’s founding members, is fully on board with leadership. In addition to supporting Eman, he plans to drive diversity in 2020 outreach, expand upon the notion that VA is “just a conference,” and create year-round activities — all to define Venture Atlanta as the premier eastern conference to attend. 

We are focused on diversity and inclusion through Venture Atlanta by increasing the number of entrepreneurs who have an opportunity to showcase and present their companies to the influential investors and funds in attendance at our world-class event,” Hartnett said. “Driving inclusive innovation and inclusive capital is critical as we realize the full opportunity that Atlanta can provide to entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.”

New Board Members Provide Valuable Insight

Further supporting the mission of Gay, Eman, and Hartnett are two new additions to the Venture Atlanta board: Rachel Spasser and Richard Fraim. 

Hailing from the world of private equity, Spasser brings key insights to the table that are invaluable for companies in the later stages of growth. You may also remember her as the interviewer in the Scott Chacon fireside chat at VA 2019. As the Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer for the Accel-KKR Consulting Group, she will undoubtedly be a key player as Venture Atlanta seeks to partners with larger companies.

“For years I’ve watched Venture Atlanta grow and become a bigger and more impactful event,” Spasser said. “I’m thrilled to now be a board member and have the opportunity to contribute directly.”

In regards to her private equity expertise, Spasser said: “Coming from private equity, we look at capital-raising as an ecosystem. Venture Atlanta has been about connecting companies to the right capital for their initial fundraising. Private equity can provide capital in the later stages so that companies can continue to grow as independent entities while providing liquidity to stakeholders. I think keeping local software businesses independent longer could have huge dividends for Atlanta.”

Richard Fraim, on the other hand, has experience with earlier-stage financings and is currently filling a gap in Atlanta  by investing in companies at the seed and pre-Series A stages. As a partner at Knoll Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in technology-enabled businesses focused on B2B markets, Fraim will be a key player in helping Venture Atlanta continue to connect with younger companies. Previously, he served as President of Ellis Capital and is currently involved in many mentorship roles within the local technology space. 

“Venture Atlanta has grown so much and there’s so much momentum behind it,” said Fraim. “But as venture funds have grown in size, it has become increasingly challenging for early-stage companies to raise Series A rounds. We want to help pre-Series A companies by providing intermediary financing that enables these businesses to grow and eventually get to a point where they can raise capital from larger funds.”

The expansion of this year’s expertise means that Venture Atlanta is not just a “start-up funding conference,” but a path for entrepreneurs in all phases of growth. It’s also cementing VA’s status as one of the leading tech conferences in the nation. 

Stay tuned as we prepare for Venture Atlanta 2020 with our talented team.

Meet the 2020 Board:

Kelly GayKelly Gay – 2020 Chairman

Numerex Corp.

Kelly Gay is the chief operating officer of Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ: NMRX), a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). She was previously the president of Security Solutions at Numerex, where she led the introduction of new offerings in existing businesses, the acceleration of revenue growth, the expansion of strategic partnerships, and the launch of a new personal tracking line of business.  Read More >>

Alex EstevezAlex Estevez – 2019 Chairman

Accel Partners

Mr. Estevez is a Venture Partner with Accel Partners, a global leader in venture capital with past investments in top companies such as Atlassian, Dropbox, Facebook, Jet.com, Lynda.com, Qualtrics, Slack, Squarespace, and Spotify. As Venture Partner, Mr. Estevez helps existing portfolio companies based outside of Silicon Valley with their growth opportunities and scale challenges. Read More >>

Mike BeckerMike Becker – 2018 Chairman

Vocap Investment Partners

Mike loves the entrepreneurial process and has over 20 years of investing, technology and operations experience, much of it working with growth stage companies. Prior to joining Vocap, Mike served as the COO of Triton Digital’s Applications & Services Division. Read More >>

Rachel Spasser

Rachel Spasser

Accel-KKR Consulting Group

Rachel Spasser is a Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer for the Accel-KKR Consulting Group. In this role, Rachel provides leadership across commercial functions including strategy, sales, marketing and business development for Accel-KKR’s portfolio companies. Prior to joining Accel-KKR’s Consulting Group, Rachel was the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Ariba. At Ariba, she led the design and execution of the company’s marketing strategy and programs. Read More >>

Richard Fraim

Richard Fraim

Knoll Ventures Fund I LP

Rich is a General Partner of Knoll Ventures Fund I LP. Knoll Ventures is an Atlanta, GA based early-stage venture capital fund that invests in technology businesses focused on B2B markets. Knoll primarily invests in pre-Series A companies that have demonstrated customer traction and identified actionable near-term growth initiatives. Read More >>

Thiago Olson Thiago Olson

Engage Ventures

Thiago is the Managing Director of Engage, a growth platform and venture fund established in partnership with 11 leading Fortune 1000 corporations. Thiago is also a Venture Partner at Tech Square Ventures focused on early-stage technology investments. Read More >>

Jim DouglassJim Douglass

Fulcrum Equity Partners

Mr. Douglass is a Partner of Fulcrum Equity Partners and brings more than 25 years of operations management, strategic development and financial experience with high-growth financial services, marketing services, and healthcare companies.  Read More >>

Dave PayneDave Payne

Techstars Atlanta

David Payne is a startup founder & investor who has been working on startups since the mid-90s in NYC, San Francisco, London and (for the last decade) Atlanta. He is currently the Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta. Before that, he founded Switchyards, one of the main startup hubs in Atlanta, and Scoutmob, one of the most successful consumer startups to launch from Atlanta. Read More >>

Phyllis NewhousePhyllis Newhouse

Xtreme Solutions Inc.

Phyllis W. Newhouse is the Chief Executive Officer of Xtreme Solutions, Inc., an end-to-end IT services and solutions provider, with offerings that range from IT business consulting to state-of-the-art cyber security consulting and forensic analysis. Phyllis co-founded Xtreme Solutions in 2002 upon retiring from the United States Army as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer.  Read More >>

Vanessa LarcoVanessa Larco

New Enterprise Associates

Vanessa Larco joined NEA as a Partner in 2016 and focuses on enterprise and consumer investing. Prior to joining NEA, she was the Director of Product Management for web and mobile apps at Box (NYSE: BOX) where she worked on building the next generation of productivity apps. Read More >>

John AleJohn Ale


John joined NMP as a Vice President in 2015. He supports the firm’s investments in software and information technology companies. John currently serves as a board observer for MacStadium, PureWrx, Red Canary, TapInfluence and TrendKite. Read More >>

David HartnettDavid Hartnett

Metro Atlanta Chamber

As chief economic development officer at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, David leads the team focused on the retention, recruitment, and expansion of existing and start-up companies within key clusters, e.g., Mobility, IoT, Cybersecurity, Fin Tech, Digital Media, Supply Chain, Bioscience, and Health IT. Read More >>

Paul IaffaldanoPaul Iaffaldano

BIP Capital

With over 30 years of experience in building the value of market-leading companies, Paul Iaffaldano is managing director at BIP Capital, recognized as one of the most active and successful venture investment firms in the southeastern United States. Prior to joining BIP Capital, Iaffaldano also founded another highly successful venture firm, Accelerant Venture Capital, which merged with BIP Capital in 2017. Read More >>

Raj RajanPalaniswamy “Raj” Rajan

CTW Venture Partners

Palaniswamy “Raj” Rajan is currently the Managing Partner of CTW Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital fund which invests in and assists seed and early-stage entrepreneurs in all industries in Atlanta and the South Eastern United States who are engaged in disruptive innovations and technologies. Read More >>

Larry WilliamsLarry Williams

Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)

Larry K. Williams, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Williams, A recognized leader in economic development, brings more than 20 years of experience in global branding, international trade and finance, public and industrial policy, and administration and management to one of the largest state technology trade associations in North America. Read More >>

Allyson EmanAllyson Eman – Chief Executive Officer

Venture Atlanta

Allyson Eman has more than 25 years of marketing, communications, sales leadership and business development skills. In 2007, Allyson took on the role of Executive Director for the newly created Venture Atlanta annual conference. Allyson has worked with key business leaders from Metro Atlanta Chamber, Atlanta CEO Council and Technology Association of Georgia to build the premier venture capital conference in the South. Read More >>

Share This:
Recommended Reads: