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Session A

2021 Dealmakers Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2021 Dealmakers Award Winners!


Edward Balassanian
President & CEO

With more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry, Edward Balassanian has founded and funded numerous startups ranging from operating systems to consumer packaged goods. He most recently founded Aimi, the groundbreaking new music platform that allows fans to enjoy immersive listening experiences, while providing artists a new medium to create and monetize AI-powered music. In addition to Aimi, Edward has founded startups including BeComm Corporation, a pioneer in building operating systems for digital devices, Endanik - an IP centric incubator - Vital Juice and Strings Inc, among others. A graduate of the University of Washington with Distinction in Computer Science, Edward started his career at Microsoft where he worked from 1990-1995. He is the named inventor on over 80 patents in technologies ranging from gesture interfaces, networking, distributed processing, and digital music synthesis.

Ross Buhrdorf
Co-founder & CEO

Ross Buhrdorf is the Founder & CEO of ZenBusiness PBC. He has over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, technology leader and c-level exec, angel investor and board member, and has helped transform the way consumers interact with technology. As CEO of ZenBusiness, Ross is helping historically underserved small business owners start, run, and grow their companies through a single, comprehensive guided platform that provides all the tools they need to get their business off the ground and running. Prior to ZenBusiness, Ross was CTO of HomeAway (now Vrbo), a vacation rental site.

Ash Cintas
President & CEO
City Shoppe

Ash Cintas is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for empowering small business owners with the tools they need to succeed in a digital-first world. She is the Founder and CEO of City Shoppe, a SaaS-enabled, values-based marketplace that enables people to shop locally, from wherever they are. Highlighting BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and woman-owned business owners from major cities across America, Ash is focused on servicing conscious consumers and helping small business owners thrive in the digital era of commerce.

Cole Crawford
Founder & CEO
Vapor IO



Braden Fineberg
RoundUp App Inc.

Braden Fineberg is the Founder and CEO of Flourish Change, Inc. After starting the company while getting a Master's of Data Science at the University of Pennsylvania, he pursued it full-time post-graduation. In the two years since, he acquired RoundUp App and rebranded the combined entity before securing a Seed Round of $2.3M from bi-coastal investors and venture capital firms; as an Austin local, the round was led by Mike Dodd at Silverton Partners.

Matt Ford

Matt Ford - CEO - Serial Entrepreneur in the Tech and Live Music space - founded while in College which grew to hundreds of thousands of users and serviced some of the biggest promoters, agencies and music brands in the country. Went on to fund Solstice - part concert promoter part tech company. While building a concert promoter brand, booking thousands of concerts and building Solstice Festival, Ford was also building software to match venues and artists and streamline the planning of events. Prism ultimately emerged from this process.

Kelly Gasink
Austin Cocktails

Kelly is a seasoned entrepreneur who has Co-founded four companies, including two that were sold to publicly traded companies. For her early entrepreneurial successes, the Wall Street Journal named her one of its “Faces of a New Generation of Leaders and Entrepreneurs.” She currently is Co-founder of Austin Cocktails. Austin Cocktails is a line of natural, bottled, craft cocktails developed on the belief the time had come for a beautiful, craft cocktail to be as easy as nice wine or premium beer. Kelly graduated from Stanford with degrees in Economics and Latin American Studies and later earned a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard.

Henrik Johansson
Founder & CEO

Henrik Johansson is a serial entrepreneur who co-founded and built the product company Boundless into a $100M company. Currently he is the co-founder and CEO of Gembah, a product development platform and marketplace. Johansson specializes in technology-enabled services, marketplaces, and software as a service. He is an expert on scaling startups, building world-class teams, culture, and scalable processes and infrastructure and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Austin Business Journal, and was named Counselor's 2017 Person of the Year.

Grant Kornman
Managing Partner
NCK Capital

Grant is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of NCK Capital (“NCK”). He is a seasoned investment professional with decades of investment and operating experience. He has helped build NCK into a unique private equity firm that generates world-class returns through the individual attention of its partners.

Before NCK, Grant was the Florida Development Partner for The Lane Company, a large multifamily management and development company in the Southeast that acquired/developed $1B and $2B of assets per year. Grant also founded several companies and was profiled on CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. He was also the Director of Business Development at Isadra, an enterprise software company acquired by VertcialNet (NASDAQ: VERT). He began his career as an Associate at Sterling Partners, a private equity firm with over $4B AUM.

Grant has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Finance from Georgetown University and is a member of the Lone Star Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO).

Michael Kornman
Managing Partner
NCK Capital

Michael is passionate about running companies, building effective teams and navigating dynamically changing industries. He has founded many companies including MoneyToGo, HelpMeToBuy, ASAP Air Services and Quickfire Restaurants. These companies are leaders in their respective industries, which include direct-response marketing, consumer finance, airfreight and restaurants. Michael’s vision and leadership has guided these companies through many strategic milestones including securing outside equity and debt financing from institutional investors, obtaining mission critical regulatory approvals, company recapitalizations and company sales. He has led companies with as little as a few million in revenue to over $60 million in annual revenue. These experiences and successes enable Michael to provide meaningful insight to companies at every stage of their corporate development regardless of their size.

Brandon Metcalf
CEO & Founder

Brandon Metcalf is the CEO and Founder at Place, an agile finance platform for the entire company. He recognized the need for a dynamic financial engagement solution as a founder at Talent Rover (acquired by Bullhorn). He started Place to help businesses of all sizes leverage accurate, real-time financial insights to make better decisions.

Derek Nixon
President & CEO
Varel Energy Solutions

Derek Nixon is the current CEO and President of Varel Energy Solutions. He is a dedicated, decisive leader and outstanding team builder with extensive experience both domestically and internationally, Derek has a proven track record of growing top and bottom lines in drilling and completions tools around the world.

Derek started working in the oilfield 14 years ago with Varel Oil Gas Drill Bits in the Barnett Shale as a field sales professional. Derek worked through various levels of responsibility towards becoming a US Regional Manager where he was responsible for the majority of US markets. Following his management role, he took a position in Houston as the Director of Western Hemisphere for Downhole Products, a legacy subsidiary of Varel. In doing so, Derek gained valuable international experience. He was instrumental in setting up the structure of distributers in Latin America along with the sales team and offices in North America. In his most previous position as Vice President for Downhole Products, he was responsible for every facet of the global operating business, including sales, operations, engineering, manufacturing and finance.

Conference Location

Dealmakers Conference
Austin, Texas
Tel: (800) 988-4726