The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship is dedicated to advancing education and support for Augsburg students and graduates in the disciplines of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Its focus will be on the practice and psychology of innovation and entrepreneurship, with a focus on the synthesis and sequencing of design thinking, lean start-up, and agile frameworks. It is intended to yield practical learnings and outcomes for students and graduates alike.
The Center’s Innovator Series features six speakers each academic year.
OCTOBER 5, 2021: Bjorn Björn Stansvik
As founder and CEO of global software design and development firm MentorMate, Bjorn Stansvik has steered the company’s vision from inception to 750 full-time employees, accelerating digital ideas with end-to-end technology services since 2001. He has worked in high-tech and strategic business development in Europe, Latin America, and the US at leading companies including Procter & Gamble, Ericsson, and Arthur D. Little prior to founding MentorMate in 2001.
Bjorn remains a guiding force for MentorMate, constantly challenging the team to explore the boundaries of new technologies like AI and cloud computing, and to pioneer digital innovation in healthcare as well as entering new geographic markets. Under his leadership, the company has grown its design and technical capabilities across multiple industries.
MentorMate was named a Top ICT Employer in Bulgaria, and the Star Tribune included MentorMate on its Top 150 Workplaces list. The newest of its seven offices opened in AstraZeneca’s BioVentureHub in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 2016.
Bjorn holds a Master’s of Science in Business Administration from the Gothenburg School of Economics and has completed a Master’s thesis in Industrial Economics at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. A recognized technology innovator, Bjorn has won numerous distinctions and is a regular speaker to business groups on entrepreneurship, technology, and management.
February 3, 2021: Yasameen Sajady and Samuel Ruiz Plaza
Yasameen Sajady is the co-founder and Chief of Operations at Maazah, founded with her sisters and mother in 2014. “Growing up, we can’t remember a meal that didn’t include Mom’s famous Magic Green Sauce. A phenomenal cook, her secret blend of cilantro and peppers was the universal condiment that made everything more flavorful and delicious. We put it on everything — from rice and korma to tacos and pizza.”
After graduating with her MBA from Augsburg University in 2020, Yasameen kicked this saucy side hustle into full swing. The move from markets to manufacturing wasn’t easy. “Scaling our food company in 2020 brought on many challenges. There were major delays in sourcing materials, banks didn’t have time for us, and we heard ‘no’ from every direction. Regardless of the bottlenecks and odds stacked against us, we hit store shelves the week of Thanksgiving.”
Samuel Ruiz Plaza is the founder and owner of an early-stage start-up, Pumuki Labs, a company that sub-licenses Automated Checkout Software (ACS) used to acquire highly sought-after items in the streetwear industry. Pumuki Labs follows a business-to-consumer model that separates itself through top-tier customer service and is dedicated to offering one-on-one expert support on handling the software.
Following his passion for soccer, Samuel joined the Augsburg Men’s Soccer Staff as a Graduate Assistant in the fall of 2019 after a successful college career where he was a National Championship and All-American. At the same time, he was admitted into the MBA program at Augsburg, and through this, he developed new passions in business and shoes.
Samuel says, “When you do something you love, 99% of the time it doesn’t feel like work. It has been rewarding seeing my hobbies turn into something more than some sort of ‘side-hustle’. Looking back on the past year, it’s incredible to see how far I have come. That being said, this is really only the beginning, and there is still so much work to be done. I am excited about what the future has in store.”
September 30, 2020: Dr. Jeff Cernohous
“Leading In and Simplifying Complexity: ONE Entrepreneur’s Perspective on Building an Innovative Organization”
Dr. Jeff Cernohous is the Founder and COO of Interfacial, a Nagase Company. For more than two decades, he and his companies have been recognized leaders in disruptive innovation, particularly in the development of advanced materials technology platforms. Dr. Cernohous is himself a serial entrepreneur and innovator. He launched his career as a successful innovator at 3M, and left at a young age to form his first company, Interfacial Consultants (IFC). He successfully built and sold IFC to 3D printing leader Stratasys in 2016. He then launched, developed and sold the company Interfacial to Nagase, a large global chemical conglomerate.
October 28, 2020: Anne Finch
“A Leader’s Purpose”
Anne Finch is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Logistics Health Incorporated (LHI), a subsidiary of OptumServe, the federal health services business of Optum, focused on providing services to the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as other government and commercial entities. Optum is a division of UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune 6 company that employs more than 300,000 people worldwide; 17,000 of whom are IT professionals. Before becoming CEO, she served as LHI’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) for four years. Anne has also been Vice President of UnitedHealth Group Solution Support Services (System Operations) where she oversaw a team of 1,500 IT professionals in the United States, India and the Philippines who operated 24/7/365. Prior to that assignment, she was the Vice President of Portfolio Management for UnitedHealthcare’s Employer and Individual division, overseeing their $800 million in project investments. Anne is also a UnitedHealth Group culture facilitator, providing culture workshops across the enterprise.
December 9, 2020: Mike Nathan
“Innovation: New value through old ideas”
Mike Nathan is Co-Founder and CEO of FritzFinn, an advance wound care solutions company that is passionately committed to doing good things for other people. Most recently in the wake of the George Floyd murder, Mike co-founded a real-time, on-demand, legal representation app connecting citizens with attorneys in real-time called TurnSignl. Rounding out his time as a partner in Twin Ignition Startup Garage in NE Minneapolis, Mike finds joy in giving back and guiding first-time entrepreneurs in this business incubator.
Mike was the co-founder and former CEO of Livio Health Group, an innovative care delivery system using mobile urgent care and on-site clinics to provide access for all. In addition to FritzFinn, TurnSignl, and Twin Ignition, he serves on the boards for Nightware, Inc., Kaleidoscope Group, The Watch Group, and Brother Justus Whiskey Company. Mike is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and MBA graduate, husband, and father of two who resides in Mendota Heights, MN.
MARCH 3, 2021: TOM MAYER
“How You Can Be a Rainmaker”