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Meet our 16-member Silicon Prairie Awards Selection Committee

The Silicon Prairie Awards are the celebration of everyone who’s helped make the region a thriving community, from service providers to executives. That’s why we’re excited to announce our 2013 selection committee, composed of 16 individuals who represent a cross section of the region’s startup ecosystem. From a startup founder and chamber director to a journalist and community builder, these members are at the heart of the Silicon Prairie.

We’re thankful to these individuals for judging the awards and don’t envy having to choose finalists from the ever-growing pool of worthy candidates, but please thank them for us if you ever run into them. And keep an eye out for an announcement Tuesday opening up finalist voting to our readers.

Now, without further ado, we present our 2013 Silicon Prairie Awards Selection Committee:



Brent Beshore, adventur.es

Columbia, Mo.

Brent Beshore is the founder and CEO of adventur.es, a problem-first venture capital firm, and a frequent columnist for Forbes and the Huffington Post. Brent is a past recipient of the VH1 Do Something Award for his work in helping his hometown of Joplin, Mo., recover from the tornado and his organization was ranked No. 28 on the 2011 Inc. 500.


Jay Byers, Greater Des Moines Partnership

Des Moines

Jay Byers is the CEO for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The Partnership is the regional economic and community development organization serving more more than 4,700 businesses, 20 affiliate chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in seven counties in Central Iowa. 


Dale Eesley, University of Nebraska at Omaha


Dr. Dale T. Eesley has taught entrepreneurship and consulted with startups and small businesses for more than 12 years. Dale received his Ph.D in management from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and is the director of the Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Franchising at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, innovation, entrepreneurial finance and corporate strategy. 

Judi Eyles, Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Ames, Iowa

Judi has been with the Iowa State University Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship since its inception in 1996. The Center offers a variety of courses, experiential learning opportunities, programs and business assistance programs for startups or existing entrepreneurs both on campus and in the community.


Aaron Hoffman, StoneFinch

Des Moines

Aaron is a founding member of StoneFinch, an agile development and data analytics consultancy based in Des Moines. He also is a leader of the Iowa .NET User Group and speaks at technology conferences throughout the Midwest. Aaron also helps organize Kauffman Lab’s 1 Million Cups program in Des Moines.


Maria Meyers, KCSourceLink

Kansas City

Maria Meyers is passionate about finding business development resources and getting entrepreneurs to the right resource at the right time. In 2003 she crafted a public-private partnership to launch a venture that became known as KCSourceLink. Today KCSourceLink connects a network of more than 200 resources in the Kansas City region that can help small businesses start and grow. 

Jeremie Miller, Singly

Cascade, Iowa

Jeremie Miller is co-founder of Singly, founded in 2010. Prior to Singly, Jeremie worked with various startups, including leading Wikia Search with Jimmy Wales. Jeremie is best known as the inventor of the widely-used Jabber/XMPP open-source protocols for instant messaging and was the primary developer of jabberd 1.0, the first XMPP server. Outside of Singly, he is an advisor to other startups. 

Nate Olson, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Kansas City

Nate Olson is a specialist in Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where his focus is building dynamic and diverse startup communities. The co-founder of 1 Million Cups, a weekly educational program designed to engage, educate and accelerate startup communities, Olson now leads the effort to grow 1 Million Cups into a national program for the Foundation.

Shane Reiser, Startup Genome


Shane is the co-founder of Startup Genome, a Startup Weekend facilitator and a mentor at NMotion and Startup City Des Moines.



Dusty Reynolds, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce


Dusty Reynolds is the director of entrepreneurship and innovation for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Reynolds has built two businesses from the ground up, one in Nebraska and another in Mali, West Africa. His passion for Omaha and entrepreneurship drives him to assist with the building of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Greater Omaha Area.

Carrie Royce, Prodigy Arcade

Kansas City

Carrie Royce has been a key player in the successful launch, growth and exit of several shoestring startups. After selling her stake in Red Nova Labs, Carrie founded Prodigy Arcade (a game-based learning publisher centered on teaching kids the building blocks of computer programming) and Shabby Hats (a nonprofit alliance focused on helping entrepreneurs help each other across the KC metro).

Marco Santana, Des Moines Register

Des Moines

Marco Santana is the technology and startup reporter for the Des Moines Register in Iowa. He has covered startups across Iowa since November 2011. A Chicago-area native, Santana has been a journalist for four years and has covered other beats including government and education in the past.


Jeff Slobotski, Silicon Prairie News


Jeff Slobotski is the co-founder and chief community builder at Silicon Prairie News. As a volunteer, Slobotski is heavily involved in community organizations, including Packs of Promise, a nonprofit group he founded to assist Omaha’s homeless during the winter.


Beverly Stewart, University of Missouri–Kansas City Bloch School of Management

Kansas City

Beverly Stewart is currently the Project Director for Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UMKC’s Bloch School of Management. Beverly has been with the Bloch School for more than eight years and, for the past three years she has worked closely with promising entrepreneurs participating in the Institute’s flagship offering, the Entrepreneurship Scholars (E-Scholars) Program. In addition, she has been the Institute liaison with the UMKC Mentor Network, more than 120 established entrepreneurs and successful business leaders committed to helping UMKC train the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Jill Thayer Liliedahl, NUtech Ventures

Lincoln, Neb.

Jill Thayer Liliedahl is the chief popsiclier at Pop Art frozen treats and operations and marketing manager at NUtech Ventures. She and Amber Pankonin started Ladies who Launch as a way to build community among female founders in Lincoln.


Brian C. Waller, State of Iowa

Des Moines

Brian C. Waller is the manager of IT business development for the state of Iowa and former executive director of the Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce.