Meet the 16 members of the Silicon Prairie Awards Selection Committee

Celebrating community is at the core of our Silicon Prairie Awards. With that in mind, we’re excited to announce our selection committee composed of 16 individuals who represent a cross section of the region’s startup ecosystem. From a Startup Weekend organizer to a CTO of a successful ecommerce …

Celebrating community is at the core of our Silicon Prairie Awards. With that in mind, we’re excited to announce our selection committee composed of 16 individuals who represent a cross section of the region’s startup ecosystem. From a Startup Weekend organizer to a CTO of a successful ecommerce startup to the dean of a business school, these members are ingrained in the Silicon Prairie community.

We’re thankful to these individuals for judging the awards. It isn’t going to be an easy task, but given their impressive credentials we know they’re up for it. If you see them online – find them on Twitter – or off, please help us thank them.

Click here to nominate a company or individual 

Also, stay tuned to Silicon Prairie News next week for the release of tickets for the August 30 event, announcement of our keynote speaker and launch of the Silicon Prairie Awards website.

More announcements are on their way. Sign up to stay in the know.


Now, without further ado, we present you our inaugural Silicon Prairie Awards Selection Committee (in alphabetical order). Individual bios are courtesy of each member.

Tom BoozerInstitute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Bloch School of UMKC

Kansas City, Mo.

Tom Boozer is an associate director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Bloch School of the University of Missouri Kansas City. An industrial designer with expertise in human factors engineering and a Thunderbird International MBA. He spent nearly a decade in Asia as VP of Innovation for Singapore Airlines, Director Venture Projects for 101Capital with over $80 million raised for transport and technology startups, and as VP Product Development for an Asian aerospace venture to manufacture jet aircraft.

Jay ByersGreater 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 4,300 businesses, 24 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, and economic development organizations in seven counties in Central Iowa. 

Adam Coomes, Salt

Kansas City, Mo.

Adam Coomes is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for technology. He co-founded Infegy, an enterprise software company with flagship product Social Radar, and was also one of the first members of Zaarly. Currently, Coomes is founder and CEO of Salt, a consulting company focused on helping businesses innovate, simplify and make a bigger impact by using startup philosophies and technology expertise. He also facilitates Startup Weekends and other events around the nation.

Steve DeeHayneedle

Omaha, Neb.

Before joining Hayneedle as CTO, Steve Dee was J. Crew’s CIO. In this role, he was responsible for integrating J. Crew’s business and technology strategies, managing the company’s technology and communication infrastructure, developing ecommerce solutions, and integrating the hardware and software systems for J. Crew’s retail, corporate, and distribution center locations. Prior to joining J. Crew, Dee served as an executive in Accenture’s retail practice from 1994 to 2006. 

Judi EylesIowa State Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Ames, Iowa

Judi Eyles has been with the Iowa State Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship since its inception in 1996. Iowa State offers an interdisciplinary academic program in entrepreneurship that has been ranked nationally by Entrepreneur Magazine and was named a Top Model Program by the US Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship. The Center provides business assistance to startups and existing businesses, and offers a wide variety of experiential learning opportunities for students, faculty and entrepreneurs that assists them in accessing resources and expanding their startup network.

Joan GabelTrulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri

Columbia, Mo.

Joan T.A. Gabel is the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. Dean at the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri. Under Dean Gabel’s leadership, the Trulaske College of Business has launched the Entrepreneurship Alliance, designed for exceptional students who demonstrate a high potential for new business development, as well as programs in Sales and Marketing Analytics. On campus, Dean Gabel serves on the Center for Digital Globe Executive Board, the Missouri Innovation Center Advisory Board, the Strategic Planning and the Resource Advisory Council, and the Economic Development Council. She is a member of Centennial Investors, the Emerging Issues Committee with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, and assisted in the planning of the 2012 Entrepreneurship Summit held in Columbia, Mo.

Dr. David KeckJeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb.

Dr. David Keck is the director of the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at UNL, as well as professor of business administration and professor of computer science and engineering. His career has included technical and management positions at three computer systems companies including Hewlett-Packard, two engineering software companies including Engineering Systems International in Paris; NKK, the Japanese Multinational in Tokyo, and the research facility at Georgia Tech. 

Andrew KirpalaniEnsighten

Des Moines

Andrew Kirpalani is a developer, Startup Weekend Organizer, volunteer and humorously described raconteur of the Silicon Prairie. After 5 years in a local startup, Kirpalani recently joined Cupertino, Calif-based, Ensighten as a remote client-facing developer. While no longer working directly in the region, Kirpalani has continued to increase his activities in the community, assisting with the OpenIowa open data competition and working to bring Startup Weekend to Des Moines twice a year.

Maria MeyersU.S.SourceLink & KCSourceLink

Kansas City, Mo.

As CEO for both U.S.SourceLink and KCSourceLink, Maria Meyers established a resource network that connects entrepreneurs with more than 140 business building organizations throughout the entire Kansas City region. The model is now being used in cities and states across the country as part of the larger U.S.SourceLink network. She has more than 20 years experience in creating success for companies in the high technology, biotechnology, manufacturing and museum industries.

Chuck Norris, Nelnet

Lincoln, Neb.

Charles (Chuck) Norris has been part of the Nelnet organization for more than 20 years. During this time, Chuck helped start Infovisa, a trust software company located in Charlotte, N.C., and he currently sits on its board. In addition, Norris is one of the founders of Nelnet Capital, LLC, a registered Broker/Dealer located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Prior to joining Nelnet, he was a Financial Analyst for Merrill Lynch in New York City. 

Jon Robinson, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Kansas City, Mo.

Jon Robinson is manager of entrepreneurship programs at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he oversees a number of initiatives to connect founders to financial, human, intellectual, and social capital, and expand access to entrepreneurial opportunity. He leads the Foundation’s efforts to deliver entrepreneurship resources through community colleges, programs to support military veteran entrepreneurs, and other projects to improve local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Lynn HicksDes Moines Register

Des Moines

Lynn Hicks is the executive business editor of the Des Moines Register. In addition to supervising coverage of business and agriculture news, he writes columns on innovation and other topics. He has led efforts to make coverage of innovation, technology and startups a priority topic at the Register, which includes the launch of a Sunday Iowa Innovation page and He has more than 20 years of experience at newspapers in Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Shane ReiserKohort


As director of marketing and community at, Shane Reiser helps group organizers and community managers grow their groups and better engage their communities. Reiser runs Kohort’s online marketing, consumer sales, customer service, and community management. Earlier this year, he co-founded, which aims to be the largest, most accurate database in the world of startup ecosystems. Prior to Kohort, he was the COO of Startup Weekend.

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.

Jeff SlobotskiSilicon Prairie News


Jeff Slobotski is the co-founder and chief community builder at Silicon Prairie News, an Omaha-based digital media company dedicated to highlighting and supporting entrepreneurs, creatives and investors through an emerging model for grassroots entrepreneurial ecosystem development within the greater Omaha, Des Moines and Kansas City region.

Brian C. WallerState 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.



Credits: Photos courtesy of the committee members. 

This story is part of the AIM Archive

This story is part of the AIM Institute Archive on Silicon Prairie News. AIM gifted SPN to the Nebraska Journalism Trust in January 2023. Learn more about SPN’s origin »

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