Texas Tech University

Spark Conference 2017

staff and tenantsThe Inaugural Spark Conference will be held on April 27th- 28th, 2017 at the Texas Tech University Innovation Hub at Research Park.  The Spark Conference is a two-day journey of excellence in industry, inventors & investment in innovation.  There are several events going on throughout this conference and individuals are invited to come and be a part of the excitement.

Please select which events you plan on attending.

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Spark Conference 2017 Schedule

Innovation Hub at Research Park
3911 4th St. Lubbock, Tx 79415
(806) 742-0024
Thursday, April 27th, 2017

* 9am-12pm | Tech Huddle Breakfast | RM 211 

* 12:30pm-3:45pm | iLaunch Competition Presentations | Rm 103-105

* 4pm-5:45pm | Lightning Round Reception & GLEAMM Innovation Poster Showcase | Hub Atrium

6pm-7:30pm | National Academy of Inventors- Texas Tech Club Contact Shelley Stevens for details at shelley.stevens@ttu.edu  

Friday, April 28th, 2017

* 8:30am-12:00pm | Spark Fund Presentations | Rm 103-105

* 10am-12pm | GLEAMM Innovation Poster Showcase | Hub Atrium

* 12:15pm-1pm | Lunch & Keynote Speaker | Rm 103-105

* 1pm-2pm | Awards & Closing Remarks | Rm 103-105  



A printable version of the schedule is available here.

Event Descriptions


Tech Huddle Breakfast:
An open house for licensing and patents at Texas Tech.

iLaunch Competition:

The iLaunch Competition is a business plan event open to the public to identify, grow and launch startup companies.  This competition allows students, faculty, and community members to take their idea to the next level.  Participants will be competing  for a chance at $10,000. Participants will pitch to a panel of investors and the public is invited to watch our very own Shark Tank-like event. 

GLEAMM Innovation Poster Showcase:
This competition provides an opportunity to Texas Tech University faculty and students to create innovative technology conceptual ideas, research and development of simulation, gaming, big data analytics, and operational guidance and evaluation tools in the areas of Cyber Security, next generation renewable energy, and energy conservation systems. During the showcase, the public will have the opportunity view the posters and ask the participants questions. 

Spark Fund Competition: 

GLEAMM Spark Fund is a $1M proof of concept grant program designed to accelerate the commercialization of energy technologies through gap funding by launching startups based on GLEAMM-affiliated university intellectual property. Participants will be pitching in front of a panel and the public is invited to attend. 

Lightning Round Reception: 

The public is invited to a reception to network, browse the poster showcase, and listen to a lighting round of elevator pitches.  During the lighting round, iLaunch and GLEAMM participants will have 60 seconds to give an elevator pitch.  Audience members will have the opportunity to vote on their favorite pitch. 

Lunch and Keynote Speaker: 

The public is invited to have lunch and listen to keynote speaker Wesley Rhodes, IBM's Chief Technology Officer.  

staff and tenants

Keynote Speaker: Wesley Rhodes

Wesley currently serves with IBM as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Sensemaking, Director of the Network Science Research Center and as an Executive Cybersecurity Architect with the Cognitive and Cloud computing group serving many Industries. Wesley specializes in the application of cognitive and context computing technologies with Big Data and Analytics techniques for advanced insight. Wesley earned four graduate degrees in relevant technologies and disciplines, and has academic appointments in cyber security, high-performance computing, advanced R&D and health informatics with the University of Illinois and Texas Tech University.

Looking for a hotel?

We blocked rooms for attendees of the 2017 Spark Conference at MCM Elegante Hotel & Suites. You can find directions to The Hub here

The deadline to reserve blocked rooms is April 1st, 2017

Cost: $91.00 per night

To reserve a room, contact MCM Elegante at (806) 763-1200 and use code NAI or Spark Conference

Don't know what to do in LBK?

Explore visitlubbock.org to find other events, concerts, and must see sites in and around the Lubbock area during your stay.

iLaunch Final Judges

Junior Desinor

With a multifaceted career in real estate stemming over fifteen years, Junior Desinor has had extensive experience as an agent, broker, investor, and developer. These culminating experiences shaped Junior to be a top producing agent, broker, and nationally recognized real estate expert. With a desire to offer his clients better service, the TOOR concept was born. He quickly formed a talented team of designers, engineers, developers, and attorneys to make TOOR one of the most anticipated products of the year.

What started out as a thirty day crowdfunding campaign raising over $100k and hundreds of lockboxes sold, has quickly blossomed into recognition by top brokerage firms around the country and an appearance on the Emmy-winning Shark Tank series. With the strong leadership team in place, TOOR is positioned to sell millions of lockboxes and change the way people tour and access properties forever.

Jim Gilbreath

A third generation "Lubbockite," Jim Gilbreath grew up in Lubbock and attended Texas Tech University. After obtaining a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Texas Tech, Gilbreath decided to join his family's agriculture and seed business in Lubbock. A decade later, Gilbreath returned to school and obtained a degree from Harvard University's Graduate School of Business in the PMD Executive Education Program. Since then, Gilbreath has served in various executive management positions and has acquired or started several businesses.

Currently, he is the owner of Gilbreath Property Co., L.C., a real estate holding company. In addition, he has served as a member of the Lubbock City Council, the United Way Board, Reese Redevelopment Authority and the Covenant Hospital System Foundation to name a few. Gilbreath and his wife, Kathy, have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Kimberly Gramm

Kimberly Gramm, Managing Director of the Innovation Hub at Research Park joined Texas Tech University in April 2016. Gramm's background includes economic and business development, technology venture startups, angel and venture funding, entrepreneur/innovation academic programming, public-private partnerships, government and external relations, and strategic collaborations Gramm's collective experiences make her a forward thinking catalyst for regional development of a knowledge based economy.

Her contributions to building a culture of entrepreneurship through collaborative efforts has resulted in performance driven strategic initiatives recognized by the state of Florida. Her plans for Texas Tech University is to continue to build on on the innovation tradition and create a renowned dynamic " hub" with engaged alumni, faculty, students, investment and business community that fosters organic growth to drive economic development in the West Texas region and beyond. Gramm's entrepreneur academic experience began at Florida Atlantic University in 2008 as director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business, one of the top ten largest business school in the country.

She championed academic programs and co-curricular programs which included the FAU Business Plan Competition where more than 700 entrepreneurs gained access to start-up funding and mentoring. During her time as director, she raised over $1.2 million in cash and prizes awarded to student and local entrepreneurs. In 2010, she became Assistant Dean of Community Relations, leadership in key strategic College of Business initiatives with an emphasis on business development and community engagement.

In 2014, she co-founded FAU Tech Runway, securing $4.5 million to establish a new public-private funded accelerator program to identify, grow and launch companies. The initiative was developed and is currently a key component to the regions' eco-system. Prior to leaving FAU in April 2016 through her work with University leadership and the Board of Trustees the program received additional funding of $750,000 from the state of Florida to provide seed grants to startups. A total of 15 companies were launched from the inception of the program in October 2014, during her time at FAU.

The startups generated more than $3 million in revenue, 73 employees, and more than $8 million in angel and/or venture funding. Prior to joining FAU, Gramm worked in the areas of entrepreneurship, business development, family businesses strategic marketing, government relations and global corporate strategy for Fortune 100 companies. Gramm earned her Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of South Florida and her Master's Degree in Business Administration at the University of Tampa.

Shara Konechney

Shara started her own business in 1987 in women's apparel sales. She traveled to trade shows and opened a small retail store in Lubbock called Cat Bailou and another store in Ruidoso, NM called Cowboys, Indians, and Outlaws. Shara manufactured a line of western ladies' apparel and sold it in stores, at livestock shows and rodeos, and wholesale. Shara sold all of these stores in 1999.

Shara then opened the 10-20 boutique that featured ladies apparel with most items under $10 and nothing over $20 in the Centre at Overton Park near Texas Tech University. She opened the second 10-20 Boutique in 2003. The name changed to Piper in 2007. Piper carries ladies apparel and accessories. Shara is a member of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and serves as a Chamber Ambassador.

Mike McDougal

Mike McDougal is a CPA by education (BBA Texas Christian University, accounting major) and first career (Auditor, Ernst & Young). He has extensive experience in the real estate industry (24+ years) focused primarily in residential real estate (apartments) but also commercial real estate (office buildings) and development. His firm redeveloped Overton Park in Lubbock in what was described as the largest privately funded urban renewal project in the country.

Mike is a founding board member of the Lubbock Angel Network (2015) and has participated in placing nearly $3 million in startup capital in its first two years of operations. Mike has been and continues to be very involved in the Lubbock community having served on the board of the Lubbock Economic Development alliance for 7 years, the last 2 as chairman. He currently serves on the Board of Managers of The Lubbock County Hospital District (University Medical Center).

Ron Mitchell

Ronald K. Mitchell is Professor of Entrepreneurship, and holds the Jean Austin Bagley Regents Chair in Management in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University, where he teaches technology commercialization, organization theory, and entrepreneurship.

His research focuses on (1) better understanding the pathways to value creation and renewability, especially where information technology can create the public goods to enable renewable entrepreneurship, and (2) the development of the human and financial capital as individual and organizational capacity for engaging stakeholders to create sustainable opportunity and new value systems.

Ron earned his CPA in 1978 and his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1994, winning the Academy of Management's 1995 Heizer Award for his dissertation: "The composition, classification, and creation of new venture formation expertise." Ron publishes and serves in editorial review capacities in the top entrepreneurship and management journals, and was also 2008-2009 Chair of the Entrepreneurship Division. He has co-authored and co-edited a number of books including "Handbook of Entrepreneurial Cognition," which has helped to chart the way forward in entrepreneurial cognition research.

Dean Sacco

Al Sacco Jr. is dean of the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas. Before coming to Texas Tech, he was the George A. Snell Distinguished Professor of Engineering and the director of the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University. He flew as the payload specialist on the Space Shuttle Columbia on shuttle mission STS-73 in 1995. The 16-day mission aboard Columbia focused on materials science, biotechnology, combustion science and fluid mechanics contained within the pressurized Spacelab module.

Born in Boston, Mass., Sacco completed a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Northeastern University in Boston in 1973, and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. He then joined the faculty of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, becoming a full professor and serving as the chair of the chemical engineering department from 1989 until 1997, when he joined the faculty at Northeastern.

He has consulted for numerous companies in the fields of catalysis, solid/gas contacting, zeolite synthesis and applications, and equipment design for space applications. Sacco has more than 192 publications (including book chapters) in the areas of carbon filament initiation and growth, transition metal and acid catalyst and their deactivation, and zeolite synthesis, and he has been the principal investigator on more than $24 million in research grants.

Using his space flight experience, Sacco has given more than 300 presentations to approximately 27,000 K-12 teachers and their students as a means to motivate students to consider careers in science and engineering. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and in 2004 was elected to the International Academy of Astronautics.

Telea Stafford

Telea Stafford is President of Phenixx Marketing & Media, a Texas-headquartered Media and Marketing firm. Telea's experience includes government relations, community outreach, cause advocacy, client management, consumer and corporate communications and grass roots marketing.

As Phenixx Marketing & Media's principal, she oversees the daily account management, brand strategy and marketing execution for clients including the North Texas Tollway Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Special Olympics and The Coordinating Board of Education. Prior to Phenixx Marketing & Media, Telea was a successful and regionally recognized marketing professional in Dallas, Texas.

Her corporate experience includes senior positions with Match.com Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Frito Lay, Omnicom, Leo Burnett and Tracy Locke Advertising. Telea earned an M.B.A. in marketing from the University of North Texas (2003). She received a bachelor's degree in Marketing from Texas Tech University (1994).