2019 Presenters

2019 Presenters

Alale Allal
Regional Export Trade Finance Manager
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

Alale is the Regional Export Trade Finance Manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of International Trade covering Texas and Oklahoma. Alale oversees the daily demands of both, lenders and small businesses for these states. The SBA provides a number of loan programs specifically designed to help develop or expand trade and export activities. He is responsible for responding to export finance matters and for providing lender and small business training related to SBA’s International Trade programs

Prior to joining the SBA, Alale began his career in the private sector working for Wells Fargo Bank where he was a Commercial Lender for 12 years. He later joined Citigroup in Dallas as a Director leading a team of eight Commercial Relationship Managers in the Houston and Dallas area. Alale has been in the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Alale received his Bachelors of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and minored in Computer Science from Sam Houston State University. Alale also earned his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management from Sam Houston State University. Alale lives in Houston and is involved in many local community organizations.

Alexis Andres
Consul General of France,

Alexis ANDRES was appointed as the Consul General of France in Houston on September 1st, 2017.

Alexis ANDRES formerly held positions at the Ambassade de France in Hanoi, in Berlin and most recently in Algiers, where he served as counselor for cultural affairs. He also spent time in Lorraine, as sous-prefet for the district of Luneville.

He holds a M.A.  in History.  He graduated from the Institut d’Etudes politiques  in Strasbourg, France and also studied  in St Louis at the University of Missouri.  He joined the Ministère des Affaires étrangères  after receiving  his degree  from the Ecole nationale d’Administration in 2001.

Born in 1972 in Epinal in the Vosges area, Alexis ANDRES is married to Emmanuelle and they have 6 children.

Phillip Aronoff
Honorary Economic Counselor

Phillip Aronoff
Honorary Economic Counselor

Phillip has been active in the international community for many years. He served for fourteen years as the honorary consul general for Hungary. Last year when Hungary opened a career consulate Phillip became an Honorary Economic Counselor for Hungary. In this new capacity he is still very involved in representing Hungary in Texas in pursuit of business opportunities going in both directions. Phillip has served the state of Texas as the Chairman of the State Purchasing and General Services Commission and Harris County on the boards of the Harris County Housing Authority and the Harris County Housing Finance Authority. He also served Houston as the President of the local municipal TV station. Phillip spent most of his professional career exporting scrap steel to the Mexican steel industry. Currently he and his son work together in supplying stone counter tops for construction projects. He graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor of business with a major in international business. His Excellency Janos Ader, President of Hungary has recently awarded Phillip the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Hungary.

Frank Coppersmith
Smarter Reality

Frank Coppersmith is the CEO and founder of Smarter Reality, a software consultancy focused on product discovery and development most recently building artificial intelligence products for the medical device industry.  Frank also serves as the Chair, Austin Game Developers Association which represents over 135 studios and nearly 5,000 game developers in Austin with a mission to help great game developers make great game companies.

Before starting his own company, he was President of Capson Technology, a digital health startup backed by BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners.

Prior to Capson, Frank served as Chief Operating Officer and Studio General Manager for GameSalad, the maker of “GameSalad Creator” – a leading tool for mobile application and video game development. Used by over 500,000 independent game developers, GameSalad powered tens of thousands of games worldwide and represented over 20% of all new game launches on the iOS (Apple) App Store in 2011.

Frank got his start in the video game industry as Vice President, Finance and Administration for Challenge Online Games, a venture-backed (Sequoia Capital) startup in the web and social (Facebook) gaming space which was sold to Zynga. Prior to Challenge and Zynga, Frank served in a variety of roles with Toppan (formerly DuPont) Photomasks a worldwide manufacturer of semiconductor materials, ending his career there as the company’s general counsel.

Frank holds a MBA in Finance and Operations Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a law degree from Samford University and a degree in electrical engineering from The Citadel.

Frank was named Austin’s “CFO of the Year” (small company category) by the Austin Business Journal in 2010.

Frank is also active in the USAF Reserves, holding the rank of colonel, where he serves as a senior judge advocate with US Cyber Command. Frank has previously deployed to Iraq, Turkey, Germany and Qatar.

Christophe Daguet
Director of Strategy and Innovation

Christophe Daguet has 15+ years of management and leadership experience with a focus on developing creative business and technology solutions spanning consulting, technology, telecommunications, and other information based industries. Christophe is currently Director of Strategy and Innovation at Dell. Previously he was an Engagement Manager at Deloitte Consulting within the Strategy and Operations practice in San Francisco and a Product Manager/Senior Software Engineer at Dassault Systèmes in Los Angeles. Along his career, Christophe had the opportunity to advise several startups and continues to actively follow the technology startup scene. Christophe holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson and two Masters in Mechanical Engineering and Automated Production. He is bilingual in French and English, and conversant in Spanish.

Mindy Fryer

Director of Contracts and Grants
Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)

Mindy Fryer is the Lead Grants Coordinator in the Trade and Business Development Division at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA). She has been with TDA since 2005. Ms. Fryer oversees several programs including the Texas Agriculture Finance Authority, Home Delivered Meals Grant Program, State Trade Expansion Program, and the Agriculture Research and Education Grant programs to name a few.  Mindy is a certified grants manager as well as a Texas certified contract manager.

As the Team Lead, her responsibilities include assistance with oversight of more than 30 programs administered by the Grants Office. Ms. Fryer coordinates with workload of six staff members who are responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the operations and activities of the various programs.

Mindy grew up in Sugar Land, Texas where her family operated a small construction company. She has a passion for small business, finance and entrepreneurship; which she learned from her grandfather when he immigrated from Germany and started a small construction company and ranching operation.  Outside of TDA, Mindy is a partner in the family ranching operation.

Estelle Garcia
General Manager & Bioengineer
LivaFortis Inc

Estelle Garcia has always been interested in working abroad while growing up in France. After completing her Masters in Mechanical Engineering both in the UK and in France, she decided to move to the US to specialize herself in the development of medical devices with a focus in entrepreneurship during a Master in Translational Medicine at UC Berkeley and UCSF.

She now applies her skills and expertise at LivaFortis, a startup she co-founded, focusing on the development of medical devices to treat back conditions such as low back pain and scoliosis. The company is implemented both in the US (Austin, TX) and in France (Paris, at station F), taking advantage of both markets.

She recently became a member of the French Tech Austin board to assist anyone interested in starting a business in France or in the US.

Johan Grutman
Business Development Manager
Smart Logistics

After earning a bachelor’s degree in law from University Notre Dame de la Paix in Namur, Belgium and a master’s degree in law from the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium. Johan Grutman has become an international authority figure in the areas of logistics and business development management.

Before becoming the Business Development Manager in Smart Logistics at Locate, a non-profit organization that is the Invest Promotion Agency for the province of Limburg, Belgium, Grutman worked as the logistics manager at the Regional Development Agency for the province of Limburg, Belgium. His experience as COO of road transportation for DB Schenker-Belgium and Route Development Manager for Belgium and the Netherlands for DB Schenker-Chicago, USA.He has produced an expansive working knowledge of logistics, distribution, supply chain design and optimization, specifically in the European Union sphere. Grutman offers location and functionality advice for companies who are looking to penetrate the European Union market. He has understanding and insights to offer on grants, commerce incentives, and legal matters relating to the European Union and looks forward to working with US-based companies who are aspiring to make connections to the European Union supply chain community.

Sonia Hatfield

International Trade Specialist
Department of Commerce (DOC), US
Commercial Service office, Austin

Sonia Hatfield is an International Trade Specialist for the Department of Commerce (DOC), US Commercial Service office in Austin, TX. During her time with DOC, she has also served on the China country desk in Washington D.C. and worked overseas in the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam. Prior to working in DOC she worked in international development overseas in India, Jordan, Kenya, and Israel. She has a Master’s in Public Policy from Duke University.

Zuzanna Kobrzynski
Houston Bureau Chief
Polish Investment and Trade Agency

Zuzanna Kobrzynski is the head of the Polish Investment and Trade Agency’s Houston Bureau which covers seven states in the Southeastern United States.

The Bureau’s mission is to help Polish SME’s launch their products and services in the United States and to encourage the inflow of FDI into Poland.

Her international experience includes working in Poland for the American Chamber of Commerce and the National Center for Research and Development, and co-founding the first non-profit in the country whose missions was to teach girls to code.

Her domestic experience includes working for various elected officials both on the state and federal levels, running an academic center at New York University, and serving as the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Slate magazine.

She holds a BA and MA from New York University.  As a former NY’er she is on a mission to find a decent bagel in Texas.

Ana-Barbara Llorente

Partner, Pendas International    

Ana-Barbara is a global auditing executive with finance, management and accounting experiences in both the United States and European markets. She is both a certified public accountant in the United States and its equivalent, a certified accounting professional, an ROAC, in Spain. She has over 10 years’ auditing experience, working with startups, small companies and SEC issuers. She is also a wife, mom and active supporter of her community. 

Belen Marcos

Belen Marcos is the United States President of Cintra, a global leader in transportation infrastructure development with U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas. As president, Ms. Marcos is responsible for leading Cintra’s U.S. operations, which includes over $10.3 billion in infrastructure projects and investments.

Ms. Marcos has more than 15 years of international leadership experience managing and operating tolled highways in the private infrastructure development and construction sectors. Most recently, she served as the Chief Executive Officer of the highly successful LBJ Express, North Tarrant Express and North Tarrant Express 35W managed lanes projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. In that capacity, she was responsible for the overall management, implementation, delivery and operation of the projects.

Ms. Marcos began her career in the Business Development Department at Cintra’s corporate offices in Madrid, Spain. She then went on to hold the leadership positions of Chief Operating Officer for the Chicago Skyway in Chicago, Illinois, and Chief Information Officer for the Indiana Toll Road in Granger, Indiana.

Ms. Marcos earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Civil Engineering
from Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain and a master’s degree in
Transportation Infrastructure from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in France.

She and her family live in Austin, Texas.


Stephen Mason
Member, Dickinson Wright 

As one of the few patent attorneys in Austin with full-time experience inside an early-stage technology startup, Stephen Mason’s practice is focused on early stage portfolio development (e.g., analyzing business plans and assisting in initial protection of critical assets), particularly using accelerated examination. 

His core skills include identifying the intellectual property that creates market value and using a deep knowledge of patent prosecution to secure assets with balance-sheet value.


Lorraine McCord
Founder and Sr. Partner
Rock Meek LLC

Lorraine McCord is the Founder and Sr. Partner of Rock Meek LLC, a training and consulting firm. Rock Meek works with educational institutions and organizations in the private and public sectors to help them achieve their business goals. The firm has expertise in: international trade issues, workforce development training, instructional design, curriculum development, regulatory compliance, small business technical assistance, program development and review, and market research.

Lorraine’s other role is as Adjunct Faculty in the International Business and Trade division at Richland College in Dallas, Texas. She teaches courses in Importing, Exporting, Global Supply Chain Management, and Global Logistics. Lorraine’s previous experience includes serving for 10 years as the Director of the North Texas International Trade Center SBDC where she was responsible for providing training, counseling and market research services to businesses in the North Texas area, as well as managing a team of advisors who helped hundreds of companies achieve export sales totaling $50 million.

She has more than 10 years experience working for Fortune 500 companies such as Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Regions Bank in strategy and planning, and internal audit.  Lorraine has worked and traveled extensively in the Asia Pacific region and has spoken extensively at national and international conferences on the topics of small business and international trade.

Lorraine previously served on the board of governors of the North American Small Business and International Trade Educators (NASBITE) and the Dallas Furniture Bank. She holds a MBA in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona, and is both a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP).


Mary McEvoy
Vice President of Technology, Consumer and Business Services, IDA Ireland

Mary McEvoy is the Vice President of Technology, Consumer and Business Services for IDA Ireland, the government agency of Ireland responsible for assisting multinational companies to set up operations in Ireland.  Mary has been based in the Austin office of IDA for just over a year and prior to that was based in the Atlanta office.  Mary has also previously worked for Enterprise Ireland assisting Irish companies export overseas.  Mary is originally from the medieval city of Kilkenny in Ireland, holds a Bachelor of Business and Spanish from the University of Limerick and an MBA from University College Dublin.



Deirdre B. Mendez, Ph.D.

Associate Director for Cultural Programs
McCombs School of Business

Deirdre B. Mendez, PhD is an intercultural consultant, speaker and author who helps U.S. companies and their international partners identify and resolve culture-based problems.

Following two decades as a consultant, Deirdre is now Associate Director for Cultural Programs at the McCombs School of Business. Her book The Culture Solution facilitates self-guided problem-solving for international executives. Find her at


Eric Miller

Regional Director,
Export-Import Bank 

Mr. Eric Miller is a Texas native and experienced international trader. Prior to joining EXIM Bank, he spent over a decade in the private sector financing & exporting capital equipment to buyers in 33 countries.

Mr. Miller attended the University of Houston’s Bauer School of Business where he earned a B.B.A. in Operations Management in 2007 and continued his post-baccalaureate studies at U of H with a major in Finance. Eric is also designated as a Certified Global Business Professional (“CGBP”) – a distinguished certificate issued by NASBITE International.



Mortada Mohamed
President, World Affairs Council of Austin
Co-Chair – Texas-EU Business Summit

Mortada is the President of the World Affairs Council of Austin, and former Regional Trade Director for Europe, Africa, Middle East, for the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Economic Development & Tourism Division, where he promoted Texas exports and foreign direct investment in these regions. This included the IT, energy, agriculture and food sectors.

He is an adjunct professor of international business at several Central Texas universities and colleges. He has served as a speaker for the US Department of State International Speaker’s Program throughout North Africa and the Arabian Gulf region.  Mr. Mohamed presented in conferences both domestically and internationally, most recently at the Bahrain, Higher Education Council Symposium; “International Academy of Management and Business Symposium”, Istanbul, Turkey and the “World Investment Conference”, La Baule, France.

He is a volunteer consultant on behalf of ACDI/VOCA, funded by USAID, assisting in economic development programs in Eastern Europe, Africa and Siberia.

Mr. Mohamed serves on the University of Texas at Austin Center for European Studies Advisory Board; the Board of Governors of North America Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE); is a member of the Texas Economic Development Council and the District Export Council.

Mr. Mohamed has an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona.


Dr. Michael W. Mosser
Assistant Professor, Government
Assistant Director, Center for European Studies, University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Michael W. Mosser is an Assistant Professor of Instruction with a joint appointment in the Department of Government, the Center for European Studies, and the International Relations and Global Governance (IRG) program at the University of Texas at Austin.  Prior to UT, Dr. Mosser was a visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. He also served as Associate Director of the European Union Center of Excellence and a Fellow of the Robert S. Strauss Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, he was the initial military/education liaison for the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs Robert S. Strauss Center’s “Climate Change and African Political Stability” grant funded by the US Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative. He served as an assistant professor at the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he taught international relations, security studies, and comparative foreign policy of Western Europe.

A southwestern Pennsylvania native, Dr. Mosser is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh (BA, Political Science and History) and the University of Wisconsin – Madison (MA and PhD, Political Science). He has published articles and book chapters on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as well as in the fields of military art and science and military sociology more generally. He is active in student events and activities on campus related to his research and teaching fields, has published op-eds in major Texas newspapers and has been a regular guest on KUT Radio’s “Texas Standard” news program.



Ben Ramirez III
Cogitare Global, LLC

Ben Ramirez III, CEO of Cogitare Global, LLC.  Cogitare Global assists the transformation of local companies into global competitors.  Ben works with organizations to identify specific business goals and implementation strategies which match their objectives.  He provides executives and their teams with the tools they need to achieve sustainable growth in a continually changing international marketplace.

Drawing upon a career in the public and private sectors, Ben has earned a reputation as a trusted advisor with expertise in strategic planning and global partner development. He has assisted numerous business expansion efforts within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region and around the world.

Ben manages the Foreign Trade Zone of Central Texas with member companies’ annual exports totaling $250-$500 million.  He was appointed to the Texas Camino Real District Export Council by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  He is a board member of CleanTX, the economic development and business association for clean technology.  He also is on the board of Austin Sister Cities International.  Ben is an Entrepreneur Advisor with Tech Ranch and serves as Vice President of the World Affairs Council of Austin and Executive Director of Austin’s Global Trade Center.  Ben obtained a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from the University of Michigan, and a JD from the University of Toledo.



Sharon Schweitzer J.D.
Access to Culture

Sharon Schweitzer is an internationally recognized cross-cultural business expert who uses the power of self-awareness to guide participants in understanding and mastering global leadership and intercultural competency. Sharon captivates audiences through a dynamic, humorous, and engaging program. She presents abstract concepts in concrete terms providing practical techniques for improving business communication and increasing revenue.

Sharon has 20+ years of experience in 80+ countries as a corporate trainer, keynote speaker, lawyer, and entrepreneur. She is an award-winning entrepreneur and author of the Amazon #1 best-selling book in International Business, Access to Asia (3rd printing), named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She works with brands including Hilton Hotels, Lexus and JP Morgan as well as sports athletes and student leaders. Sharon appears on CBS, NBC and BBC News, and speaks at ALA, Big Ten Academic Alliance, and SXSW conferences as an expert in cross-cultural business.

On weekends, Sharon and her husband John of 23 years enjoy their golden retriever Toffee in Austin and the beautiful Texas Hill Country.


Cristina Silingardi
Managing Director, Austin

Cristina Silingardi joined vcfo in 2009 and is the Managing Director for the Austin office, where she oversees operations and business development in Austin, as well as manages the team of financial and HR consultants.

Cristina’s experience in finance and accounting has spanned over 20 years with companies in many industries, market segments and stages, both in the US and in Europe. Earlier in her career Cristina served as Controller for STEAG AG, a Germany based energy generation company. Relocating from Germany to Austin she served as CFO for HamaTech USA Inc. a manufacturer of Semiconductor equipment and lead several M&A activities.    Once joining vcfo as a CFO Consultant, Cristina worked with many international businesses setting up operations in Austin and Austin businesses expanding abroad.

Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to work with companies in various industries and lifecycles—from start-ups to high-growth and mature businesses, as well as buy side and sell side M&A transactions.

Cristina received a Bachelor’s of Economics, a Master in Finance and Accounting Management and is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the State of Texas.


Pjer Šimunović
Ambassador of
Croatia to the United States

Pjer Šimunović is Croatia’s Ambassador to the United States, a position he’s held since September 2017. Before assuming his Ambassadorship, together with a career in international affairs journalism and academic research he served in various high-level positions in the Croatian Government, in the fields of national security, defense and diplomacy.

He was Director of the Office of the National Security Council, Ambassador to Israel, Defense State Secretary in charge of defense policy, National Coordinator for NATO and Assistant Foreign Minister, heading Division for International Organizations and Security, Political Counselor at the Embassy in Paris, and Deputy Director of Analytical Department in the Foreign Ministry. During his career in journalism, he worked with the BBC World Service in London, with the magazine Europin Paris, and with the Croatian daily ‘Večernji list’in Zagreb, covering the collapse of Communism, crisis and war in the former Yugoslavia, and European and Transatlantic affairs.

A regular speaker on the security issues at  many international conferences and seminars, he is the author of a range of studies and articles published in the leading international journals, dealing with the arms trade and defense industry, post-Communist national security, NATO enlargement, defense transformation, international peace-keeping and stabilization operations, counter-terrorism (including: ‘Making of an Ally – NATO membership conditionality implemented on Croatia’, The Journal of Transatlantic Studies, Spring 2015;‘A framework for success – contextual factors in the UNTAES operation in Eastern Slavonia’, International Peacekeeping, Spring 1999; ‘The Russian military in Chechnya – a case study of morale in war’, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, March 1998).

Ambassador Šimunović holds an M.A. degree from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London, and a B.A, degree in the Comparative Literature and Italian Language and Literature from the University of Zagreb. He is born in Split, Croatia, in 1962. Ambassador Šimunović is decorated with the title of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur de la République française.


Douglas Smith
Assistant Director
International Trade Center
University of Texas at San Antonio

Douglas Smith is the Assistant Director of the International Trade Center, University of Texas at San Antonio. The Center provides international trade consulting to small and medium-size companies and he is responsible for working with clients in the Austin-area.

He has been involved in international marketing consulting for more than 25 years, focusing on import and export development, international marketing strategy, international market research, marketing channel management, and industry and economic research..  He has consulted for small businesses as well as major corporations such as IBM, Motorola, and Johnson Wax, trade associations including the Business Round Table, and the foreign trade commissions of Thailand, Portugal, and Colombia.

Prior to joining the International Trade Center, he was Vice President for Consulting at Global Trade Information Services, a Columbia, SC international trade information and advisory company, the International Business Department at the University of South Carolina, and Frank Lynn & Associates, a Chicago-based international consulting company.

He was a contributing editor to Textile Asia Magazine and has articles published in Atlanta International Magazine, Twin Plant News, and Business Horizons.  He holds a M.A. in Government and a M.B.A. in Finance and International Business from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a Certified Global Business Professional.

In addition he serves on the Texas Camino Real District Export Council and the Steering Committee of the Austin International Business Coalition.



Finn Staber
Chicken Waffle

Finn Staber has helped launch multiple successful tech start-ups, and he founded Chicken Waffle in 2017 to focus on creating amazing XR games and interactive experiences.

Chicken Waffle has assembled an amazing team of developers, and they have a proven track record for developing quality XR content for an impressive list of international clients and partners.



Linhard Stepf
Master of Ceremonies 

Partner & Client Services Director, Vistra

Linhard Stepf is a Partner and Client Services Director at Vistra. Linhard works with Private Equity, CEOs, CFOs and heads of HR to assist in developing and executing a company’s global expansion strategy. His clients include venture-capital backed and publicly traded technology companies as well as other companies in a range of industries.

Vistra is the leading professional advisory firm in the international expansion space. Vistra offers a range of accounting and compliance services across 46 jurisdictions to organizations with new or existing global operations, including entity set-up, payroll, accounting, tax, compliance, advisory and HR services. Vistra’s cloud-based technology solution – OverseasConnect – integrates payroll, bookkeeping, and tax filing capabilities, along with human resources and legal compliance services.

During his 15+ years career, Linhard has worked on numerous international business development and expansion projects in over 25 countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, U.K., Singapore and South Korea. Linhard is a German attorney and holds a MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.



Larry Tabash
Sr. Int‘l Trade Specialist
U.S. Dept. of Commerce
U.S. Commercial Service, Austin TX

Larry Tabash is a Senior International Trade Specialist and Middle East expert for the U.S. Department of Commerce/U.S. Commercial Service in Austin, TX. He has held positions overseas with both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of State as a Senior Business Advisor in Iraq working on infrastructure development and capacity building. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Europe and worked extensively in those markets assisting companies in finding suitable American partners. He has led trade missions to Asia and the Middle East. A native of Washington, DC.

Mr. Tabash’s personal and career pursuits have taken him to over 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Prior to joining the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1998, he worked as a Senior Project Manager for Visa Interactive which later became Integrion Financial Network, a start-up electronic bill payment company in Reston, Virginia and for Riggs National Bank as a Senior Sales & Service Representative and Loan Officer. Larry also worked as a Program Officer for AMIDEAST Inc., where he administered USAID and privately-funded training programs and worked on business development for the organization. He has more than 20 years of experience in international trade, business, and banking.

Larry earned both his bachelor’s degree in International Studies and his master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.



Michael Treyger
Deputy Director
Business and Community Development

Office of the Governor of Texas

Michael Treyger serves as Deputy Director for Business and Community Development at the Office of the Governor of Texas. His team executes the Governor’s initiatives to encourage and facilitate business growth and retention in the State of Texas.

The Office of Business and Community Development implements the core economic development functions in Texas. The Office specializes in business recruitment, site selection project management, marketing, economic development finance, international trade, foreign direct investment, industry engagement, small business advocacy and entrepreneurial support, permitting, licensing and regulatory compliance. The group also includes the Office of Aerospace and Aviation and the State of Texas Mexico Office.

Treyger serves as the Texas Governor’s appointee to the Advisory Board of the Centers for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas A&M University, and various other Committees and Councils. His professional background includes banking with J.P. Morgan Chase and transportation operations management with JetBlue Airways.

Treyger holds degrees in Marketing and International Business & Trade from Florida Atlantic University and an MBA from the Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.


René Van de Zande
CEO of Emergo, UL

René Van De Zande has extensive experience guiding companies engaged in international trade, particularly in the medical device industry. Currently, he is Director and GM of Emergo by UL, a company he founded and served as CEO and President until the firm was acquired by UL.

René has also worked in Brussels, Belgium, for the AmCham EU and served as Senior Commercial Specialist at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. He is currently Chair of the Texas Camino Real District Export Council, a member of Austin Chamber’s Global Gateway Advisory Board, and member of the Center for Global Business Advisory Board at The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business.


Geert C. Visser
Honorary Consul, Belarus
President of the Netherlands
American Business Counsel

Geert C. Visser is currently the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Belarus and President of the Netherlands – American Business Counsel and the former Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He has exercised the position of Executive Secretary of the Consular Corps of Houston, Texas, from 2006 until 2014. On January 01, 2010, Geert Visser was appointed Regional Director in the U.S. for the Port of Rotterdam. Since 1982, Geert Visser has occupied the position of President of Global Marine Transport Inc.

With more than 30 years of experience in the Marine Transportation industry, Geert has carried out and contributed to Marine Transportation projects throughout the world. Prior to his relocation to Houston, in 1978, Geert was Vice President of the Dutch Marine Installation company of Heerema Marine Contractors and as such was stationed in The Hague, The Netherlands, in London, England, in Aberdeen, Scotland, and in Port Gentile in the Congo.

Geert’s work environments have exposed him to different cultures and his extensive work experience has consistently involved operation management, diplomacy, and technical and security issues. Geert Visser is a Dutch national and has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of The Hague, The Netherlands. Besides his native Dutch, his languages include English and German.


Mike Wikan
Creative Director
Booz Allen Hamilton

Mike Wikan is Creative Director for Booz Allen Hamilton’s Immersive Team in the Strategic Innovation Group.

A Graduate of The Savannah College of Art and Design, he has designed many hit video games over the last 27 years, including Donkey Kong Country Returns, Never Alone, and the Metroid Prime Series among others.  He has been married for 32 years (to his much smarter half) and he and his family live in Georgetown, Texas.


Liz Wiley
Partner, Grable Martin Fulton PLLC
Honorary Consul of France for Austin

Liz Wiley is an attorney with Grable Martin Fulton PLLC, where she and a team of lawyers act as general counsel to advise startups and medium-sized companies on such issues as intellectual property protection strategies, cyber security, employment law, fundraising, and other corporate transactions. Ms. Wiley was a partner in the litigation section of Andrews Kurth Kenyon where she worked on complex bankruptcy, premises liability, and business litigation matters.  In 2009 she opened her own law firm to manage a client’s active docket in nation-wide patent litigation. An avid student of France’s tech sectors and technology transfer philosophy, Ms. Wiley’s expertise now lies in assisting French and other non-U.S. companies with entity formation and intellectual property protection, with a focus on managing companies’ operational differences with the U.S. legal and business culture. Since 2012 she has been connecting sister city Angers, France with Austin for film and tech collaborations and has facilitated French delegations’ discovery of Austin’s ecosystem.

Ms. Wiley is the founding director of the French American Business Council of Austin (FABCA), a member-supported trade association focused on supporting business exchanges between companies in Austin and France, and currently serves as the Chair of its Board of Directors. Ms. Wiley’s volunteer work also includes acting as the legal mentor for French Tech Austin, a FABCA initiative that is creating a virtual accelerator for French-founded startups in Austin.   In May 2015, the Consul général of France asked Ms. Wiley to serve as the Honorary Consul of France, a post she has held since November 2015.

Ms. Wiley obtained her J.D. cum laude from St. Mary’s College of Law in San Antonio; obtained an M.A. at the University of Texas, Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, and received a B.A., magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. As a double major in French and Hispanic Studies, Ms. Wiley was part of the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program, which comprised a year in Paris studying at Sciences Po, l’Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), and the Alliance Française de Paris.