Rising Tide Capital

Aicha Balla Board Chair (Vice President, RBC Capital Markets; Former Co-chair of the Strategic Advisory Board)

Aicha Balla graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Economics in 1999.  Upon graduation, she joined JPM Chase as a Global Markets Analyst in Capital Markets.  After spending 18 months in the Financial Institutional Origination group, she moved into a sales role within the Institutional Fixed Income team.  She quickly became one of the top producers by developing and maintaining top tier investor relationships from 2001-2014.  In 2015, she decided to take a step back from sales and joined the Human Resources team at JPM.  In this role, she was responsible for developing strategies for hiring diverse talent across the Corporate & Investment Bank in the Investment Banking, Treasury Services, Global Corporate Bank, Markets and Investor Services businesses globally.  She was instrumental at increasing hiring numbers across people of color, veterans, people with disabilities and female talent within those divisions.  Aicha was involved in several business resource groups at JPM including Women on the Move, BOLD, Adelante, Black Leadership Forum and Women in Investment Banking.

Aicha has been with RBC since 2019 in the capital markets fixed income sales role. Aicha serves as the Co-Chair of the Multi-Ethnic Employee Alliance at RBC furthering the careers of ethnically diverse talent at the bank. She is also the Co-Chair of the client engagement segment of RWomen, a business resource group supporting the advancement of female talent on Wall Street. In addition, she is heavily involved in the recruitment of diverse talent at the firm, sharing in her gained knowledge and expertise of diverse hiring strategies, and has served as mentor to a host of junior talent.

Aicha is very passionate around volunteerism and giving back to her community.  She first became involved with RTC in September of 2015.  In late 2016, she joined the Strategic Advisory Board Co-Chair and now serves as a Board of Directors member since 2019.

Aicha is also a longtime supporter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The Ronald McDonald House, St Jude’s, Word Vision, Plan International, Children’s International and Save the Children.

In her free time, Aicha enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with friends and family.

Click here to learn more about Aicha, Rising Tide Capital’s 2019-2020 Annual Report

Alfa Demmellash CEO/Co-Founder, Rising Tide Capital

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Alfa lives in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. She is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit organization that provides underserved entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch and grow successful businesses. Since 2005 the organization has operated the Community Business Academy, a 12-week course that provides intensive business management training coupled with year-round coaching and mentorship, now serving a network of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs in New Jersey as well as Illinois, South Carolina and North Carolina, with more in planning stages. Corporate, foundation, and government funders underwrite the cost of tuition and services for all participants; 70% are women of color. By building successful businesses, entrepreneurs meet their families’ basic needs, create opportunities for social mobility, and help transform their local communities into thriving economies.

Alfa is also the Co-Founder of Future Tide Partners, which equips cross-sector leaders to shift capital, policy and culture in a rapidly changing world of work towards an inclusive, flourishing future economy. She was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2015 and has appeared in leading media outlets including CNN, O the Oprah Magazine, Essence Magazine, Bloomberg, Inc. Magazine, the Suze Orman show, BusinessWeek and Entrepreneur Magazine. She has been recognized by President Barack Obama; received the prestigious 25th Heinz Award in the Technology, the Economy and Employment category; and was named a CNN Hero and one of the Most Powerful Women Changing the World in Forbes. She currently serves as a Commissioner on the New Jersey Future of Work Task Force and is a board member of the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.

Anand Devendran Finance and Audit Committee Chairman (Managing Director, Bayview Asset Management)

Mr. Devendran is a Managing Director at Bayview Asset Management and is incubating a new consumer lending business.  The new business aims to provide innovative new lending products that help to improve the financial well-being of consumers.  The new business will use technology and financial services to create the new fintech based company.

Previously, Mr. Devendran held various roles atCredit Karma (a fast growing consumer lending marketplace technology company), TJX Companies (the parent company to TJMaxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and Sierra Trading Post), as well as at American Express (in several consumer facing roles domestically and internationally).  Mr. Devendran also has experience in management consulting at Booz Allen Hamilton and in publishing operations at Random House.

Mr. Devendran was born in India and grew up in the Chicago area where his family owned and operated a small business.  Mr. Devendran graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an SB in Mechanical Engineering and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives with his wife and two kids in the Boston area.

Andre V. Duggin Board Member (Chairman and CEO of AVI and AVI Specialty Group)

Andre V. Duggin founded AV International, Inc. (“AVI”) and AVI Specialty Group, LLC (“AVISG”) and today serves as the Chairman and CEO of both Companies. Over the past 40 years, Mr. Duggin has created a broad based network of business leaders and people of influence that has supported his entrepreneurial and new business development efforts. Mr. Duggin’s expertise extends to all areas of the employee benefits and the insurance industry, including retail and wholesale brokerage; healthcare; voluntary benefits; self insurance; property, casualty and specialty insurance lines; reinsurance.

Core businesses founded by Andre Duggin include:

Comprehensive Benefits Services Company, Inc. (“CBSC”) was a third party administrator (“TPA”) for self-insured employee benefit programs. Begun in 1976 it grew to become one of the largest TPA’s in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Mr. Duggin served as the head of Marketing and Sales. CBSC was sold to a national firm, Employee Benefit Plans, Inc.

AmeriChoice Corporation was the parent corporation of HMO’s located in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey specializing in managed care programs for Medicaid and Medicare programs. AmeriChoice was acquired in 2002 by UnitedHealthCare. In addition, to his role as one of the founders, Mr. Duggin provided strategic consulting services to AmeriChoice and served as a member of its Board of Directors since its inception in 1989.

AVI Risk Services, LLC (“AVIRS”) was formed in 1992 and specialized in individual and group self-insured workers compensation programs development and administration. AVIRS was sold in 2011.

AV Consultants, Inc. (AV International, Inc.) was formed in 1983 as an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm. AV Consultants was the first certified MBE firm developed by Mr. Duggin and originally it served as a marketing arm of CBSC. When CBSC was sold, Mr. Duggin continued to grow AV Consultants and in 1998 changed the name to AV International, Inc. and expanded into the property and casualty and safety and loss control areas. AV International continues to operate today as a retail insurance broker and consultant.

AVI Specialty Group, LLC (“AVISG”) is a Wholesale Insurance brokerage firm founded by Mr. Duggin. Mr. Duggin formed AVISG with the objective of expanding the AVI Brand into the insurance industry space on a national scope. AVISG is a minority-controlled Wholesale Insurance Broker in the property casualty and accident and health space.

Angelo Stracquatanio Board Member (Co-Founder & CEO, Apprentice.io)

Angelo Stracquatanio is co-founder and CEO of Apprentice.io, the world’s first and only intelligent software platform built specifically for the life sciences. Angelo realized the untapped power of emerging technologies to modernize manufacturing systems and usher in new drug therapies. He started Apprentice with a singular goal in mind: helping pharma manufacturers get medicines to patients faster.

Drawing on his previous experience in enterprise mobile technology, Angelo co-founded Apprentice in 2014 and has enjoyed the wild ride ever since.

Raised >$140M from leading VC funds
– #60 fastest growing software company on Inc 5000
– Built the industry’s only modern cloud-based platform with a mobile-first approach
– Supplied critical pharma organizations with Rapid Deployment Kits during the COVID-19 pandemic

Angelo lives in New Jersey with his wife, two daughters, one puppy, and a garden that remains his biggest challenge and triumph to date.

Angelo is also a successful Rising Tide Entrepreneur who completed the Community Business Academy in the Fall of 2010.

Doug Forrester Chair Emeritus (RTC Founding Chair; Chairman, Integrity Health, LLC)

Mr. Forrester has been a leader in both business and public service in New Jersey for more than 30 years.  Currently he is Executive Chairman of Integrity Health, a healthcare services company.  Previously he founded Benecard Services, Inc. and Heartland Fidelity Insurance Co. and built them into multimillion dollar businesses.  They provide risk and program management services making prescription and vision benefits more affordable for public and private employers.  Mr. Forrester has also served as Consulting Director for Public Practice Issues for Aon/ASA Consulting and a Senior Lecturer at the Fels Center of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.  He has taught public at The College of New Jersey as well as Monmouth and Rutgers Universities.

In addition to his business career, Mr. Forrester has had a distinguished record of public service. He served in NJ Governor Tom Kean’s administration at Assistant State Treasurer.  Following this role, he served as the State’s Director of Pensions and Benefits from 1984 to 1990 which included oversight of its seven retirement systems and million-member health benefit plan.  In this position, he became the first senior state official in the nation to fund post-retirement health liabilities as pension system obligations.  Mr. Forrester also served on the township committee and as mayor of his home town of West Windsor.  Most notably, he was the Republican nominee in New Jersey for United States Senator in 2002 and Governor in 2005.

He was Founding Chair of the Board of Rising Tide Capital, a 501(c)3 micro enterprise and development organization for over 18 years and is now Chair Emeritus, where he will continue to serve as a mission ambassador. He is also involved with various civic and charitable organizations.  Doug and Andrea have been married 34 years and have three children: Alex, Ryan and Briana.  Mr. Forrester holds a B.A. in Philosophy & Government from Harvard University and M.Div. in Theology & Politics from Princeton Seminary.

Learn about Doug’s perspective on leadership, long-term planning and intergenerational equity from Lead New Jersey

Doug’s remarks at Rising Tide Capital’s opening of it’s headquarters, June 2022

Doug’s farewell remarks to Rising Tide Entrepreneurs at the Fall 2022 Community Business Academy graduation, January 2023

Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D. Board Member (Provost & Executive Chancellor, Rutgers University-Newark)

Jeffrey A. Robinson, Ph.D. is an award-winning business school professor, international speaker and entrepreneur. As of July 2022, he serves Rutgers University-Newark as the Provost & Executive Vice-Chancellor. In this role, he implements strategic initiatives in the areas of innovation, economic development and faculty recruitment and retention.

Before this appointment, since 2008, he has been a leading faculty member at Rutgers Business School.  He would become Prudential Chair in Business in December of 2021. He has used his business acumen to launch new ventures, advise established businesses and consult to Fortune 1000 corporations. He is the author of books and articles on such topics as social entrepreneurship, African American women in entrepreneurship, urban entrepreneurship policy and patterns of Black employment.

Through his research, business leadership and community activities he makes direct impacts corporate workplaces, entrepreneurs and economic development policy in the state of New Jersey and beyond. Emerging from his pioneering research, the New Jersey Social Entrepreneurship Institute and the CUEED Pipeline to Inclusive Innovation are national and international models for economic development and social problem solving using entrepreneurial approaches. He leads research on four National Science Foundation funded research projects related to inclusive innovation including the GEM Inclusion in Innovation Initiative (GEM i4).

Dr. Robinson is the author of many articles and books on the topics of management, entrepreneurship and workforce diversity. He is the co-author along with Dr. Randal Pinkett of Black Faces in High Places: 10 Strategic Actions for Black Professionals to Reach the Top and Stay There. As a result of his work, Dr. Robinson is a sought-after speaker and trainer in many Fortune 1000 Corporations, foundations and leading social sector organizations including Wells Fargo, Comcast, KIPP Schools, Raytheon, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Novartis, JPMC, The National Urban League and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). Dr. Robinson is a media commentator appearing on Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News, PBS, NJN News, Marketplace on Public Radio International, Black Enterprise, NJ Biz, and The New York Times.

Dr. Robinson has completed five degrees in the areas of engineering, urban studies and business.  At Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Rutgers School of Engineering.  He has a Master of Science in Civil Engineering Management from Georgia Institute of Technology as a GEM Fellow and M. Phil and a Ph.D. in Management and Organizations from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

Joe Masterson Vice Chair and Secretary of the Board (President, Nichols Advisory; Community Business Academy Instructor; Former Co-Chair of the Strategic Advisory Board)

A successful entrepreneur, Joe Masterson sold his Employee Benefits Consulting business in 2012.  This freedom has allowed Joe to combine his love of teaching with his passion for building communities by supporting new micro businesses and helping existing business survive in difficult economic times.  His newest venture dedicated to this passion is called Nichols Advisory (NA).  NA brings the resources together to support businesses regardless of their ability to initially pay for service.  It is founded on the belief that small businesses are the economic backbone of our country and need specialized support to help provide for their employees and their families.

Joe connected with Rising Tide Capital in 2012 and became Co-Chair of the Strategic Advisory Board.  He has also been an instructor in the Community Business Academy since 2015.

Before entering the Insurance business, Joe’s first job was as a high school teacher and coach.  He is also the former chair of the Education and Training Committee for a United Benefit Advisors, a national insurance consulting cooperative.  Joe has been involved with many other start-ups outside of his Consulting practice.  Most recently Joe led a team that started a new non-profit initiative in Union County to house, counsel and support youth that age-out of the foster care system.  Joe founded a regional Junior Olympic Volleyball Club that has won several regional titles.  Joe current lives in Watchung, NJ with his wife Lydia.  They raised two daughters who are both educators and coaches.

Learn more about Joe, Rising Tide Capital’s 2019-2020 Annual Report (pg. 22)

Kiran Handa Gaudioso Board Member (CEO, United Way of Northern NJ; President, United for ALICE)

Kiran Handa Gaudioso was named Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Northern New Jersey and president of United For ALICE effective March 2020. She has served as Chief Operating Officer since 2017, following four years as the organization’s Senior Vice President of Community Impact and Community Relations. She has overseen strategic planning for how the organization fulfills its mission of improving life for ALICE and those in poverty at the local, state, and national level including, United for ALICE. This research-based initiative with United Ways in 26 states provides a comprehensive study of households that earn above the poverty level, but less than a basic cost of living.

Gaudioso oversees an annual budget of $8.2M and a staff team of 50. During the pandemic, she led the establishment of the ALICE Recovery Fund and the creation of an innovative childcare pilot, United in Care. She was asked by Governor Murphy to co-chair the Third Sector Advisory Council to work with public sector leaders across the state to develop relief, recovery, and re-imagination strategies to support ALICE.

Prior to joining United Way, Kiran served as interim CEO and vice president of Program Operations at New Jersey After 3, the public-private partnership that worked to provide safe, quality after-school and expanded learning time programs for 15,000 public school students in New Jersey. During her nine years with New Jersey After 3, Kiran created and managed a professional development system for 6,000 after-school program directors, site managers, and staff. She also oversaw the organization’s annual grant application process involving more than 100 after-school programs.

Kiran developed programmatic and operational management expertise while serving as director of Mentoring, Volunteerism & Enrichment Programs at Sponsor For Educational Opportunity. There, she led the development of a mentoring program designed to help New York City teens reach their academic, personal, and career potential.

Early in her career, as a policy adviser under former Governor James Florio in the New Jersey Governor’s Office of Volunteerism, Kiran was instrumental in establishing AmeriCorps in New Jersey.

Kristin Sharp Board Member (CEO, Flex Association)

Kristin Sharp has made a career out of innovating the way we work.  She is currently CEO of Flex, the voice of the app-based economy.  Prior to that she led non-profits, venture and consulting projects to help connect workers with new sources of income enabled by technology.  Earlier in her career, she had a long stint in technology, innovation, and workforce development in the US Senate, working in senior staff roles for senators and committees on both sides of the political aisle.

When she isn’t working to transition our education and workforce systems from an industrial economy to a tech-based one, Kristin is running, hiking or swimming to keep up with two energetic sons, and is an avid reader of sci-fi and dystopian fiction.

Read a Forbes article featuring Kristin and Alfa Demmellash on the role of entrepreneurship in post-COVID recovery.

Maurice Kuykendoll Treasurer of the Board (CFO, Group Insurance at Prudential Financial)

Maurice is the Chief Financial Officer of Group Insurance at Prudential Financial. Prior to that, he was the finance lead for the Company’s Transformation Office with additional responsibility for overseeing Finance’s expense center of excellence and the Corporate & Other segment unit within the global controllers group.  Maurice also served as the national co-chair for the Black Leadership Forum, the company’s largest and oldest business resource group.

Prior to his current role, Maurice was the Controller for Prudential International Insurance (PII), encompassing Prudential’s operating life insurance and related financial services businesses outside of the U.S. In this role, he led a team responsible for accurate and timely financial and management reporting for PII.

Since 2008, he has held positions of increasing responsibility at Prudential, including a two-year expatriate assignment in Tokyo, Japan, and chief of staff to Prudential’s Global Chief Financial Officer.

Maurice holds an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and a B.S. in Accounting from Hampton University. He is a certified public accountant. He serves on the board of directors of the Gloucester Institute, the advisory board of the Hampton University School of Business and as a trustee of the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity.

Learn more about Maurice, 2020-2021 Rising Tide Capital Annual Report (pg. 21)

Preston Pinkett III Board Member (President, P3 Collective; Chair, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; President of Founders’ Impact New Enterprises)

Preston Pinkett has spent his entire career working to alleviate economic disparities, income inequality, empowering individuals and investing in communities that have been historically underserved. Throughout his career, Preston has served in a number of leadership positions in minority banking, impact investing, and community and economic development. He has held senior positions in numerous financial positions including PNC Bank, Prudential Insurance Company, Chemical Bank, and City National Bank.

He has demonstrated significant leadership in public sector organizations focused on creating opportunities for public-private partnerships that create effective, impact-driven solutions, as a senior officer at the NJ Economic Development Authority, and board chairman for NJ Community Capital.

Preston has demonstrated a commitment to creating financial opportunities for minority / underserved communities by serving as chairman of the National Bankers Association (the leading trade association for minority banks in the U.S.); as a founding board member of the Global Impact Investment Network; and as a member of the OCC’s minority depository advisory committee.

Preston continues to work addressing these issues through philanthropic initiatives: where he serves as the chairman of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; private sector efforts where he serves as a board or advisory board member for venture funds serving minority- and underserved-entrepreneurs at Newark Venture Partners, University Ventures, and Founders’ Impact. In addition, he serves as president of P3 Collective which provides strategic advisory services to support, develop and launch public-private-philanthropic partnerships and other collaborative initiatives, and as President of Founders’ Impact New Enterprises, a 501(c)(3) organization, that partners with Founders’ Impact to support small businesses and community-based organizations through technical assistance and developmental services.

In addition, Preston currently serves on the boards of Montclair State University, Mentor Newark, Fund for a Better Future, and Shared Accent Fund.

Preston is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.