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Featured Entrepreneur

Diane Ivey :
Lady Dye Yarns, LLC

Raj Melville

Executive Director, Deshpande Foundation 

As Executive Director at the Deshpande Foundation, Raj develops overall strategy, and channels the Foundation’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. Raj works closely with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox by leading the team and driving the overall strategy.  Previously as Principal at Ambient Engines, Raj Melville provided marketing and strategy consulting to emerging social entrepreneurs. He founded the annual Forum for Social Entrepreneurs, organized and moderated numerous panels and workshops on social entrepreneurship, and currently mentors several startups focused on addressing key social issues. Raj has over 25 years of product management, marketing and consulting experience including managing overall product strategy and features as Vice President, Product Management for nTAG Interactive, a spin off from the MIT Media Lab. As V.P. Product Management and Marketing, and later V.P Client Services, at mobile software vendor Vaultus, another MIT spinoff, (now part of Antenna Software) he provided marketing, product management and client services direction. Prior to that he was Sr. Director, Product Management at Be Free Inc. (now Valueclick), a market leading affiliate marketing ad server and e-commerce solution. Earlier he managed the launch of two high-end Internet server products at Electronic Book Technologies (later acquired by Inso). His early career included working at Microsoft Corp., Digital Equipment Corporation, and Booz Allen & Hamilton.

He is an active member of TiE Boston and the India Society of Worcester and co-founded the TIE Social Entrepreneurship Group. He has been a mentor and judge for several entrepreneurial competitions such as MassChallenge, MIT 100K, and the MIT IDEAS competition. Raj has a Doctor of Science in engineering from MIT focusing on optimizing the operation of computerized manufacturing systems; a Master’s from MIT’s Sloan School; and a Bachelor’s from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

David Parker

Executive Director, Merrimack Valley Sandbox

As the Executive Director for the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, David is working with a broad cross-section of community members to identify entrepreneurs, encourage them to propose their ideas, and then help them improve their chances of success. David has built a strong volunteer organization drawing from non-profit agencies and business and government organizations throughout the Merrimack Valley.

David spent his last 15 years working on six entrepreneurial ventures, in some cases as part of the initial team and in others as the founder or co-founder. Three of his companies achieved significant success: Viaweb was sold to Yahoo, Direct Hit was acquired by Ask Jeeves, and TripAdvisor continues today as a standalone public company (NASDAQ: TRIP) and was also acquired by Barry Diller’s Interactive Corp in 2005. Other companies at which he played a lead role include SoundBite Communications, a public company (NASDAQ: SDBT); Delphi Internet which exists as Delphi Forums; and DigitalAdvisor.
Prior to working on Internet ventures, David worked in the publishing industry for a variety of magazine and newspaper companies. David has an MBA with honors from Harvard Business School and a B.A. with honors from Harvard College. He lives in Lexington, MA, with his wife, Janet Tiampo, and his son, Noah. David’s daughter Anna is a student at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Janin Duran

Program Manager, Student Projects

Janin has been with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox since 2011. She works closely with student and youth to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into a reality.  Prior to joining MVS, Janin worked as the Multicultural Specialist at Middlesex Community College. At the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Janin worked in the Office of Student Activities and Multicultural Affairs as a Program Coordinator where she coordinated events while working closely with students, faculty/staff and the Lowell community. Born in the Dominican Republic, Janin grew up in the city of Lawrence and lived in Lowell for seven years. She has been actively engaged in both cities through many local organizations. Janin obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminal Justice and Master’s of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Lianna Kushi

Program Manager, Sandbox Entrepreneur Program

Lianna has been with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox since April 2011 working initially to develop the Catalyst programs that engage high school and college students in the Merrimack Valley to try out entrepreneurial ideas. Lianna is passionate about entrepreneurship, the arts, and community development. In Lowell she worked at local non-profits, the Revolving Museum and the Cultural Organization of Lowell and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Angkor Dance Troupe.

Prior to moving to Lowell Lianna worked for the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Where she supported scholars and practitioners from Japan, managed program publications and organized forums, seminars and events for the larger community. Lianna received her B.A. from Smith College and her M.A. in Economic and Social Development of Regions from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Emil Kuruvilla

Senior Marketing Manager

Emil joined the Merrimack Valley Sandbox in July 2011. Emil creates and implements the Sandbox’s marketing and press strategy. He also documents the work of the Sandbox through photography and video. Between 2009-11, Emil was the Media Fellow for the Deshpande Foundation in Hubli, India. He developed both commercials and short documentaries for the Foundation and its NGO partners including the AME Foundation, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, and the Sikshana Foundation. Between 2006-07, he was a Fellow at the Coro Foundation in Los Angeles, CA. His work placements included SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Re-election Campaign, the Orange County Business Council and the City of Los Angeles. In 2006., Emil graduated with honors from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A in International Studies, and a minor in Management.

Lester Sydney

Operations & Finance Manager 

Lester joined the Merrimack Valley Sandbox in October 2012. He was brought on board to help establish internal business process and procedures. He is also responsible for planning/organizing events as well as assisting both the Catalyst Program and the Sandbox Leadership Institute program managers. Prior to joining the Sandbox, Lester first worked as Strategic Account Manager for the #1 software provider of fleet automation software, where he managed the Nissan North America account. From there he took a position as a Channel Sales Director, where he sold recruitment video solutions and brought on board a number of new prominent accounts like Jones Lang LaSalle, Toys R Us, Marsh & McLennan, and Citrix OnlineDuring Lester’s spare time he has also co-founder a non-profit called Elevated Thought Foundation. ETF focuses on supporting the young inner city kids of Lawrence and Lowell by bringing social justice, art and entrepreneurship together to push young kids to learn, promote positive societal change and become the next generation of entrepreneurs/business professionals.