Meet the Team

Meet the Team

We are a 60-person professional staff dedicated to supporting all University of Chicago students, faculty, staff, alumni, and outside small business owners in navigating the complex process of creating and growing a startup or bringing their idea to market. We also serve as an important gateway for industry partners, helping them access new research and technologies from the University of Chicago.

Polsky Executive Leadership

Polsky Executive Leadership

Samir Mayekar

Samir Mayekar

Associate Vice President and Managing Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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Samir Mayekar

Associate Vice President and Managing Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

1463 E. 53rd Street Chicago, IL 60615
O: 773-702-0404
E: smayekar@uchicago.edu

Samir is an accomplished leader with a track record of driving innovation and impact across the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. Most recently, he was deputy mayor for the city of Chicago, where he focused on economic and neighborhood development. He was a driving force behind initiatives such as INVEST South/West, the city’s signature community development initiative that marshaled resources from across city departments, community organizations, and corporate and philanthropic partners to support commercial corridors across several South and West Side neighborhoods. Before that, he served in the U.S. government during the Obama Administration, where he was part of the White House’s national security team and on the executive staff at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Samir also co-founded and served as CEO of NanoGraf Corporation, a global manufacturer of advanced materials for the lithium-ion battery industry that has raised over $100 million in funding and was spun out of Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University. He holds a B.A. and M.B.A. from Northwestern, where he served as a trustee, and he is active in the Chicago civic community, serving on the boards of the Metropolitan Pier and Exhibition Authority, Lyric Opera, and other organizations. He is also a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and is an alumnus of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship and the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

As head of the Polsky Center, Samir plays a pivotal role in advancing the University’s innovation, technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and partnership priorities. He fosters connections across the University, our city, region, and world that enable the Polsky Center to accelerate the commercialization of critical technologies to help solve some of society’s most urgent challenges. He also elevates efforts to help drive economic development on the South Side and strengthen partnerships that bolster the university’s and Chicago’s upward trajectory as hubs of world-class innovation.

Steve Kaplan

Steve Kaplan

Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director, Polsky Center

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Steve Kaplan

Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director, Polsky Center

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.4513
E: steven.kaplan@chicagobooth.edu

Steven Neil Kaplan is the Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Steve cofounded the Polsky Center and the entrepreneurship program at Chicago Booth. He also started the New Venture Challenge (NVC), which is recognized as one of the top accelerator programs in the nation.

He teaches advanced MBA and executive courses in entrepreneurial finance and private equity, corporate finance, corporate governance, and wealth management. BusinessWeek named him one of the top 12 business school teachers in the country. Steve conducts research on issues in private equity, venture capital, entrepreneurial finance, corporate governance and corporate finance. He has published papers in a number of academic and business journals. Kaplan is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and an associate editor of the Journal of Financial Economics.

He is the co-creator of the Kaplan-Schoar PME (Public Market Equivalent) private equity benchmarking approach. A Fortune Magazine article referred to him as “probably the foremost private equity scholar in the galaxy.”

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Dan Sachs

Dan Sachs

Executive Director, Deep Tech Ventures

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Dan Sachs

Executive Director, Deep Tech Ventures

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: dan.sachs@chicagobooth.edu 

Dan Sachs is the executive director of Polsky Deep Tech Ventures. In this role, he oversees all aspects of the University’s effort to apply Chicago Booth’s 25-year history of accelerating companies to innovation in the rapidly-growing Deep Tech space. He is responsible for science programming and accelerators, including the development a full spectrum suite of services, offerings, and investment funds to position these startup for success.

As a seasoned business executive and entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, Dan has strong ties to Chicago. He recently served as president of Meerkat Advisory, an A-list hospitality and leadership development advisory group, and was a professor of management and entrepreneurship at DePaul University. Before that, he was the founder and owner of BIN 36 Restaurant Group and grew the company’s wine brand domestically as well as to international acclaim. With 25 years of operating experience in the restaurant and service industry, Dan has become a trusted expert for private equity firms, large hotel corporations, and owners of live entertainment venues. He published the book The Million Dollar Greeting, which provides insights on how to apply hospitality industry best practices to strengthen company profit, customer retention, and employee morale.

Dan earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University, a doctorate in business administration specializing in organizational behavior from DePaul University, and a grand diplôme from École de Cuisine La Varenne.

Bill Payne, PhD

Bill Payne, PhD

Executive Director, Science and Technology

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Bill Payne, PhD

Executive Director, Science and Technology

6054 S. Drexel Ave., Suite 405
Chicago IL 60637
O: 773.834.7846
E: billpayne@uchicago.edu

Executive Assistant:
Beatriz Gonzalez
O: 773.834.3209
E: gonzalezb@uchicago.edu

Bill Payne is the executive director of science and technology at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. In this role, he leads the technology commercialization, Polsky Science Ventures, and industry relations teams working to bring groundbreaking faculty research to the market.

As a seasoned business and technology executive from the telecommunications industry, Bill most recently served as vice president and chief operating officer of Roberson and Associates’ consulting. The firm’s clients are from various technology industries, and its services include intellectual property assessment and expert witness testimony.

Bill has held leadership roles in product and technology development at Nokia, Motorola, and AT&T. He had business unit chief technology officer (CTO) responsibilities at both Nokia and Motorola, driving innovations into commercial products and services. He led Nokia’s Small Cell Business Line, as well as the development of Motorola’s first commercial 4G/LTE cellular infrastructure products. As CTO of Motorola’s infrastructure business, he incentivized the development of idea disclosures and introduced an innovation gate process to track, promote, and move concepts toward patent filings and/or commercialization. Bill has 9 issued patents.

Bill is also a startup veteran—having founded and built a company that developed a mobile advertising and sponsorship service that was integrated into AT&T’s and Verizon’s networks and approved for use.

Bill received his BSEE from Purdue University, his MSEE from Georgia Tech, and his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He is a lifelong Chicagoan who enjoys boating and sports.

James Licklider

James Licklider

Executive Director of Operations

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James Licklider

Executive Director of Operations

6054 S. Drexel Ave., Suite 405
Chicago IL 60637
O: 773.834.5641
E: jlicklider@uchicago.edu

Executive Assistant:
Camille Andres
O: 773.702.0926
E: candres@uchicago.edu

James Licklider serves as the executive director of operations for the Polsky Center. In this role, he oversees finance, human resources, IT, facilities and space needs, and strategic planning.

Prior to Polsky, James spent over seven years at UChicago’s Institute for Mind and Biology as its administrative director. He managed the post-award operation for the Florida State University College of Medicine and guided its faculty practice plan as chief financial officer. James also held roles in central post-award administration at FSU, pre-award and department administration at DePaul University, and executive management in several Chicago nonprofits.

James earned an MS in accountancy, MS in public services management, and a BA in political science at DePaul University. He is a Certified Research Administrator and a former participant in the Executive Program for Emerging Leaders (EPEL) at Chicago Booth.

Abigail Ingram

Abigail Ingram

Executive Director, Polsky Exchange

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Abigail Ingram

Executive Director, Polsky Exchange

1452 E. 53rd St.
Chicago IL 60615
O: 773.834.0812
E: aingram@uchicago.edu

Abigail Ingram is executive director of the Polsky Exchange, a 34,000-square-foot incubator space that leads the Polsky Center’s engagement with the South Side community through programs and initiatives that support local business owners and entrepreneurs. Abigail is passionate about the role of entrepreneurship as a pathway to opportunity and the importance of measuring impact.

Prior to joining the Polsky Center, Abigail launched the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business, and served as its inaugural director for three years. While at WEI, the nation’s first comprehensive institute for women founders, Abigail designed and proved a model that measurably increases economic empowerment for entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur herself, Abigail also taught courses at Driehaus in Entrepreneurship Law, Entrepreneurship Strategy, and Women Entrepreneurs.

She launched her first venture, a music studio in Denver, Colorado, in 2009, and spent four years exploring sustainable business models for creative entrepreneurs. Abigail is a practicing attorney who founded and runs a boutique law firm that provides legal counsel to entrepreneurs.

Abigail  earned her J.D. and an M.A. in English from DePaul University. She went to undergrad at Eastern Illinois University, where she also studied English.

Abigail Prescott

Abigail Prescott

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications

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Abigail Prescott

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
E: abigail.prescott@chicagobooth.edu

Abigail Prescott serves as the Executive Director of Marketing & Communications for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, she leads the Polsky Center’s internal and external messaging strategies to amplify the brand of the center and advance awareness of the broad suite of entrepreneurship programs available to students, alumni, faculty, and research partners, as well as the University of Chicago’s technology commercialization efforts and bolstering community engagement at through the Polsky Exchange.

Abigail holds over a decade of experience in external communications strategies and implementation. She brings experience in creative storytelling, targeted messaging, and brand identity to this role. Most recently, she held the position of Chief Communications Officer at Urban Gateways where she managed and launched an organizational visual identity rebrand; oversaw the development of a multi-platform mobile app technology solution with a heavy focus on end-user experience; and led a special task force to establish, adopt, and implement organizational core values. In her time with Urban Gateways she built a robust communications team focused on creative storytelling in order to demonstrate organizational impact to supporters and constituents. Abigail believes in the power of stories to help people connect more deeply with their passions and interests.

Abigail earned a master’s degree in arts management from Columbia College of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Illinois Wesleyan University. She believes in the power of the arts and all variety of creative practices as catalysts for change and growth – both personally and professionally.

Abigail lives in Oak Park with her husband, Hayden, and their two children, Beatrix and Isaac. In her spare time she is a vinyasa yoga teacher, is a budding gardener, and makes extravagant cakes for her children’s birthdays.

Erika Mercer

Erika Mercer

Executive Director of Booth Entrepreneurship

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Erika Mercer

Executive Director of Booth Entrepreneurship

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.834.1521
E: emercer@uchicago.edu

Erika Mercer serves as the executive director of Booth Entrepreneurship at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In this role, she oversees all entrepreneurship programming within Chicago Booth, leading a team of staff in developing co-curricular programs and experiential learning opportunities for MBA students, alumni, and other related constituents. This includes managing the startup, private equity, venture capital, entrepreneurship through acquisition, and small business programs that serve the professional interests students and alumni. She has been with the Polsky Center since 2010 and, over that time, has led the development and growth of numerous Polsky Center offerings.

Erika brings close to 20 years of experience in higher education, having previously held roles in the international programming offices at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Brown University, where she managed, developed, and promoted study abroad programs worldwide, acted as the primary contact for students, faculty, and staff on site, and provided international training and advising to undergraduates. She served as a member of several international education organizations, including The Forum on Education Abroad and NAFSA: Association of International Educators; was published in Abroad View Magazine and the Bulletin of the American Research Center in Egypt; and presented at national conferences on the topic of cultural and citizen diplomacy. She also interned in the Academic Editorial Department at Oxford University Press, where she assisted editors with the review and preparation of manuscripts for production.

Erika earned a BA, magna cum laude, from Middlebury College and an EdM from Harvard University. She has studied in Spain, Germany, and Egypt.

Camille Andres

Camille Andres

Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice President and Managing Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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Camille Andres

Executive Assistant to the Associate Vice President and Managing Director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

5807 S. Woodlawn Ave., Suite 207
Chicago, IL 60637
O: 773.702.0926
E: candres@uchicago.edu

Camille Andres serves as the executive assistant to the associate vice president and head of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She is responsible for support functions as well as special projects for the AVP and director of operations and chief of staff.

Prior to joining Polsky, Camille served as senior assistant to the associate dean, Psychology Department at Pepperdine University for 11 years. She supported the associate dean and also handled significant graduate program responsibilities, such as adjunct faculty hires, course schedules, payroll, and new student orientations. Before working at Pepperdine, Camille also served as administrative coordinator at another graduate school and has worked in various forms of healthcare. She began her career at Crain’s Communications in Chicago.

Camille earned a bachelor of arts in communications from Loyola University of Chicago.

Camille loves to travel both domestically and internationally, and in her spare time she enjoys working out, watching sports, and spending time with her family.

Steven Gould, MD

Steven Gould, MD

Consulting Director, Ventures

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Steven Gould, MD

Consulting Director, Ventures

6054 S. Drexel Ave., Suite 405
Chicago IL 60637
M: 847.902.0304
E: sgould2@uchicago.edu

Steven Gould, MD, serves as the Consulting Director for Polsky Science Ventures and is responsible for leading the formation and launch of new science based ventures from University of Chicago faculty research. In this role, he advises faculty founders, engages the investor community, and works closely with leadership to develop future strategies for Polsky Science Ventures.

Steve is the Founder and Principal of The Gould Consulting Group, which provides advisory services to companies, universities and venture investors seeking to develop and capitalize on healthcare innovations in biotechnology and life sciences, devices, diagnostics, and healthcare IT. He is deeply engaged in the Chicago healthcare and entrepreneurial ecosystem. He is a founding member of the Board of Directors for MATTER; chair of the Advisory Board for Point B, a mentoring program formerly called Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM); and a member of the Bioscience committee of WBC’s ChicagoNEXT. He has also previously served as a judge in the New Venture Challenge and has been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Polsky Center.

He has in-depth experience raising capital for and investing in early stage companies in both clinical and scientific research in an academic environment, and as an executive for a publicly traded biotechnology company. As the scientific founder and former CEO of Northfield Laboratories, he led the company’s IPO and raised nearly $300 million in both public and private financings. Prior to Northfield, Steve was Chief of Surgery at Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center and a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Steve received his BA from Williams College and his MD degree from Boston University School of Medicine. He completed his residency training in surgery at Yale and the University of Vermont, and a research fellowship at Michael Reese and the University of Chicago.

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