Who We Are
Our Managing Director
Kala Marathi has spent over 20 years in the technology investing and innovation space. As a Venture Partner at Climate Impact Capital, she facilitates investments in companies at the cutting edge of the energy transition. She has built and managed diversified portfolios of startup companies as Managing Director of the Cougar Venture Fund and as COO of Skypoint Capital. She is also a Co-Founder and Board Member at 7 Hills Pharma, an immunotherapy company.
In her role as Managing Director of the Houston Angel Network, Kala has facilitated over $30M in investments in 85 deals, and co-founded the Texas Halo Fund. She has more than 20 years of operating and financial experience. Kala was formerly with Reliant Energy where she was a founding member of the corporate venture group, Reliant Energy Net Ventures. At Reliant, she led several smart grid pilots and technology initiatives, and launched a subsidiary called Texas Star Energy. She also has extensive experience in strategy and corporate finance with such firms as the Continental Airlines and Chase.
Kala has served on the Board of Directors of the Texas Lyceum and the National Association of Women MBAs (Houston Chapter), and served as co-chair of the HX Cybersecurity Technology Committee. Kala has B.A. in Japanese and Economics from Wellesley College, and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
Board of Advisors
Dr. Edward Blair is the Michael J. Cemo Professor of Marketing & Entrepreneurship and Chair of the Department of Marketing & Entrepreneurship in the C. T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston. He also serves on the Journal of Consumer Research Policy Board, representing the American Association for Public Opinion Research. He previously served as chair of the American Statistical Association Committee on Energy Statistics, which advises the U.S. Energy Information Administration on statistical matters, as a member of the U.S. Census Bureau Advisory Committee, and as a National Science Foundation panelist in Innovation and Organizational Change.
In addition to teaching university classes, Dr. Blair has taught in a variety of professional programs, including the American Marketing Association's School of Marketing Research (for research professionals) and Advanced Research Techniques Forum. He also has served as a consultant to various companies and as an expert witness in various lawsuits.
Heath Butler is venture investor, a serial entrepreneur and seasoned corporate executive with over 20 years of experience as a transformational leader with a proven ability to define a vision, execute strategy and deliver accelerated business impact. As a Partner at Mercury Fund, Heath focuses on Work-Tech and Fin-Tech investment themes within B2B Software and B2B2C Managed Marketplaces. He also manages the firms proprietary venture studio and network platform, including growth partners, service providers and community partnerships.
Prior to joining Mercury, Heath co-founded Gestalt Theory Venture Partners, a venture studio for early-stage companies; held leadership roles as a fin-tech Division President, and a seasoned go-to-market, corporate development executive and at Insperity (NYSE: NSP), the nation’s leading HR outsourcing services provider; led business development for EnergyWorkspace.com; co-founded a fin-tech startup; and developed his foundational management skills at UPS. Heath received an MBA in Marketing from Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business and a B.S. in Finance from the University of New Orleans.
Craig is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Softeq Development Corporation, a technology consulting and full-stack development firm based in Houston. In his role as COO, Craig is responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the company, focusing on optimizing processes to ensure efficient functioning. Craig is also a Managing Partner at Softeq Venture Fund, a fund dedicated to fostering the growth of early-stage tech startups. This unique dual role enables him to channel his passions for operational excellence, exceptional customer experience, and the flourishing of the startup ecosystem.
Before joining Softeq, Craig established himself as a seasoned entrepreneur. He was a founding member and CEO of Pinot’s Palette, Houston’s first BYOB Painting Studio. Under his leadership, Pinot’s Palette grew to become a nationwide franchise. Following his exit, he joined the founding team at Rivalry Technologies, developers of an innovative mobile ordering platform designed for stadiums and healthcare facilities, where he currently serves on the Board of Directors. Most recently, Craig founded T-Minus Solutions, a custom software consulting agency focused on startups and growth companies. Craig is deeply committed to the Houston community, actively engaged as a mentor, advisor, and investor for budding entrepreneurs, guiding them through the crucial stages of inception to sustainable growth. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Bread Man Baking, a Houston-based commercial artisan bakery.
Craig received a B.S. in Computer Science from Louisiana State University and an MBA from the Rice University Jones School of Business. He has remained involved at Rice University as an Adjunct Professor and Board of Advisors member for the Jones School of Business. Outside of his professional and community engagements, Craig is a devoted husband and proud father. He loves spending time with his beautiful family and has recently begun learning piano alongside his children.
Kemal is an investor and a veteran technology entrepreneur in energy, financial, manufacturing, e-commerce and health care products & services businesses. For three decades, Kemal has built and grown software, electronics, engineering, IT and services businesses with a specialization in the oil and gas industry covering production operations, hydrocarbon accounting, exploration, drilling, reservoir management and financial services.
Kemal was an early pioneer in the digitization of oil and gas field operations. Kemal founded Merrick Systems, served as its CEO and grew it into the global leader in oil and gas production software. After his successful exit of Merrick, Kemal launched Farid Ventures, a venture capital firm for early and growth-stage enterprises. Portfolio investments and founder history include P2 Energy Solutions, Uber, GeoScale, Seismos, YouPlus, WaveGuide, Abbey Research, Kraftwurx, Zhongmen Group, Axon, SURGE Ventures, RigHand, OVS Group and Shiv Om Consultants.
Kemal has been awarded several dozen business and technical awards, including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011. Kemal serves on and chairs several non-profit boards including at the Society of Petroleum Engineers and at the University of Houston’s Engineering Technology College. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and an Entrepreneurship Masters from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Farid is a regular speaker on entrepreneurship, the digitization of industrial operations and the cultural impact of technology innovation.
Angela Holmes is COO of Mercury Data Science (MDS). At MDS, we build AI solutions for life sciences and healthcare to support drug discovery, medical devices, digital health and clinical trials. Angela is an AI strategist with 15+ years of experience working with venture backed / high growth and F500 organizations in healthcare, life sciences, energy, and financial services. She has experience in designing and implementing data and AI-driven solutions, guiding product development priorities, and growing software adoption and revenue. She has held leadership roles in machine learning (ML) driven software companies across sales, product strategy, marketing, and customer success. She completed the Texas Medical Center startup accelerator program (TMCx) and has held key roles in global consultancies including Ernst & Young, Capgemini, and Perficient. She holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins University.
Keith Kreuer has over 30 years of experience in starting and building innovative, customer-oriented information technology companies. As a Principal with RedHouse Associates, Keith specializes in early stage angel investments and currently sits on the Board of Directors and advisory panels for Autonomous Marine Systems, GolfNet, Onit, Assemble Systems, ProSellus and RunTitle. He was an early investor in idera and served on the Board of Directors until it was acquired by TA Associates in 2014. Keith co-founded PentaSafe in 1997 and served as its Director of World-Wide Services & Support until its acquisition by NetIQ in 2002. Prior to that, Keith was co-founder and President of Penta, Inc., a Houston-based software consulting firm which was acquired by VeriCenter in February 2000.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Kreuer served in various positions as Director of Operations for Generator Systems, Consulting Manager for Ernst & Young, and Software Development Project Manager for Exxon, U.S.A. Mr. Kreuer is a graduate of Iowa State University, where he received a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Computer Science.
J. Benton Mayberry
Mr. Mayberry is a principal in Winston Sage Partners. Winston Sage provides interim management, consulting, and other advisory services for energy, life science, and technology companies and engages in M&A activities both on the buy and sell side. Mr. Mayberry has been a principal in several successful technology startups, including the growth and sale of two systems integration companies, BSG Corp and Align Solutions, the latter through an IPO. He has also managed the M&A process for several other companies, and advised many technology startups through various stages of development, He also served in as the US representative of a Canadian VC focused on energy technology. Over a three year period, they made three US-based acquisitions, and finalized investment terms with four companies.
His education includes a B.A. from Rice University in Mathematical Sciences in 1973, and a Masters in Accountancy from the Jones Graduate School of Rice University in 1976.
Mr. Mayberry currently serves on the board of DI Central, and served on the board of Wellpoint Systems, a publicly traded Canadian energy software company, and Sweet Leaf Tea. He has held various board and advisory board positions for privately held entities, and is a past President of the Houston Angel Network, Jones Business School Alumni Association and Jones School Partners. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Jones School of Business. He is married, with one daughter.
As an attorney with the law firm of Campbell & Riggs, P.C., Nicole Moss represents startup companies from inception through funding, growth and liquidity. She also represents private entities in general corporate matters, mergers and acquisitions and private securities transactions. She previously served as General Counsel for a Houston-based investment platform, and prior to that worked for the Boston office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP advising private equity and venture capital clients in fund formation and M&A activities. Prior experience includes serving as marketing and programs manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship Center, founding and running BluePrint, a provider of non-core services to startups in and around Boston, and recruiting founding team and advisory board members for incubated companies at Cambridge Incubator. Nicole is a guest lecturer for the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston. She is licensed in Texas and Massachusetts.
John Reale is the Co-founder and CEO of Station Houston, Inc. (Station) the hub for Houston’s tech and start-up community focused on software-enabled start-ups. JR also chairs the Mayor’s Task Force for Innovation and Technology Task Force for the City of Houston focused on growing Houston’s start-up and innovation community, as well as serves on the Greater Houston Partnership’s Roundtable Advisory board who serves a similar mission. By background, JR has primarily concentrated on helping launch and grow early-stage technology ventures after starting his career in the financial services industry.
Most recently before co-founding Station, JR founded Arête, an advisory firm that primarily helps early-stage tech entrepreneurs launch and grow their ventures. JR launched Arête after serving as an Operating Executive with Fraser McCombs Capital, an early-stage technology venture capital firm, where he helped lead two of their portfolio companies.
JR serves a variety of civic, faith-based and start-up interests, including: the Roundtable Advisory Board for the Rice Alliance; Board of Directors and past-President of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Houston chapter; Mentor at start-up accelerators, like: TMCx, the Circular Board, OWL Spark and Red Labs; and Co-Founder of the Mentoring Initiative at Cristo Rey Jesuit Preparatory in Houston (Viva Cristo Rey!). JR is an investor, advisor, and / or mentor to a variety of early-stage technology companies. JR received his B.S. from Babson College.
Non-voting Advisory Board Members
Kala Marathi is the Executive Director of Innovation at the University of Houston's C. T. Bauer College of Business and the Managing Director of the Cougar Venture Fund.
Keith Rassin is a serial entrepreneur with a successful track record establishing, developing and selling companies. He’s the co-founder of Amigo Ventures, providing capital and operating expertise to high growth companies. Keith is he co-founder of eConserve LLC, providing water conservation services to apartment communities, and the co-founder of Creativelink Technologies, a software company focused on enterprise marketing solutions. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Houston Angel Network and Salient Pharmaceuticals.
In his spare time, Keith teaches entrepreneurship for the University of Houston MBA/EMBA programs.
Prior to his current ventures, Keith was a partner and the Chief Operating Officer at iPath Solutions where he built an award winning Enterprise Content Management practice that he sold in 2005. During that time, Keith and his team successfully delivered web, enterprise search and portal platforms for Fortune 500 clients such as Intel, Wal-Mart, SYSCO, and JP Morgan Chase. He also owned and operated a restaurant and was a consulting executive in the Health Care practices at Ernst & Young and Accenture. Keith earned his BA with honors from Tulane and JD/MBA from the University of Houston.
The Cougar Venture Fund has established strategic partnerships with the Houston Angel Network and the Texas HALO Fund.