Power Moves: Frank Bonsal III is leaving TU incubator, returning to venture capital - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Apr. 8, 2019 5:51 pm

Power Moves: Frank Bonsal III is leaving TU incubator, returning to venture capital

Plus, key hires at Facet Wealth, Trigger Transformation and more.

Frank Bonsal III.

(Photo courtesy of Towson University)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Email baltimore@technical.ly.


Frank Bonsal III will leave his full-time role as director of venture creation at Towson University, and is returning to his roots investing in companies as managing partner of Bonsal Capital.

Bonsal joined the university in 2013, leading TU Incubator, which took on its current name and a focus on supporting edtech startups from the region and beyond in the year after he arrived.

“Under Frank’s leadership, we have seen expanded programming opportunities for students, the growth of TU Incubator, and new partnerships created with businesses and economic developers to create an entrepreneurial hub in our region,” Daraius Irani, VP of TU’s Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, wrote in a post on the transition.

Over five and a half years, the incubator supported 83 companies, with 62 working on education-focused products. This marked growth from 22 companies supported in the five years prior, according to statistics released by the university. The incubator’s events have served as a gathering point for the edtech community, and played host to conversations on broader entrepreneurship conversations, as well.

Bonsal said identifying the focus was important as it fit both with Baltimore’s place as a center of edtech, and Towson University’s history in preparing teachers.

“The shift to an industry that the ecosystem needed and where the university has a great deal of authentic alignment was key to the incubator’s more recent growth and impact. There are many incubators in the State of Maryland and those that have had the most impact have either sincere track record, are thoughtfully differentiated give ecosystem need, and have the capital backing to be sustained,” he said.

Bonsal also pointed to the incubator’s place within the TU Division of Strategic Partnership and Applied Research.

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“The structure of the division is unique in [the University System of Maryland] and allows for a more nimble, entrepreneurial pathways for new and innovative programs that are university-aligned,” he said. For instance, Irani said Bonsal was instrumental in building and piloting the  Student Launch Pad, a student-focused platform which is now overseen by the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Bonsal will now return to the firm where he began working in venture capital in 2001. Bonsal Capital was formed in 1999 as his father Frank A. Bonsal, Jr., was winding down his full-time role with NEA, the influential VC firm he cofounded in 1977. Bonsal III took on a role as associate there, and was later a partner with New Markets Venture Partners, an edtech-focused firm based in Fulton, Md.

“We have made over 15 investments in education since 2001 and realized two-thirds of them,” he said of Bonsal Capital. “For the time being, Bonsal Capital will be sorting out reserves needed for prospective follow-on investing in existing holdings and be thoughtfully exclusive to investing in regional edtech, with an open-minded eye beyond. This is a family office vehicle whose returns and impact are exemplary.”

Bonsal said he will remain supportive of entrepreneurship at TU, including in a mentoring role. His final day at the university is Friday, April 12.

As news was circulating of the transition last week, an announcement emerged that Bonsal and the incubator received an industry award in the category of “National Leader” from EdTech Digest.

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Facet Wealth named Tyler Craig as the new planning team lead of the personal finance startup.

Craig comes to the Harbor East-based company from investment advisor Vanguard, where he worked for 14 years and was senior manager of its personal advisor services. On Craig will lead expansion of Facet Wealth’s distributed team of financial planners, who utilize the company’s technology platform in providing services to clients. The company raised $33 million last year and has been growing quickly.

“Tyler’s experience as an innovator and planning manager in a fast-growth environment made him an ideal fit for the Facet team,” said Anders Jones, CEO of Facet Wealth, said in a statement. “We’re fortunate to attract talent of his caliber.”

Craig will be based in Arizona, working at the Baltimore headquarters often.

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Baltimore-based Trigger Transformation said Joey McCord joined the company as chief technology officer.

He’ll lead product and technology for the company, which was cofounded by “Voice of the Ravens” Gerry Sandusky and longtime HR leader Lisa First-Willis. The startup’s platform applies methods used by professional sports teams to help companies evaluate and develop talent.

McCord previously served in leadership roles including chief operating officer and chief product officer at D.C.-based ICX Media, and is an alum of Baltimore adtech darling Millennial Media.

“As we move to the next stage of growth for both our customer base and team in 2019, we needed someone to bring a market-approach to continue to cultivate our product and guide our technology. Joey brings proven strategic leadership in organizational development, and a rich background in scaling applications, data science and operations,” First-Willis said in a statement.

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Hanover-based cybersecurity firm Bridges made a pair of key promotions that are designed to position the company for further growth.

Diana Gresham was promoted to chief operating officer, and will lead operations support. She brings experience both as the firm’s VP of business development and at the National Security Agency.

Chris Horn was named vice president of government solutions. He joined the company from NSA, where he served in leadership roles, most recently as deputy chief of customer facing and data center services, leading a team of more than 800 people.

“In order to thrive, companies must be agile, disciplined, and focused. We are at an exciting point building our company, and I have been committed to bringing in the leadership needed to deliver our vision,” CEO Chuck Faughnan III said in a statement.

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