Founders / Hiring / Universities

Power Moves: Virginia Tech selects a former Cornell exec to lead its innovation campus

Plus, hiring news and leadership transitions at FiscalNote, MemoryWell, Dandelion Energy, Amify, 1776 and SEED SPOT.

Lance Collins, the inaugural VP and executive director of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus. (Courtesy photo)

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 us at

Lance Collins, the dean of Cornell University’s College of Engineering, has been named the inaugural VP and executive director for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. He’s been leading Cornell’s engineering college since 2010, after first joining the university in 2002 as a professor.

Collins was selected after Virginia Tech (VT) did an international search for its upcoming campus being built in Northern Virginia. His expertise in tech mixed with his passion to accelerate diversity and inclusion efforts aligned with the type of leader the university was looking for, according to a press release.

Collins will start his new position with VT on Aug. 1.

“I’m energized by the opportunity to build a campus from the ground up in the burgeoning National Landing district,” said Collins in a statement. “Our inaugural students, faculty and new and developing partners will collaborate to advance technology to meet societal needs rather than allowing technology to define our lives.”

For his academic career, Collins earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. all in mechanical engineering. As part of his appointment with VT, he will also become a professor of mechanical engineering at the innovation campus.

As the campus prepares to open this fall with its first group of students, Collins said that his first order of business as executive director will be to add more staff to his leadership team.


D.C.-based FiscalNote promoted Chris Lafferty to senior VP and CPO. Lafferty was serving as the company’s VP of product until his promotion last month. Launched in 2013, the company, based on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House, runs a legislative prediction platform.

With this promotion, Lafferty will oversee a research and development team that focuses on topics including product, engineering, data operations and data science, a press release states.

“Every day, I am energized by the work we do at FiscalNote to create products and services that help our customers, including some of the world’s largest enterprises, navigate risk, opportunity, and uncertainty,” said Lafferty in a statement. “As we enter the next phase of growth and innovation, I am honored to lead the incredibly talented team of people behind the FiscalNote products.”


After two year’s serving as Veda Data Solutions’ finance and operations director, Alex Karmazin has left the company to join MemoryWell as CFO.

Alex Karmazin, MemoryWell’s new CFO. (Courtesy photo)

Launched in 2016 by Jay Newton-Small, MemoryWell manages a network of professional journalists who interview seniors and their families through to publish stories, photos, music and video that are archived on the company’s mobile responsive web platform.

Karmazin has began his role leading MemoryWell’s finances this week.


Michael Sachse has been appointed the CEO of New York-based geothermal energy company Dandelion Energy.

Sachse formerly worked at Arlington’s Opower for seven years serving in various roles, including CMO, until 2016 and most recently, he served as the CEO Stardog Union CEO from June 2018 to September 2019. During his time as CMO at Opower, Sachse was a part of the team that helped the company IPO and get acquired by Oracle back in 2016.

Dandelion Energy launched as an independent company in May 2017 after being founded at Google’s parent company Alphabet’s X lab, according to a press release. This hiring news follows the startup’s recent $12 million Series A funding. Sachse succeeds Kathy Hannun, the company’s cofounder, who has transitioned to Dandelion Energy’s president.

“Now that we have achieved product-market fit and begun the process of scaling, I’ve decided to welcome Michael Sachse to the team as Dandelion’s new CEO,” said Hannun in a statement. “I’m excited to focus my time on product innovation and technological advancement in my role as Dandelion’s President.”

Sachse will bring his experience scaling startups during major growth periods to Dandelion Energy.


Arlington-based Amify is adding to its executive team after expanding to Ohio last November with a second headquarters. The Amazon ecommerce service provider named Brian MacDonald as its VP of strategy and advertising and Shelly Helser as its VP of operations. Both executives will work from the company’s Cincinnati office.

Prior to joining Amify, MacDonald spent 12 years working in various strategy and marketing positions at Barefoot Proximity, a full-service creative, media and advertising agency in Cincinnati. In his new role, he will lead the creative, media and ecommerce strategy behind Amify’s client brands.

Helser brings 25 years of experience at Proctor and Gamble, where she led operations on various projects including the company’s new ventures division. In her new role, Helser will work with Amify’s client brands as they navigate and establish their sales on Amazon.

“Adding Brian and Shelly to our team allows us to continue our growth and solidify our reputation as the industry’s most trusted full-service partner for brands looking to succeed on Amazon,” said Amify CEO Ethan McAfee in a statement.

This hiring news comes after Amify relocated its Virginia HQ closer to the site of Amazon’s second headquarters last August. The company’s Ohio headquarters is also strategically located near Amazon’s Prime Air Hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.


Prominent incubator network 1776 has hired Tracy Turner as the campus director of its Greencourt Innovation Center location in Bethesda, Maryland.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in incubator operations and membership management to the 1776 team. Prior to joining 1776, Turner led operations at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and she previously led the Howard Tech Council as executive director from June 2015 to last November.


Social impact incubator SEED SPOT welcomed Dana Ward as its new program manager early last month.

Dana Ward, SEED SPOT’s program manager. (Courtesy photo)

In this role, Ward will help oversee program recruitment, provide hands-on support for SEED SPOT’s network of social entrepreneurs and coordinate logistics for the organization’s local programming efforts.

Ward is also an entrepreneur herself. While studying for a business certificate in entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Boulder between 2009 and 2013, she won a pitch competition for her venture to create inexpensive ballet flats that would be accessible for consumers through vending machines.

“I look forward to supporting ventures across the DMV in growing their solutions and making a greater impact by equipping them with resources, potential customers, mentors, and access to experts,” said Ward in a statement. “I will push each entrepreneur to scale their company faster and sustainably for long-term success, and leverage my network and experience to make that happen.”

Companies: Opower / 76 Forward / FiscalNote
Series: Power Moves

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