The Cougar Venture Fund

Who We Are

Our Managing Director

Kala Marathi

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. Kala also served as Managing Director of the Houston Angel Network for 9 years. During this time, she has facilitated over $30M in investments in 85 early stage technology deals. She also helped create the Texas HALO Fund, the largest angel-focused sidecar fund in Texas.

Kala has more than 15 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 is a Director in the Texas Lyceum. She has also served on the Board of Directors of Texchange and the National Association of Women MBAs (Houston Chapter), as well as on the Advisory Board of the National Angel Education Foundation. 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

Edward Blair

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.

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.

Nicole Moss

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.

Lauren-Kristine Pryzant

Lauren-Kristine Pryzant is a Senior Analyst at Mercury Fund. She works with the investment team on deal sourcing, investment diligence, and the support of portfolio companies. Lauren-Kristine is an active part of the startup ecosystem in Houston and the middle of the U.S., serving as a mentor at Techstars, TMCx, and OwlSpark/RED Labs accelerators. She is also a frequent lecturer at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University and the University of Houston Bauer College of Business. In addition, Lauren-Kristine is on the Springboard Tech Council, the University of Houston Cougar Ventures Advisory Board, and serves philanthropically on the Prison Entrepreneurship Program Advisory Board. She graduated with highest honors in finance from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain Scholar.

Latha Ramchand

Latha Ramchand is Dean and Professor of Finance at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. Her previous roles at Bauer include Associate Dean of Programs and Administration, where she was responsible for oversight of all the college’s academic programs, and Associate Dean of Graduate and Professional Programs, where she led faculty and staff serving in Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive MBA Master of Science in Accountancy, Master of Science in Finance, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a variety of professional programs, including Energy Certificate Programs.

Ramchand teaches in the areas of Corporate and International Finance and Risk Management. She received her Ph.D. in finance at Northwestern University where she attended the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. She is a gold medalist in Economics from Bombay University where she graduated with a master's degree in Economics. Professor Ramchand has taught in the MBA programs at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, the University of Houston and the Indian School of Business. Ramchand is a noted expert and speaker on several topics, including international and corporate finance, energy education, corporate governance and leadership, global business, energy and the economy, and women in leadership.

Jeff Sheldon

Jeff Sheldon is the General Partner & Managing Director/Founder of CitareTx Investment Partners, a medical device venture development, investment, and management company; Managing Director of CitareTx Management LLC, the venture fund management & operating company; Chairman & CEO/Founder of three CitareTx portfolio companies: EMIT Corporation, Houston Medical Robotics, Inc., and Coaugulex, Inc.; and President & CEO of Yguana Entertainment, Inc. Mr. Sheldon also serves as a Houston Technology Center Board Director; member of the University of Minnesota Discovery Capital Strategic Advisory Board; member of the University of Texas Medical Branch Health Technology Seed Fund Investment Review Committee; and member of the University of Houston Cougar Venture Fund Board of Advisors. Mr. Sheldon was also the Founder/Chairman & CEO of IDev Technologies, Inc. sold to Abbott in August 2013 for $310 Million; Founder/Chairman & CEO of Nittany Polymedics, Inc; Director of Technology Development at MD Anderson Cancer Center; founder of the Technology Management Office at The University of Texas Medical Branch; and held various leadership positions at Rockwell International/Rockwell Space Operations Company. Mr. Sheldon holds a B.S. Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics, with distinction, from the University of Minnesota and a M.B.A. from the University of Houston - Clear Lake.

Rob Tucci

Rob is an active investor and eight year member, board member, and Life Sciences Chair at the Houston Angel Network. He is a member of the University of Houston's Cougar Fund, serving as a judge and is Co-Founder of Houston Health Ventures and the NextHIT Accelerator at the University of Houston. At the $6.5M Texas Halo Fund, Rob serves on the managing Board of Directors and directs investments generally within the biotechnology, life sciences and energy sectors. He is the founder (1996) of Yardley Group, LLC, an active chemical development and export business serving South America. Rob has served as a judge at the Rice University Business Plan Competition, the world's largest. He is an investment adviser to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and on the Board of Directors of Adient Medical, Inc. A chemist and MBA, Rob resides in Houston with his physician wife.

Non-voting Advisory Board Members

Kala Marathi

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

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.

Our Partners

The Cougar Venture Fund has established strategic partnerships with the Houston Angel Network and the Texas HALO Fund.