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.

Juliana Garaizar

Juliana is a Board Member of the Angel Capital Association, a Senior Advisor of the Portfolia Consumer Fund and Rising Tide Fund, an Investment Committee Member of the Texas Medical Center Fund and a Kauffman Fellow. Juliana was the Managing Director Houston Angel Network (most active US network in 2015-2017) and of the Sophia Business Angels network (best European network in 2010). Previously Juliana managed Antipolis Innovation Campus, the Business Innovation Centre in in the French Riviera, as well as several International Projects funded by the European Commission. She started her career in Singapore: first as an International Trade Consultant for the Trade Commission of Spain in a broad range of industry sectors and then as a Project Manager for the Asia Technology Office of Citigroup, leading projects at international level in Europe, Latin America and Japan.

Juliana obtained an MBA at the London Business School and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, specializing in Entrepreneurship. She is President of one of Sophia Business Angels sidecar funds SBA ISF Holding, Expert Committee Member of Success Europe Fund and a member of the UT Horizons Fund External Advisory Committee. Juliana is a member of the Angel Capital Association Marketing Membership Committee and of Ignite, a health-focused women investment group as well as the Early Stage Investing Education Chair for of Houston Exponential’s Steering Committee. International Founding Member of Istanbul’s Galata Business Angels Juliana also helped WEangels get started, focusing on investing in Latin American Women Entrepreneurs.

Keith Kreuer

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.

Christy Luquire

Christy Luquire is an active angel investor and partner in the Texas Halo Fund. Prior to moving back to Houston, Christy co-founded Lucid, a PE-backed software company based in New Orleans, and served for five years as its CFO, managing all aspects of their finance and human resource functions during their massive growth. While in New Orleans, Christy served on the board of the New Orleans Angel Network, on the investment committee for the New Orleans Start-up Fund, and became an active angel investor and mentor to early-stage companies in the area. Christy is now active with the Houston Angel Network and multiple volunteer organizations in Houston.

Prior to Lucid, Christy was a VP within Wells Fargo’s investment bank, focused on foreign exchange and interest rate derivative sales. It was there where she initially became interested in start-ups – and how to finance their growth – through multiple entrepreneurial roles she held within the large company. Christy has a BS in Engineering from Duke University and an MBA from Wharton School of Business.

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.

John Reale

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.

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.

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.