Meet the Staff

Catherine HokeDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

Founder & CEO

Catherine Hoke

Founder & CEO

Catherine started Defy in 2010 after founding and leading the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. At PEP, Catherine developed the vision, recruited and worked closely with the Governing Board and three Local and National Advisory Boards to execute the vision, led a staff of 25, raised a $2.5 million privately funded budget, taught PEP’s curriculum to men in prison, oversaw all activities with the prison system, and served as an advocate to external constituents. Under Catherine’s leadership, PEP was recognized for its innovation and results by NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Public Radio, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Deal Maker Magazine.

Prior to PEP, Catherine built a network of more than 4,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs during her career in venture capital and private equity. She sourced $32 million in equity investments in three technology deals at Summit Partners, a Palo Alto, California-based firm. Catherine then served as Director of Investment Development at American Securities Capital Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.

A three-time marathon runner, college rugby player and varsity rower, and California State Women’s Wrestling Champion, Catherine still loves training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. As a French Canadian-born daughter of an entrepreneurial immigrant, Catherine was an ESL student and appreciates good grammar. She’s surprisingly domesticated and feels the need to regularly experiment in the kitchen.

Richard BronsonDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Richard Bronson

Executive Relations Director

Richard works with individuals and organizations interested in partnering with Defy’s mission to disrupt a broken criminal justice system.

He began his career working on Wall Street. A serial entrepreneur, he founded a national magazine, ran an advertising agency and helped build several financial service businesses. Most recently, he’s been an advisor to DoYouRemember.com, the popular Internet nostalgia site.

Melissa Gelber-O’DellDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Melissa Gelber-O’Dell

Director, CEO YNL – California

Originally from New York, Melissa Gelber-O’Dell received her BA from Franklin and Marshall College in Government and Women’s Studies and a Master’s degree from New York University in Social Work and Public Policy. She spent seven years at the Center for Court Innovation working to provide new opportunities to individuals involved in the criminal justice system and increase the efficacy of the judiciary. Most recently, Melissa served as the Program Director of the Community Assessment and Services Center, a large-scale reentry resource hub, assisting clients on probation returning from incarceration. Melissa is also an adjunct lecturer in the MPA program at San Francisco State University and is the Chairwoman of the Board for NYC TOGETHER.

As a criminal justice reform advocate, Melissa is passionate about Defy’s mission. In her role as Director, CEO YNL – California, she works to connect Entrepreneurs-in-Training to Defy’s programming and expand pre-release operations on the West Coast.

Charles HokeDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Charles Hoke

VP, Growth

After obtaining his MBA from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), Charles arrived in New York to work on Wall Street. He started his career in High Yield Research and later worked in High Yield Sales & Trading. Charles served as one of Defy’s most active volunteers until 2014 when he left finance behind to join the Defy Ventures staff. His passion for problem solving and fighting injustice attracted him to the opportunity to help redeem one of America’s highest failure rate industries. It also attracted him to the woman he married: Defy’s founder and CEO, Catherine Hoke.

Charles oversees all of Defy’s outward-facing initiatives and programs, including volunteer recruitment, fundraising and donor relations, and employer relations. He develops strategy and infrastructure, and is building a team of charismatic go-getters who love to rep Defy. Let Charles know if any new recruits come to mind.

Louis KanganisDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Louis Kanganis

Chief Operating Officer

Louis oversees organizational development, staff leadership, and business operations for Defy.

He has held C-level positions for a number of startups in the online media, e-commerce and systems/software industries for which he has raised in excess of $15 million of seed and growth capital. In 2001, he founded and then served as CEO for Spring Street Networks, a VC-backed provider of private-label online personals solutions for a network of more than 200 media companies including AOL, Primedia, Hearst Newspapers, RealNetworks, and others. With a database of more than 3 million registered members, Spring Street was sold to a competitor in 2005.

Louis also has more than 10 years of experience in the securities industry as an analyst, portfolio manager and private investor for PaineWebber, Schroders PLC, and Steinhardt Partners, among others. During that time, he had direct P&L responsibility for assets in excess of $400 million. His primary investment focus was on the technology, internet, media, and cable sectors. Louis has an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Geophysics from Columbia College.

Barry KellamDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Barry Kellam

EIT in Residence

Barry works directly with Defy’s Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) by providing support and coaching along the entrepreneurial journey. He himself is a formerly incarcerated individual who graduated from Defy and started the budding business System 3 Carpet and Upholstery Specialist, Inc. Barry won Defy’s Leadership Award while in the program, making him an excellent fit for empowering others to succeed as earners, parents, and role models in their communities.
Markus LeibundgutDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Markus Leibundgut

Chief Technology Officer

Markus has well over 20 years of experience in technology management for both software and hardware. As the former VP Technology and Operations for Metrozen, a consulting firm which he founded, he was responsible for all technology design and management of Metrozen’s clients. He has built technology architectures for systems in the retail, advertising, hospitality, scientific instrumentation and many other industries. Prior to his work with Metrozen, he was the Director of e-Business at Thermo Electron, where he created the technology backbone which allowed Thermo to merge the Web presence of over 100 established brands into one single brand, to merge sales data from dozens of ERP systems worldwide into one single sales data mart managing over $2 billion in sales and to create a unified, global lead management system. He also held Senior Management positions in Technology, Marketing and Operations with Mettler-Toledo, and was responsible for much of the digital systems design of their weighing products. Markus has a Master’s degree in Business Administration with distinction from New York University and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
Brian MollDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Brian Moll

Executive Director, Bay Area

For the past decade Brian has been a ‘spiritual entrepreneur’, establishing faith communities in New York City. From 2004 to 2014 he founded and raised funding for two dynamic communities in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, and was a coach for in-house leadership residents whom his community funded to star faith communities in Harlem, Inwood, and Brooklyn.

Brian has been a leadership coach for faith-based community startups around the world, including leaders in San Francisco, Boston, Brazil, Ireland, and France. He was also the Chairman of the Board for an international startup, African Dream Initiative, a nonprofit that locates the brightest children living on the margins, provides them with a world class education, and molds them into leaders.

Brian is also a husband and father of four, with one on her way to college and his youngest still in diapers. In his spare time he loves to read, work on his jump shot, and watch just about any documentary he can find.

Reid RansomDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Reid Ransom

Lead Software Engineer

Reid began his career in the entertainment industry working for shows on MTV and Comedy Central. He went on to edit branded content for The CW/Microsoft, NBC/Walgreens, E!/Volkswagen and many others. He has developed software to improve post-production workflow and deliver video content more efficiently. His apps have been used to back up footage for the BET Awards and rescue corrupt footage for many networks.

Recently he developed a web application that enables major movie studios to manage their content across digital distribution platforms like iTunes and Google Play.

Reid earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Megan RilkoffDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Megan Rilkoff

Program Manager

Hailing from Massachusetts, Megan graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Comparative Literature and French. Following graduation, Megan taught English for a year in Laos as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant where she developed her love for pho and papaya salad. Her past experience includes working at a service-learning non-profit in South LA, editing for Scribe Literary Magazine and interning at GOOD Magazine.

Megan manages Defy’s educational and event programming, supporting EITs’ investment in themselves and their ideas. She believes that education is key to fostering self-empowerment and creating strong support systems and is constantly inspired by the community of EITs, executives, and volunteers who regularly act on their belief in second chances.

Kathy TorresDefy-Students-1Defy-Students-1

THE STAFF

Kathy Torres

Finance and Operations Manager

Kathy manages payroll, accounts receivable/payable, and purchasing for Defy Ventures. She also sets student entrepreneurs up on QuickBooks and assists them with their bookkeeping. She brings to Defy 10 years of bookkeeping and administrative experience in for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

 

THE STAFF

Catherine Hoke

Founder & CEO

Catherine started Defy in 2010 after founding and leading the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that serves men throughout the Texas prison system. At PEP, Catherine developed the vision, recruited and worked closely with the Governing Board and three Local and National Advisory Boards to execute the vision, led a staff of 25, raised a $2.5 million privately funded budget, taught PEP’s curriculum to men in prison, oversaw all activities with the prison system, and served as an advocate to external constituents. Under Catherine’s leadership, PEP was recognized for its innovation and results by NBC Nightly News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, National Public Radio, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Deal Maker Magazine.

Prior to PEP, Catherine built a network of more than 4,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs during her career in venture capital and private equity. She sourced $32 million in equity investments in three technology deals at Summit Partners, a Palo Alto, California-based firm. Catherine then served as Director of Investment Development at American Securities Capital Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration from University of California, Berkeley.

A three-time marathon runner, college rugby player and varsity rower, and California State Women’s Wrestling Champion, Catherine still loves training and competing in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. As a French Canadian-born daughter of an entrepreneurial immigrant, Catherine was an ESL student and appreciates good grammar. She’s surprisingly domesticated and feels the need to regularly experiment in the kitchen.



The diverse team that powers Defy brings a variety of expertise to the organization, from entrepreneurship to technology to nonprofit program management. Defy is a lean, results-driven institution with a team who’s committed to and passionate about our mission. A specialized roster of consultants compliments our small full-time staff and collaborates with us to create transformational opportunities. We work exceptionally hard, play whenever we can, and, above all, value the heart behind the entrepreneurs-in-training, volunteers, and supporters who share in our mission.