2023 Jones Progress Award Winners

Three alumni-led businesses completed the 6-month accelerator program to win $10,000 each in seed funding

June 5, 2023
Seattle University Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center awards two SU Alumni Business each $10,000 in 2022-2023 Jones Progress Awards (JPA), made possible by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation. 

Now in its ninth year, the JPA supports graduating Seattle University students and recent alumni entrepreneurs by providing a solid infrastructure of mentoring, grant funds, and connections to local networks. SU Student or Alumni Entrepreneurs who are accepted into the program work with a team of expert coaches to set large “milestone” goals for their business, and then work towards those goals over six months under the advisement of their coaches. If teams are able to fully realize all their milestones, each business receives a $10,000 prize. 

The 2022-23 Jones Progress Awards winners: 

  • Ellebit- Anna Del Toro, LEMBA '20: Ellebit eliminates time-consuming aspects of private dining booking through the automation of venue selection, menu selection and add-ons, for small and large party groups, maximizing efficiency of the booking process, using our online booking tool.
  • DYSports - John Verduin, MBA '18: DYSports LLC was started to give select youth teams the chance to compete, grow and develop in sports within their same level, allowing them to participate in comparable competition and grow their skills. 
  • Votegrity- Tom Thomas, LEMBA '20: Votegrity is a full-service, tech-enabled election partner that delivers today’s highest standards in data encryption for accurate, timely, trusted elections.


  • Rene Wagner: Rene serves on the Board of the Herbert B. Jones Foundation, which believes that entrepreneurism and small business are the backbone for the strength of our economic system. The Foundation promotes this belief through the initial and temporary support of new business programs managed by post-secondary educational entities in the state of Washington. Its grants support the business community to be a vibrant and productive environment and the recipients of the Foundation's support to positively impact our greater business community. The Herbert B. Jones Foundations funds the Jones Progress Awards and the Seattle University Business Plan Competition Grand Prize, and is the second-largest organizational donor to the Albers School of Business and Economics. Rene earned his undergraduate degree from Seattle University in 2011 and completed the Jones Progress Awards in 2015 for his company WLDworks, which he still owns and operates. WLDworks empowers Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses by creating a beautiful, feature rich, scale-able and industry tailored web presence that is easily maintainable by the clients themselves. He now serves on the Board of the Herbert B. Jones Foundation.
  • Brien Kennedy: Brien is the Senior Head of Growth at Organifi. He an Ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft Marketer with 10+ years of experience running Marketing campaigns to generate over $600MN in revenue across different brands. He’s launched products, developed strategies for growth, and built processes across e-commerce marketplaces and direct to consumer initiatives.  Brien previously coached the Jones Progress Awards, as well as the Jones Ideation Challenge and Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition at the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center.
  • Priya Sinha Cloutier: Priya is a patent and IP lawyer and strategist  in the tech sector. She is an established leader in building strategies to support meaningful outcomes for technology companies. She has deep experience in all aspects of intellectual property protection, strategy and law; and its intersection with product development and product commercialization. Priya is an alum of the Seattle University School of Law and has previously coached the Jones Progress Awards, and had volunteered in the Jones Ideation Challenge and the Harriet Stephenson Business Plan Competition.
  • Skyler Brown: Skyler is an investment advisor at Goldman Sachs and active part of the Seattle startup ecosystem. He describes himself as a focused and intellectually curious professional with a long term outlook who strives to provide unique value. Skyler has coached the Jones Progress Awards.
  • Haresh Ved: Haresh is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, startup advisor, and ex-Microsoftie. Haresh founded and chairs the TiE Angels Group Seattle (TAGS), an angel investment group of TiE Seattle, which brings in the element of capital to complete the equation of promoting and nurturing entrepreneurships and typically invests in early stage companies seeking seed or Series A funding. Haresh has served on the Advisory Board of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center for several years and previously judged the Jones Progress Awards.

Past Jones Progress Award Winners include Green GrubBoxActuate Media, Ro Health, React Mobile, and The Madrone School.  Jeff Widmyer, CEO and Founder of Ro Health, credits the JPA with some of his company’s success: “The Jones Progress experience provided me access to mentors that helped me look at problems in a different light, and that perspective gave me the courage to make decisions and take action.”  

As an added benefit, WTIA is offering the Jones Progress Award participants a free year’s membership to the WTIA Startup Club! Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) is the unifying voice for the technology community in Washington, consolidating the power of member companies to solve business problems they cannot solve on their own. For startups, WTIA provides a variety of stage appropriate resources including resources like investors, service providers, and relevant product discounts, HR benefits, discounts, and exclusive event invites.