Business Leaders Blog

Jul 30 2014

Ralph Izzo, Chairman and CEO of PSEG

Well-known utility industry leader Ralph Izzo is the chairman and chief executive officer of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), one of America’s largest electric companies. Prior to being elected to his current position in 2007, he served as PSEG’s president, chief operating officer, and board member for six months. Previously, he was the president and COO of PSEG subsidiary Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G).

Izzo joined PSE&G in 1992 and went on to hold various executive positions with PSEG’s family of companies. His past roles include PSE&G vice president – appliance service, PSE&G senior vice president – utility operations, PSE&G vice president – electric ventures, and PSEG vice president – corporate planning. In fulfilling these roles, he acquired experience in general management, finance, and strategic planning.

Izzo began his career as a research scientist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where he carried out numerical simulations of fusion energy experiments. He has published or presented more than 35 papers on magnetohydrodynamic modeling.

Today, he is often asked to testify before Congress and speak to organizations on topics concerning national energy policy. Izzo chairs the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Rutgers University Board of Governors and the boards of the Edison Electric Institute, the New Jersey Utilities Association, and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, among other organizations. He is also a member of the Visiting Committee for the Department of Nuclear Engineering at MIT, the Columbia University School of Engineering Board of Visitors, and the Princeton University Adlinger Center for Energy and the Environment Advisory Council.

Izzo holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in applied physics from Columbia University. He obtained an MBA with a concentration in finance from the Rutgers Graduate School of Management as well.

Jul 26 2014

Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, CEO of Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada

Susan Chalmers-Gauvin is the founder and chief executive officer of Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. With more than two decades of management and consulting experience in the non-profit sector, she brings her expertise in organizational development and evaluation to the company. She oversees the company’s business, strategic, and financial development and has worked to position Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada in global markets.

In addition to leading Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, Chalmers-Gauvin serves on the boards of Enterprise Greater Moncton, Artslink New Brunswick, and the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies at Mount Allison University. She is also the chair of the NB Culture Days Task Force.

Winner of the Greater Moncton YWCA Woman of Excellence Award, Chalmers-Gauvin is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on the topics of performing arts management; the importance of Canadian arts and culture to the municipal, regional, and national economies; and the role of arts in enriching the quality of life in communities.

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Jul 23 2014

Patrick Speijers: Customer Service Veteran Helps Online Stores Improve Quality of Service

Patrick Speijers is an avid online shopper with a shoe addiction. He has encountered lousy service from web stores throughout his numerous online shopping experiences, and there’s nothing he hates more than bad service. Speijers, who has been in the customer service industry for most of his career, decided to create a solution instead of complaining about it.

He began talking to some colleagues and they realized that conventional ticketing systems weren’t effective. Online retailers needed an all-in-one solution that was affordable, easy to set up, and fun to use. This solution had be more of an assistant or a sidekick to online stores.

Founded in 2011 and publicly launched in 2012 at the TNW Conference, Robin is named after Batman’s sidekick and the clever and agile little bird. Robin helps online retailers serve their customers better by streamlining a business’ entire customer service communication flow. Online shoppers communicate with the business using any channel they want – e.g., email, Twitter, live chat, web form – and the web store team manages and responds to everything from one central dashboard.

With Robin, online retailers need only one screen to handle all their customer conversations. Robin integrates with leading e-commerce platforms and displays order and client information right next to the customer’s question, saving staff members time and improving the quality of service they provide.

Now in his 17th year in customer service, Speijers currently serves as Robin’s CEO. His focus is delivering happiness to his team, customers, and shareholders. To this end, he and his team use Robin within their own company.

“Our customer service strategy is super important to grow. Especially as a customer service software company,” he says. “Good customer service enables you to learn super fast what to improve, but also it brings you in the position to go the extra mile.”

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Jul 18 2014

Israel Ganot, reCommerce Pioneer

Israel Ganot is the co-founder, president, and CEO of Gazelle, America’s leading high-end consumer electronics trade-in site. Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Gazelle buys used gadgets from the public, giving consumers a fast, safe, and easy way to get cash for their unwanted phones, tablets, and computers. Backed by RockPort Capital Partners, Craton Equity Partners, Venrock Associates, and Physic Ventures, Gazelle has accepted 1.5 million trade-ins and paid out more than $100 million to customers to date.

With a passion for recycling and reCommerce, Ganot co-founded Gazelle in 2006 with James McElhiney and Rousseau Aurelien. Since the company’s inception, Ganot’s mission has been to unlock the value in everyday objects and help the world think differently about buying, owning, and selling electronics. Since being appointed as president and CEO in late 2008, he has grown Gazelle into the nation’s largest reCommerce service.

Ganot has been named an Entrepreneur of the Year finalist by Ernst & Young in 2009 and an Emerging Leader by Boston Business Journal at its Best Green Practices Awards in 2012. He has been quoted as a reCommerce expert in CNN, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to Gazelle, Ganot held senior positions at eBay, PayPal, and Amazon. He spent six years at eBay and PayPal, where he played a key role in the company’s expansion to Asia, Europe, and Latin America. He also helped scale eBay UK to $300 million. With 20 years of experience in online and offline retail, Ganot specializes in mergers and acquisitions as well as starting and growing high-potential consumer Internet companies.

Born in Peru and raised in Israel, Ganot graduated summa cum laude from the Stern School at New York University with a bachelor’s degree in finance and international business. He later earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

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Jul 17 2014

Leila Boujnane, Image Search Leader

Leila Boujnane is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Idée Inc., an independent, privately held firm specializing in large-scale image search. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Idée is the creator of TinEye, the world’s first reverse image search engine. Idée has built a number of innovative image recognition solutions that are used by some of the world’s largest software and service companies including Adobe Systems, Associated Press, iStockphoto, Splash News, Agence France Presse, SecondStory, and Kayak.

Boujnane has 10 years of software experience, beginning her career in software development at Algorithmics, a financial risk management software company. A recognized search innovation leader, she has been featured in several media outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business, Fast Company, The Guardian, the Financial Post, The New York Times, and CBC. Boujnane is a supporter of Canada’s startup community. When she is not managing Idée, she can be found running and taking pictures.

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Jul 10 2014

Stephen P. Holmes, Chairman and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide

Stephen P. Holmes is the chairman and chief executive officer of Wyndham Worldwide, one of the largest hospitality companies in the world with operations in nearly 100 countries. Holmes has headed Wyndham since its formation in 2006. Previously, he served as the vice chairman and a member of the board of directors of Cendant Corporation, Wyndham’s former parent company. He was responsible for Cendant’s hotel franchise, timeshare development, timeshare exchange, vacation rental, and vehicle rental businesses. Earlier in his career, Holmes was the executive vice president and chief financial officer of HFS Incorporated and a managing director of The Blackstone Group.

In 2007, Holmes was inducted into the Travel Industry Hall of Leaders by the US Travel Association for “sustained, noteworthy contributions that have positively impacted the travel industry, stimulated greater achievement, and raised industry-wide standards.” The 77th travel industry professional to be inducted into the Travel Industry Hall of Leaders, Holmes was honored before hundreds of travel industry leaders during the Marketing Outlook Forum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Wyndham Worldwide has earned several accolades under Holmes’ leadership, including being named to Fortune’s list of “Most Admired Companies” for five years. Wyndham has also been named one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere Institute twice, the “Best Company for Diversity” by Diversity and Careers, and one of the “15 Top Companies for Women” by PINK magazine. Furthermore, Wyndham has received a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Index two times and was ranked the greenest hospitality company in the US by Newsweek, also two times.

In addition to his responsibilities at Wyndham Worldwide, Holmes serves as a vice chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable and the World Travel & Tourism Council and is a member of the board of trustees at Bucknell University.

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Stephen Kaufer, President and CEO of TripAdvisor

Stephen Kaufer is the co-founder, president, and CEO of TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel website. Under his leadership, TripAdvisor became the largest Web 2.0 company in the northeast. Today, it manages and operates more than 20 travel brands, including BookingBuddy, Independent Traveler, Family Vacation Critic, Holiday Watchdog, Travel Pod, Oyster, Niumba, and Virtual Tourist.

Kaufer co-founded TripAdvisor in 2000 to help travelers around the world plan the perfect trip. He was formerly the president of independent software vendor CDS and the co-founder and vice president of engineering of CenterLine Software. Kaufer holds several software patents and has shared his knowledge on travel and technology at conferences across the globe.

The winner of the 2005 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Kaufer currently serves on the boards of CarGurus, Glassdoor, and the Caring for Carcinoid Foundation.

Kaufer received a degree in computer science from Harvard University. His favorite travel destination is Jerusalem.

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Jul 02 2014

Brooke Denihan Barrett: Woman of Influence Leads Denihan Hospitality

Brooke Denihan Barrett is the CEO of Denihan Hospitality, the hotel management company behind boutique hotels such as Affinia, The Benjamin, The Surrey, and The James. As CEO, Barrett leads the operations of Denihan Hospitality’s brands and affiliates. She has a lifetime of hospitality management experience in the family-owned business and was instrumental in transforming Denihan into a nationally recognized leader in the boutique hotel and investment management industry.

Barrett is also a strong advocate of women in business and co-founded the New York/New Jersey Chapter of the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s “Women in Lodging” and the New York Women’s Forum. Additionally, she is a member of the Committee of 200 and the Women’s Presidents’ Organization.

Barrett has been named an “Outstanding Woman in Real Estate” by National Real Estate Investor and a “Woman of Influence” and a “Legend” by Real Estate Forum. In 2012, she won the Stevie Award for “Woman Executive of the Year.”


Ajay Banga, MasterCard CEO

Ajay Banga is the president and chief executive officer of MasterCard, a Fortune 500 financial services corporation and payments industry leader. He joined MasterCard in 2009 and was named CEO the following year. Under his leadership, the company was named one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s “50 Top-Performing US Companies” for two consecutive years, one of Working Mother’s “100 Best Companies,” and won the “Best NFC/Mobile Money Product or Service” honor at the 2013 Mobile World Congress, among several other accolades. Banga also took the eighth spot on Fortune’s “2012 Businessperson of the Year” list and was praised for MasterCard’s improved stock performance.

Prior to MasterCard, Banga served as the CEO of Citigroup Asia Pacific, where he oversaw all businesses in the region, including alternative investments, institutional banking, consumer banking, wealth management, and credit cards. From 2005 to 2009, he handled Citi’s brand marketing and microfinance efforts. An alumnus of Delhi University and the Indian Institute of Management, Banga began his career at Nestle India, where he worked in sales, marketing, and general management for 13 years. He subsequently spent two years at PepsiCo, helping launch its fast food franchises in India in the midst of economic liberalization.

Banga is currently the chairman of the US-India Business Council and the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable’s Information and Technology Initiative. He is a member of the US-India CEO Forum, the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and The Economic Club of New York. Additionally, he sits on the boards of the American Red Cross, the New York City Ballet, The Partnership for New York City, and The Financial Services Roundtable. In the past, he served on the boards of the New York Hall of Science, the Asia Society, and more. Banga is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and received the Foreign Policy Association Medal in 2012.

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Jun 27 2014

Jake Weatherly: Business and Marketing Planning Expert at the Helm of Identity Verification Company

Jake Weatherly is the co-founder and CEO of SheerID, an Oregon-based technology company that provides instant, accurate identity verification. With SheerID, retailers and associations can easily offer exclusive, targeted discounts online to their customers. For example, if you want to reach college students, SheerID can verify if someone is eligible for your special offer. Used by major brands such as Amazon, Foot Locker, Spotify, and Costco, SheerID can verify teachers, military personnel, association members, first respondents, loyal customers, and more.

As CEO, Weatherly is responsible for SheerID’s strategic direction, growth, and development. With 15 years of prior experience fostering economic growth and entrepreneurship in the small business sector, Weatherly has grown SheerID to become the leader and pioneer of instant eligibility verification and customer validation services.

In the past, he traveled the world teaching business and marketing planning to small business owners, enterprises, consultants, government agencies, and NGOs. He is the co-author of Alberta, Canada’s Tourism Marketing education program and the developer of Pearson Education’s Business Feasibility Analysis software.

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