Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series

The Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series brings outstanding entrepreneurs from all fields to campus to share their life and work experiences with students, alumni, faculty and staff.

Baron Davis - Oct. 19, 2021

Baron Davis

Baron Davis is a two-time NBA All-Star, serial entrepreneur, investor and creator of thought-provoking content and digital platforms. In his lecture, "From Athlete to Purpose-Driven Entrepreneur," Davis discussed how he's used his platform to impact society and encourage change. Davis was one of the first athletes to represent himself without an agent and is the founder of several companies, including Sports Lifestyle in Culture (SLiC), Business Inside the Game (B.I.G.), UWish and LAUNFD. His other investments include Automotus (founded by LMU grads), Kitu Super Coffee, UNest, Hims, Triller, Sleeper, Thrive, H1, Cann Drinks, Caribu, Quip (Blue Scorpion), Complex, Task Human, Toucan and Vidy.  







Paul Polizzotto - March 9, 2021

Paul Polizzotto

Paul Polizzotto, founder and CEO of Givewith, discussed his journey as a serial social entrepreneur. Givewith is a social impact technology company that delivers a sustainable source of funding for the critical work of nonprofits while helping companies differentiate themselves from their competition, drive sales, increase profits and positively impact share prices.










Jason Wilk '07 - Sept. 22, 2020

Jason Wilk '07

Jason Wilk '07, cofounder and CEO of Dave - Banking for Humans, discussed building his company, a leading personal financial management and challenger banking app, named by CNBC as one of the world's most disruptive companies.









Brandin Cohen - Feb. 24, 2020

Brandin Cohen
Brandin Cohen '10

Brandin Cohen '10, CEO and co-founder of Liquid I.V., spoke on "Building a Billion Dollar Brand on a Mission to Change the World."

“Lets change the world together and help people everywhere live better lives.”

That was Brandin's mission when he founded Liquid I.V., the company behind the breakthrough Hydration Multiplier product, which started right here in the LMU Business Incubator. After selling over 100 million servings, donating over 2 million servings to people in need around the world, and building an incredible team, he is excited to begin sharing his journey. Brandin discussed the relentlessness it takes to be an entrepreneur, why the most challenging roadblocks often turn into the biggest opportunities, and how the best leaders inspire greatness in others.



Alli Webb - Sept. 17, 2019

Alli Webb
Alli Webb

Alli Webb, founder of Drybar, shared her entrepreneurial journey and what she's learned by starting and building her business. After 15 years as a professional hair stylist, Alli left the industry to start a family and began offering affordable in-home blowout services. In 2010, she opened the first Drybar in Los Angeles. With over 100 locations across the U.S. today, Drybar has exploded into a nationally-recognized and highly sought-after brand.








Mark Suster - Feb. 27, 2019

Mark Suster

Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, is one of the most accomplished and recognized venture capitalists in Los Angeles/Silicon Beach. He has led investments for Bird, Density, Imbellus, Invoca, mitú, Nanit and Maker Studios. Before joining Upfront, Mark was VP, Product Management at Salesforce.com and spent nearly 10 years working for Accenture in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Learn about Mark’s entrepreneurial journey and his top life lessons for success!







Jim Demetriades '85 - Oct. 9, 2018

Jim Demetriades '85

LMU alumnus Jim Demetriades '85, the world's leading VC investor in the sciences, visited LMU for an informative talk on "How Science Will Change the World in the Next Five Years."

Jim became passionate about computers at the age of nine. At 22, he designed and managed software for the largest HMOs in the U.S. At 26, he started his own software company that he later sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Jim also founded and manages his own groundbreaking venture capital investment company, Kairos Ventures. We were fortunate to have one of LMU’s most notable alumni speak about revolutionary scientific discoveries and technologies being commercialized today.




Chet Pipkin - Oct. 19, 2017

Chet Pipkin

Chet Pipkin is more than a tech guy. He’s a people guy. As founder, chairman and CEO of Belkin International, Pipkin has built a technology empire based on a people-centric approach to innovations and passion for delightful user experiences. He may not be as well-known as Steve Jobs yet he’s considered one of the most successful entrepreneurs and innovators of his time.

Pipkin spoke on the evening of Oct. 19 as part of the Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series, organized by the LMU Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship. Throughout his talk, he encouraged the audience to think about passions of their own.

Pipkin’s own passion for identifying and solving unmet customers’ needs led to founding Belkin in his parents’ garage in Hawthorne, Calif. in 1983. He hopped aboard the PC train and hasn’t looked back since. He began with $1,500 in savings and a $25,000 loan from his parents. Pipkin says there were many times when it looked like the company was going to fail yet he always found a way to keep going.

“I didn’t know anything when I started out,” said Pipkin. “I had to learn the basics of business and all the key components of the customer service industry. What I did know is that I wanted to help people.”

Fast forward to today and Silicon Beach-based Belkin International operates under four distinct brands – Belkin, Linksys, WeMo and Phyn. There’s a 90% chance that the smartphone you’re using has a Belkin product in it somewhere. Similar to Steve Jobs, Pipkin has a real appreciation for people and design. He also has a keen sense of what products will and won’t work in today’s marketplace.

“Think about where there’s an awful lot of demand and capacity and where technology can bridge that gap,” said Pipkin. “Exciting things can happen when demand and capacity meet.”

One of the first problems he solved was allowing customers to print with Apple fonts even if they didn’t own an Apple product.

In his talk, Pipkin highlighted a few new innovations that Belkin is working on, including a phone charger pad, a Wi-Fi home system and an intelligent home water system that measures water usage from the shower vs. sink vs. dishwasher.

“The future is all about smart cities and how data can be created by people that gets aggregated in a bigger way,” said Pipkin.

So what’s Pipkin’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs who have an idea but don’t know where to start? “Just go for it!”

Jeff Hoffman - Feb. 24, 2017

Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman is good at solving problems. He remembers standing in line for over an hour at the airport just to get his boarding pass printed. He ended up missing his flight and thought to himself there’s got to be a more efficient way to do this. Finding a solution to a problem that affected the entire airline industry led to his first startup: ticket kiosks which he sold for over $100 million.

To date, Jeff has been involved in eight different startups, with Priceline being his biggest and most successful. The company started from scratch and today is worth $76 billion. Currently, Jeff is a co-founder and partner at ColorJar, the idea accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses, and he spends a majority of his time speaking around the world and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs.

In 2011, Jeff decided he wanted to devote all of his time and energy to giving back to the field of entrepreneurship. He spent the entire year of 2012 saying “yes” to everything. It resulted in a trip to West Africa which turned into a full-fledged world tour of solving problems. For the last four years, Jeff has sailed around the world on a ship filled with tech entrepreneurs to combat some of the world’s greatest challenges.

“It’s literally the entrepreneurSHIP!” says Jeff, who spoke as part of the LMU Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series. “Being an entrepreneur does not mean you have to start an Internet company or an app. And it’s not about money. It’s a mindset and a way of thinking to solve problems.”

Jeff had big dreams as a kid growing up in a small desert town in Arizona. Posted on his bathroom mirror were his two biggest dreams: “Visit 50 countries in my life” and “Produce movies and music.” Jeff says education was key to being able to chase these dreams. His friends and family (even his high school college counselor!) laughed at him when he told them he wanted to go to Yale University. He was accepted, got kicked out the first day because he couldn’t pay tuition, started his first company on the second day and ended up graduating four years later with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

It wasn't long before he quit his corporate job at an engineering firm and set his sights on becoming an entrepreneur. He always liked that entrepreneurs got to design their own future. Outside of the world of technology, Jeff has produced movies including Cabin Fever, produced musical events including concerts, tours and charity events with such artists as Elton John, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and serves on numerous charity and non-profit boards. Jeff has proven that anyone can accomplish their dreams and that attitude determines your outcome.

“The formula is quite simple: decide what your dream is, educate yourself on that industry, become valuable to that industry and plan your goals backward,” said Jeff. “Find problems to solve in the industry you want to be in.”

Jeff’s keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

  1. Solve real problems in the world
  2. Don't chase money, chase excellence (money follows excellence)
  3. Win a gold medal at ONE thing (focus on one thing at a time)
  4. Harvest ideas and learn something new everyday
  5. Pick a mentor of someone you want to be like
  6. Build a great team and WORK HARD!

Mark Rampolla - Oct. 20, 2016

Mark Rampolla

In the early 90s, Mark Rampolla was fresh out of college and working in Costa Rica as a small business development volunteer with the Peace Corps. He had just graduated from Marquette University and wanted to put his Jesuit business education to good use. Over the next few years, he lived and traveled extensively throughout Latin America and two things stood out to him: 1) coconuts were everywhere and 2) people were drinking Coca-Cola instead of coconuts – even in tiny remote villages! This sparked a desire to make a positive impact on the world.

Mark started to think about products that could make an economic impact, create jobs and improve public health. Around this time, Vitamin Water was starting to take off and he remembered the coconuts. Even though he initially didn’t like the taste of coconut water, he knew it was an untapped commodity. How could he make coconut water cool? To get his idea off the ground, he researched other beverage companies like Coca-Cola, Snapple, and Red Bull and learned from their successes. He discovered that coconuts grow in 85 countries, none of which are wealthy, and he knew his idea had the potential to make a positive impact on the world.

“Successful entrepreneurs find ways to disrupt a market,” said Mark, who also has an MBA from Duke University. “Entrepreneurs today are putting a problem at the center of a product, and doing it all for a good cause.”

He tested ZICO in various markets and discovered it did especially well in yoga studios. The beverage quickly gained a following amongst fitness buffs and celebrities and it wasn’t long before it was on the shelves in major grocery chains.

In 2013, Mark sold ZICO to Coca-Cola and started Powerplant Ventures which invests in food and beverage companies that have a social impact and/or mission.

“Good ideas are a dime a dozen but it’s all about execution,” said Mark, who lives in Redondo Beach with his wife and two daughters. “As Peter Drucker said, the goal of a business is not to profit but to create customers.”

At the conclusion of his talk, Mark shared several tips for budding entrepreneurs:

  • Live within your means and save all you can
  • Be a truth teller…even when times get tough
  • Take small risks
  • Have an alternative plan
  • Embrace the ability to work hard but have a balanced life
  • Enjoy the ride

Jim Sinegal - Feb. 17, 2016

Jim Sinegal

Jim Sinegal retired from Costco Wholesale Corporation and currently serves as a company advisor. He served as the CEO of Costco for 27 years and has been a director since its inception.

Jim began his career in retail business in 1954. As an 18 year-old college student, he went to work for the legendary retail icon Sol Price at the discount store FedMart in San Diego. Jim worked for Price for almost 30 years before striking out on his own to start Costco with his business partner, Jeff Brotman. In his presentation, Jim walked the audience through the history of Costco and his journey building the company from a small store to what it is today.

Costco today has revenues in excess of $113 billion and operates 691 warehouses/stores in 42 states, Puerto Rico, and 10 countries. The company employs over 200,000 people worldwide and has earned the reputation as a fair and progressive employer.

Jim serves as a trustee for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He is a senior executive in residence at Seattle University's Albers School and serves in a similar capacity at his alma mater, San Diego State University. Jim also serves as an advisor at the Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame.

Jason Felts - Mar. 19, 2015

Virgin Produced
Jason Felts

Virgin Produced is the film, television and new media content development, packaging and production arm of the Virgin Group. As one of the youngest CEOs in the company, Felts has built Virgin Produced into a global brand that puts quality and innovation first. Named by Variety as one of the “Top 10 Producers to Watch,” Felts is creating a new approach to premium television and commercial branded entertainment and is expanding the company into India, China and South America. Moderated by Entrepreneurship Professor Jason D’Mello, Felts answered a series of questions on how he became involved with the Virgin brand, his leadership style, company culture and lessons learned on his ascension to the top. In conjunction with Felts’ appearance, Virgin Produced teamed up with LMU to organize a music video contest for students looking to gain exposure from one of the world's most innovative companies. Felts announced the winner at the event – Hailey Rowe, a junior entrepreneurship major and aspiring singer. Her music video for “Don’t Need Your Approval” will be featured onboard all Virgin America flights starting this spring and seen by over a million passengers! Read the full article.

Nolan Bushnell - Sept. 15, 2015

Nolan Bushnell

Often cited as the father of the video game industry, Nolan Bushnell is best known as the founder of Atari Corporation and Chuck E. Cheese's. Over the past four decades he has started more than 20 companies, including Catalyst Technologies, the first Silicon Valley incubator, and Etak, the first digital navigation system.

Busnell took the audience through his entrepreneurial endeavors, including selling strawberries door-to-door at age 7, fixing television sets at age 11, selling advertising for Utah State University calendars during college, starting Atari Corporation in the 1970s – where Steve Jobs worked for him – then designing toys and creating robots. Then he discussed his current passions – a musical he describes as an “immersive physical experience” and BrainRush, his latest startup focused on improving education with software that uses gamification principles to "addict" students to learning. Read the full article.

William Strickland '71 - Nov. 12, 2014

William "Bill" Strickland '71

The topic of Bill's presentation was "JUXTAPOSITIONS: Reflections of a Sports Agent, Attorney and Entrepreneur." Bill currently serves as senior managing partner of Stealth Sports, Stealth SME, an integrated sports, media and entertainment management and consultancy business. Bill is one of the most successful business executives and sports agents in the nation and has represented numerous pro athletes like Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Allan Houston, Rasheed Wallace, Daunte Culpepper and Joakim Noah, while consummating approximately $2 billion in gross compensation for his clients. He has advised various organizations and sports properties regarding athlete relationships and the integration of brands with sports and entertainment properties. Bill is a College of Business Administration alumnus and former Regent of LMU, and received an MBA from UCLA and a JD from Georgetown University. Read the full article.


Andy Cohen - Mar. 20, 2014

Andy Cohen

In a fascinating presentation titled "Design Thinking," Gensler co-CEO Andy Cohen discussed his entrepreneurial journey from entry-level designer to Co-CEO, background on Gensler and some of the firm’s past and future projects, and what it takes to build and operate an organization full of incredibly talented and creative professionals.

A true champion of design excellence, Cohen is one of the key contributors to Gensler, the world’s largest and most admired architecture firm, pioneering project types and design strategies for the next century. Cohen leads the firm’s global design innovation strategies and has spearheaded the growth of many Gensler practice areas, including entertainment, aviation, retail and hospitality. Read the full article.

John Shields - Oct. 15, 2013

John Shields

Not many executives have dramatically and successfully reshaped their companies. John Shields has done it twice – for Mervyn’s and Trader Joe’s. As CEO of Trader Joe’s from 1988 to 2001, he turned a 27-store group of quirky convenience stores in Southern California into a national chain with sales in the billions! Shields shared some of his best secrets for building a successful business and offered advice and anecdotes to budding entrepreneurs through a compelling Q&A session that left everyone in the audience inspired.



Jack DeBoer - Apr. 17, 2013

Jack DeBoer

Jack DeBoer is chairman of Consolidated Holdings, Inc. and recognized as the pioneer of the extended-stay and all-suite hotel concepts. He began his career in Kalamazoo, Michigan, when he began selling real estate during the summers while in high school. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in business in 1952, and following two years as a military police officer during the Korean War, he teamed up with his father to build homes in southern Michigan. By 1966, he was building apartments. By 1973, his company had built more than 16,000 apartments in 30 cities across 25 states. National Real Estate Investor magazine recognized DeBoer as the “second-largest multi-family developer in the United States.” But it is the concept of the “extended-stay hotel” and the creation of three iconic hotel brands that is DeBoer’s biggest contribution to the hospitality industry. He wrote a book called "Risk Only Money" providing lessons on how to find success in business without risking family, friends and reputation.

Brad Keywell - Feb. 25, 2013

Brad Keywell

As co-founder of several technology start ups, Brad Keywell is considered one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs of our time. He is most well known for being the co-founder and director of Groupon.

Additionally, Keywell is the co-founder and managing partner of Lightbank, a venture fund investing in disruptive technology businesses, the co-founder and director of MediaBank, which provides integrated technology platforms and solutions to the advertising and media buying industry, and the co-founder and director of Echo Global Logistics, a technology-based enterprise transportation management firm. In his lecture, Keywell spoke about his path to becoming a serial entrepreneur and shared some of the biggest challenges and lessons he’s learned from launching new business ventures.

David Galbenski - Mar. 12, 2012

David Galbenski

As founder and chairman of Lumen Legal, David Galbenski has pioneered outsourcing solutions for corporate clients and law firms and transformed the company into one of the most innovative and successful legal services operations in the world!!! Lumen Legal's success is one of many proud achievements in David's ongoing work as a legal industry innovator, thought leader, author, community volunteer and entrepreneur. He is also past global chairman of the Entrepreneurs' Organization, which has more than 8,000 members in 40 countries!!



Toni Lee Jimenez '03 - Feb. 1, 2012

Toni Lee Jimenez

Toni Lee Jimenez is a 2003 graduate of LMU and founder/publisher of ChicaGirl magazine, the first online magazine for Latina girls.

ChicaGirl is a content-driven magazine with real girls as cover models, motivational stories and over $160,000 in scholarship money. She's worked hard over the past few years building awareness by speaking at local schools and growing the magazine's online presence. Just last month, she fulfilled another dream of hers by launching a print version of the magazine which is being sold at regional grocery stores in south Texas. Toni hopes to expand her magazine's reach to other outlets and regions with a high Latina population.

Don Camacho '00 - Nov. 30, 2011

Don Camacho

Don Camacho is the president of Camacho's Inc., a full-service food and beverage company with a collection of restaurants located in high-profile destinations throughout Southern California, including the Staples Center, Santa Monica Pier and Universal Studios! Don Camacho is a 2000 graduate of LMU's MBA Program and 2002 graduate of Loyola Law School. During his time as the leader of a very successful family business, Camacho has grown the company to a workforce of over 500 with plans for future expansion. He truly epitomizes what it means to be an entrepreneur in a family business!


Maggy Barankitse - Oct. 12, 2011

Internationally acclaimed humanitarian and social entrepreneur Maggy Barankitse has saved over 10,000 children since the outbreak of the 1993 civil war in her native Burundi by building schools, houses and hospitals for people in need!

Maggy Barankitse

A 2008 winner of the Opus Award for her efforts as a faith-based social entrepreneur, Maggy visited LMU on her first official trip to the U.S. to attend the premiere of the film, "Bosco's Guitar," which is based on one of the little boys she saved from the war. Often referred to as the "Angel of Burundi," Maggy is living proof of what one person of faith can do to bring peace and hope to the world!



Ken Tarlow - Apr. 6, 2011

Ken Tarlow
Ken Tarlow

Ken Tarlow knows a thing or two about product development. At the tender age of seven, he was selling flying toys made from bamboo and balloons in the schoolyard for 20 cents.

Since then, he's held numerous design positions, won countless awards and started his own company, Tarlow Design LLC. Over the past 30 years, Tarlow has helped clients launch over 400 products worth more than $1 billion in retail sales. Tarlow is committed to helping the next generation of innovators turn their ideas into successful business ventures!


Michael Furdyk
Ken Meany
J.D. "Dave" Power


Martha Diaz Aszkenazy
Tony Hsieh
Andrew Cherng
Mark Kuli


Mark Crone
Tim Dean
John Baudhuin


Matthew Graczyk
Anna Ouroumian
Don Listwin
Kevin Kennedy
Wing Lam


Dick Orfalea
Lawrence Maltz


Michael Ricci
Fred Joyal
David Bussan
Gary Valenzuela


Myles P. Dempsey
Martha de la Torre
Don Schoendorfer
Ron Valenta


Seth Ginsberg
"Chef Jimmy" Lambates
Mason Shayan
C.K. Cho


Jan Davidson
Clete Harper and Terry Hill
Kirk Perron
Dr. Bill Mow


Michael Furdyk
Paul Orfalea
Joline Godfrey


Dan Gordon
Joel Daly
Ronald Heagy Jr.
Brad Keywell
Robert Kaminski
Dave Gold
Marshall Goldsmith
Bryan Freeman