Les Schmidt – Executive Director
Les is a serial entrepreneur and leader with first-hand experience in the development and growth of enterprises. As a C-level executive he has led early-stage companies, middle stage and public companies. His specialty is leading business transformations when companies get “stuck” – i.e. when a company’s growth plateaus and a quest begins for new directions, products or capabilities. He specializes in strategy development, product-market alignment and financial forecasting.
As Executive Director of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership (IEL), Les is on a mission to ensure that IEL serves the needs of entrepreneurs wherever they are located and wherever they are on their entrepreneurial journey.
Before heading up IEL, Les lead two companies to their Initial Public Offering and raised substantial capital for other companies – mostly in the software industry. Les is also an advisor, mentor, and investor to early stage companies through his affiliation with the Keiretsu Forum - the world's largest angel investor network. He has frequently volunteered to judge entrepreneurs’ presentations at pitch competitions and has participated as a mentor in the AT&T Operation Hand Saluteprogram for Veterans – aiding service-disabled military veterans in the development of their enterprises.
In a brief departure from entrepreneurship, Les even took on transforming the San Francisco 49ers as that organization’s COO.
Dina Finta – Associate Director
Dina is a successful entrepreneur, mentor and expert instructor. She joined the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership as Assistant Director in October 2011. Since joining the IEL Team, she has performed as a lead expert instructor for many entrepreneurship classes and serves as a lead mentor for about 25 companies annually. Her depth of expertise around courseware development and facilitation, learning and organizational development and sales and marketing have been key in leading thoughtful discussions with the participating student entrepreneurs. Dina currently holds the role of Associate Director and runs the operational aspects of the program along with her teaching and mentoring responsibilities. She is the IEL representative in the National Business Incubator Association where she is working toward the Incubator Manager Certification. She is a certified Train-the-trainer and also holds a coaching certification through WKI of Canada.
Prior to joining the IEL, Dina was Youth Business America's Director of Mentoring where she instructed, advised, and mentored many entrepreneurs in launching their businesses. She founded and served as President and CEO of Momentum a corporate business skills and technology training company in Louisiana and Texas.
Dina's numerous affiliations and community service activities have included serving on the Board of the YMCA, Professional Women's Network and the Partner Council of Habitat for Humanity. She was also recognized as one of Louisiana's 40 under 40 business people to watch. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Dina and her business received a Microsoft Partner Award for her efforts in providing aid to those impacted by the storm and devastating flooding that followed. Additionally, she played a pivotal role in the statewide effort to rebuild small businesses.
Raul Deju, Ph.D – Founder, Director Emeritus
Dr. Raul A. Deju is an accomplished business leader and executive, professor and author. He has served as Chairman, CEO and COO of major international public companies. Dr. Deju, a former adjunct faculty member at John F. Kennedy University and St. Mary’s College and a seasoned executive, brings his entrepreneurship experience having created small companies from a number of large companies traded in major stock exchanges as well as serving in advisory committees for the Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Deju is the author of over 200 peer-reviewed articles and six books and was listed in 2005 as one of the 25 Leading Hispanics in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a recipient of recognitions for his philanthropy and social entrepreneurship in the Latino community.
Assistant Director of Outreach