Skip to main content

Black Venture Summit Prize Judges

Meet the expert practitioners and innovators who will serve as the Black Venture Summit prize judges for Startup Yale's 2023 pitch competitions.

The Black Venture Summit Grand Prize awards $20,000 of non-dilutive capital to an early-stage startup whose venture addresses a pressing need in Black communities and/or whose founders or co-founder(s) identify as Black or African American. Ventures led by non-Yale students must be based in CT, MA, RI, and NY to be eligible.

This prize is a partnership between CT Next, Tsai CITY, and Yale School of Management’s Black Business Alliance.

Michael Duda
headshot of Michael Duda


Consumer Brand Builder and Investor. An early investor in Peloton, Harry's, Casper, Warby Parker, care/of, Sunday Lawn, Hu Chocolate, the function of beauty, Bubble, Clare, NomNom, and others.

20-year background in brand-building and marketing with some of the world’s most accomplished founders. Multiple Super Bowl campaigns, awards, and accolades.

Marie Rocha
headshot of Marie Rocha


Marie Rocha founded Realist Ventures, a venture fund based in Connecticut, funding early-stage biotech and software startups. She has over 20+ years of experience in business and technology as a software engineer and serial entrepreneur. Marie's first startup was a candidates matching platform for staffing agencies. She later co-founded a sustainable e-commerce store in 2010, followed by IMAK software, a startup building software and platforms for small businesses and nonprofits. In 2021, Marie founded Realist Lab, a tech incubator to support entrepreneurs seeking help with funding, technology, and practical tools to scale their businesses and startups. As a champion for women, she is one of HAYVN Hatch's founders, a quarterly women-centric pitch event to support women founders seeking funding, exposure, marketing, and growth. 

In her spare time, she serves on several boards and mentors underrepresented founders with their businesses and startups.

Chandra Roxanne
headshot of Chandra Roxanne


Chandra Roxanne joined Astia's investment team as the Managing Director of Astia Edge, a seed-stage fund investing in high-performing companies founded and led by Black women and Latinas. She also serves as a Special Ambassador for Community Healing Network, a New Haven-based nonprofit, and a MacArthur grantee whose work centers around emotional reparations and emancipation for people of African descent. Roxanne’s career began as the Technology Lead for US tech startups funded through the SBIR/STTR program at the National Science Foundation. In 2021, she completed an MSc in Economy, Risk, and Society from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she focused on economic sociology, women and money, and the concept of Conscious Capitalism. In 2021 she also earned a certificate in venture finance from VC University, a joint initiative between the National Venture Capital Association, Berkeley Law, and Venture Forward. In her own words, “VC is where my love of finance and business combusts.” A believer in the transformative power of venture capital when used consciously, Roxanne aims to incorporate the principles of consciousness in her investment activities to incubate and build high-growth, generational businesses. For her work through the Astia Edge Fund, Roxanne was recently featured in Business Insider and by the NVCA’s Venture Forward.

Fanta Traore
headshot of Fanta Traore


Fanta Traore is an investor at CT Innovations, and an economist and social entrepreneur in her former life. She is the former CEO and co-founder of the Sadie Collective, an international social enterprise building the pipeline and pathway for Black women economists, which has reached thousands of people through their advocacy work, programs, and tech platform. She has nearly a decade of experience in the social impact and innovation space, working with leading accelerators such as Echoing Green and the African Leadership Academy's Anzisha Prize. Currently, with a dual degree at Yale, her work as a venture capitalist focuses primarily on overlooked and underestimated founders in the US and Africa. She also serves as Editor-In-Chief at the Yale Africa Startup Review, a student-led publication amplifying the work of African entrepreneurs, where she manages the selection process for Africa's top 30 startups & founders through rallying VCs focused on the African region.

Shondra Washington
headshot of Shondra Washington


Shondra co-founded TBC Capital, an advisory and consulting firm offering on-demand CFO, business development, and strategy services for VC-backed companies and small businesses. In addition, she is also the CEO and cofounder of Black@, one of the first all-Black Web3 communities. Black@ brings together creators, artists, investors, and engineers working together to increase ownership of Black culture in the next generation of the Internet.