On Thursday, June 16, FoodBytes! San Francisco will bring together innovators and thought-leaders in the food, technology and agriculture space, and for the first time, we will have a judging panel that represents precisely what makes the FoodBytes! experience so unique.

Representing a cross section of investment, technology, food and finance the San Francisco judges will also be presenting the inaugural Judges’ Choice Award.

We are pleased to announce our 2016 FoodBytes! San Francisco judges:

Karen Christensen, Regional Vice President, Whole Foods Market NorCal & RenoKaren Christensen, Regional Vice President, Whole Foods Market NorCal & Reno 

Karen is the Regional Vice President of Whole Foods Market’s Northern California & Reno region. This territory is home to some of the most abundant and beautiful farms in the nation. It’s a great fit because her career has had a heavy focus on bringing the best fruits & veggies to market.

She exited college from the San Francisco Arts Institute. As is the way with college, there were loans to be repaid upon graduation. Her first post-grad job involved unloading watermelons from a semi-truck. For her efforts she was sometimes paid in mangos. As delicious as that compensation may have been, she moved on to full time work at a local organic wholesaler.

The next move up the career ladder landed her the first of many gigs at Whole Foods Market. She started as a Regional Produce Buyer and quickly made her way to roles like Regional Produce Coordinator, Global Produce Buyer, and Global Produce Coordinator. She excelled in each of these jobs because of her true passion for produce. In fact, she has travelled extensively, visiting producers all over the world.

After 18 years with the company, Karen is now one of the most successful and respected VPs in the company. She still obsesses over the season’s crops, but makes time for running, biking, drawing (that degree has its uses), reading, and a few other crafts. She looks forward to a bright and blooming future wherever the world’s crops take her next.


Manuel Gonzalez, Managing Director, Head of San Francisco Office Rabobank North America WholesaleManuel Gonzalez, Managing Director, Head of San Francisco Office Rabobank North America Wholesale

Manuel Gonzalez is the Managing Director of the Rabobank North America Wholesale San Francisco office, and Head of the Western Region Corporate Clients for Rabobank North America Wholesale. Formerly, he was the Country Head of Rabobank Mexico for four years. In 2015, Manuel created FoodBytes!, underscoring Rabobank’s mission of banking for food, which continues to search for new ways to increase impact in the Food and Agri innovation space.

Manuel joined Rabobank in 1996 as a project manager in the Project Finance business in Mexico. In 2003, he was named Head of Credit and a year later became the Head of Credit and Legal. Prior to Rabobank, Manuel was the General Manager for six years at Gonzalez Guzman Alimentos, a diary and food distribution company.

Manuel holds an MBA from Georgetown University.



Michele-McConomy_RocketSpace_Headshot_500xMichele McConomy, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Corporate Innovation Services at RocketSpace Inc.

Michele McConomy is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Corporate Innovation Services at RocketSpace, a technology campus headquartered in the heart of San Francisco. Since 2011, the company has been helping tech entrepreneurs, startups and corporate innovation professionals bring the future to market. RocketSpace’s perfect ecosystem has fueled the success of more than 750 startups, including Uber, Spotify, Practice Fusion, and Leap Motion, and under Michele’s leadership, more than 100 corporate clients, including Tata Communications, Lufthansa, Schneider Electric and Pfizer.

Michele has more than 14 years of experience in innovation management, crowdsourced ideation, and strategic consulting, previously leading a multi-million dollar portfolio of corporate innovation services at Mindjet. Prior to that, she was one of the early hires at Spigit which was acquired by Mindjet in 2014 and was a founding member of the corporate innovation program at PricewaterhouseCoopers.



michael-dean_agfunder_b_500xMichael Dean, Co-Founder/Chief Investment Officer, AgFunder

Michael is the co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at AgFunder, a San Francisco based online investment platform for global agriculture and food technology.

Michael has over 20 years of legal, business management and project development experience. He leads the AgFunder investment team and oversees all deal identification, origination and execution on the AgFunder platform. A seasoned agriculture investor and operator, prior to starting AgFunder, Michael founded and operated SeedRock Africa Agriculture, an African agribusiness. He managed all development activities in West Africa including the implementation of farming operations; the construction of the company’s edible oil processing facility; the launch of the “Africa Gold” sunflower oil brand and the granting of official government leaseholds to over 43,000 hectares of agricultural land.

A qualified lawyer, Michael previously advised many of Australia’s largest investment corporations on the acquisition and development aspects of their property, agribusiness, resources, renewable energy, construction and associated investment activities. He has substantial experience of large-scale projects incorporating complex development and structuring issues.  Michael is a regular speaker on food and agriculture technology investing at various global conferences, and sits on the advisory board of the UK based World Agri-Tech Investment Summit. He holds an LLB, and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Sydney.


tina-sharkey_sherpa_500xTina Sharkey, CEO, Sherpa Foundry

Tina Sharkey is a Partner at Sherpa Foundry and a Venture Partner at Sherpa Capital. She is passionate about consumer internet, mobile technology and digital and social media, and has created and scaled multiple consumer internet businesses to profitability worldwide. At Sherpa Foundry, Tina is also incubating a stealth consumer business. In her role at Sherpa Capital, Tina advises many of the firm’s portfolio companies and sits on the Board of Directors of Beepi, ipsy and Do™, a company incubated by Sherpa Foundry and Salesforce. She is also a founding board member at Brit + Co.

Prior to her role at Sherpa Foundry, Tina spent more than 20 years as an entrepreneur, corporate executive and media pioneer. She was a senior leader at Johnson & Johnson in the consumer group as Chairman and Global President of BabyCenter, the #1 parenting and pregnancy destination in 22 countries across the world. In 2011, Tina led Johnson & Johnson’s initiative with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations Foundation creating MAMA, the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action. Tina worked as a corporate executive at Time Warner, where she led AOL’s network programming, social media and messaging initiatives. Before AOL, she co-founded iVillage, built Sesame Street online, and helped create a new home shopping channel for QVC.

Tina’s pioneering experience in social enterprise, consumer brand building and insight quantification has given her the ability to uncover and unlock significant business value. Tina advises Fortune 500 companies and start-ups including Salesforce, eBay, Condé Nast, DreamWorks Animation, Philz Coffee, Greenhouse, TYWLA and The Information, among others.


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