Meet Our Team

Blackstone LaunchPad’s professional staff, venture coaches, students and volunteers make up a talented team whose expertise and cross-disciplinary knowledge will help you set your ideas in motion.

Portrait of Hadar Borden


Hadar Borden
Program Director


LinkedIn profile

Hadar’s bio

Hadar Borden is the program director of Blackstone LaunchPad and director of the WNY Prosperity Fellowship Program.

Prior to her current roles, Hadar served for eight years as the administrative director of the University at Buffalo’s Undergraduate Academies, the collaborative, interdisciplinary living-and-learning communities for undergraduates. She was formerly the assistant administrative director of the University Honors College and before that served as an assistant director in the Office of Admissions. 

A University at Buffalo alumnus, Hadar holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in geography with a concentration in international business and world trade. In 2012, Hadar was awarded the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award in Professional Service in recognition of her professional accomplishments.

A true “UB Believer,” Hadar bleeds UB Blue. Hadar stays busy outside of UB as well. A mother of two young sons, she is married to David Borden (BS ’97, MBA ’01). He plays in a local Buffalo rock band and is active in their synagogue, Temple Beth Zion. Hadar also engages in her community as a member of the Junior League of Buffalo, where she collaborates and innovates with a group of inspiring, accomplished women. Additionally, she serves as a commissioner on the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women; is a member of the board for Women Elect; is a trustee on the board of the Buffalo Jewish Federation; participates in the WNY Women’s Foundation-Advocacy committee; is a member of the Smallwood Elementary School Parent Teacher Association; and was and recognized by Buffalo Business First as a member of the 2013 Class of Forty under 40.

Portrait of Tom Ulbrich


Tom Ulbrich
Assistant Dean/Executive Director
Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership

LinkedIn profile

Tom’s bio

Tom Ulrich provides strategic oversight of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) and works to advance the center's mission of invigorating the Western New York economy and community through entrepreneurial development.

As one of our community's most passionate advocates for small business, and a business owner himself, Tom intimately understands the incredible significance of entrepreneurship to our economy and culture.

Tom has dedicated his personal and professional work to small business advocacy. He is a member of the National Federation for Independent Business' New York State Leadership team and a frequent author and orator on topics concerning the importance of small business and entrepreneurship to the vitality of the American economy.

A testament to Tom's insights is his recent TEDx talk, “Is There a Better Way?'' which explores the necessity of developing entrepreneurial skills and spirit in students from a young age. In a world where modern technology and unprecedented access to information have rendered entrepreneurial skills essential, Tom's keen business sense and unique knowledge are invaluable.

Under Tom's direction, the CEL has expanded its sophisticated interdisciplinary approach to educating emerging business leaders centered on best and next practices backed by the thought leadership of the UB School of Management. The CEL has been recognized multiple times as one of the Top 100 Small Business Influencers in North America.

Portrait of Alex Cleary Pelc


Alex Cleary Pelc
Student Engagement Coordinator

LinkedIn profile

Alex’s bio

Alex Pelc is the student engagement coordinator for Blackstone LaunchPad at UB and also serves as the senior program coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses in the Buffalo area. Specifically, Alex works with early stage minority- and women-owned businesses in overseeing the CEL’s Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs program. She also works closely with student entrepreneurs as she administers the Panasci Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.

An alumnus of the UB School of Management, Alex holds a bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo, where she studied business administration and Spanish with a concentration in international trade and marketing. Currently, she is pursuing a master's degree in international trade. 

Alex has been recognized as a Small Business Association Women in Business Champion and a Buffalo Niagara 360 Spotlight Professional. When she's not working, Alex loves to explore new restaurants and to cook and entertain at home.


Venture Coaches

Portrait of Christopher Miano


Elijah Tyson
Lead Venture Coach

Elijah's Bio

Elijah is the owner of Hustle Aesthetic Fitness, a fitness coaching platform. Additionally he is co-owner of ColdSpace LLLC, a smart vending company. When people ask him what he does, he states “I create products and services that enable people to live healthier lives.”

Elijah holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University at Buffalo and is additionally a Western New York Prosperity Alumnus.

Portrait of Lindsay Macaluso


Harsha Kosta

Software Coach


Harsha's bio

I am an excellent communicator, strategic thinker and a natural leader, and my greatest strength is my ability to work effectively across multiple constituencies. I am always striving to bring 100% to the work I do. I am adaptable and dedicated towards learning new things. I believe that learning is a never-ending process. 

I was the kid who didn’t break apart my Rubik’s cube so that I could get all the colors lined up – I committed to issues and battled to find the solutions. With my optimistic approach towards innovation, I have challenged myself at every point and I have not stopped taking on impossible. 

I love meeting new people, I like to collaborate with the diverse community to make a difference in people's lives. I also love the outdoors and playing recreational sports as well as helping out in my community.


DaVon France
Student Assistant

DaVon's Bio

Hailing from Rochester, N.Y., George Gombert is a senior mechanical engineering student and a student assistant for the Blackstone LaunchPad. He is involved in UB’s theater community and is also an active trip leader with the Outdoor Adventure Club. George is excited to be graduating in this time of resurgence and revitalization in Western New York. Outside of school, George likes to travel, rock climb, build things (see: the Blackstone LaunchPad’s rocket ship) and sail.

Portrait of Iris Lopez


Iris Lopez
Student Assistant

Iris’ bio

A New York City native, Iris Lopez is a student assistant who will graduate this year from UB with a Bachelor of Science in business administration. As the designated artist in Blackstone LaunchPad and the contacts manager for UB Campus Ambassadors, Iris hopes to learn the ropes behind running a business and reaching out to people of all backgrounds.

Following her return from her first-of-many mission trips to Nicaragua, Iris has rediscovered her passion to help those in need. Using her profound compassion and determination, Iris plans to pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in wildlife surgery with a focus on animal advocacy. She hopes to one day run her own animal sanctuary or clinic.

Portrait of Taylor Speer


Ashley Cercone
Graduate Assistant

Ashley's Bio

Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Ashley is a second year PhD student in the Anthropology Department and currently serves as the Student Engagement Coordinator at Blackstone LaunchPad. She received her undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Classics from UB in 2016.

In her role at Blackstone LaunchPad, she oversees the Blackstone LaunchPad Ambassadors for Student Engagement and Recruitment (BLASERs) internship program and provides support for the development and implementation of other events and workshops at the center.

Outside of being an archaeologist, she is a foodie and global traveler. When she graduates, she aspires to open up her own restaurant and share food from around the world with Buffalo.


Portrait of Rachel Stern

Heidi Stahlnecker

Social Innovation Venture Coach

Heidi's Bio

Experienced in nonprofit program development, marketing and grant writing with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for addiction treatment innovation. Heidi aspires to develop a nonprofit focused on advocacy for public policy change, substance abuse research and development of evidence-based treatment approaches grounded in neuroscience.