Our Team

We are dedicated to working with you to receive non-dilutive research funding. We will get “in the trenches” with you as we learn more about your company and technology to help you prepare your proposal, so that you feel confident and comfortable moving forward.

Executive Director, Katie Thompson
Identifying and nurturing relationships within the science and technology community as well as connecting companies with the broader ecosystem. Ensuring that collaboration and communication is maintained with companies. Individualized support in proposal preparation.

Grant Specialist

One-on-one support for submitting an SBIR/STTR proposal including: registration requirements, writing and editing the proposal, letters of support and aid in full submission to the chosen federal agency.

Gray Ink is a strategy studio specializing in securing funding for socially and environmentally impactful initiatives. Since founding, we have worked with our clients to raise $58 million in non-dilutive capital to accelerate their revenue and impact goals. We are recognized writers, researchers, thought leaders and we provide coaching, strategic advice, and tactical support grounded in data and storytelling.

Our areas of work include:
– U.S. federal government grants and contract bids
– U.S. city grants and contract bids
– SBIR/STTR proposals
– E.U. nongovernmental and small business grants
– Public, private, and family foundations
– Corporate CSR and foundations

We have worked with governments, nonprofits, and social impact companies to develop compelling operational and revenue strategies grounded in data and research. While we work across a number of industries, we specialize in economic development including both entrepreneurial support and workforce development.

Startup Solution Specialists

Personalized support to vet technology in preparation for federal funding opportunities as well as strategizing ways for successful launch into market. Connects founders with the broader ecosystem that could help support the growth of the company beyond the federal funding stage.

Douglas Hutchings – Douglas Hutchings is a founder, CEO and accidental angel investor. Douglas founded Silicon Solar Solutions (SSS) while still pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas and secured seed funding for the venture nine days prior to successfully defending his dissertation. Upon graduating he hired himself as the third full-time employee with the responsibility of continuing to oversee the technical and business development of the interdisciplinary staff of eight people. Picasolar Inc, was spun out of SSS in 2012 and as the CEO of SSS and Picasolar, Douglas led the team to compete in 23 international business competitions where they placed in the top three/finalist in every competition and won 12 of them outright. One result of this was securing an invitation for the whole team to close the NASDAQ.

Nhiem Cao –  President of C12XL, has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing, process engineering, and consulting.  He has raised over $2.8 million in venture funding for previous ventures.  In addition to venture funding, Nhiem also received over $2 million in grants through the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research program.  Nhiem has successfully led the development and commercialization of novel sustainable wood-based thermoplastic materials and is currently working on the commercialization of a laparoscopic medical device. Nhiem has received a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Arkansas and Walton MBA from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Expertise includes biomaterials, advanced materials, biotechnology, and laparoscopic medical technologies. Experienced in manufacturing, operations, business development, fund raising, project management, and grant writing.  

Technology Mentors

Tailored support with industry specific technical experts that can provide guidance in the development of the technology in preparation of the proposal and successfully penetrating the market.

Angeline Rodriguez – Ph.D. Candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Expertise includes nanotechnology and biotechnology that provide solutions to the healthcare, energy, and defense industries. Experienced in proposal writing, project management, marketing, customer discovery, IP development/licensing, and business model development.

Forrest Payne –Ph.D in Physics, University of Virginia.  15+ years of experience in microfluidic systems with 10 years of experience in medical device development.  Expertise in device design and testing, grant writing, and IP development. Experienced in transfer to manufacturing and FDA medical device regulatory

Matt Francis – founder and President/CEO of Ozark Integrated Circuits, Inc. Dr. Francis earned BSEE (’03), BS Physics (’04), MSEE (’07) and PhD (’09) degrees from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Francis is an expert in the scalable design, manufacturing and assembly of extremely reliable single-board computers, from silicon/silicon carbide semiconductors to advanced packaging, ceramics and tests for reliability – including their complex supply chains. 

Noah Asher – BBA in Finance and Economics from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. Expertise includes health care, defense, biotech, retail, and e-commerce space. Experienced in navigating complex regulatory environments, technology and product development, raising capital, go-to-market and strategic planning, capital budgeting and financial modeling and developing repeatable, scalable business models.

Sam Claassens – MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Chicago, Illinois, and Master of Engineering, Control Systems and Navigation, University of Johannesburg, Africa. Expertise includes software engineering including AI/ML, robotics, and automation products and services. Experienced in building financial models, forecasts, business models, and taking novel systems to market.

Rudy Ortiz – BBA in Management as well as an MBA with an International emphasis, Texas A&M, Corpus Christi, Texas. Expertise includes finance, human resources, international business, marketing, management, operations, supply chain management, and technology commercialization. Experienced in Federal and State economic development agencies, business development, technology equipment, IT equipment, IP development, and international trade.

Walter BurgessCo-CEO at Power Technology, Inc., is a Central Arkansas native with more than 25 years of experience in the laser and photonics industry. As the manager of both a Sales team and an Engineering team, he uses entrepreneurial skills to shepherd products from the idea stage through commercialization. This includes product ideation, technical direction, product design, overseeing team performance, developing and managing relationships with key customers, managing the sales process from implementation through closing, and P&L responsibility.

Mahsa Haseli – PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas. CEO of Vitruivan Matrix, a leading technology company specializing in surface coating for cell manufacturing. Expertise includes chemical engineering, biomaterials for cell manufacturing and cell therapy. Experienced in intellectual properties, licensing, negotiation strategies, and technology transfer with universities.

Hossein Kashefizadeh – PhD in Civil Engineering and Co-Founder of Vitruvian Matrix. Expertise includes scalable design as well as design and optimization of production lines. Experienced in navigating complex regulatory environments, technology and product development, raising capital, go-to-market and strategic planning, capital budgeting and financing modeling.

Scientific Illustrator

Direct support in creating images and graphs that can be placed in the proposal to help tell the story of the technology and company.

Y-Illustrations – Dr. Yang Luo-Branch is the artist and visual storyteller at Yillustrations.com. Dr. Luo-Branch received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Heilongjiang University of Science and Technology in China, as well as a master’s degree in sociology, minoring in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a Ph.D. in Land-use Planning from Texas Tech University. Dr. Luo-Branch specializes in hand illustrations of architecture, urban design, and product concept development. In recent years, she got certified and started practicing user experience/user interface (UI/UX) design and data visualization in the digital space

Commercialization Fellows

Individualized assistance in market research, customer discovery and commercialization planning. Find out more about the fellows and the position on commercialization fellows page.

Our Partners

We are gracious for the support of our partners. With their collaboration, we are able to effectively support the science and technology community.