Team

john-mckinleyJohn McKinley
John McKinley was CTO and founder and President of Digital Services for AOL where he developed and launched numerous award-winning wireless and online services businesses. As CTO, he was responsible for all engineering and operations and served as AOL’s chief technology strategist. John is a founding partner of LaunchBox Digital and serves or has served as an advisor to or member of the Boards of Directors at Equifax, MessageLabs, Powerset, Xoopit, Sharememe, Buzzable, Foundation Capital, and ObectVideo.  John is also the founder and CEO of OurParents.  Previously, he was Executive Vice President and head of Global Technology and Services for Merrill Lynch where he oversaw the creation of the top rated ML Direct and ML Online services. He also served as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology and Information Officer for GE Capital. John began his career with Ernst & Young, where he was named partner in 1992. He is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. [Email John]


markmcMark McDowell
Mark McDowell is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Acta Wireless, a successful early stage investment and advisory firm focused on building businesses in the wireless and telecom convergence sectors. Mark has over 20 years experience in the wireless industry as a wireless operator, entrepreneur and investor. He was part of the founding management team of four companies, including Invertix, a pioneer in wireless instant messaging and presence, and Telecorp PCS, which was acquired by AT&T Wireless Services. Earlier in his career, Mark served as a manager at MLJ, where he was instrumental in the launch of the first digital wireless network in the United States. Mark served as an officer in the United States Air Force during the first Gulf War. He holds BSEE and MSEE degrees from MIT. [Email Mark]


matt-jacobsonMatthew Jacobson
Matt Jacobson is a business strategist, problem solver and transaction facilitator who has helped many early stage companies define and execute their business plans. Matt oversees all of the activities of LaunchBox Digital including operations, administration, investments and programming. Previously, he was a Vice President at AOL where he lead major strategic corporate initiatives, and helped define and grow AOL’s wireless and digital service businesses. Matt previously served as an M&A advisor at a number of investment banks including ABN AMRO, WR Hambrecht, Peter J. Solomon Co. and Toronto Dominion Securities. He received an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on twitter [Email Matt]


Steve Lerner
Steve has spent the last 30 years helping small and medium sized businesses maximize their potential. He has been involved in the formation of a number of companies. He is Chairman of both Capstrat and FGI marketing services companies located in North Carolina both of which he founded. He was Chairman of Yankelovich Partners prior to its sale to in 2008 and KBM prior to it sale to in 1999. He was also co-founder and Vice Chairman of Sterling Cellular prior to its sale in 1993.

Currently Steve serves as founder and Managing Partner of the Blue Hill Group. Blue Hill invests in entrepreneurial companies and helps them manage rapid growth. In this capacity he sits on the Boards of Bandwidth.Com, Accent Energy, Petroliance, and Piedmont Community Bank Holdings. He is also a Partner in LaunchBox Digital that provides seed capital and mentoring through a 12 week accelerator program to start up companies. Over the years he has served on the Boards of a number of locally based organizations that have a primary focus on education and news.

Steve received both an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Sharon Van Horn and their two daughters Sarah and Naomi.


Lee Buck
Lee is the founder of Blue Bright Ventures, an early stage investor working with technology companies in the mid-atlantic achieve explosive growth in nascent markets. Lee is a Partner of LaunchBox Digital and was instrumental in bringing the nationally recognized program (and headquarters) to the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC. He also serves are a number of corporate and non-profit boards.

Prior to his investment activities, Lee co-founded a succession of software companies that anticipated and benefited from successive waves of technology adoption.

Most recently, Lee was the co-founder and CTO of Near-Time. Near-Time enables organizations to leverage web 2.0 technologies to build more dynamic interactive relationships with customers, partners and other stakeholders. Previously, Lee was the co-founder and CTO of Extensibility, Inc. a leading provider of XML solutions. After its acquisition by TIBCO Software, Lee served as VP & Chief Scientist, XML Technologies. Lee is a recognized authority on XML and schema and has helped shape a number of Internet standards by serving on committees such as the W3C’s XML Schema Working Group. Prior to Extensibility, Lee founded Software Designs Unlimited helping clients such as National Geographic Society bring educational and informational resources to computers via CD-ROMs. Lee was also an award winning author of an AppleScript Rapid Application Development tool bundled by Apple Computer.

Lee began his career at Arthur Andersen serving as a senior consultant to clients such as AT&T, Brooklyn Union Gas and UPS. He received a B.S. in Systems Engineering from UVa. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife and three daughters.