• 709 S Jefferson St, Roanoke, VA 24016

RAMP Staff Bios

Lisa Garcia – Director

Lisa Garcia serves as Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development of Verge, the parent organization of RAMP and RBTC, and Director of RAMP. Garcia is an educator, business and executive coach, and passionate technology advocate. She has served as the instructor for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, where the mission is to commercialize technology developed inside universities. She is also an Instructor at Virginia Tech, where she works to empower the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in its role as a partner of the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hubs program.

Additionally, she serves as an adjunct instructor in the Pamplin College of Business, teaching members of the Innovate LLC, where she also serves as a board member. She has also taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department of the College of Engineering for students focused on product development, leadership and research focus, and ideation.

Mike Abbott – Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Mike Abbott brings 30 years of entrepreneurial, innovation and product design expertise on a global stage to his role as instructor of RAMP’s cohort program.

An investor, business strategy consultant, product developer, engineer and speaker, Mike has worked with more than 3,500 technology development teams ranging from Fortune 500 to startup companies, Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) awardees to main street businesses, and government agencies to nonprofits to apply evidence-based decision making around new product development (NPD), product strategy, and market discovery. 

“Improving innovation is about repeatable processes that inspire corporate culture to use data-driven tools to discover and monetize under-served needs,” Mike writes. “By doing so, lower-risk higher-yield business models are created around growth strategies for early stage technologies, processes, services and missions. It’s easy to talk to people in your market, and you’re sure to learn a lot. The trick is in how you translate what you hear into real, actionable information.”

Among Mike’s accomplishments:

  • He holds both a B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and is a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Virginia, holding a PMP certification with Project Management Institute.
  • He has been an equity partner in 10 startup companies and served as an executive consultant in innovation processes, NPD, business model development, and tech transfer. 
  • Through his company Cambrian Design and Development, he has tailored innovation and entrepreneurship training programs for the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes for Health, Johns Hopkins, MIT, University of Southern California, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Project Management Institute, and many international organizations such as World Intellectual Property Organization, University of the West Indies, UNAM (South Korean), Brain Chile, University Catolico Chile, The United States-Mexico Foundation for Science (FUMEC), and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (CONACYT Mexico).
  • His corporate clients range from multi-billion dollar multi-nationals to small and medium sized companies right here in our region. “Innovation itself is the challenge, the size of the company simply changes the guardrails on the process.” When tens of millions in development costs and hundreds of millions in revenue are on the line when making a go, no-go decision for new products, Mike’s clients rely on his process and his experience to help guide their portfolio strategy. To date, with more than $11B of validated top line opportunity and close to $1B in bottom line revenue being realized, the argument of implementing a structured innovation business process is easy to make.
  • His specialties include data-driven innovation, business strategy consulting and coaching; product development and portfolio strategy; building objective innovation processes; user-centric product design; engineering development; customer discovery; systems engineering; product design; commercialization of products and services from R&D to manufacture; development of NPD programs; integration of NPD into ISO certified design and manufacturing systems; consumer products; electro-mech design; systems integration; human integration; ergonomics; and design.

“True progress can only be made through corporate adaptation to the ever-increasing pace of global markets. New tools and perspectives must be adopted as part of day-to-day operations for continued growth and success to be maintained. 

“Many of the common, trending approaches (Lean Startup, BioDesign, SPRINT, Agile, etc.) are easily understood mental models that lack the necessary rigor to implement in real-world environments. My work enables companies to face the complexity of real markets head on. By leveraging elements of behavioral economics and experience from more than 3,500 projects, I enable enterprises to adopt new behaviors, language and processes necessary for sustainable, self-supported innovation cultures. 

“In short, I teach people to fish.”

Sarah Spotswood – Project Manager

Sarah was first brought into the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council as an AmeriCorps member working for founding RAMP Director Mary Miller.

Shortly after, Sarah became the membership coordinator with the RBTC before becoming the project manager of RAMP.

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a concentration in business and a minor in French.

Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering at her local dog shelter.

Jessie Dunn – Administrative Coordinator

A native of Roanoke, Jessie Dunn earned a media studies degree from Radford University in 2008, and since 2015 worked as assistant property manager for Coordinated Services Management, Inc., which manages more than 20 senior living communities.