The Team 

Michelle E. Messina is CEO and key strategist at Explora International LLC.  She is a serial entrepreneur, pitch coach, and trainer on the topics of innovation, business acceleration, market readiness, technology commercialization, entrepreneurship and leadership.  Michelle’s expertise is in revenue-focused strategy and consulting services to companies expanding globally, and foreign direct investment strategy expertise to governments and innovation ecosystems worldwide.  She leverages a strong revenue, marketing, and operations background to develop viable growth and expansion strategies for both constituencies.   Michelle has worked with entrepreneurs from dozens of countries including Hungary, Mexico, Armenia, Venezuela, France and Estonia.  She was one of the first mentors in the U.S. Department of State program Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas for Women Entrepreneurs in 2010 that has evolved into the Global Women’s Business Initiative.  The program is focused on economic empowerment and public-private partnerships for SME growth.  Since that time, she has been invited by the US State Department to travel to Colombia, Peru, Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation to support economic development. 


Deborah A. Siegle is an astute marketing leader, problem-solver, and strategist who delivers practical and actionable insights to business executives and entrepreneurs. Engagements frequently include Business Acceleration, Customer Voice, Branding/Positioning/Messaging, Marketing and Business Strategy. Deb understands what drives buyer, customer, and cultural behavior, and is expert at hearing and translating the market and customer voice into actionable strategies and tactics that matter. She has talent for aligning a company’s products, solutions and messages with the customer’s needs, and brings a unique combination of strategic and tactical skills developed through hands-on line management experience at fast-growing companies. Deb has worked in and for start-ups as well as Fortune 100 companies, and understands the perspectives and needs of both. Deb is an authority in market research, strategy, market and product development, and customer loyalty and experience. She is the president of Women In Consulting in the San Francisco Bay Area – Silicon Valley, and has led multiple other professional associations. Deb has been a judge for the Edison Awards, which honor innovation and innovators and has also served as a mentor and coach for the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Deb holds a MBA from the University of California, Berkeley and a BBA from the University of Michigan.


Jonathan C. Baer is both a recovering venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur.  He works with companies around the world assisting them with refining presentations, making introductions to customers and partners, raising capital, validating initial customers and markets, identifying sales channels and recruiting advisors or board members.  Jon brings a unique perspective to the world of startups as a mentor, venture capitalist, and the co-founder and CEO of two venture backed companies, eBoomerang, an enterprise software company sold in 2006, and Artificial Muscle, Inc., a spinout from Stanford Research Institute (SRI) which was sold to Bayer AG in 2010. Earlier in his career Jon was a General Partner at Oscco Ventures, a Sand Hill Road early-stage venture capital firm which was one of the pioneering firms in Silicon Valley. He invested in a range of companies including Landec, Peerless Systems, and CoinStar.  Jon started his career at Exxon Enterprises where he was responsible for creating and managing new businesses for the corporation. He has also worked at Gartner Group and Prudential Securities, where he managed a portion of a $240 million fund.   www.thresholdventures and 


IdaRose Sylvester is a connector, problem solver and mentor. She has over 15 years of experience in marketing and business development, with emphasis on small business growth, strategy and sales. Her engagements include conducting market and competitive assessment, pitch and business plan creation, team training, value proposition definition, product roadmap development, business development, hands on channel management, partnership strategy, go to market and market development strategy. She has had roles as diverse as VP Marketing for an Italian B2B web analytics company, Business Development Director for a Dutch BPO software company, and US Business Development Manager for a Greek eLearning company. In 2012, she supported a client through an M&A exit, and today, supports several clients looking for strategic exits as well as venture funding.  IdaRose was a senior analyst for leading research firm IDC.  Prior to IDC, she headed up US strategic marketing efforts for Swedish-based chip supplier Switchcore, leading global market expansion efforts and product roadmap creation.  She also worked at AMD, Gartner, and in the clean technology industry.  IdaRose holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA from the FW Olin School of Business, Babson College. She’s lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 17 years. 


Celia M. Alcantara is a proven leader in business growth and expansion with extensive experience in general management; operations and project management; sales management and training; business development; personnel development; strategic planning; solutions driven performance models and CRM.  She is responsible for program management and direction for Explora International’s Professional Study Tours. Celia has created the programs and/or hosted groups from many countries including Estonia, Canada, Singapore, and Latvia.