Meet the Team
Brandon Day - Chief Operating Officer
Mr. Day’s background includes chemical engineering and materials science degrees from UC Berkeley and over 9 years of experience in oil and gas services and consulting in a variety of roles. Those roles include project management, engineering design, sales, marketing, account management, consultant, and business development.
Mr. Day has consulted for large agriculture food processing companies in California in his prior role as consultant for a boutique engineering firm in Monterey, CA. Mr. Day’s most recent role was as a strategy and business development MBA intern for CoverCress Inc., a St. Louis, MO-based agtech startup.
Thad Simons is the Co-founder and Board President of the Yield Lab Institute. From 2001 to 2014, he led Novus as President and CEO in its growth into a global animal health and nutrition company with sales exceeding US $1 billion.
Thad has also previously served on the boards of the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Botanical Gardens,St. Louis Zoological Association, National Chicken Council, American Feed Industry Association, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (President), Novus International, Inc. and ESM Technologies, Inc among others.
Thad’s awards and recognitions include: International Businessperson of the Year, World Trade Center of St. Louis, 2001; International Visionary Award, Boeing Institute of International Business, 2007; Heroes of the Planet Award, St. Louis Business Journal, 2009; Entrepreneur of the Year, Central Midwest-Bioscience, Ernst & Young, 2010; Entrepreneur of the Year, National Distribution and Manufacturing, Ernst & Young, 2010; and Agribusiness Leader of the Year, National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA), 2013.
Thad Simons - Board President & Co-founder
Connie Bowen - Board Member
Prior to serving as the founding Executive Director of the Yield Lab Institute, Connie served as a Principal for the Yield Lab and Cultivation Capital, where she managed accelerator programming, deal flow, and portfolio and aided firm expansion into Ireland, Argentina, and Singapore. Ms. Bowens' prior roles include Operations Manager for Grape Arbor VC, a multi-family office investing in startups and venture funds.
She is a regular contributor to Forbes, writing about impact investment in agrifood systems. She is a 2016 Venture for America fellow and a member of the VFA alumni board. She holds a B.S. in General Engineering, with an emphasis on Environmental Studies, from Swarthmore College.
David has 35 years of diverse financial leadership experience. After working at Novus International, Inc. for 26 years David retired and founded Friedman Capital Ventures LLC, which is a private investment vehicle for extended family members to pool assets and invest in business opportunities, including real estate and start-up businesses that offer long-term value creation potential.
Prior to joining Novus, David served in financial managerial roles in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California with MGM/UA Entertainment Co., Turner Entertainment Co., Tri-Star Pictures, Inc. and Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
David served as a member of the board and CFO for the World Agricultural Forum, a leading non-profit organization contributing to the management of global agricultural issues, from 2003 to 2018. David also served as a member of the Board of Trustee for the pension plan for the city of Creve Coeur, Missouri for 9 years. He is actively involved in youth mentoring and outreach groups, local neighborhood associations, Pedal the Cause, United Way and food drives supporting the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
David Friedman - Board Vice President
Brian L. Clevinger is a co-founder and Managing Director of The Yield Lab. He is also a founder and managing director of Prolog Ventures. Before Prolog, he was the CEO of Megan Health, a vaccine developer. He held this position from Megan’s inception until its acquisition by AVANT Immunotherapeutics. Previously, he was the president of A/W Company, a technology transfer partnership of the private equity firm Alafi Capital and Washington University. Before joining A/W Company, he held a tenured position and headed a research laboratory at Washington University. Brian holds a doctoral degree in immunology from Indiana University and was a NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University.
Brian Clevinger - Board Member
Cliff Holekamp - Board Member
Cliff Holekamp is a Co-founder, Managing Director, and General Partner at Cultivation Capital. Cliff’s board service in the Cultivation portfolio currently includes LockerDome, TopOPPS, Hatchbuck, TrackBill, Avail, FinLocker, and Clever.
Cliff was the Founder and President of Foot Healers (sold to private equity in 2007) and was the Professor of Practice and Academic Director for Entrepreneurship at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis (retired in 2019) where he was named one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurship Professors in the World.
His nonprofit board service includes the Yield Lab Institute, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Missouri Development Finance Board, and the Board of Trustees of Washington & Lee University. Cliff holds a B.A. from Washington & Lee University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. He worked as an account executive for IBM before beginning his entrepreneurial career.
Larry Taylor - Board Member
An American born in Japan, Larry has forty years of experience as a Senior International executive building businesses in global markets. Larry’s professional career has encompassed a wide variety of international experiences: A start-up in Indonesia; Marketing in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, & India. General management in Japan was of a USD 200 M Agriculture business. He founded Aziotics, a business development consulting firm, in 1997 after a corporate career with Monsanto and Union Carbide. Aziotics assists companies with solutions for International Markets including: Strategic Plans, Market Research, Competitive Intelligence, Marketing Plans, Partner Search, Site Selection, Negotiation Support and Economic Impact Analyses.
Larry also teaches on related subjects. He has taught ‘Asian Business’ at Saint Louis University and short-courses for the World Trade Center and the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Additionally, Larry is active in volunteer leadership at the World Affairs Council of St. Louis, Cornell University, and the US-Indonesia Society.
Marcia Mellitz - Board Member
Marcia Mellitz provides consulting services in support of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology development. Formerly Vice President, Program Development for BioSTL for the St. Louis bioscience cluster. In 1996, she founded and served as President and CEO of the Center for Emerging Technologies (CET) through 2010, supporting the development of early stage biomedical and other advanced technology companies by providing entrepreneurs access to business, technology and financial resources.
Ms. Mellitz was instrumental in the early development of the CORTEX Innovation District, in partnership with Washington University, Saint Louis University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, BJC HealthCare and Missouri Botanical Garden. She is currently engaged with T-REX, St. Louis’ downtown innovation center, in establishing a hub for the region’s geospatial technologies cluster. She has spoken at national conferences and has received numerous awards.
Tomás Peña - Board Member
Tomás Peña is managing director for Yield lab Latin America and has 20 years of banking experience, focused in private banking and innovation. He is also a passionate business developer and co-founder of S4, a Yield Lab Portfolio startup that helps row crop farmers transfer their risk to financial markets in the US and Latin America.