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It all started with encouragement

nCourage Investment Group was founded on the belief that early-stage, innovative companies with the potential to address significant market opportunities deserve a platform and the resources to shine. At the heart of our mission lies a dedication to empowering women; we aim to inspire women investors to back and mentor women-led startups, driving towards meaningful and impactful returns. Our approach is collaborative and experience-driven, offering more than just financial support. We actively share our diverse expertise with the companies we invest in, ensuring that their ideas resonate with our investors' areas of knowledge. By leveraging our extensive networks, we open doors to potential customers, service providers, partners, and cutting-edge operational resources, creating a robust ecosystem for growth and innovation.

Our engagement extends beyond investment, as nCourage plays a vital role in the Rice Business Plan Competition. Here, our members not only serve as judges but also celebrate and support the next generation of female entrepreneurs by awarding the "Courageous Women’s Award" to the standout women-led teams. This is more than an investment group; it's a community committed to making a difference in the startup world, especially for ambitious women ready to lead their ventures to success.

nCourage Members

Cindy Boyd

Founding Member

President, Sentigy

Cindy Boyd is an experienced technology entrepreneur who is recognized for creating experienced, high performance technology teams that provide solutions where “it’s never been done before.” Her newest venture, CBM Enterprise Solutions, LLC, is bringing to the market an innovative software, CBMvision™, an automated equipment health monitoring platform, allowing companies to maintain equipment based on condition, saving millions for industrial facilities.

In addition to her professional achievements, Cindy is a recognized community leader. She served as Chair of Houston’s Emerging Technology Council and is a Founder of nCourage. She is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), and recently completed a 3-year term on the Global Board of Directors. She has presented at various Technology and Business organizations, including the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals and the Information Systems Security Association. Cindy is a past recipient of AWC’s Leadership in Technology Award and was a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Elizabeth Wiggins

Founding Member

Director, various community boards

Elizabeth Wiggins has had a thirty-five year career in public accounting.  She was a shareholder and president of White, Petrov, McHone, CPAs, PC, prior to its merger with BKD, LLP, in 2000.  Her clients included privately-held manufacturing and service firms.  With her designation of ABV – Accredited in Business Valuation – she valued companies for contractual agreements and for tax and estate purposes.  Beth currently works as a community volunteer, serving on several tax exempt entity boards.

Lamar Mathews

Founding Member

President of GP of Falcon Partners, Ltd.

Lamar Davis Mathews is a serial entrepreneur who has started, built and sold businesses in the following categories: employment agency, healthcare imaging services, promotional products and manufacturing. She was also a part of a bank start up, serving on the board of Independence Bank for 10 years until it merged with Allegiance Bank at the end of 2013. In addition to overseeing various investments for a number of limited partnerships, she serves on the boards of non-profit organizations and foundations. When time permits, Lamar consults with select companies, providing expertise in strategic planning, sales/marketing, HR/recruiting and board development, as well as occasionally providing interim CEO and ‘turn around’ services.

Shelby Scarbrough

Founding Member

President, Practical Protocol

Shelby Scarbrough combines an entrepreneurial background with the pride and responsibility of public service to bring new perspectives to each endeavor. Her skills and experience blend protocol with practicality for business and government executives alike. She demonstrates a diverse background, with experience in small business, entrepreneurship, government affairs, international relations, public relations, marketing, fundraising and philanthropy and often speaks on such topics as customer service, civility in Society, relationship building across cultures and entrepreneurship.

Shelby founded Practical Protocol, an international special events management and business protocol training organization specializing in custom-designed plans that address the unique needs of high-profile clients.

She served on the global board for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization – a global business network of 9500+ entrepreneurs in 40 countries. She finished her three year term as Board Chairman. During her tenure, she traveled the globe evangelizing entrepreneurship

Winnie Hart

President and Founder, TwinEngine

Winnie Hart is the Founder of TwinEngine, a brand growth agency fueled by purpose and bestselling author of the new release Stand Out as a Thought Leader.


In Winnie’s unique experience in being an identical twin, she has revolutionized the way leaders think about building brands in today's overcrowded world, where everything looks the same, to become the thing that matters most: Standing out by being more of what makes you – you.


Winnie serves on several boards and is Global Board Advisor for Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), a network of 14,000+ like-minded leaders across 61 countries focused on moving the world forward by unlocking the full potential of entrepreneurs.


Winnie’s keynote speeches and workshops are designed to fulfill her purpose to impact 1 million leaders to discover what truly makes them distinct, to know what they stand for and the difference they make in the world so they stand out and become the thought leaders they are meant to be.

Carolyn Matula

Rice MBA and Former Risk Manager at Shell

A native Texan, raised in New England, Carolyn Matula has worked extensively in both the downstream and upstream segments of the energy industry during her 14 years with Shell. During her tenure, she performed a wide range of duties. For the downstream market, she lead the Toxicology Analytical Support Group and was the Product Safety and Compliance manager for the industrial solvents market where she represented the company on various trade association groups working with both national and state regulatory agencies. Upon transitioning to Shell’s upstream business, Carolyn became the Export Control Compliance Officer for all proprietary technology associated with deepwater drilling in the United States. As the company globalized, her role expanded to include establishing a business management system to ensure compliance with corporate guidelines. Carolyn’s final assignment for Shell involved brokering a multi-national corporate credit card transaction and implementing its rollout to 100,000+ employees worldwide.

Prior to joining Shell, Ms. Matula executed pharmaceutical research for Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis. She developed standard operating procedures for analytical testing equipment and performed chemical validation studies for the dementia work group. Her skills in the analytical chemistry laboratory were honed initially while working for the New England Power Company.

Carolyn graduated magna cum laude from Boston College receiving a B.S. degree in Chemistry, where she distinguished herself as Scholar of the College. She also earned a M.S. from the University of Michigan in Analytical Chemistry and a M.B.A. from Rice University. Ms. Matula has held various volunteer positions at a number of private schools in Houston.

Marie Myers

Chief Financial Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Marie has a Bachelor’s degree in Art and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from The University of Queensland, Australia. She also earned a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing and Finance from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas.

Upon the separation of Hewlett-Packard Company, Marie became V.P. of the Finance Separation Management Office for HP Inc. She was accountable for standing up all major financial processes, including an auditable financial history.  Additionally, she was a key contributor in establishing an end-state vision for HP Finance.

She is also a board member of the Houston Chapter of the National Association of Women MBA’s (NAWMBA), the University of St. Thomas Advisory Board, the Girlstart Council for Houston and The University of Queensland in America, Inc. (TUQIA). Marie also founded the Anti-Gray Market Alliance (AGMA), the first global technology industry association to address gray marketing, and serves as its President Emeritus.

Pilar Stillwater

Partner at Live Oak Law Office

Pilar Stillwater counsels clients on all aspects of intellectual property and commercial litigation, from pre-suit investigations through discovery, summary judgment motions, trials, and appeals. She has over 10 years’ experience helping her clients, including universities, research organizations, corporations, and private individuals, protect, enforce, and defend their rights to use, intellectual property, including patents, trade secrets, copyrights, and trademarks, particularly in the medical device and life sciences fields.

Barbara Burger

Advisor, various companies

Barbara J. Burger, PhD., is a Chevron graduate where she ended her time with the company as the Vice President of Innovation and President of Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV). During her career, Burger held management positions across International Marketing, Chemicals, Technology Marketing, Lubricants, Ventures, and Innovation. While at Chevron, she also held a wide range of civic and industrial leadership positions including the governing board of the MIT Energy Initiative, the external advisory council for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Greentown Houston Advisory Council, the Rice University Corporate Innovation Advisory Board, Houston Exponential, the Activate Leadership Council, the Houston Symphony Society as well as the Board of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investment LLP.One year into the next chapter, she remains focused on the big challenges in energy transition, equity, and access to education and has built a portfolio of roles including a Senior Advisor to Lazard, a member of the Heliogen Board of Directors, an advisor to Emerald Technology Ventures, Syzygy Plasmonics and Epicore Biosystems and a member of the Greentown Board of Directors.Burger is an active alumnus of the University of Rochester where she serves on the Board of Trustees and the university’s River Campus Libraries National Council. She established the Barbara J. Burger Endowed Scholarship in the Sciences and founded the Barbara J. Burger iZone, where students generate, refine, and communicate ideas for social, cultural, community and economic impact. At Caltech, she supports graduate women in Chemistry that aim to contribute through careers beyond academia and serves on the Strategic Advisory Board for the Resnick Sustainability Institute.Burger holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester, a doctoral degree in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology and an academic honor MBA in finance from the University of California, Berkeley.

Linda Giuffré

CCO for Bridgeway Capital Management 

Linda leads compliance in her role both as chief compliance officer for Bridgeway Capital Management and Bridgeway Funds- roles that she has held since 2004. She also serves as the treasurer for Bridgeway Funds. Linda is responsible for the design and implementation of the compliance program, including the annual review and testing. She has over 25 years of experience in the investment management industry in operations, compliance and accounting.

Linda holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi and is licensed as a certified public accountant in Texas. Linda supports educational opportunities for underprivileged children.

Jody Lee, MD

Chairwoman at Southwestern National Bank

Dr. Jody Lee is a practicing physician and a medical real estate entrepreneur.  She earned her BA from Rice University, her MD from the University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston, and her MBA from George Washington University.

A board-certified radiologist, Dr. Lee is a Diplomat of the American College of Radiology.  An accomplished scientist, she is credited with authoring numerous scientific presentations, posters, abstracts, and peer-reviewed articles. Her research results were published in prestigious scientific journals such as the American Journal of Roentgenology, the Journal of Emergency Radiology, and the Journal of Thoracic Radiology.

Dr. Lee is passionate about promoting healthcare issues in the community and leads radiologists in political discussions by serving as the Texas Radiological Society Political Action Committee Chair.

Lisa Coleman

Board Director | Executive Coach | Leadership Development | Board Advisor

Over 25 years of experience in talent management and development including executive coaching, leadership development, leadership and succession planning, talent acquisition, and career development. Provide a broad range of coaching and talent management services specializing in executive coaching, executive onboarding, leadership development, career and leadership transitions, and succession management. Advise organizations in the areas of talent development, assessment and acquisition; board development and recruiting; and organizational development and planning.

Anna Belcheva, MD

Board Director | Executive Coach | Leadership Development | Board Advisor


Mary Lynn Fernau

Inventer and Designer at Serendipity Picnic BlanKIT

Serial entrepreneur and investor. Transformational strategist leading cross-functional teams and delivering successful partnerships, business development, programs and communications.


Areas of Expertise

  • Senior level team management

  • Strategic planning / Organizational development

  • Relationship building and management with government, business & higher education organizations

  • Sponsor / partner development

  • Public and media relations / Communications / Marketing / Branding

  • Crisis communications / Issues management

  • Community relations / Corporate social responsibility

  • Project management

  • Entrepreneurship, 3x successful founder

Sima Jani

Senior Manager at Capgemini Invent

Strategic and creative thinker and effective problem solver with experience in digital transformation, commercial excellence, organizational effectiveness, and international communications in various industries most recently Oil and Gas industry and Financial sector. Outstanding leadership skills to motivate teams of professionals to meet and exceed business goals. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills that are leveraged to develop effective customer relationships and strong industry networks.

Cindy Kaleh

Regional Oncogenomic Liaison at Exact Sciences

12 years of proven ability to manage and drive business in the healthcare sector with high profile accounts, community setting and rural accounts-most current experience entails 10 years in oncology. Consistent Top 10% performer through strategic selling, focusing team members, building strong rapport with accounts and capitalizing on every sales opportunity. Expertise includes relational selling, effective market planning, creative problem solving, and team matrix selling.


Therapeutic Areas-Oncology: MRD, Immunotherapy, NGS, Liquid Biopsy, Lung, Colon-Rectal, Pancreatic, Head&Neck, Pan cancer in general.

Hematology: Leukemia,Lymphoma, all additional malignant heme


Call points have included: MD Anderson Medical Center and all surrounding areas . Medical oncologist, GynOncs, gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons, breast surgeons, imaging centers, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, general surgeons, dermatology, hospital pathologist, PCPs and internal med physicians.

Andi Kreuer

Enterprise Account Manager at Trace3


Anu Lal

VP, Sales and Marketing at Piping Technology & Products, Inc.

Experienced in Sales and Marketing with a demonstrated history of working in manufacturing, specifically, the oil & energy and semiconductor industry. Skilled in Sales, Management, Leadership, Marketing, Engineering and Project Management.

Liz Lay

Principal at Liz Lay Law

Experienced attorney with over 20 years as senior legal advisor and business strategist. Extensive experience with complex transactions, business strategy and development, litigation, corporate governance, renewable energy (solar and wind), technology, entertainment, mergers and acquisitions, Human Resources, real estate, finance, regulatory, crisis management, intellectual property and tax. Executive team member as general counsel, chief legal officer, and senior counsel successfully achieving client goals.

Sue Payne

Retired ExxonMobil

Sue Payne retired from Exxon Mobil Corporation after a 37 year career in global oil and gas exploration, development and production. After starting her career as a geophysicist in Mobil’s technology center in Dallas Texas, she served in many diverse professional and management roles.


As an executive, she held positions in Mobil’s headquarters in New York and Fairfax, followed by roles as South American Business Development Manager, as Vice President of US Exploration and Production, as Geoscience Manager for ExxonMobil Production, as US Exploration Manager, as Global Exploration Planning Manager and finally as Manager of Global Geoscience.


From 2011 to 2013, Sue was the Chief Operating Officer for the National Math and Science Initiative, a national non-profit focused on improving the math and science educational performance in US schools.


Following retirement, Sue consults with large companies on solving complex business problems and is an investor in early stage, women led start-up companies. Sue is an active community volunteer and serves on the advisory board of the Houston Children’s Museum, the advisory board for Georgia Institute of Technology, the advisory board for the College of Natural Science at the University of Texas – Austin, the advisory council for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at the University of Houston, the Regional Council of the Smithsonian Institution, the board of Regina Dominican High School and the board of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art.


She is a 1975 graduate in Physics from Georgia Institute of Technology. She currently resides in Houston, Texas.

Laura Resendez

Marketing Director at Q2 Technologies, LLC


Stephanie Tsuru

Founder, SheSpace

I am incredibly passionate and dedicated to the economic and educational empowerment of women, both in Houston and worldwide. While in graduate school at Rice University, the complete lack of inspiring and female-friendly work and meeting spaces became glaringly apparent.

As a result, I founded SheSpace, a work and meeting place where bold women gather to find community, amplify ambition, and propel their dreams forward. We opened in 2020 to facilitate female leadership growth, offer work spaces, and amplify female abilities and voices.

Our Approach

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nCourage in Numbers




Courageous Women Entrepreneur Investment Awards


Courageous Women Entrepreneurs Judged


Collective Years of Experience

We’ve Been Covered

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