DI People: Blossom Street Ventures, Transwestern, MoneyGram, and More Make Moves

In this weekly roundup of executive moves in North Texas, you'll also find news from Cigniti Technologies, CECO Environmental, Slync.io, Texas Health Aetna, and more.

Across North Texas, companies are promoting and hiring people to take on leadership positions within their organizations.

Dallas Innovates covers prominent personnel moves in Dallas-Fort Worth businesses and nonprofits—from the newest startups to well-established companies. Here are the people moves tied to innovation and technology in the region.

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Dallas entrepreneur joins Blossom Street Ventures

Robert Johnson

Dallas-based VC fund Blossom Street Ventures is adding serial entrepreneur Robert C. Johnson to its firm as a managing partner.

Johnson has been a founder in Dallas for some 25 years, previously starting and selling two technology companies and an oil & gas firm. His most recent venture was TeamSupport, which he grew to be a leading provider of enterprise class B2B customer support software. It was acquired by a New York-based private equity firm in 2018.

Blossom Street Ventures has some notable local deals, including Modern Message, which was acquired by RealPage early last year. Other exits include: LevelEleven, Spothero, UniteUs, AppBuddy, and Soci. Over the last seven years, Blossom Street Ventures has deployed $22 million in capital across 26 companies.

“I’ve been an investor and on the board of BSV since their inception 7 years ago and have a great deal of respect for how the fund has grown and the companies we have invested in” Johnson said in a statement. “My experience building organizations combined with Sammy’s investment knowledge and financial acumen will set our fund apart and continue to help us deploy capital to rapidly growing companies.”

Cigniti Technologies appoints a new VP & Global Head of Partnership and Alliances 

World’s leading Independent Quality Engineering & Software Testing services company, Cigniti Technologies, appoints Jayabrata Nag as their Vice President and Global Head of Partnership and Alliances.

Having been in the industry for over 2 decades, Jayabrata is an accomplished partnership, strategy, marketing and business development leader. He specializes in engaging Fortune 500 companies using IT products and services addressing Digital transformations, Data and Analytics led competitive advantages, Hyperautomation benefits, experience enrichment through Conversational Computing with AI driven NLP, Cybersecurity, and Hybrid Cloud technologies. Jayabrata skillset has delivered strong consistent results for global IT leaders and in his new role he will focus on building strategic partnerships for the overall growth and expansion of the company. 

Announcing on Jayabrata’s appointment, Srikanth Chakkilam, CEO at Cigniti said, “At Cigniti, we have been working with several leading tool vendors to offer better solutions to our clients. The hiring of Jayabrata is a strategic one as we aim to institutionalize the partnerships with these vendors that would help exponential business growth.”

Transwestern adds three experts to Dallas’ Healthcare Advisory Team



Laura Lea

Evan Saks

 Bob Krass






Transwestern Real Estate Services expands its Healthcare Advisory team in Dallas with three new additions to the firm: Vice President Laura Lea, Vice President Evan Saks, and Associate Bob Krass.

New President Lea has previously worked in land acquisition and disposition, investment sales, leasing and operational performance of multi-faceted portfolios. She received her MBA from Baylor University and a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge.

Vice President Saks brings the team extensive commercial real estate experience and has completed more than 2 million square feet of leasing transactions. He is a member of the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors and earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University.

Krass has specializes in transaction management, market analysis and research, and strategic real estate for years ensuring maximum efficiency for clients. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.

Together the team will advise healthcare real estate owners, investors and users throughout North Texas, and support clients in site selection, lease negotiations, and transaction management.

“We are excited to strengthen Transwestern’s dominate presence in the healthcare real estate space with this team of exceptionally talented professionals,” said John Huff, National Managing Director, Healthcare Advisory Services. “The knowledge and expertise of Laura, Evan and Bob will be an immediate asset for our clients’ growth as Transwestern guides a sophisticated real estate strategy to help deliver high-quality patient care and execute business objectives in a constantly evolving sector.”

Kanarys makes a series of leadership moves

Lisa Guérin Cervenka

Eric Polite

Phuong Tran

Jeremy Palafox





Dallas-based Kanarys, a Black- and female-founded technology company that enables businesses to prioritize and optimize their DEI efforts in the workplace, has made four executive management changes.

Lisa Cervenka, who recently led Brand Amper through a successful acquisition, was made SVP of Brand and Communications. She has some three decades of experience in marketing, branding, and communications. Eric Polite, founder of Eric Polite & Associates, is now VP of DEI. He is a skilled learning facilitator, performance consultant, and systems coach who has more than 20 years of experience.

Phuong Tran, who previously managed her own IT consulting firm, is now the VP of Product and Implementation. She has implemented technology across the country for 15 years. And Jeremy Palafox, the former director of Media Services at Just Global, is the new VP of Integrated Marketing. He has 15 years of experience as a media, marketing, and management partner to technology, retail, finance, and advocacy brands.

“With the hiring of industry experts like Lisa, Eric, Phuong, and Jeremy, we are confident we will achieve our goal of one day creating workplaces where everyone belongs from a global perspective,” Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO of Kanarys, said in a statement. “These executive hires are proven industry leaders who will work to refine our platform and offerings so we can better equip more companies across the country with our data and benchmarking tools, empowering companies and employees everywhere.”

The DEC Network announces fiduciary board chairman 

Tim Hill

The DEC Network, which helps entrepreneurs start, build and grow their businesses, elects Tim Hill new Fiduciary Board Chairman. 

With over 30 of photography experience in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Hill will transition from board member to board chairman. A certified photographer and business owner, Hill has focused on enhancing both an individual’s business image and a company’s corporate image through his photography. Hill is in a select group of only 7-9% of all photographers nationally to be certified and plans on channeling his own experiences and expertise in the entrepreneurial community in his new role. 

“We are very excited to announce Tim Hill as our new Board Chairman and welcome him to this role,” said Bill Chinn, CEO of The DEC Network. “Hill has already contributed great work as a board member and embodies the mission of our organization. We look forward to his continued leadership for the Fiduciary Board and determination to serve as an extension of The DEC Network.”

MoneyGram selects a new chief operating officer

Hilary Jackson

MoneyGram International, Inc, a global leader in cross-border P2P payments and money transfers, appoints of Hilary Jackson as its new Chief Operating Officer. The appointment is effective April 26, 2021.

Prior to joining MoneyGram, Jackson worked at Selene Holdings where she served as Chief Operating Officer. Jackson has held multiple executive roles at Capital One and also spent at Capital One and spent 12 years at Bank of America, where she provided executive leadership in the mortgage lines of business and lead mortgage originations and sales organizations. In her new role, she will report to Alex Holmes, Chairman and CEO regarding the company’s mobilization, movement, and growth. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Hilary Jackson as our new Chief Operating Officer,” said Alex Holmes, MoneyGram Chairman and CEO. “As we continue to accelerate our digital transformation, Hilary’s strong track record of success leading technology and operations functions in the financial services sector will be critical to helping MoneyGram continue to lead the evolution of digital P2P payments and mobilize the movement of money.”

CECO Environmental appoints a COO

Ramesh Nuggihall

CECO Environmental Corp, a global leader in providing environmental and equipment, announces that Ramesh Nuggihalli will be the company’s new chief operating officer, effective immediately.

Mr. Nuggihalli has dedicated his career to advancing operational and general management across several industries, focusing on driving growth in industrial businesses and international operations. Most Recently, Mr. Nuggihalli was based in Singapore and served as President and Managing Director of Greater Asia for Xylem, a global water solutions company where he worked in private enterprise in the industrial automation market. Earlier in his career, Mr. Nuggihalli held a number of leadership positions with at leading industrial companies including Tyco International, Ametek, General Electric and Babcock & Wilcox. As COO, Nuggihalli will work to enhance advance CECO’s strategic growth plans and plans to deliver strong financial results. 

“We are very pleased to have such an accomplished leader as Ramesh join CECO,” said Todd Gleason, Chief Executive Officer of CECO Environmental.  “Ramesh’s appointment comes at a pivotal time for us as we strive to advance our growth in adjacent markets while maintaining a rigorous focus on executing and delivering superior results.  Ramesh has considerable experience, including a broad and deep knowledge of our industries and international markets, making him a perfect fit to partner with me and our management team on laser-focused operational excellence and growth.”

Slync.io names a new chief revenue officer

Paul Pessutti

Dallas-based Slync.io, an SaaS platform for global service providers and shippers, has added Paul Pessutti to its team as its new executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

Pessutti is a senior software and logistics industry veteran who brings more than 25 years of experience to the company. Previously, he served as SVP and general manager at SAP, in which he was responsible for the global travel and transportation business and DXC Technology. In his new role, Pessutti will be tasked with setting and executing Slync.io’s global go-to-market strategy, leading all marketing, sales, and professional services teams.

The hire comes on the heels of the company’s recent $60 million Series B funding round.

“As Slync.io continues to grow, the CRO is a critical role for us. Paul’s extensive industry experience, deep enterprise software knowledge, and history of creating value for customers makes him the perfect fit for our team,” Chris Kirchner, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Slync.io said in a statement. “I couldn’t be happier that Paul chose to join Slync.io and I’m confident our customers around the world will love working with him.”

Texas Health Aetna gets an interim CEO

Karl Hess

Dallas’ Texas Health Aetna, a joint venture between Texas Health Resources and Aetna, has chosen Karl Hess, an expert in digital health and population health management services, as its interim chief executive officer. 

Hess was most recently the managing director of OnDigitalHealth Consulting. Before that, he was the chief digital health officer at Collain Healthcare, then one of the founders and chief executive officer of Kalico Partners. He has extensive knowledge in healthcare and technology, and is well-suited to expand the capabilities and reach of Texas Health Aetna, the company said.

“Karl’s longtime focus on innovation and improving healthcare access and population health aligns with Texas Health Aetna’s mission to make health care simpler for everyone,” Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan said in a statement. “Identifying and implementing new technology that integrates provider and payor services to create a seamless experience for the consumer is more important than ever.”

Artemis names CEO

Jim Vrtis

Artemis ABA Inc., a leader in practice management & billing for ABA Therapy, announces James Vrtis as Chief Executive Officer

Vrtis brings 25 years of senior management experience, including over a decade of strategic development. Most recently he served as Internet Truckstop Group LLC’s chief innovation officer and chief technology officer. Prior to that, Vrtis was a founder of Real Time Freight Services, Inc.and served as President and Chief Executive Officer the advanced automated transportation management platform was acquired by Internet Truckstop Group LLC in 2016. In his new role, Vrtis will focus on delivering a comprehensive automation, AI driven practice management & billing software for the ABA Therapy & Behavioral Health industry.

“Vrtis is the right leader for Artemis ABA Inc,” said Thomas John, Founder & Chairman. “Jim’s extensive technology background and business development skills will help Artemis strengthen channel partnerships, develop strategic alliances and expand our ABA Therapy related software offering. We believe his strong product and leadership experience will help focus Artemis on our practice management software business and enhance our RCM offering to the ABA Therapy industry”

MUSA Auto Finance Appoints a CEO and President

Located in Addison, MUSA Auto Finance selects Jon Lamb as its Chief Executive Officer and promotes Craig Vaughn to be the company’s president. 

Currently Lamb serves as the company’s CEO where he has enhanced the company’s technology, business strategy, and product development. In addition to MUSA, he is the President of DRIVRZ™ US, a platform enabling consumers to buy, sell, lease or trade their vehicle from a smartphone, as well as an active board member and advisor to multiple ad tech and fintech organizations. 

MUSA also welcomes Craig Vaughn as its new President. Vaughn spent two years in Beijing, China, as Vice President Variable Operations for NCGA / Yan Jun Auto where he developed meaningful relationships with a substantial number of the largest public and private dealership. Vaughn will leverage his executive experience in leading national and regional variable and fixed operations business units for public and privately owned organizations in his new role. 

Together, the team will lead MUSA in the expansion of its used car leasing platform and explore new ventures into traditional retail auto finance, direct lending and serving customers across a wider credit spectrum. 

Generation Hemp, Inc. announces management personnel

Dallas-based Generation Hemp appoints Chad Burkhardt as Vice President and General Counsel and Brada Wilson as Corporate Controller.

Prior to joining Generation Hemp, Inc., Burkhardt served as Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at TransAtlantic Petroleum Ltd. where he managed the company’s legal obligations, acquisitions and divestitures, crisis management issues and labor and employment concerns. Burkhardt was also a partner at Baker Botts L.L.P., a multi-national law firm based in Houston, Texas. At Baker Botts, Burkhardt was responsible for working with a diverse client base ranging from high-tech companies, to start-ups, to alternative-energy and oil and gas companies. 

Wilson was most recently employed at Exxon in their accounting department. Prior to her work with Exxon, Brada served as the Controller at Energy Hunter Resources, a private E&P company where she organized all phases of GAAP Oil & Gas Accounting, including, but not limited to, accounts payable, accounts receivable, analysis of financial statements, forecasting and budgeting. 

Gary C. Evans, Chairman and CEO of Generation Hemp, Inc., said:

“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Chad Burkhardt to the position of Vice President and General Counsel of the Company. Chad’s successful track record of working on legal issues as they pertain to capital markets initiatives, financial reporting requirements with the SEC, as well as his in-depth experience of working on numerous mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, will further assist our existing management team in our growth initiatives as we expand our operational footprint in the hemp industry and move toward a NASDAQ or NYSE listing this year.

“At the same time, it is my pleasure to announce the appointment of Ms. Brada Wilson to the position of Corporate Controller at Generation Hemp. Brada is a known quantity having worked with me for over fifteen years in prior businesses. She has experience in managing complex financial and accounting issues at previous publicly traded companies that I ran and will be most helpful as we navigate the financial landscape and grow, build and acquire new companies within the hemp sector.”

Mr. Cooper Group selects new chief risk and compliance officer

Kurt Johnson

Mr. Cooper Group promotes Kurt Johnson, who has been with the company for five years to lead risk and compliance for the organization as Executive Vice President and Chief Risk and Compliance Officer.

Previously serving as the company’s Chief Credit Officer, Johnson has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry, leading the company in setting risk related policy and governance. Most Recently, he worked with government agencies to advocate for homeowners and ensure Mr. Cooper customers had solutions during the pandemic. In his expanded role, Johnson replaces Steve Covington who was with the company for nearly six year and will retire in June. Johnson and Covington will work together to ensure a smooth transition over the coming months.

“Kurt is one of the most credible risk and policy experts in our industry, and I am confident he will continue to build upon the relationships the team has established with regulators and government officials in his expanded role,” said Jay Bray, Chairman and CEO of Mr. Cooper Group. “I would like to thank Steve for his leadership in building a best-in-class risk and compliance organization, which is a pillar strength for Mr. Cooper, and wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

BPS Agriculture advances Coorts to VP of Technical Development

David Coorts

Texas-based BPS Agriculture, has elevated David Coorts to Vice President of Technical Development.

The diversified agriculture  company currently incubates three start-ups: Verano365, Farm Shield, and PureAcre. Coorts initially joined Verano365 as a technical director in 2019, and he now oversees technical development for all three companies.With 35-years of experience in agriculture, Coorts brings a storied outlook to the BPS Agriculture team where he analyzes projects from the perspectives of customers to ensure products fit a need in the market and will be easy to use. He also has collaborated closely with research scientists to formulate horticulture and agriculture chemicals with OpusMAX, a first-of-its-kind, water-based chemistry that facilitates the self-assembly of supramolecular structures from active ingredients.

“With the technology we have in OpusMAX, we see endless possibilities to improve agriculture as we know it, and Dave’s variety of experiences and innate curiosity make him a top-notch navigator as we chart a path forward,” said Appel. “Dave’s role as the VP of Technical Development is to keep us laser focused on where we can make the most impact and prove out each of our new products with scientific best practices and world-class collaborators and researchers.”

Bella Pinera and Alex Edwards contributed to this report.

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