Leadership & Committee

Leadership Team

Steve Brody headshot

Fund Manager

Steve Brody

Steve has more than 30 years of experience in public and private sectors and comes to BioConnect Iowa from Genus PLC, a world-leading animal genetics company. Prior to Genus, he was at DuPont Pioneer in various roles over a 20-year career, leading global biotechnology and regulatory efforts, industry relations, sales and marketing planning and federal government relations. He holds a master’s degree in Agribusiness from Kansas State University and a master’s degree in Planning and Public Affairs from the University of Iowa.
Kaylee Williams headshot

Investment Director

Kaylee Williams

Kaylee Williams is an entrepreneur and business strategist for early-stage startup companies. She currently serves as the Investment Director for the freshly minted Iowa Venture Capital Co-Investment Fund (IVCCF), a $30 million public fund allocated primarily for Seed and Series A financing. She is the former President of VolunteerLocal, a volunteer management software company, and the former Head of Customer Development at Roboflow, a Y-Combinator backed startup pioneering the adoption of computer vision across industries.

Kaylee graduated from the University of Iowa in 2012 with a degree in English, and she is passionate about the arts, community service and inclusion/equity in tech. She is the recipient of the 2022 Young Alumni Entrepreneurial Leadership Award from the University of Iowa.

Safiya Lee-Evans headshot

Program Operations Manager


Currently in her sixth year with the organization, Safiya Lee-Evans holds the pivotal role of Program Operations Manager, overseeing the intricacies between innovation, investment, and operational excellence. As the architect behind the scenes, she manages the seamless operations of both BioConnect Iowa and its subsidiary, Iowa Venture Capital Co-Investment Fund (InnoVenture Iowa), a $30M co-investment fund for early-stage startups.

The implementation of new programs, alongside the management of InnoVenture Iowa’s portfolio companies, are the heart of Safiya’s role. She also directs the Iowa Go-To-Market Accelerator grant program, in partnership with Iowa State University, ensuring its continued success as a beacon for startups seeking accelerated growth.

Safiya’s 20-year career is a testament to her versatility, having accumulated a wealth of experience in marketing, business development, and operations across both public and private sectors. Her dynamic skill set positions her as a linchpin in the success stories of BioConnect Iowa and the startups fortunate to be a part of the InnoVenture Iowa portfolio.

Investment Committee

Anita Norian headshot

Anita Norian

Anita brings 25 years of business leadership with expertise in food ingredient manufacturing, wholesale consumer goods and eCommerce sales. She also has significant experience in the global human nutrition market, marketing, operational excellence and building highly effective teams. She is highly skilled in leading in times of transformation and growth. Anita is known for her servant leadership approach, ability to handle complex situations and setting a strategic vision.

Anita is currently serving as President of GW Nutrition, a seed round company developing the patent pending CleanSense technology which improves the sensory properties of food ingredients where taste, odor, or color limit market opportunities. As founder of Norian Consulting, Anita also enjoys coaching business leaders.

Clayton Nevins

Clayton Nevins, PhD is a leader in agricultural science and technology with a focus on the innovation, marketing, and commercialization of biological products. He currently serves as New Venture Lead at Pivot Bio, where he contributes to the development and launch of groundbreaking crop nutrition technology that enables farmers to grow the food the world needs reliably and sustainably. He has a track record of leadership roles within the Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Science Societies of America, where he helped shape the organization’s strategies on science policy and early career scientist opportunities.

Dr. Nevins holds a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science and an M.S. in Agronomy and Ecological Sciences and Engineering from Purdue University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida, where he researched the impact of biological soil amendments on the soil microbiome, soil nutrient cycling, and crop growth and development. His specialization in soil microbial ecology and biogeochemistry equips him with a deep understanding of the fundamental science behind sustainable agriculture solutions.

Gary Weihs

Gary Weihs serves as Managing Partner for Kincannon & Reed, the world’s premier search firm for senior leadership roles in food, agribusiness, and life sciences organizations. Leveraging more than 30 years of management experience in technology, production, renewables, biotech and agricultural equipment environments, Weihs focuses on senior executive and direct-report-level assignments within agricultural and food sectors.

Before joining Kincannon & Reed, Weihs led domestic and international organizations ranging from Fortune 100 companies to entrepreneurial start-ups. Weihs was COO of the then NYSE-listed RDO Equipment, which owns and operates the largest group of John Deere dealerships in North America with over 1600 employees, 54 locations and $650M in sales. In the consumer products and food arenas, Weihs gained over 15 years of progressive management experience in strategy, manufacturing, and supply chain roles with Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, and ConAgra.

Weihs’ management experience in the chemicals industry includes leading Monsanto’s Crop Chemical’s supply chain for North and South America and serving as Global VP/GM of Industrial Products for Solutia (a Monsanto spin-off company) where he managed three specialty chemical companies as well as its Asian business units. Weihs’ agribusiness entrepreneurial experiences include starting and managing large pork, dairy, and farming operations in U.S., Brazil, and Eastern Europe for which he raised over $60M in private equity.

Weihs received a Civil Engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He currently resides near Omaha, Nebraska in Harlan, Iowa.

Leigh Parker

Leigh is a highly respected engineering and technology leader who delivers exceptional operational results from strategic planning through execution. Leigh has a history of successfully leading large R&D organizations to achieve key customer milestones and business financial results. Leigh’s career history includes 24 years with Rockwell Collins / Collins Aerospace including 12 years of executive leadership experience.  Most recently she served as the Vice President of Avionics Engineering and Technology.

Currently, Leigh owns a consulting business and serves as the Principal Consultant. She leverages the many facets of her background to provide consulting services to organizations in need of program / project management experitise, engineering process development, technology strategy, organization and talent strategy, and deployment of transformation initiatives.

Leigh holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kansas and a M.S in Project Management from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In the past, she served as an Executive Board Member for The Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute (AVSI) and on the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Engineering Management Committee. She has also been recognized in the community and industry as a Waypoint Tribute to Women of Achievement honoree, Aviation Week Top 40 Under 40 honoree and Profiles in Diversity Journal’s Women Worth Watching.

Martina Bockenstedt

Martina Bockenstedt is the Vice President of Operations at Engineering Services and Products Co in Dyersville, IA.  She graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing and later received her MBA from the University of Iowa.  She joined ESAPCO in 2002 and moved her way through the company in various management positions before moving into the general manager role in 2012.   Martina’s primary focus lies in creating teamwork, autonomy, and employee engagement to enhance process flow in a manufacturing environment.

In addition to her company involvement, Martina has been actively involved in her community throughout the years by working with various organizations such as the Dyersville Economic Development Board, Dyersville Health Foundation Board, and the CIRAS (Center for Industrial Research and Services) Advisory Council.