Our origin story

For the known past, people who built businesses around new ideas have improved our lives, made our work more efficient and stretched the bounds of our imagination. Without them we might not have a concept of the far reaches of our universe or be close to conquering cancer. We treasure entrepreneurs and will do everything in our power to help them succeed. But we can't do it alone. That.s why we created BRIIA and The Intelligent Accelerator.


BRIIA is founded upon these core principles:

Entrepreneurs first

There is a well-established tradition in the entrepreneurial community of giving back and paying it forward. When the rich entrepreneurial journeys of successful AND unsuccessful entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners/customers are harnessed to build a robust support system for subsequent start-up founders, the entrepreneurial ecosystem thrives.
BRIIA facilitates this cycle of continuous learning and support for new entrepreneurs. We create events where entrepreneurs can meet peers or potential team members. We provide a top-notch accelerator program to help founders realize the full value of their creations. We provide a host of in-kind services that support the early stages of product and company development.
We maintain active contact with the investor community so we can facilitate introductions that will have the highest probability of being fruitful conversations. And last, but by no means least, we enable connections between start-up teams and world-class advisors. We are adamant that these advisors and mentors live by the "entrepreneur first" principal. This means that they have agreed to volunteer their time, with no expectation of future remuneration.

Diversity is strength

Throughout history, many - dare we say "most" - innovations were sparked by teams of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences engaged in the pursuit of solving a seemingly untamable problem or challenge. At BRIIA, we embrace that diversity and do everything we can to foster an environment where differences in ideas and approach are freely discussed and thoughtfully evaluated.
We encourage dialogue, but more importantly we encourage listening. We believe that entrepreneurship has no race or gender. The more we support diversity in our entrepreneurial community, the stronger we become.

The Paradox of Conviction & Humility

To found a company and be successful, entrepreneurs must maintain extraordinary commitment to their ideas, their team and their investors. They will need to inspire others to join them for the journey.
In the face of many "Nos" before there is a single "Yes", founders must rely on the strength of their convictions to carry them through. The future is created by entrepreneurs who believed - and convinced others to believe - in a future state most can not envision, even when the headwinds of reality were pushing back their hardest.
In a seemingly complete contradiction, entrepreneurs must also possess an extraordinary humility. A founder must have the humility to admit when they are wrong or do not know the answer. When a mentor volunteers their time to nurture a young company, the best founders are grateful for the time given so freely - regardless of how the founder might feel about the advice given. The humble founder takes no credit and redirects all praise to the team.
While there are certainly examples of CEOs and leaders who were unwavering in their conviction but not humble, at BRIIA, we believe that the best companies will be founded and led by leaders who embrace the paradox. Delicately weaving the strength of one's convictions and humility into the same cloth can be challenging. In choosing the harder challenge of embracing both, entrepreneurs, BRIIA and the entire ecosystem unleash the potential to discover truths and continuously learn from each other.

Meet the Team

Les Schmidt Les Schmidt Founder & Executive Director

Les is a serial entrepreneur and leader. As a C-level executive, he has led startups, middle stage and public companies. His forte is leading businesses through the search for strategic direction, product iterations, and financing. His resume includes taking two companies public, lots of mergers & acquisitions, and raising capital and other financing. Les even took on transforming the San Francisco 49ers as that organization's COO!

Prior to founding BRIIA, Les was the Executive Director of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership (IEL) - a business accelerator in Concord, California. IEL graduated over 200 participants from its programs and those companies collectively generated $1.7Billion in revenue in 2015 and employed over 4000 people.

Les is propelled by a passion for seeing entrepreneurs succeed and prosper! Nothing is more gratifying than to see the evolution of the BRIIA entrepreneurial ecosystem in support of entrepreneurs everywhere!

Jon Brooks Jon Brooks Advisor

From the earliest days of BRIIA, Jon was 100% behind the idea of starting BRIIA. His own start-up experience enabled him to instantly see the need for BRIIA and the value it could add to the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Jon has a diverse background in digital media marketing, ecommerce, product management, and corporate development. He has been an instrumental leader at four start-ups and throughout his career been through one IPO, two hostile takeovers and many successful acquisitions. He has held leadership roles at The Learning Company, Saba, PeopleSoft, SellPoints, and Webcollage. He has designed and launched cloud-based products that included natural language search technologies across diverse media. Jon has a keen focus on SaaS customer retention and turning all customers into marketing success stories .

Today, Jon's work in ecommerce is directly attributed to increasing hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly online sales for a portfolio of clients such as P&G, Bayer, Nestle, Clorox, Kimberly Clark, Levi, Ralph Lauren, Macy's, Costco, Walmart, Target, and more.

Melissa Ross Melissa Ross Co-founder

Melissa was one of BRIIA's founding team members, providing operational leadership through our first six months.

Prior to her efforts to get BRIIA started, she spent the last two decades leading growth in healthcare analytics companies. Most recently, she spent the last ten years at MedeAnalytics, the largest pure-play healthcare analytics and big data firm, while they grew from start-up to 10X in revenue. During her tenure there, Melissa was involved in leading almost every aspect scale, including VP-level positions in operations, engineering, sales strategy, and business development.

Melissa has her bachelors in Math with a CS minor from Loyola University Maryland, where she currently serves as an Advisor to the Masters of Data Science program. Melissa has her MBA from Saint Mary's College of California, and serves as an Advisor for their Masters of Business Analytics program. Melissa is an accredited Angel investor and member of the Keiretsu Forum.

Melissa was ecstatic to help launch BRIIA, which sits in the intersection of three areas she loves - data science, entrepreneurship, and the Tri-Valley community.