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SUZANNE MCKECHNIE KLAHR, ESQ.

Managing Partner

Expert on scaling, marketing great ideas, building extraordinary culture and making the most of boards while supporting founders and CEOs.


Suzanne is an entrepreneur, founder, operator, advisor and academic. Hailed a "national treasure" by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Suzanne brings a unique blend of private sector experience (Suzanne graduated from Stanford Law School as a member of Stanford Law Review in 1999), social entrepreneurship (winner of the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship) and both founder and operating experience.


Suzanne founded BUILD, an award winning national education organization. She took the idea from concept to multi-site organization with over 100 full-time employees and raised over $50,000,000 and served as CEO for 19 years. She built a world-class board that has included Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter and Square), Gideon Yu (former CFO of Facebook and President of the San Francisco 49ers), Jim Ellis (Assurion) and Emily Chang (Bloomberg West Anchor and Author of Brotopia). Additionally, she was able to bring other founders into the BUILD ecosystem as honorees and investors including Reid Hoffman (Linked In), Brian Chesky (AirBNB), Ben Silberman (Pinterest), Aaron Levie (Box), Tien Tzuo (Zuora) and Katrina Lake (Stitchfix) as well as partners from Venture Capital firms including Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins, Bain Capital Ventures, August Capital and many others.  Suzanne scaled BUILD to two San Francisco Bay Area sites, Washington, DC, Boston, MA, New York City and Los Angeles. BUILD is unique in its approach and that Suzanne has been able to embed the program and curriculum into multiple school districts as a credit-bearing elective. Suzanne led the successful transition from founder to a new CEO who has led the organization since 2018.
 
In 2019, Suzanne founded Mayacamas Partners, a unique consultancy which propels clients to achieve audacious goals.  Mayacamas works with a select group of diverse clients from grass-roots organizations to multi-billion dollar public companies to unlock innovation, inspiration and impact.  


Suzanne pioneered the first course in social entrepreneurship at any law school in the nation starting at Stanford Law School and now continuing as a Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School. She currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern teaching a course that covers leadership, boards, scale and difficult conversations in management.


Having worked with low-income students and communities for over two decades, Suzanne has an intimate familiarity with how to work with millenials, recruit people of color and build bridges with diverse communities. Suzanne frequently moderates panels on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She has a keen ability to be a convener, strategic partner, critical friend and unparalleled relationship builder in any setting. As a member and moderator for the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Suzanne helps CEOs and Presidents of top corporations have very difficult and confidential discussions.


For her accomplishments, Suzanne has received numerous awards and is asked to speak nationally on such diverse topics as diversity, equity and inclusion, education, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, new models of providing legal services to the poor, and poverty alleviation strategies. In 2006 she was inducted as a lifetime member of Ashoka, a global fellowship of leading social entrepreneurs. In 2007, she was honored by CBS's Jefferson Award on television, on radio, and in print. In 2008, Suzanne was elected to the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame, in 2009, she was named as one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Times. In 2012 she won the Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award. She has also received the Forty Over 40 Award (2015) and the Elfenworks In Harmony with Hope Award (2016). Suzanne was inducted into the Young President’s Organization in 2014 and has served as a Trustee of the Skadden Fellowship Foundation and on the Advisory Boards of One Degree, Daylight Justice, Open Road Learning and Until There is A Cure. She serves on the Board of Directors of www.BUILD.org and is a member of the audit committee. In 2019, she joined Trellis: Legal Intelligence as a member of the Board of Advisors.


Suzanne earned a dual degree from Brown University and a JD from Stanford Law School, and she has successfully completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program in Strategic Perspectives in Management.


Suzanne lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children.

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WHITNEY SMITH

Director, Impact Initiatives

Whitney Smith has over a decade of experience partnering with corporations on their social responsibility and philanthropic strategies and initiatives.  Whitney has founded and scaled a social enterprise, counseled public and private companies, celebrities, philanthropists and thought leaders.  She is a strategist and advisor who blends profit and purpose seamlessly with an ability to walk in juxtaposed worlds. 

Able to support clients beyond just their impact strategies, Whitney has designed and executed large scale projects including marketing and branding campaigns, new product launches, start-up business development, investment cultivation, partnership development, corporate social responsibility, crisis management and philanthropic strategy.

 

She has successfully designed CSR and Philanthropy initiatives for Fortune 500 companies, large foundations, small innovative startups, and individual philanthropists, demonstrating her ability to work across a wide diversity of culture and resource availability. She regularly guides organizations in strategy and crisis response in areas where business intersects with social, cultural and human equity. 
 

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MARK TAFOLLA, ESQ.

Director, Education Law and Equity 

Marc Tafolla is an expert in issues of educational equity, special education, education law and policy, communications, and school district transformation. Marc’s passion is working for underrepresented students and spearheading the community organizing necessary to make meaningful change.


Marc is currently works at the Oakland Unified School District supporting communications and strategy. Previously, Marc was the Policy Director for GO Public Schools Oakland. He successfully blended policy analysis with broad-based community organizing and worked on an array of topics such as district budget and finance, teacher quality and supports, charter/district relations, and school board advocacy. He successfully led several coalitions, created a teacher policy fellowship, and helped pass numerous Oakland education policies.


Following law school, he was awarded a Skadden Fellowship at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. There, he created and supervised the Education Opportunity Project which implemented the Williams v. California settlement agreement (a landmark education equity lawsuit). This project also addressed issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline and protecting the rights of immigrant children in schools.
Prior to law school, Marc taught high school history in both California and Oregon and spent two years in AmeriCorps coordinating a youth violence prevention program.

 

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