Rob Lalka serves on the board of Public Democracy, where he leads partnership development and advises on technology strategies to empower communities in pursuit of the common good.
From 2008-2012, Rob served in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP), as a Presidential Management Fellow. Rob also served on the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff (S/P), where he coauthored the president’s cross-sector partnerships strategy, earning him the Department’s Superior Honor Award in July 2011.
Rob was responsible for S/GP’s entrepreneurship efforts, and he served on the five-person planning team for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an annual event that showcases entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. The summit has been hosted in Washington, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Marrakech, Nairobi, and Hyderabad, bringing together over 17,000 entrepreneurs and investors over the past eight years. In May 2011, Rob was awarded the Department’s Meritorious Honor Award for his efforts to create new opportunities for investment and collaboration.
After leaving government in 2012, Rob co-founded Medora Ventures, a consulting firm that supports investments with returns for shareholders, the local community, society overall, and generations to come. Over the past five years, Medora has worked with purpose driven clients around the world through three business units: capital, marketing, and public affairs. Their clients have included CARE USA, LaunchPad, i(x) investments, Lime, Formlabs, the Free Ride, and the Pension Fund of the Christian Church.
From 2012-13, Rob served as a senior advisor at the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Over the past decade, the foundation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to identify and promote practical, low-cost methods of conservation farming—cover crops, no-till farming, locally bred seed varieties—that improve African soil quality and crop yields without chemical fertilizers and costly imported seeds. Rob led the Buffett Foundation’s work with partners in an effort to advance conservation-based farming approaches; in October 2013, John Deere, DuPont Pioneer, Texas A&M University’s Center on Conflict and Development, and the Buffett Foundation partnered to create the Center for No-Till Agriculture in Ghana, using Deere machines, seed from DuPont’s Pioneer subsidiary, and conservation-based training from Texas A&M and the foundation.
From 2014-15, Rob was the Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Village Capital, a global startup accelerator that has worked with over twenty Fortune 500 companies and more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in over fifty countries. They created VilCap Investments, which deploys seed investments (in convertible debt, debt, equity, and revenue-share structures) to startups in Village Capital’s accelerator programs. The $17.7 million fund, announced in May 2016, was raised from twenty-nine investors, including Steve and Jean Case, and was developed as a public-private partnership, with a grant from USAID underwriting the cost of management so that the fund itself could be devoted to investment.
From 2016-17, Rob also served in that same role at Propeller, a New Orleans-based startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurs addressing disparities in New Orleans’ food, water, health, and education systems. He conceptualized, developed, and raised the Propeller Social Venture Fund, which provides low-interest loans to small business and nonprofits who may be considered “too risky” for traditional sources of capital. The $1 million fund, announced in November 2017, was created in partnership with multiple local philanthropies and Living Cities, a collaborative of eighteen of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions.
Rob is currently a Professor of the Practice at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business and the Executive Director of the Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which brings together scholars, inventors, investors, and students to solve problems and build businesses. He graduated from Yale University and holds his master’s degree in global public policy from Duke University. He, his wife, and their son, reside in New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood, where Rob serves as a Commissioner for the Broadmoor Improvement Association.
He can be followed on Twitter at @RobLalka.