APR. 02, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 6

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Executive Director joins Zeal

The Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship has hired a new executive director. Michelle Gjerde, a leader with decades of experience helping develop and market technology companies and startups, assumed the position on April 2.

A native of Vienna, S.D., and a graduate of Augustana University, Gjerde returns to South Dakota following a career that has taken her across the country and into organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

An entrepreneur herself, she is the founder of Xcelerate, a consulting firm most recently based in Chicago with a broad base of clients in the Twin Cities.

"Start-ups are my passion," Gjerde said. "Over the years, I've especially enjoyed working with entrepreneurs to align their vision with market opportunity. I get excited about innovation and about the entire process from conception to launch to profitability. I'm very much looking forward to representing Zeal and supporting entrepreneurial growth in my home state of South Dakota. "

Gjerde was chosen following a comprehensive search. She takes over many duties from Rich Naser, who remains as President of Zeal but will transition to a strategic advisory role for the organization while focusing on leading development of the USD Discovery District.

"We've been very intentional with this executive director search for Zeal as we believe Sioux Falls is on the cusp of big things in our entrepreneurial community," said Paul TenHaken, Zeal board chairman.

"We could not be happier to have found someone of Michelle's caliber and passion for entrepreneurship to lead us into this next chapter."

Naser added, "Michelle's unique skill set makes her such an exciting fit for Zeal, and we know she will build on the momentum we are experiencing here."

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