Leslie Lynn Smith is Vice Chair of CAE’s board of directors. She is a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and business development leader. She is the founder and principal of Themis Strategic Partners, a consulting firm focused on the intersection of equity and growth, and serves as a Senior Strategic Advisor for GET Cities (Gender Equality in Tech), where she works to build a national movement that will march with energy and intent toward the creation of a tech economy that recognizes, celebrates and elevates the gifts, talents and contributions of women, non-binary and trans people. GET Cities is led by SecondMuse and Break Through Tech in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates.
Before joining GET Cities in October 2020, Leslie was the founding president and CEO of Epicenter, the nonprofit hub of the greater Memphis entrepreneurial movement. Using a systems approach, Smith led a team that drove strategy and measured impact among a network of economic development, academic, corporate, and government partners to increase support to new and existing tech startups, creative and community-based businesses, student entrepreneurs, and others across industries and stages of growth. The Epicenter team and its partners connected these entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas to programming, capital, customers, and talent in order to create a just, inclusive, and growing economy that benefits all Memphians.
Smith’s role in Memphis came after five years of successful entrepreneurial leadership as president and CEO of TechTown, Detroit’s most established business incubator and accelerator. Under Smith’s leadership, TechTown created and launched novel urban economic development programs, expanded tech-based company creation and launched robust regional entrepreneurship collaborations with great and measurable impact.
Previously, she was director of business acceleration for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, overseeing the state’s $300 million start-up investment portfolio and managing the statewide innovation economy and its network of ecosystem partners, including 15 research universities, incubators, accelerators and the philanthropic and private sectors.
Smith’s current board service includes InBIA, Center for American Entrepreneurship, and Memphis Fourth Estate, Inc., and the University of Memphis Board of Visitors.