Dr. Michael Roberts, President

Michael H. Roberts, Ph.D. is the Founder and President of the Board of Directors of the 5thT Innovation Group – the not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates the Conway Innovation Center and Georgetown Innovation Center.

Dr. Roberts received his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of Virginia in the field of Biology focusing on behavioral neurobiology.  Following post-doctoral research in the Neurology Department at Stony Brook University, he began his faculty career in Northern New York before moving to the New York City region and then to South Carolina. 

Serving as the Dean of the Gupta College of Science since his arrival at Coastal Carolina University (CCU) in 2007, Dr. Roberts oversaw a doubling of science enrollment, as well as the establishment of multiple degree programs, including the institution’s first doctoral degree in the area of marine science.  While he was serving as Vice-President for Research and Emerging Initiatives at CCU, the 5th T Innovation group was founded – as a member of the Clemson Technology Villages program – to bring university expertise to the development of economic activity in the region and state.

When not working at Coastal Carolina University, and with the Board and Staff of the Innovation Centers, Dr. Roberts enjoys walking on the beach with his wife, Mary Jo, and home-brewing delicious craft beer.

Dr. Becky Boone

Dr. Becky Boone was born in Anderson, SC, but had lived in Georgia and Iowa in her younger years. After graduating high school in Wisconsin, Boone attended the University of South Carolina and received her bachelors of science in biology with a chemistry minor. She now holds her PhD in animal physiology from Clemson University.

With the skills and experience Becky holds, she landed herself a position as a professor of anatomy and physiology, microbiology at Horry Georgetown Technical College (HGTC). Eventually, she was a chair holder of Biological and Natural Sciences at HGTC. In 2014, Becky became the assistant vice president of accreditation and institutional support while also acting as a adjunct professor.

Knowing the hardships and pitfalls new start-ups face, Becky wanted to be part of an organization which serves to connect new entrepreneurs with resources in the Horry and Georgetown area. She believes the 5th T provides a much needed network to support small business creation and growth.

Dr. Veysel Gokbel

With more than seven years of experience building, manipulating, and analyzing datasets, Dr. Veysel Gokbel is currently working as a data scientist and co-founder at HalalTravels.com. He also coordinates marketing and IT needs of the Institute for International Studies in Education at the University of Pittsburgh. His industry experience encompasses EdTech, e-commerce, travel, and higher education. During his career, he has worked along with cross-teams and departments and diverse stakeholders at fast-paced job environments.

Veysel’s expertise ranges across data science, marketing and product analytics, startup and tech consulting, market research and industry analysis, strategic planning, and international team building. 

Veysel has co-founded three startups in EdTech and traveltech. He has raised $400K from two angel investors, established a data-driven team and culture, delivered data-based results with impact, built a multinational team, and managed 15 team members at his latest startup.

Veysel joined to the board of directors at 5th T Innovation Group in 2019. He helps the core team about tech startup consultation, research and data needs, and digital marketing at both Conway and Georgetown Innovation Centers under 5th T Innovation Group. His motivation to join this growing community relies on his excitement about the potential for innovation in the region and the great ability of the Conway and Georgetown Innovation Centers to meet the growing entrepreneur needs.

He also recently joined as a new board member to the Each One Teach One Entrepreneurship Institute at the Coastal Carolina University, helping young disadvantaged minority students to gain fundamental skills to be successful in the tech industry.

Veysel received a master’s and a PhD degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He also holds his BA from Istanbul University. He is an Alum of the Innovation Institute’s Startup Accelerator Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Veysel worked as a research associate and coordinator, thought classes at the graduate level, and published research on various topics in the past. 

Veysel is an advocate of lean methodology, data-driven decision making, action-based learning, and the skills that fourth industrial revolution requires. He enjoys hiking and spending time with his 2-year-old son in his spare time.

Thomas Mullikin

Tom Mullikin lives with his wife Virginia Ann in Camden, South Carolina where he serves as the managing partner of the Mullikin Law Firm.  Tom is a senior environmental attorney, seasoned expert on global environmental policy, award winning documentarian and author, and senior military officer. Tom’s environmental work has taken him to every continent on earth, including multiple trips to the Arctic and Antarctic. Tom has brought context to his work as a senior environmental attorney when he has studied water related concerns in certified scuba dives in all oceans on earth and climbed to the summit of the highest mountains on four continents, Mt. Elbrus (Europe), Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt. Kosciusko (Australia), and Mt. Aconcagua (South America), and peaks across North America, Antarctica, Africa and South America.

Through Tom’s environmental work around the globe he has developed sophisticated strategies on issues such as climate change, nuclear technology, environmental sustainability, disaster relief, crisis management, healthcare, and unconventional energy production.

In recognition for his global environmental work, Tom has been inducted as a Fellow in the Explorers Club and in the Royal Geographical Society and engaged as an Expert with the National Geographic Society.

John Schwinn is a senior executive and entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience providing technology and consulting services, with significant international experience throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia.  Currently, Mr. Schwinn is president and CEO of Veridex Technology International, a technology company that delivers user authentication technology.  Prior to joining Veridex, he was one of three founding executives of Solera Corporation (formerly NYSE:SLH).  While at Solera, he held a number of senior operating and staff roles, including Managing Director, Audatex China (Solera’s China operating company), and senior executive responsible for Corporate Development, Strategy, Consulting Services, Investor Relations, Marketing, and Global Account Management.  Earlier in his career, he led corporate development and strategic planning at Mitchell International and ADP Claims Services Group and was a senior associate at Booz Allen and Hamilton (now Strategy&), a strategy and operations management consulting firm.  He holds an MBA from Harvard, an MS from the London School of Economics, and a BS from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Why I am particularly proud of 5th T is that we go well beyond the image that the name “innovation center” might conjure.  While we will gladly support a technology start-up, that is certainly not our primary focus.  Our focus is helping any local business – pizza parlor, cat café, job shop manufacturer – by providing counsel, education, and support.  We don’t just help the technology whiz kids who have an idea for a killer app – we help the community prosper by helping any business in that community prosper.  I jumped at the invitation to join 5th T.

Robert Skunda

With over four decades experience as a consultant, architect/planner, state-level cabinet official, research park executive and community leader, Bob Skunda has helped a number of states, regions, communities, institutions and even countries enhance their competitive positions, build dynamic new sectors for their economies and create built-environments which revitalize inner-city areas and foster investment and job creation. He has advised community leaders, elected officials and business executives from around the United States and a number of foreign countries about strategies for creating research and technology parks and centers of innovation, recruiting companies to locate in the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park and the Commonwealth of Virginia, negotiating incentive packages, coordinating development approvals and advising early stage companies and entrepreneurs on the challenges which they confront. 

Bob has served in numerous leadership positions, having been appointed by six Virginia Governors to various Boards and Commissions as well as serving in his capacity as Secretary of Commerce & Trade from 1993-1997.  He has served as the Chairman of both the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he has chaired several boards focused on the formation of knowledge-based businesses, technology commercialization and business advocacy.  He has served and continues to serve on numerous non-profit and private sector boards ranging from start-ups and early-stage companies to Fortune 500 businesses.

The Virginia Biotechnology Research Park operates as both an independent authority created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1993 and a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. Reporting to two boards of directors, as President and CEO he led all aspects of the Park’s oversight of the entrepreneurship function, property management and recruitment of new companies and organizations to the Park.  During his nearly 17-year tenure, he oversaw development of the Park to over 1.3 million square feet of research laboratory and office space and a center employing over 2,500 people. He managed an annual budget that exceeded $4 million at its peak, oversaw the issuance of over $185 million in tax-exempt and taxable bonds and negotiated partnerships and contracts for projects up to $80 million in value.

Bob and his wife Cheryl have resided in Myrtle Beach, SC for over six years and he has served on the board of directors of the 5th T and Conway Innovation Center organizations for the past four years.

Additional Board Members (Not Imaged)

Monica Gray, Professor and Director of Engineering Program Coastal Carolina University

Chet Hosmer, Python Forensics, Founder and Owner

Gloria Tinubu, Community Consultant