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Texas Travel Summit 2014 - Keynote Speakers
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Keynote Speakers
Dr. Ray Perryman, President & CEO, The Perryman Group
Dr. Ray Perryman is President and CEO of The Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis firm based in Waco, Texas. He is the foremost economist in Texas and has been lauded for his expertise in the field.  

He holds a BS in Mathematics from Baylor University and a PhD in Economics from Rice University. He always felt that the BS would have been somehow more appropriate for Economics. He took his first economics course on a coin flip between economics and psychology. If it had gone the other way, there might be some really messed up people in the world. In addition to his earned degrees, Dr. Perryman has received an honorary doctorate from the International Institute for Advanced Studies. He especially liked that one because he didn’t have to work for it. He told his kids they had to start calling him "Doctor Doctor.” They were not impressed.

Dr. Perryman has authored more than 2,000 trade articles, publishes a subscription forecasting service and a monthly newsletter, writes a syndicated newspaper column, hosts a daily radio commentary, and appears regularly on National Public Radio. His firm engages in a broad range of complex projects for major corporate and governmental interests and has served the needs of more than 2,000 clients.

Some of his most gratifying work has been in the field of economic development, where he has played a key role in the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs. He now only hopes that someday at least one of his kids will hold one of those jobs. He is a past recipient of the Outstanding Texas Leader Award and has been honored by the Texas Legislature for his "tireless efforts in helping to build a better Texas.” Most recently, Dr. Perryman has been selected as the 2012 "Texan of the Year” by the Texas Legislative Conference.

Kaplan Mobray, Author, Thought Leader, Speaker

Kaplan Mobray is an acclaimed author, thought leader, career coach and motivational speaker on topics ranging from personal branding, leadership, networking, public speaking and success. His presentations have been described as a life-changing event. For more than fifteen years he has led corporate marketing, advertising, and brand development initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. 

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and College of Arts & Sciences, Kaplan was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by the Network Journal Magazine and received the 2008 Rising Star Award by the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR). Kaplan is a sought after executive lecturer and leading advisor to top business school professors. He has been widely quoted in the media and is a frequent speaker at professional conferences.  

Prior to his professional speaking career Kaplan served as U.S. Diversity Programs leader at Deloitte. He continues to serve as a consultant to many Fortune 500 companies and serves as a brand coach to professional athletes. In his personal pursuits, Kaplan is a professional saxophone player. He serves on the national board of ALPFA, the nation’s largest Latino business professional association and is active in charitable and civic organizations. Kaplan resides in West Nyack, NY with his family.

Benjamin Smithee, CEO, SPYCH

Ben Smithee is the CEO of Spych Market Analytics, LLC. His strong passion for innovation and creativity, and awareness of the evolving world of marketing research and communications, led to his vision for the foundation of SPYCH. Upon co-founding SPYCH in 2009, Ben has led the SPYCH team in consulting the upper echelon of brands in preparing for "Future-Market Readiness” by understanding the future consumers (Gen Y/Millennials), the future of technology, and the future consumer environments both on and off-line.  

In addition to leading the global and domestic research efforts for SPYCH, Ben is often sought for consulting and speaking engagements on topics of digital marketing, Gen Y/Millennial understanding, qualitative research, social media, online research, technology and entrepreneurship, successfully completing close to 100 engagements in the past two years. His high energy level clearly resonates in all that he does.  

A sampling of his clients include McDonald’s, General Mills, Del Monte, HSN, eBay, American Cancer Society, Coca-Cola, Fiat, Pfizer, Pella Windows, The National Guard, Hallmark, GEICO, Kroger, Ad Council, and South by Southwest Interactive. He has been a featured speaker around the globe, including ESOMAR’s Qualitative Summits in Morocco and Vienna, and the 2010 and 2012 global AQR/QRCA summits in Prague and Rome. He has also been a featured speaker for a variety of conferences ranging from the Idaho Fish and Game Department to the Women’s Jewelry Association in NYC, as well as venues such as the MRA CEO Summit, the Forrester Research Forum, QRCA, MRA, the 2010, 2011, and 2012 South by Southwest Interactive Festival, and has been interviewed by industry-leading business publications such as Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek.   

When Ben is not submersed in the world of research and business, he is living out other passions of playing jazz saxophone, wakeboarding, snowboarding, baseball, golf, travel, food and wine. Ben can also be seen on ABC/WFAA’s newest segment on Good Morning Texas – Social Radar, and D: TV’s The Broadcast – The Weekend Insider, where he helps to bring Dallas the latest in trends, lifestyle and entertainment news. 

Carl Shepherd, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy and Development Officer, HomeAway

Carl Shepherd co-founded HomeAway with CEO Brian Sharples and oversees the company's worldwide corporate development efforts including mergers, acquisitions and key partnerships. 

For six years, Shepherd served as the chief operating officer of Hoover’s Online.  Under his management, the business developed into a leading source for business information online, culminating in an IPO in 1999 and the eventual sale of the company to Dun & Bradstreet in March 2003. 

His career began as a consultant, working for what is now Accenture and establishing a practice based in the advertising industry.  He also served as chief financial officer of magazine publishers Texas Monthly, Inc. and Hanley-Wood, Inc.  Shepherd holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Chris Smutny, VP of Strategy, Sojern 

Chris is excited to help marketers change the way they engage with travelers.

Now leading the Strategy and Product Marketing teams at Sojern, Chris is focused on making it easy for marketers to engage in one-to-one conversations with travelers to drive demand. He has been at the cutting edge of online advertising for the last 10 years with prior time at Overture/Y!SM, Adknowledge and now Sojern. 

Chris graduated with honors from Occidental College with a B.A. in Economics. 


Richard Funke, Vice President & General Manager, Megabus Southwest

Rich Funke has more than 26 years of marketing, logistics and service company experience. Funke is known as a team motivator and a leader of change. He stands out as strategic thinker with strong analytical skills, customer satisfaction and motivating people.

Funke directed the 2012 successful consolidation and transfer of the Coach America’s South Central operations into Coach USA, Inc. resulting in operating income improvement for the group, along with successfully launching in the Southwest.   

Funke managed the 2010 Texas Bus Evacuation operation with and for the State of Texas, overseeing 5 evacuations with 1200 motor coaches, transporting more than 55,000 evacuees from Texas and Lousianna.   

Funke obtained a BS in Marketing at Clarion University, and his Master in Business Administration from St Mary’s University. He is married with 1 child and lives in San Antonio Texas. He volunteers with various youth organizations as a coach; he also volunteers at his local Catholic School board holding the positions of Vice President and President over the last 6 years, he is also a member of the local Knights of Columbus.  

Joe Veneto, Founder and Principal, Opportunities Unlimited

Joe Veneto is founder and principal of Opportunities Unlimited, a management consulting and training company. He collaborates with organizations in Tourism & Hospitality and Service-related industries to achieve results by creating new business opportunities. 

Joe is a 20-year veteran of the tourism industry and an expert in the areas of sales and development of tour & travel products. His experience has included work for national tour operators and major industry wholesalers on both the traditional and non-traditional sides of the distribution channels. He was part of a team at Collette Tours that transformed the company into one of the nation’s largest domestic tour wholesalers. He later joined Grand Circle Travel, a leading direct marketer of travel, to develop the company’s new cruisetour venture. 
In addition to his consulting, Joe is a nationally recognized speaker. He presents programs annually for National Associations, Regional Tourism Groups, Governor’s Conferences and Convention & Visitors Bureaus. He has also authored several articles that have appeared  in various travel trade publications.  
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