MEET THE TEAM






Build Together, Grow Together

At Blendid, we’re committed to fueling everyone’s life through safe and empowering food choices. We believe the very best of AI-based robotics and new engineering possibilities will elevate our collective experience with food.

As we head into a new future, our focus will be building a contactless, autonomous robotic kiosk. Our leadership team’s deep expertise ranges from all facets of the food industry to machine learning software to operations. This means we have a pretty good shot at building the new future in food. And we’re already underway.

Our Founding Team

Venki Ayalur

CTO & Co-Founder

Venki Ayalur’s deep technology expertise spans a career of 25 years and involves being at the forefront of market defining, innovative technologies. Prior to co-founding Blendid in 2015, Venki conceptualized and oversaw the creation of software and hardware products for companies such as Barnes & Noble Nook and Motorola Mobile. A few of his notable accomplishments are the color-based e-reader, evolution of Motorola phones from StarTacs to Razrs to Android, and being awarded multiple patents in the machine learning and location discovery space.

VIPIN JAIN

CEO & Co-Founder

Vipin Jain brings more than 28 years of experience in engineering, consumer product development, and successful serial entrepreneurship to the Blendid team. Prior to co-founding Blendid in 2015, Vipin was the CEO of Retrevo before it was acquired by Barnes & Noble. The eCommerce company was recognized by Time Magazine as the Best Shopping Website of 2011. Additionally, Vipin also co-founded Telseon, a metro broadband service provider that was acquired by OnFiber/Qwest Communications. Apart from heading successful startups, Vipin served in a variety of leadership roles at 3com, Extreme Networks, and Barnes & Noble Nook Media. His current goal and passion is to realize his dream with Blendid and use robotics & AI to revolutionize contactless food prep.

Vijay Dodd

& Co-Founder

With over 28 years of experience in hardware and software product life cycles under his belt, Vijay Dodd brings a wealth of knowledge and engineering leadership to the Blendid executive team. Prior to co-founding Blendid in 2015, Vijay’s career notably spanned AT&T, Palm, and Barnes & Noble Nook as he acquired his specialty in Industrial & Product Design and innovative ME materials.

Our Leadership Team

Covahne Michaels

vp of marketing

Covahne Michaels brings more than 20 years of marketing experience across consumer tech and food and across fortune 500 and startup organizations. Prior to joining Blendid, Covahne was the head of eCommerce marketing and strategy for the J.M. Smucker Co, where she guided the migration from brick and mortar store sales to the transition to the online world. 

 She holds a bachelor’s in business administration from University of Colorado at Boulder and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Richard O'Brien

VP of retail operations

Richard O’Brien brings over 25 years of experience in supply chain and operational excellence to Blendid’s executive team. Prior to joining Blendid, Richard served as the director of supply chain management at Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery and the director of purchasing for The Melt. His expertise lies in cost optimization across supply chains and building and managing strong supplier relationships.

Richard received his bachelor’s degree in economics from UC Davis.

Shawn LaPean

vp of sales

Shawn LaPean is at the center of award-winning, leading edge innovations in high volume hospitality and dining programs in a food service career spanning over 40 years. He is an industry leader in operational, administrative and financial management of diverse food service and hospitality programs, as well successful marketing strategies and sustainability initiatives. Shawn’s journey includes San Diego State University, University of Minnesota, Vanderbilt University and most recently University of California, Berkeley, where he was Executive Director of Cal Dining and Conference Services. Cal Dining was given the Ivy Award in 2007 and Shawn was an International Food Services Manufacturers Association Silver Plate Award winner in 2008. 

Shawn received his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of Wisconsin.

Kristen Rasmussen

chef & nutritionist

Kristen is a culinary nutrition and food sustainability expert with passions that have led her many places – from implementing plant-forward, stem-to-root menu revamps at restaurants to teaching about and exploring food science at UC Berkeley and the Nordic Food Lab. She is an adjunct faculty member at UC Berkeley, past adjunct faculty at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and owner of Rooted Food, Inc., a culinary nutrition and food sustainability consulting company. Being a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, she enjoys attracting people to better eating through deliciousness and believes Blendid will serve that need through technology and customization.

Kristen received her bachelor’s in Dietetics from UC Berkeley and master’s in Human Nutrition from Arizona State University.

Ram Nagarajan

vp of business operations

Ram Nagarajan brings more than 23 years of experience in technology, consumer products, and B2B services to Blendid. He’s launched numerous high profile consumer products for universally recognizable brands such as Nook, Samsung, Netflix, and DirecTV. His success in delivering critical, complex, and cross-functional programs from concept to market is what drives him to do the same at Blendid.

Ram holds his bachelor’s and master’s in Electrical Engineering from MIT.

Shirish Joshi

VP OF MANUFACTURING

Shirish Joshi has over 25 years of experience in leading business improvements across retail, peripherals, networking, computing and telecommunications industries. He prides himself on his ability to develop strategic sourcing partnerships with OEM, ODM, and EMS companies globally while exercising his broad knowledge of KPI and metrics implementation.

Shirish received his bachelor’s in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Pune, India and master’s in industrial engineering from the University of Rhode Island.

Our Investors

Board of Advisors

James D. White

Board Member of Panera, Former CEO & Chairman of Jamba Juice, SVP at Safeway, Gillette, Nestle

Maisie Ganzler

Chief Strategy & Brand Officer at Bon Appétit Management Company

Eric Benhamou

Founder & General Partner of Benhamou Global Ventures, Former CEO & Chairman of 3COM

Michelle Gloeckler

Board Member of BJ's, former EVP of Walmart, former VP of Hershey's

Cody Rose

VP Product at Resy (Amex Dining), Former VP of Guest Experience at Chipotle

Gary Bradski

Creator and Founder of OpenCV, Consulting Professor at Stanford University