Meet the Team

Managing Partners

We started KVG because we wanted to see communities like the ones we grew up in thrive.

Picture of Founder David

David Higdon


David Higdon's focus is investment strategy, deal flow, venture portfolio support, fundraising and client relations. He is also the Co-Founder of Qubitekk, the first company to commercialize a new quantum optic-based cybersecurity solution. David served as President of Ellis Energy Investments for 8 years where he guided numerous companies through the investment, growth, and exit process.

John-Paul (JP) Lake


JP Lake concentrates on investment strategy, deal flow, portfolio support and client relations. Prior to Kern Venture Group, he served for nine years as vice president of sales and marketing at Rain for Rent, the leading provider of temporary liquid handling solutions. JP is an elected trustee of the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, and serves on the executive committee for B3K, a regional economic development project and co-founder of the SeedCore Foundation.

Kelly Youngstrom

Director of Operations

Focusing on due diligence, portfolio management, community outreach, and client relations. Kelly is a Wharton School of Business graduate and has extensive experience in merchandising and procurement.

General Partners

Picture of Partner Sheryl

Sheryl Barbich

Sheryl Barbich is currently president of Barbich Consulting and chair of the Kern County Museum Foundation and former chair of the California State University of Bakersfield Foundation. Previously, She served as president of Integrated Knowledge Group, Inc. an agriculture specific accounting software company. Sheryl has also held positions of CFO for Coleman Homes, Inc. and vice president and manager of the Bakersfield Business Banking Center for Security Pacific Bank. She has led and served on many community boards, is the recipient of numerous community awards and is the author of two books.

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Morgan Clayton

Morgan Clayton is president and founder of Tel-Tec Security Systems, Inc., which has corporate headquarters in Bakersfield, CA. As a dedicated community builder, Morgan has received numerous awards and is an executive board member for many civic, social, governmental and business agencies. His most recent accomplishment is the establishment of the Clayton Alliance Group, Inc. This public-private partnership fosters an on-going, grassroots education and employment network for youth and adults.

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Jacob Panero

Jacob Panero is the chief executive officer of Varner Bros., Inc., a family-owned refuse and re-cycling service provider serving Kern County for 80 years. He is also a director for Metropolitan Recycling, LLC, the premier material recovery facility in the Southern San Joaquin Valley and was the youngest President of the California Refuse Recycling Council in its 50+ year history. Jacob is currently an executive board member for the Memorial Hospital Foundation, the CSUB Foundation, the John Brock Award commit-tee and numerous others.

Dr. Ravi Patel

Dr. Ravi Patel is a board certified Medical Oncologist who has been practicing for more than 30 years. He completed his residency at the University of Illinois after obtaining a medical degree from Gujarat University Medical College in India.  Dr. Patel founded Comprehensive Blood & Cancer Center in 1984, growing it from a 1,200 square foot office with one employee into the comprehensive, community focused, diagnostic, treatment, educational and research-based cancer center it is today with over 250 employees and a 120,000 square foot campus. Dr. Patel is actively involved with the leading pharmaceutical manufacturers and academic research programs to assure that cancer patients in Kern County have access to the most cutting-edge medicines and treatments available anywhere in the world.

Kent Halley

Arguably among the most connected professionals in the San Joaquin Valley, Kent Halley brings more than 35 years of management, sales, and marketing to Cornerstone.  Educated at Rio Grande University in Ohio, Kent holds degrees in chemistry and mathematics with course emphasis in business management. As principal at TJCross Engineers, Inc. in Bakersfield, CA, for 16 years, Kent forged engineering alliance partnerships with the area’s larger oil & gas producers. He carried on that role in the years following the acquisition of TJCross Engineers by Parsons. In 2018, Kent partnered with Derrill Whitten at Cornerstone and to date, Cornerstone has grown from a civil engineering team of seven to a multi-disciplinary team approaching eighty.

Lynn Gudmundson

A serial entrepreneur, Lynn Gundmundson has passionately served the Bakersfield community for over 30 years. Lynn began working in the Kern County agriculture fields at the age of 9 and started an auto repair shop at the age of 20. He co-founded Premier Equipment Rental, one of the largest independent rental companies in Kern County, serving the oil, ag and construction industries. Lynn is the founder of Fleet Services Towing, Premier Crane and Transportation, Premier Oilfield Service, and Tire Empire. He also has investment experience in commercial real estate, oil and gas service companies, restaurants, and night clubs. He is an active community partner and supports a number of local charities and community initiatives.

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Bob Smith

Bob Smith is a member of the Bakersfield City Council. He is a member of the city’s planning and development and community services committees and is chairman of the waterboard. Bob has owned an independent civil engineering and land planning business in Bakersfield for over 30 years. He is the founder of Bike Bakersfield, a non-profit that promotes bike safety and advocates for safe routes throughout the Bakersfield area. Bob received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California State University, Fresno.

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Gene Voiland

Gene Voiland is chairman of the board of Valley Republic Bank and is the principal of Voiland Enterprises, LLC. He previously was president and chief executive officer of Aera Energy LLC, one of California's largest producers of oil and gas, until retiring in January2008. Previously, Gene worked for Shell Oil Company, most recently as president and chief executive officer of Cal Resources LLC, a California Shell Oil affiliate.

Advisors to the Fund

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Lou Barbich

Lou Barbich has over 40 years of experience in the accounting profession and provides the broad based foundation of the firm Barbich, Hooper, King, Dill and Hoffman. As a certified public accountant, his tax, auditing and consulting practice specializes in diversified and integrated agricultural operations. Lou graduated with a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Fresno State University and holds an MBA from the Anderson School of Business, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a member of the California Society of Certified Public Accountants (CalCPA) and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Lou is a co-founder of CAMICO, a profession- al liability insurance program for CPAs which insures almost8,000 CPA firms and 70,000 professionals throughout the United States.

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Raji K. Brar

Raji Brar is the chief operations officer for Countryside Construction & Real Estate Development and is owner/operator for various franchises including Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Shell Gas Stations, Countryside and Brookside Markets. Providing over 400jobs throughout Kern and Tulare counties, Countryside has been family-owned and operated for over 25 years. Raji serves on various public and private boards such as Kern Health Systems Governing Board, Rio Bravo Greeley Educational Foundation Board, Subway Marketing Board and is the co-founder and director for the Bakersfield Sikh Women's Association. She is also a two-time gubernatorial appointee, currently serving on the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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Keith Brice

Keith Brice is the president/CEO of Mid State Development Corporation, an SBA authorized certified development company serving Kern County that has funded over $450 million in loans. These projects have created or retained over 12,000 jobs in Kern County. Keith came to Mid State with over 20 years of Commercial Banking experience, having held vice president positions at Community First Bank, California Republic Bank and Sanwa Bank (now Bank of the West).

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Brian Conner

Brian Conner has over 25 years of experience in accounting and financial management. He is currently the chief financial officer at Bolthouse Properties. Previously, Brian served as CFO at Lightspeed Systems and Jim Burke Ford, in addition to working in local and national nonprofits. He spent the first 12 years of his career as an accountant with Bolthouse Farms. Brian has a Bachelor of Science and an MBA from California State University, Bakersfield. He is a certified public accountant (CPA) and certified management accountant (CMA) and recently completed a certificate in commercial real estate from Cornell University.

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Brandon H. McNaughton, PhD

Brandon McNaughton's goal is simple: to create new and useful technologies that solve real-world problems. This has spanned his efforts in research, venture capital and in starting two tech companies over the last 10 years. He is currently working on a next-generation technology in the life sciences — using microbubbles to capture and isolate cells, DNA and proteins. He cofounded and has served as chief executive officer of venture-capital backed Akadeum Life Sciences, Inc ( since 2014. Brandon also codeveloped and teaches the entrepreneurship practicum (one of the first courses of its kind) at the University of Michigan, which is the No.1-ranked entrepreneurship pro-gram in the nation. A Bakersfield native, Brandon earned his PhD in applied physics from the University of Michigan, his bachelors from CSUB and also attended Bakersfield College.

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Austin Llach

Austin Llach is the VP of Engineering at private equity firm ASG where he is responsible for supporting and scaling diligence, portfolio onboarding and engineering leadership. For over a decade, Austin has helped build many new technologies, apps and advised fellow entrepreneurs. Austin is a self-taught coder, relentless entrepreneur, founder of FITCLUB, Cal Poly Graduate and Global Vision Scholar of Venture Capitalist Tim Draper's entrepreneur accelerator.

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Judy Mahan

Judy Mahan has a dual role as the Incubator Director for Cal Poly CIE at the HotHouse and the Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). At the CIE HotHouse, she leads programming to assist in the business development of over a dozen currently incubating companies. On the SBDC side, Judy manages the pool of expert consultants who support SBDC clients. With her experience as a corporate and securities attorney, Judy also provides legal guidance to more than 150 company clients within the SLO County SBDC network.


What we're looking for

We understand that launching a business in Kern County or the central valley can be a challenge without direct access to capital and connections. The men and women of KVG realize that in order to develop next generation ideas and technology, there has to be committed capital to help you achieve your business goals. Our advisors and partners have built some of the largest companies in the country and have invested in KVG to help move your company from proof of concept to market acceptance. We are looking for visionary ideas that can change entire industries.