About Us: Team


In this section: Overview History

“There will be more invention in the next 14 years than in the past 20 years, so the level of invention will be staggering. And it’s really a fabulous gift that we’ve been given to have the ability to see many of these things as they are coming. The future is so exciting and the opportunities are limitless. At the same time, our future is complicated by the environmental challenges that we have set up for ourselves.

Lee Stein, Chairman and Founder

Lee Stein brings many years of experience as a business executive and entrepreneur to his current activities as a business-minded environmentalist. Educated as an accountant (B.S., Syracuse) and an attorney (J.D., Villanova), he has served as Chairman of the Board, CEO, and President of First Virtual Holdings, Director and President of Seaport Village on the waterfront in San Diego, Director and Controller of WestAir Airlines (DBA) United Express, and as an officer and/or director in various private entities.

He is credited as a co-inventor of e-mail messaging processes, and in 1994, he co-patented what The Economist magazine described as the world’s first Internet-banking (payment) system. The patents issued were subsequently acquired by eBay.

After a career of serial entrepreneurship in the worlds of entertainment finance, Internet commerce, and real estate development, he turned his entrepreneurial and business activities to the environment and what he describes as “its disturbing deterioration.” In 2000 he formed Virtual Group, LLC, a private holding company focused on early-stage technologies.

He was especially troubled by the distrust between environmental organizations and business entities. He had based his operating strategies on the concept of “inclusivity” and wanted to help forward an agenda acknowledging that environmental practices had to be good for business or they were not good environmental practices and, likewise, that business practices had to be good for the environment in order to be good business practices.

In 2001, he was invited to co-found the Southern California chapter of Environmental Entrepreneurs, known as E2. Affiliated with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), E2 brings together entrepreneurs to influence state and national government policies by serving as the “business voice for the environment.”  To date, they have advocated to promote smart growth, reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions, fund ocean restoration, advance the market for alternative transportation fuels and cleaner-operating vehicles, and ensure that state-issued bonds embody environmental principles.

In 2006, Mr. Stein formed Prize Capital to fund global competitions aimed at discovering innovative solutions in the areas of energy and the environment. Formed to attract investment capital for early-stage innovators, the public-private partnership is based on a model that integrates investment concepts and international prizes, and for which Mr. Stein has filed patent applications.  The first application of the Prize Capital model will be focused on using algae in a carbon recycling processes that can create outputs from vitamins to fuel and plastics.

Since its inception, Prize Capital has broadened its focus to include other for-profit opportunities that recognize the value of natural capital.  The world’s ecosystem services and natural capital are estimated to average $33 trillion per year, most of which is outside the market.  Prize Capital envisions using Venture Philanthropy to great sustainable financing that will value healthy ecosystems, and the benefits they provide, as an asset in both developed and developing nations.

Mr. Stein has spoken at many environmental, technology and investment conferences including: the World Bank UNFCC, DIFC Week in Dubai, The European Commission’s BioMarine, Women’s Forum Global Meeting ’09, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford University, The Wharton School, Columbia University, Cornell University, The University of California, San Diego, as commencement speaker for the University of California Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, and on Wall Street. He has been featured in Business Week, Newsweek, The Economist, Investors Business Daily, and other national publications for his role in emerging communications technologies.

He has been active in Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and its CEO affiliate. He serves as a trustee of the Duke Law School Board of Visitors and of the University of California Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  His civic work includes having served as Chairman of the San Diego Stadium Authority, Chairman Emeritus of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine, and as a board member at Scripps Health Philanthropy Board, both in San Diego.

Additional information is available at www.stein.to.

Emily Arnold, Chief of Staff to the Chairman

Emily Arnold currently serves as Chief of Staff to the Chairman at Prize Capital, LLC.  On behalf of Prize Capital, Ms. Arnold is the Project Manager of the Osa and Golfito Initiative at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.  The Osa and Golfito Initiative, the concept of which was co-developed by Prize Capital, is seeking to create a plan by which it could be possible for the Osa and Golfito cantons of Costa Rica to improve the wellbeing for their human populations, while supporting and strengthening the conservation efforts of the richly biodiverse region.

Prior to working at Prize Capital, Ms. Arnold worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), serving as the Costa Rica sole in country representative while pursing a master’s degree. Their focus on investigating strategies to make Costa Rica fossil fuel free in the energy and transportation sectors caused her to frequently interact directly with high level government officials, including President Arias, and the Minister of the Environment and Energy. 

Ms. Arnold initially built a foundation in community development and conservation working with small NGOs in Greece and Mexico, after which she worked in Paris at France Nature Environment, a network of over 3,000 organizations lobbying to influence French, European and international environmental policy. She then worked in Washington, DC at the Earth Policy Institute, led by Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown, where she contributed to Brown’s book Plan B 2.0 and authored an Eco-Economy Update on the negative impacts of bottled water on the environment.

Ms. Arnold first discovered her passion for for-profit environmental ventures while working at Canopy Development, a start-up company exploring a sustainable tourism-based model for conservation and economic development.  At Canopy Development she ran the internal sustainability efforts of the company, as well as serving as project manager for the first Canopy Development branded resort. 

Ms. Arnold holds two masters degrees: one in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica and another in International Affairs from American University in Washington, DC.  She received her BA from Smith College in Sociology and French.

Tom Huppert, Chief Financial Officer, CPA

Tom Huppert currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer of several entities owned in part or in whole by Lee and June Stein, including Prize Capital LLC; Virtual Group LLC; Virtual Capital LLC; Wemtec Inc. and Prize Capital Partners Corporation.

Mr. Huppert has been working with Mr. Stein developing, building and selling start-up companies since 1996. Huppert served as CFO when Stein’s company First Virtual Holdings Incorporated (Nasdaq:FVHI) went public December 13, 1996 and was eventually sold to Doubleclick (Nasdaq:DCLK) in 2002.

Prior to working with Mr. Stein, Mr. Huppert served as acting CFO and VP Finance for Rubio’s Restaurants Inc (Nasdaq: RUBO) and worked as a Certified Public Accountant for a local firm in San Diego.

Tom has a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in Accounting from San Diego State University and maintains his CPA license with the State of California. He lives in San Diego California with his wife and two children.

Jesse Berst, Strategic Advisor

Jesse Berst is a recognized authority on the emerging clean energy/smart energy revolution and the market opportunities it represents.

Jesse provides high-level, strategic consulting to large corporations, utilities, investors and government agencies.

As Managing Director of the energy consultancy Global Smart Energy, his current and former clients include Lockheed Martin, the U.S. Department of Energy, Global Environment Fund, the GridWise Alliance, Avista Utilities, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, the State of New Mexico, and the Province of British Columbia.

Jesse graduated with honors from the University of Puget Sound with a degree in business administration and serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Jesse lives with his wife in Bellevue, WA.

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