Agile City is a nonprofit innovation consultancy and ecosystem builder located in the heart of Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem, NC. 


We're pioneers in the field of ecosystem building, with a focus on creating meaningful change and economic impact through innovative, agile solutions for our community and our clients. 


As ecosystem builders, we work as conveners and activators on behalf of the Winston-Salem Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to align, amplify and accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship in the region.


We also create custom engagements for industries, nonprofits and individuals looking to support and enhance creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in their own field. 






Karen Barnes is a mega-connector, visionary,  ecosystem builder and Founding CEO of Agile City, her sixth startup. Prior to Agile City, Barnes served as the Founding Executive Director of Venture Cafe Winston-Salem, where she and her team convened the ecosystem weekly, launched a Minority and Women’s Business Center, and created a public-private partnership to launch a startup recruiting initiative.

Previously, she was a founding partner for an applied artificial intelligence startup; Vice President of Insights for a research and advertising agency completely focused on sustainability; the founder of her own marketing and communications consulting firm; and strategic lead for several advertising agencies working with Fortune 100 clients, including Boeing, ConAgra Foods, MillerCoors, Johnson & Johnson, Steelcase, Georgia-Pacific, Toshiba, Hanes, General Mills and Lowe’s Home Improvement.


Barnes has a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from The American University, and a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Hollins University. She's a devoted partner to her artist wife, doting dog mom to a Golden Retriever, and a pretty decent golfer.




Hersh is the Forest Gump of innovation—he was there when Dow Chemical launched the Oil and Gas Business, as its Global New Business Development Leader; he was there when Corning Glass launched Flexible Glass into the display industry, as the first Product Line Manager; he was there when Eastman Chemical launched their microfiber platform, and when Parker Hannifin launched electric power units into the EV industry. Like Mr. Gretzky, his course is set not to where the “puck” of current offerings is, but where tomorrow's innovations are headed.


A consummate innovation professional, Hersh has provided product design and launch leadership to blast mitigation coatings, advanced microbial waste treatment, combined polarizer-touch sensor devices, and printed micro sensors, next gen air filtration media and auxiliary power units for electric bus steering. If practice makes better, Hersh has a lot of practice with product design and market activation.


With graduate thesis on biosensor design, from New Mexico State University and an MBA in marketing from Ohio State University, Hersh Chaturvedi combines his dual passions for marketing and technology to deliver innovation excellence. As the innovation consultant for Agile City, he will lend his expertise in product blueprinting, rapid prototyping, competitive benchmarking, value proposition development, customer segmentation and targeting, and promotion plan design. Our goal is to provide applied support to the entrepreneur, ready to develop their core offering. This can be products, services, or organizational innovations. 


A motorcycle enthusiast, Hersh has ridden his Goldwing, from his home in the Smoky Mountains,  to New England, Chicago, Orlando, San Antonio, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. His next ride will be to the Anasazi archeo-astrology site in Northern New Mexico.




Heather Philon is highly organized, analytical, and thrives on providing structure to multifaceted projects. Experience as a law firm’s Lead Intake Specialist allowed her to work closely internally and with clients to direct the composition, progress, and completion of complex legal processes. Volunteering provided additional opportunities to grow her leadership and organizational skills. 


Since joining our team in March 2019, Heather has developed relationships within the larger innovation community resulting in greater collaboration and overall project success. In addition, Heather seeks to address even the smallest details to ensure the strength of any initiative in which she is involved.


In her free time, Heather most enjoys spending time with her partner and cat,  cooking, and teaching herself new things such as ukulele, cross-stitching, and pasta making.




Mary Glen is a storyteller with an eye for visual and graphic design.  She received a Hearst Journalism Award for her undergraduate reporting work at UNC’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, with bylines in the Raleigh News & Observer and the Greensboro News & Record.


Since joining our team in June 2019, she’s gained experience in social media management, web development, event planning, digital marketing strategy, and grant writing. She’s excited to continue building on these skills and honing new ones as a creative communications lead with Agile City Winston-Salem, where she’ll be in charge of brand development, marketing and storytelling in a variety of digital formats. 


When she’s not in the office, you can find exploring outdoors, hanging in local coffee shops, or binge watching her latest Netflix obsession.



At Agile City, we like to keep our approach flexible and focused on actions that create meaningful change and economic impact. We take a portfolio approach: researching, designing, and prototyping solutions that fill current gaps and accelerate the rate of entrepreneurship and innovation.


We’ll take a deep dive into your industry or community, assessing your specific needs and goals, and provide detailed insights on what’s needed to build, support or enhance your innovation or entrepreneurial community. 


Working closely with you, we’ll create a blueprint for local innovation pipelines, entrepreneurial support services, ecosystem maps, organizational prototypes and more that can drive and accelerate the pace of change in your area.


We thrive on experimentation, so let's get out there and see if it works. We’ll operate and manage innovation prototypes, tracking and reporting their economic and community impact for a set time. Using those insights, we'll collaborate to map out the next steps in our agile development process.

©2021 Agile City Winston-Salem

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