Regional Board Members


Merve Vardar Ashaboglu graduated from Robert College high school in Istanbul 1991 to attend Tufts University. She double majored in Political Science and French literature (1995). Having spent three years in advertising in New York city working for Young & Rubicam and JW Thompson, Merve decided to go back to school for her MBA. She graduated from NYU Stern School of Business with a double major in management and marketing and a minor in IT and began working at Kraft Foods USA. Merve and Ahmet Ashaboglu (Tufts 94) got married in 2002 and in 2004 and 2006 had two daughters Maya and Mina. They have both moved back to Turkey where Merve is currently working as a college counselor for Robert College high school.


(Biography forthcoming)


Omer joined Inovent as Technology Transfer Director and General Counsel in 2006. Since then he is also the IP counsel to Sabanci University, Istanbul-Turkey. Omer is particularly interested in commercialization of University Intellectual Property, the development of early stage technologies and seed and early stage venture investments. He assists Inovent spinout companies with strategic decision making, provides business development and transactional advice. Since summer of 2011, Omer acts as senior IP and IAM advisor to Sabanci University working with the University to streamline its TTO activities and to leverage University’s considerable intellectual assets on a global scale. He is an adjunct faculty member at Yeditepe University Law School (Istanbul) teaching Intellectual Property Law and International Licensing courses. He is a founding board member and General Secretary of LES Turkey, and he is actively involved with LES International as an international delegate. Omer is also a founding and active member of Galata Business Angels (GBA) network. In addition, he is a member of AUTM, ASTP and AIPPI. He has a BA in Economics and International relations from Tufts University, Massachusetts, and LL.M on European Union Law from University of Lausanne, Switzerland, a Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School in Boston and a LLB from Dokuz Eylül University, Turkey. He is a member of the bars of State of New York, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Istanbul (Turkey).


Steven R Koltai designed and, until September, 2011, managed the Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) at the US Department of State. Currently, Koltai continues to work as a consultant in the global entrepreneurship ecosystem space, as well as an active investor in and advisor to startups and growth stage companies in the US and abroad in media, e-commerce, and the event industries.

The GEP’s purpose is to promote entrepreneurship in countries that are foreign policy priorities for the US, are near the “tipping point” to go entrepreneurial and where there is US Government interagency commitment to do so. Primary countries of operation are Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. Koltai’s principle of entrepreneurship ecosystem building is predicated on the view that a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem requires work in six areas: identify, train, connect & sustain, enable public policy and celebrate entrepreneurs. GEP –driven programs include the establishment of entrepreneurs-in-residence in focus countries (of which the first are Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey), mounting of entrepreneurship missions consisting of leading US early stage investors and entrepreneurs to meet with start-ups abroad, encouraging the expansion of angel investor groups, creating an “entrepreneur bridge” (incubators, accelerators and centers of commercialization) to work alongside centers of innovations such as universities, a Web-based mentor/mentee matching platform, just to name a few.
Steven is an executive with 30 years’ experience in international finance, strategic planning and entrepreneurship gained in the banking, entertainment and Internet industries. Koltai‘s longest single employment was at Warner Bros in Burbank, California, where over nine years, he served as the Studio’s first SVP of Strategy and Corporate Development, a member of and for 3 years, chair of, the Studio’s three-person operating committee. In 1993, Koltai was founder and first General Manager of Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment and Warner Bros. Online.

Mr. Koltai has had significant entrepreneurial experience in two specific ventures. First, as co-founder of Coronet, today known as SES-Astra, Europe’s only private television satellite system. Based in Luxembourg, SES-Astra is now a publicly traded company with a market capitalization of over $60 billion. It operates a system of a 41 satellites delivering 2,100 cable channels throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Some TV networks delivered by SES-Astra include CNN, MTV, ESPN, Al Jazeera, Sat 1, SkyTV, RTL+ and dozens of other channels. Koltai’s second entrepreneurial effort was an online event registration and management company, Event411 based in Marina del Rey, California. Koltai raised over $40 million in equity financing for the company, building it from zero to 1,250 employees over 6 years. He was a finalist as Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year for Southern California in 2000. Event411 provided the online event management software for, among other things, the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, the 2000 Salt Lake Winter Olympics and hundreds of corporate events including for clients such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, General Motors and UCLA. Event411 was sold in 2002 to another event industry joint-venture which included several major hotel operators (Starwood, Marriott and Hilton) as well as other private equity groups.

Koltai’s first work experience after graduate school was in the international trade area, working first for the Export-Import Bank of the US, followed by five years in international corporate and project finance at Bankers Trust Company and Salomon Bros, working in New York, London and Singapore. Koltai also spent time as an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations where his topic related to the battle over his entrepreneurial venture of bringing commercial television to Europe, and also at McKinsey & Company (New York and London offices), where he worked in the entertainment and media practice.

Steven Koltai received his BA in Modern European History, magna cum laude, from Tufts University. As a Fulbright Scholar in Belgium, he received a Licence from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. Koltai earned his Masters degree in International Economics from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Koltai has been active in a variety of organizations. These include: serving as a Founding Board Member of the Los Angeles-based Pacific Council on International Policy, Founding Chairman of the Entertainment Technology Center at the USC School of Film and Television, a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations (and membership of several CFR committees including Term Membership selection), a participant in several Aspen Institute Seminars, and the Salzburg Seminar. Koltai has been involved in numerous activities at Tufts, including serving on the Board of Advocates of the Tisch College of Active Citizenship, the Board of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies Program, and the Board of Overseers of the College of Arts and Sciences. Koltai was Chairman of the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles for five years and taught English as a second language in one of the Network’s programs. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, spending high school years in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his partner Ivan Zizek live in Lincolnville, Maine, Los Angeles, California and Washington DC. Koltai has two sons.


Following Army service, commenced his forty-two year international banking career with State Street Bank in Munich. Starting in 1976, he held senior executive positions at American Express Bank in New York, London, Bahrain, Dubai, Seoul and Istanbul. Since 1991 he has been CEO of ING Bank’s corporate, investment and consumer banking operations in Turkey and the Mideast Region. In 2007, he lead ING’s $ 3.0 billion acquisition of 100% of a major Turkish bank. John has served as ING Bank-Turkey’s chairman since. Married to a Turkish woman, Aylin, he has one son, Sinan ( BA 2001 ). He has resided in Istanbul for twenty-eight years. McCarthy is also chairman of the US Fulbright Commission for Turkey, having been a boardmember since 1994. He maintains close contact with Tufts through TAAP and the Beelzebubs Alumni Association. He is part of the organising committee for the Bubs’ 50th Anniversary celebrations set for May, 2013. He continues to sing in the shower.


Neslihan Tombul is a senior credit marketing specialist with over 25 years of international management experience. She joined the Irving Trust Company (now BNY Mellon) in 1983 and held various senior management positions in New York and Istanbul. She was Country Manager for numerous countries in the Middle East (including Israel) and Central Asia where she gained expertise as a regional specialist in credit marketing, risk management and business development.

At BNY Mellon, she designed and executed strategic business plans and credit policies, structured a series of LT project finance transactions for sovereign and corporate borrowers and developed a highly profitable secondary asset sales program for Turkish risk assets in the Middle East. She also launched and developed new business lines including Asset Management, International Capital Markets, Investor and Asset Services in the region and expanded the bank’s market share and revenues by several multiples which firmly established the bank as a leading financial institution in the Middle East. Most importantly, she successfully maneuvered the Bank’s risk portfolio during periods of deep financial crisis and political instability while preserving asset quality and profitability.

Since 2009, Ms. Tombul has been a Board Member at Yasar Holding, one of the leading industrial conglomerates in Turkey. The group has interests in Food Manufacturing, Coatings and Chemicals, Paper Products and Tourism. In addition, she has been working closely with a growing network of technology enabled Turkish start-ups with a focus on e-commerce, business optimization, communications and internet, both in the way of fundraising and mentoring.

In the 80’s, Ms. Tombul developed meaningful expertise in bespoke menswear and luxury retail merchandising through her family business and while working at Bloomingdales. Serving as a strategic advisor, she has recently used this experience to develop and promote Turkish and foreign lifestyle brands in Turkey and South Africa.

Born in Turkey, Ms. Tombul was reared and educated in the United States. She graduated with a B.A. degree in Economics and Political Science with High Honors from Rutgers University and she attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University over the period 1981-1983 where she studied Economic Development in pursuit of a MALD degree. Committed to building a strong civil society, Ms. Tombul is a long time YPO-WPO member (Istanbul Chapter), a member of the Fletcher School – European Advisory Group, and she serves on the Board of Trustees at TGEV and CEV, both of which are education foundations supporting education in Turkey’s distressed regions. Ms. Tombul is fluent in English, Turkish, Azeri and French and in addition to her love and appreciation for the arts, she is an avid equestrian.

Updated: 03/21/12