John Roa

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John Roa
Born Grosse Pointe, Michigan, United States
Citizenship Flag of the United States.svg U.S.
Alma mater Western Michigan University
Occupation Investor, entrepreneur
Known for Founder of ÄKTA and SocialCrunch
Roa Ventures Official Website

John Rafael Roa is American entrepreneur and investor. He is best known as the founder and ex-CEO of ÄKTA[1] which was fully acquired by in 2015.[2]

Early life and education

John was born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the son of Ender and Margaret Roa. He is part Venezuelan descent. His father was an engineer in the automotive industry and his mother was a nurse and teacher. By age 13, Roa had become interested in computer hardware, programming, hacking, and gaming. Roa attended Wayne State University[3] and Lawrence Technological University,[4] before settling on Western Michigan University. He received a BBA in Sales and Business Marketing from Western Michigan University before relocating to Chicago, Illinois in 2008.


Roa has been an entrepreneur in technology start-ups since age 14, when he founded a computer repair business in Grosse Pointe,[5] Michigan called Onsite Operations. Roa founded the Chicago-based, tech-consulting and design firm Äkta in 2010, recognized in 2014 by Inc.[6] as one of America’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. ÄKTA was fully acquired by in September of 2015.[7][8][9]

After retiring as CEO, he launched Roa Ventures in 2016, a firm that focuses on “early-stage investments, projects, and experiments in Chicago, Los Angeles, and London”.[10] Roa has previously invested in technology, hospitality, analytics, e-commerce, and retail industries including: The Grand Voyage,[11] Ellison, Social Crunch, The Betty, Rose & Poison, Like a Gentleman, and Caden.[12]


Roa founded the Chicago-based, tech-consulting and design firm ÄKTA in 2010, recognized in 2014 by Inc. as one of America’s Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies. ÄKTA was a leader in the User Experience Design consulting space. ÄKTA was fully acquired by in September of 2015 for an undisclosed amount.[13]


In 2011 together with Ruairi Hyland, Roa co-founded Digital Hope,[14][15] a 501c3 nonprofit organization that partners with independent organizations around the world (places like orphanages and wildlife sanctuaries), to act as an exposure and fundraising engine, all via social media. One hundred percent of proceeds from the organization’s online campaigns were put toward donations for each project. As co-founder and Executive Director, Roa traveled to locations himself, along with other volunteers, to give the donations earned by Digital Hope campaigns.[16]

In May 2012, Digital Hope traveled to Colombia Sin Fronteras, a children’s school in the barrios (shanty towns) of Valle de Gaira in Northern Colombia. The school itself is run entirely by unpaid volunteers and financed entirely by donations. Roa, Hyland, and volunteer Jock McEwan raised funds in their digital campaign to donate a large variety of school supplies to Colombia Sin Fronteras.[17]

Other projects

Roa founded SocialCrunch,[18] a psychographic analytics platform, in 2011. SocialCrunch was part of the inaugural TechStars Chicago class of 2013, before being acquired by TasteBud in 2015.[19]


Roa is an Angel Investor in a number of early-stage companies, including The Grand Voyage, Ellison, SocialCrunch, The Betty, Rose & Poison, Like a Gentleman, and Caden. [20]


In 2012, he was named to Crain’s Business 40 Under 40.[21]In mid 2014 Roa, was the recipient of the James Tyree Emerging Business Leadership Award. [22]


  1. "Meet John Roa of Akta U.S. — gambler, adrenaline addict, CEO". Chicago Business. 2014-04-26. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  2. "Salesforce acquires Chicago digital-design firm AKTA". Chicago Tribune. 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  3. "Crain’s Chicago Recognizes Alum Roa’s Success". Western Michigan University. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  4. "John Roa Wants to Make the “Second City” First in UX Design". Technori. 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  5. "John Roa Gives Us Digital Hope". Michigan Avenue Magazine. 2014-10-31. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  6. "Develops mobile apps and offers innovation consulting, branding services and user experience design". Inc.. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  7. "Salesforce Acquires Chicago’s Gravitytank". America Inno. 2016-09-14. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  8. "Salesforce acquires application development consulting firm AKTA". Venturebeat. 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  9. "Salesforce Grants Equity Awards Under Its Inducement Equity Incentive Plan". Salesforce. 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  10. "John Roa of Roa Ventures on What Chicago Tech Is Missing". Tech. 2017-04-08. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  11. "John Roa of Roa Ventures on What Chicago Tech Is Missing". Tech. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  12. "How a rugby speech saved SocialCrunch on Demo Day". Crain’s Chicago Business. 2013-09-03. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  13. "How This Inc. 5000 Company Used Design to Sell Itself to Salesforce". Inc.. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  14. "Haworth College of Business Outstanding Young Alumni Award". Haworth College. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  15. "John Roa". Entrepreneur Magazine. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  16. "UberMENTOR: Meet with Chicago’s Best and Brightest". 2016-01-20. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  17. "Digital Hope has 18 hours to change 60 lives…are you in?". Built in Chicago. 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  18. "John Roa". TechStars. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  19. "Tastebud Acquires SocialCrunch In All-Stock Deal To Further Its Mobile Push Into Physical Retail". TechCrunch. 2015-09-19. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  20. "Roa Investments". Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  21. "40 Under 40 archive". Crains. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  22. "AKTA's John Roa wins Tyree award, salutes Chicago startup community". Chicago Tribune. 2014-06-24.,0,0.story. Retrieved 2017-11-08.