Devin delivered solid, actionable advice in every facet of startup. From the inside track on China manufacturing, to great recommendations for product validation, funding, marketing and where to look for partners, Devin delivered in each instance.
Go find investment forums/meetups like Zino Society, Keiretsu Forum, or whatever you have locally. Just attend and introduce yourself to people. Keep going back and have a simple business card to exchange information. Follow up via email. Just meet them first and talk about what your doing, but I would not bring a questionnaire for anyone to fill out at the networking events. Don't go with an agenda, just go to meet people and if your genuine you will find people genuinely interested in just helping (like me!). I don't have a PhD or Masters, but it sounds like you're asking how to network with people.
I would not trade equity for design work. Unless this person will actually become a part of your team and create enough value to warrant equity. Otherwise it is short sighted to trade equity for something you need very early on just to launch. I'm sure your design/brand will evolve over time and this person will have put in a minor amount of work compared to what it will take to launch and continue a successful company. Additionally, you may be putting too much weight on your brand and not enough on what you're actually selling? However it is hard to give a more detailed answer without knowing what exactly you are doing and how detailed and ongoing the design work is. I would love to help answer your question, but need a little more detail on what exactly it is you do and what type of design/branding work you need.
Hey There! It sounds like you just need a detail oriented, structured, and dedicated person to help you, more than a dedicated PM. There are plenty of contract PMs, Account Managers, etc. looking for the type of work you described. Doing this remotely shouldn't be an issue as long you have an online interface to connect with the PM daily, weekly, or whatever interval works to make sure your objectives are aligned. Something like Wrike would be good for you as the contract PM/Account Manager can log their hours for each client and you both will have visibility as to what each person is doing on each project. Wrike integrates with Microsoft Project and other systems, so it can scale up or down in functionality depending on what you or your client needs. If you have any more questions on Lean Project Management/Contract Project Management, I'd be happy to help! I work in contract product development so the client interface and workflow is very similar.