UI Labs

1415 N. Cherry Ave.

United States

Media, Capital, & Talent Day
Chicago Innovation Awards
Thursday, August 27, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM

This half-day event features talks with media, capital, and talent experts to help Chicago’s innovators answer three critical questions:

1. How do I attract and retain talent?
2. How do I access sufficient capital to grow?
3. How do I gain awareness in the market?



Like past Chicago Innovation Awards events, we expect this event to sell out. Please RSVP soon if you plan to attend.
Food and drinks are complimentary, and provided by Blue Plate.

Panelist Bios


Leslie Vickrey (moderator)
As the CEO and Founder of ClearEdge Marketing, Leslie Vickrey leads the company’s vision on how to best help clients harness the power and potential of marketing. She manages the ClearEdge team of more than 30 marketing professionals, servicing talent management companies, from HR technology firms to global recruitment organizations. Leslie’s passion for creating opportunities extends beyond ClearEdge. In 2013, Leslie co-founded ARA, an organization that aims to attract, retain and advance women in technology through mentoring. She is also actively involved in the Chicago tech community, supporting groups such as i.c.stars and the Chicago Innovation Awards.

Chris Gladwin
Chris Gladwin founded Cleversafe in 2004. Chris has been the creative force behind the development of the first Dispersed Storage system to solve the growing global problem of Big Data storage. Using advances in dispersed information technology, he applied his knowledge to storage to create a reliable, cost effective, secure solution with a limitless ability to scale. Chris then led Cleversafe to securing and deploying many of the largest data storage systems in the world. Chris Gladwin has created more than 1,000 issued and pending patents related to Dispersed Storage technology. Chris is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Institute of Technology as well as the Board of Directors of SmartBet Charities, the Chicago Innovation Awards and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

Tom Kuczmarski
Thomas D. Kuczmarski, senior partner and president of Kuczmarski Innovation, is a nationally recognized expert in the innovation and development of new products and services. The author of six books and many articles, Mr. Kuczmarski has taught product and service innovation at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management for 31 years. Mr. Kuczmarski is the founder and co-chair, along with Dan Miller, of the Chicago Innovation Awards, which recognizes each year the most innovative new products, services, business models and processes developed in the Chicago area.

Kristi Lafleur
Kristi Lafleur has served Executive Director since April 2010. She is the first woman to serve in this role in the Tollway’s history. In 2011, Lafleur and the Tollway Board successfully secured a new 15-year, $12 billion capital program, Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future. It will improve mobility, relieve congestion, reduce pollution, create thousands of jobs. Prior to joining the Tollway, Lafleur served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Economic Development and Recovery in the Office of the Governor, ran her  own strategic consulting and organizational management firm, Lafleur Group LLC, and was Chief of Staff for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Bruce Leon
Bruce Leon is the founder of three sister companies in the Chicagoland area:  Benefits Solutions Group, an insurance brokerage firm, Tandem HR, a professional employer organization, and Alliance Workplace Solutions, a voluntary benefits firm. Bruce started his entrepreneurial endeavors with Benefits Solutions Group in 1996, offering full-service healthcare insurance benefit solutions and it wasn’t long before he recognized a unique need in the Chicago-area market for an unbundled, high-touch, consultative professional employer organization (PEO). It was 1998 when he incorporated Tandem Professional Employer Services (which changed its name to Tandem HR in 2008). Tandem HR’s 140 employees process $400 million in payroll for 9,300 client employees and boast a 96% retention rate. Benefits Solutions Group, Alliance Workplace Solutions and Workplace Solutions EAP service Tandem HR and their own client base.


Kevin Willer (moderator)
Kevin is a Partner at Chicago Ventures, a seed-stage venture capital fund where he is overseeing all aspects of the business, including fund management, deal sourcing and investments, and working directly with portfolio companies. Prior to Chicago Ventures, from 2011 to 2013, Kevin was the President & CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC), which manages, operates, and programs 1871, a leading co-working center serving hundreds of startups building their early-stage businesses located at Chicago’s famed Merchandise Mart.  In late 2000, Kevin co-founded the Google Chicago office in late 2000. He was named to Crain’s 2011 “40 Under 40” list as well as Crain’s 2012 Tech 50 list.  He is a Director of The Economic Club of Chicago and is a Trustee of his alma mater, Loyola Academy, as well as on the Board of Trustees of Loyola University Chicago and of the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Joseph Brantuk
Joseph Brantuk is Vice President of the Global Corporate Client Group at NASDAQ OMX (NASDAQ: NDAQ), the world’s largest exchange company.  His focus on working with early stage companies to maximize the financing and visibility opportunities that can be provided by public capital markets means he also works very closely with venture capital, private equity and investment firms to educate them on the liquidity options NASDAQ can provide. Mr. Brantuk works with companies by providing value-added consultative services. He analyzes and interprets market transaction and performance data, and educates companies on the benefits of NASDAQ.

Troy Henikoff
Troy Henikoff is the Managing Director of TechStars Chicago, a global ecosystem that empowers entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market.Troy was the CEO and Co-founder of Excelerate, which became Techstars Chicago in 2013. He is also a manager of the FireStarter Fund, teaches Entrepreneurship and Digital Marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, is a Faculty Coach for University of Chicago / Booth’s New Venture Challenge, and is on the board of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center and an advisor to Hyde Park Angels. His last 25 years have been spent starting, running and advising early stage technology companies including SurePayroll, OneWed, Amacai and Jellyvision.

Matthew McCall
Matthew McCall is a Partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital and was formerly a founding partner with DFJ Portage. He also has a strong interest in venture as a platform for good, guiding Millennials and empowering female entrepreneurs. McCall has been involved with many top-tier investments, including DollarShaveClub, SMS-Assist, AwesomenessTV, Facebook, Feedburner, and SimpleTV and TicketsNow. McCall has been honored on Crain’s annual “40 under 40,” Crain’s top Tech 25 list, the Re/code top 30 tech power list, a Top 100 VC, a Media 100 and a Hollywood 100 Power Player. He is the founder & trustee of the McCall Family Foundation, focused on encouraging social entrepreneurship and global human/girls’s rights.

Bailey Moore
Bailey Moore heads up Wintrust Ventures, a division of Wintrust Financial Corporation dedicated to the financing and investment in high growth startups in the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin region. Wintrust Ventures is a dual product platform offering venture debt for later stage venture backed companies as well as passive equity investments in Seed and Series A stage companies. Although only announced in January of 2015, the group has 6 portfolio companies to date and continues to grow. Ms. Moore has a diverse background in middle market banking, fund of funds structuring as well as liquidation and bankruptcy consulting.  She received a B.S. in Finance from Purdue University in 2008.

Rishi U. Shah
Rishi U. Shah is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of ContextMedia, company that seeks to improve health outcomes by serving actionable health information to chronic disease patients. In 2012, he co-founded a personal venture investment firm, Jumpstart Ventures, through which he has made over 40 investments in fast growing early to late stage startups. Additionally, Rishi serves as a mentor for numerous technology start-up accelerator/incubator programs including TechStars Chicago, 1871, HealthBox and Blueprint Health. Crain’s Chicago Business recognized Rishi as the youngest ever member of their annual 40-Under-40 class in 2009 and he frequently lectures at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management & McCormick School of Engineering.


Luke Tanen (moderator)
Luke Tanen is the Executive Director of the Chicago Innovation Awards, which annually celebrates, educates and connects innovators in the Chicago region. Luke supervises the entire judging process, a complex task that iteratively narrows down a pool of 500+ nominees to the final honorees, and is also responsible for running a year-long series of events that attract nearly 5,000 people in Chicago. In addition, he oversees the recruitment of sponsors and all fundraising activities for the organization. Luke’s first book, “Innovating…Chicago-Style: How Local Innovators are Building the National Economy”, was co-authored with Tom Kuczmarski and Dan Miller and profiles the stories of 80 companies that have launched groundbreaking new products and services in the marketplace. He has been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Crain’s Chicago Business, as well as featured on the NBC News, WBEZ Radio, and other media. Luke is a recipient of the 2011 Chicago Ideas Week “Ideas Award” and was selected to Crain’s “20 in their 20’s” list in 2014, which annually recognizes twenty leaders who are on-the-rise.

Andrea Hanis
Andrea Hanis is editor of Blue Sky Innovation, the Chicago Tribune content vertical on innovation, entrepreneurship and technology. Blue Sky publishes news and feature stories about Chicago business and national trends, hosts industry events and is active on social media. Previously, Andrea worked at Crain’s Chicago Business and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a Hoosier native and graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington.
Dan O’Brien
As president of Tech Image, Dan O’Brien leads the client’s brand strategy and helps define digital PR best practices. Prior to Tech Image, Dan co-founded two digital PR and marketing agencies.  Dan is an active member of the Executive’s Club of Chicago and a member of their Marketing, Communication, and Sales Committee. He teaches a regular strategic branding class at 1871 and is a member of the SmithBucklin Corporate Management Team.

Ann Dwyer is deputy managing editor of Crain’s Chicago Business. Ann oversees all aspects of Crain’s daily news report, serves on Crain’s editorial board, coordinates op-ed contributions, and frequently writes the publication’s weekly editorials. From 2008 until 2014, Ms. Dwyer edited Crain’s Focus section, which delivers in-depth reports on topics ranging from law and real estate to finance and small business. The Focus section also showcases some of Crain’s highest-profile features, including 40 Under 40, Best Places to Work, Fast Fifty and Who’s Who in Chicago Business. Ann has won awards for reporting, editing, headline writing and editorial writing from the Illinois Press Association, the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association, the Chicago Headline Club and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. A native of Oak Park, Ms. Dwyer studied English and journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Fritz Golman
Fritz Golman is CEO of Financial News Television Productions (fnTV), an award winning production company. He is the executive producer and co-host of Illinois Business this Week seen on PBS stations, statewide. He was on a team that won two Emmy awards (one for a PSA for the Metra commuter railroad and the other for a documentary on teen driving issues). He has a national television news consultancy, working with stations coast-to-coast. He has been a pioneer in streaming media, going back to the mid 1990’s.

Melissa Ballate

Melissa Ballate is the founder of Blue Daring, created because she wanted to help help companies of all kinds and sizes: to unite business thinking and creative vision, to merge branding and strategy. She’s been dedicated ever since to advising mid-size businesses and corporations, entrepreneurs and organizations in industries as diverse as manufacturing, retail, online, healthcare, and professional services. Melissa is passionate about education and entrepreneurship and gives her time to organizations  that cultivate them. She serves on the board of  Junior Achievement of Chicago, the Chicago Police Board and served as Chairman of the State of Illinois’ Residential Mortgage Board.


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