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Session 7

Dealmaker of the Year Awards Presentation

Congratulations to the 2022 Dealmakers of the Year Award Winners!


Jason Barsema
Co-Founder & President
Halo Investing

Jason Barsema is the Co-Founder and President of Halo Investing, a FinTech start-up that believes in impact before profit. Halo is the first independent, multi-issuer platform for defined outcome investing. Jason has been involved with investing and global economics for years, including a successful 7-year employment at Credit Suisse.

He is extremely passionate about making an impact on the world and leaving it a better place.

Biju Kulathakal
Co-founder & CEO
Halo Investing

Biju Kulathakal is the founder of Halo Investing, Inc. which provides investment protection. Halo offers the first independent multi-issuer technology platform for Structured Notes, connecting investment advisors and their clients to the world’s largest banks.

Biju was also one of the early co-founders of Redbox. In addition, he is a founder and the past Chairman and CEO of Trading Block Holdings, an online brokerage firm specializing in option traders. Biju received a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology.

Luke Haverhals
Founder & CEO
Natural Fiber Welding

Luke Haverhals, Ph.D., is the CEO and Founder of NFW (Natural Fiber Welding). Luke’s professional mission is to collaborate with and empower material scientists, manufacturing workers and engineers, investors, change makers, creators, and brands around the world to create a truly circular and sustainable material economy from the ground up.

Luke earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Iowa before going on to explore all-natural alternatives to petroleum-derived plastics as an Assistant Research Professor at the US Naval Academy. His vision to develop bio-neutral, high-performance materials from renewable natural nutrient inputs has become the foundation for NFW’s ecosystem of patented, paradigm-shifting material technologies.

In an industry awash with incremental solutions, Luke is leading NFW to drive a moonshot systems-level shift away from petroleum-derived products and toxic chemistries. Luke is an Unreasonable Group Fellow, Forbes Council Member, and World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.


Steve Zika
Natural Fiber Welding

Steve Zika is the President of NFW. With experience spanning corporate product management to founding several start-ups, Steve’s operational and business prowess ensures that NFW continues on the path as a long-term and profitable business.

A Peoria native, Steve Zika returned to his hometown several years ago after a 16-year career at Advanced Micro Devices. Now, having spent time in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, Zika is a key part of stewarding the start-up culture beginning to blossom in Peoria.

Matt Massucci
Founder & CEO

Since getting its start in Chicago 20 years ago, Hirewell has been helping clients, grow their organizations by recruiting the top-tier talent they need.  We partner with Fortune 500 and high growth companies across all facets of their organization.  Hirewell is comprised of highly specialized recruiters in the highest demand fields: Technology, Human Resources, Marketing, Supply Chain, Sales, Finance & accounting, and Real estate services. Hirewell’s deep investment in technology power its best in class recruiters to help clients win the war for talent.

Prior to founding Hirewell, Matt started his career in Big 4 Consulting (back when it was Big 6), first at Arthur Andersen, then Deloitte Consulting.  Matt graduated with honors in Accounting, from the University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign).


Nick Mirchef
Founder & Former Principal, SmartWitness
Principal, SmoothBrain

Nick Mirchef is a co-founder of a venture capital firm called SmoothBrain previously he has 30 years of interparental leadership in hospitality, service, and, most recently, technology. He led a company that was fast-paced, innovation-driven, and deeply committed to a long-term vision of continuously advancing new technologies that reduce risk, lead to safer roads and contribute to a more productive future by developing the next generation of video telematic solutions to simplify the fleet owners' and managers' lives and to make this critical technology readily accessible to more fleets.

Brian Nelson
Smart Witness

Brian Nelson is a finance executive with 25+ years’ leading high-profile technology & SaaS organizations. His combination of working for large corporations, such as Intel and Danaher / Fortive Corporation, and his time spent as a SMB private company CFO has created a wealth of knowledge and passion in the areas of financial tools & models for better decision making, driving business results through the use of key performance indicators, profit/loss reporting, financial business partnerships with executive leadership teams and board of directors, and organizational development of corporate finance organizations. He recently led the successful exit of Smart Witness, a family owned $50M technology company, to a fortune 500 strategic buyer.

Ricardo Salgado
Executive Chairman & Co-founder

Ricardo's an experienced engineering leader with a deep technical background and a passion for well-thought-out, scalable, highly reliable code. He's able to bridge the gap between product and engineering requirements and have successfully managed large engineering teams around the globe using agile methodologies.After a career in global finance, he chose to roll up his sleeves and build a company that addressed the inefficiencies in the freight space. He returned to his engineering roots and is applying everything he learned at Goldman Sachs to Loadsmart. Loadsmart is revolutionizing transportation logistics by inserting transformative technology to reimagine the entire truckload shipment lifecycle. They are not happy with the status quo. They believe there is a better, more efficient and socially responsible way to move freight across the world.

Eric Sheinkop
The Desire Company

Eric Sheinkop is an entrepreneur, acclaimed author, and tech innovator. As CEO of The Desire Company, Sheinkop is continuing his trend of creating disruptive tech-based solutions for antiquated industries ripe for change. Accolades include Billboard "30 Under 30” and Crain’s “Tech 50”. Awards include Cannes Lions, LIA’s and an Emmy. Sheinkop represented Entrepreneurs Building Companies that Unite the World when he ran with the Olympic Torch at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Kathryn Finney
Founder, CEO & Managing Partner
Genius Guild

Kathryn Finney is the founder and managing general partner of Genius Guild, a venture fund that invests  in scalable companies led by diverse founders. She is also the founder of The Doonie Fund, the founder and first CEO of digitalundivided—mastermind of the widely acclaimed #ProjectDiane research, and a Yale-trained epidemiologist. Selling her lifestyle company, The Budget Fashionista, made Kathryn one of the first Black women to have a successful startup exit.Kathryn Finney’s bestselling new book, “Build The Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business if You’re Not a Rich White Guy,” hit the Wall Street Journal bestsellers top 10 list in its first week published. She is the first Black woman business author at Portfolio/Penguin books.

Jennifer Tescher
President & CEO
Financial Health Network


Jennifer Tescher founded the Financial Health Network in 2004, pioneering the movement to improve financial health for all. Today, she continues to lead the organization as its President and CEO, equipping organizations across industries to function as a force for good and build a future where all people can thrive financially.  

As an entrepreneur, innovator, and powerful voice for change, Jennifer has spent the last two decades working to raise the profile of financial health. Her efforts have united a robust community of changemakers impacting the financial lives of millions. Under her leadership, the Financial Health Network has cultivated a network of 160+ influential Member organizations, invested in 40+ promising finhealth solutions through its Financial Solutions Lab, and delivered deep consumer insights and tools that are transforming policy and business practices.

Jennifer drives the national discussion on financial health through frequent media and speaking engagements, including as the host of EMERGE Everywhere podcast and as a columnist for Forbes. Prior to founding the Financial Health Network, she gained valuable experience breaking down silos, engaging with evidence, and shifting perspectives as a journalist for the Charlotte Observer and within the financial sector at Shorebank.

Conference Location

65 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
Tel: (312)427-7800