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Committee

Chairman

Fred Koury

Fred Koury

President & CEO

Smart Business Network


Fred co-founded Smart Business Network in 1989 with a single publication in Cleveland, Ohio. In the years since, he has built the company into a leading multimedia and content marketing business providing print and digital marketing services to a national client base.


Host Committee

Jacob Babcock

Jacob Babcock

CEO

NuCurrent, Inc.


Jacob Babcock, CEO and Founder of NuCurrent, leads the world's top wireless power technology company, with key licensees like Samsung and Honeywell. Previously, he served as North American legal counsel for cleverbridge, Inc., and as a technology attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP. A former teacher and football coach, Jacob holds over 30 patents and a JD from Northwestern University. He resides in Chicago with his family, risking life and limb to cheer for the Packers and Brewers.

 

Paul Carlisle

Paul Carlisle

Executive Vice President & Market Head

Wintrust


Paul is executive vice president and market head of Wintrust Commercial Banking, where he is responsible for leading and coordinating middle-market banking across all of the Wintrust banks. He has spent his entire career serving middle-market organizations in the Greater Chicago area. Before joining Wintrust in 2010, he spent more than 25 years with JPMorgan Chase and its predecessor banks, American National and Bank One.

Harry Cendrowski

Harry Cendrowski

Managing Director

Cendrowski Corporate Advisors


Harry is a founding member of Cendrowski Corporate Advisors and a licensed CPA in Michigan, Illinois and Florida. He is a veteran of the private equity and venture capital industries as an investor, founder and advisor to several funds. He has served as an expert witness in numerous disputes, as court-appointed receiver for multimillion dollar estates and as the accountant to the trustee in high-profile bankruptcy cases.

Allison Cummins

Allison Cummins

CEO

Blue Outcomes


Allison Cummins is the founder and CEO of Blue Outcomes, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Project and Change Management. Her methodical, analytic approach to technology and processes inspired her to launch Blue Outcomes in 2018. Allison is a trusted advisor for growing companies and is known for bringing transparency and accountability to business transformations.

 

Chris Fils

Chris Fils

Complex Manager

Alex. Brown, a division of Raymond James


 

 

Kathryn Finney

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.

Bill Giffin

Bill Giffin

CEO

HT|TC Wealth Partners


Bill is Chief Executive Officer of HT|TC Wealth Partners (f/k/a TC Wealth Partners) and Trust Company of Illinois where he chairs the Leadership Team, Investment Team, and Wealth Management Team. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Trust Company of Illinois, and counsels a select group of clients. Bill has 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. He was managing director at U.S. Trust Company where he led several groups working with high-net-worth families, family offices, endowments, and foundations. Prior to that he worked at Morgan Stanley and Graystone Wealth Management.

Bill is a member of the national YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization), a global leadership community of chief executives, and serves on the board of Outreach Community Ministries. He graduated from Albion College and earned a BA in economics.

Jay Goethal

Jay Goethal

Area Managing Partner

SeatonHill


Jay Goethal is the Area managing Partner in the Chicago office for SeatonHill. Mr. Goethal has 25+ years of multi-functional experience in small to mid-size multinationals, startups, and family run businesses. His career is centered around financial management, operations, and sales with highly developed financial skills.

Additionally, Jay has invaluable experience managing crises and has excelled as CEO, CFO, and VP of Operations and is a passionate advocate that finance should be embedded through-out the business as a critical component of decision-making.

He is highly results-driven and has an extensive background leading and increasing growth, successfully guiding sudden business loss, and creating stabilization while achieving success through managed cash flow with focus on the balance sheet and expenses.

 

Luke Haverhals

Luke Haverhals

CEO | Founder

Natural Fiber Welding


Luke Haverhals is the Founder and CEO of NFW. Haverhals earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Iowa before researching alternatives to petroleum-derived plastics as a US Naval Academy professor. 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.

Kristine Holtz

Kristine Holtz

CEO

Cornerstone Foodservice Group


Kristine Holtz has over 25 years of senior leadership and board-level experience in the food service industry and private equity supported organizations. Currently the CEO of Cornerstone Foodservice Group, she is a former CEO of Market Day and Senior VP at HJ Heinz, where she was responsible for its specialty foodservice division.  Kristine has a proven track record of successfully leading teams to grow stakeholder value through impactful growth and integration strategies.  Most recently, she led the acquisition of five private companies to create Cornerstone Foodservice Group. Today, she works alongside and advises many industry-leading brands on their foodservice operations to create guest-centered and profitable dining experiences.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Managing Partner

The Solomon Group LLC


Robert Johnson is the Managing Partner of the Solomon Group, a social enterprise management consulting company and the co-founder of The Collective, a social impact business incubator that raises capital for social enterprises.

Ted Keim

Ted Keim

Partner

Venable LLP


Ted Keim's practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, investment and venture capital transactions, private equity, corporate reorganizations and restructurings, and complex joint venture/company representation matters. Ted's clients include a broad range of public and privately held companies, both in the United States and globally, across a wide spectrum of industries, including healthcare and life sciences/medical devices, food and beverage, financial and technology services, industrials, automotive, aerospace and defense, retail, and hospitality.

Payal Keshvani

Payal Keshvani

Partner

Taft Law


Payal focuses on general corporate and transactional matters. She represents clients from inception to exit, including matters of corporate governance, mergers & acquisitions, private equity transactions, minority investments, secured financing, and debt and equity issuances.

 

Slade Kobran

Slade Kobran

Managing Partner

Chief Outsiders


Slade is Chief Outsiders’ Managing Partner focused exclusively on the Private Equity sector. Based in the Greater NYC area, he works closely with Private Equity Operating Partners and other value creators to quickly identify and engage the Chief Outsiders resources best suited to meet the needs of investors and portfolio company management alike. Slade is actively engaged in the Private Equity community through groups such as ACG and PEI, and has worked with dozens of PE firms and their portfolio companies over the last five years.

Jeffrey Kolke

Jeffrey Kolke

Partner

Franklin Hill Capital


Prior to becoming a partner at Franklin Hill Capital, Jeff Kolke was a managing director at Gladstone Capital and Monroe Capital, leading lower middle market debt and equity funds. He was responsible for originating and leading deal teams in closing senior unitranche, split lien term loan B’s, second lien and minority equity transactions; completing 16 transactions with a combined transaction value of over $800 million. In addition, Mr. Kolke had previously worked for GE Capital as a senior vice president, and closed over $1.5 billion in transactions.

Mr. Kolke has extensive experience in structuring and managing transactions for multiple corporate strategies including firms undergoing mergers and acquisitions, management buy outs, recapitalizations, growth capital, refinancing and turnarounds. His career began in the chemical and plastics industries working with GE Plastics, Nalco Chemical, and National Starch and Chemical. Additionally, Mr. Kolke is a certified Six Sigma Blackbelt.

Mr. Kolke received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois and a Master in Business Administration from Wayne State University.

 

Lee M. Koury

Lee M. Koury

Managing Partner

Smart Business Network Inc.


Lee is managing partner of Smart Business Network Inc., a national events, media and marketing company founded in 1989, primarily responsible for expanding the company’s Aspire deal-making conference throughout the U.S. He plays a key role in establishing corporate policies and developing long-term strategy and growth plans. Previously, he founded and chaired the Growth Group at national law firm Arter & Hadden LLP (now Tucker, Ellis & West), which focused on working with middle-market and high-growth technology companies. 

Scott Lamerand

Scott Lamerand

CEO

Inter-Med, Inc. dba Vista Apex and Perio Protect


Scott Lamerand is the CEO of Inter-Med, a private equity owned, platform company providing innovative dental materials and solutions into preventative, restorative and endodontic procedures Worldwide. Scott has led his organization since March of 2020, guiding the organization through the challenges of Covid and the post-Covid World. Prior to his role as CEO at Inter-Med, Scott founded Apex Dental Materials and led that organization for 15 years prior to a successful sale to Inter-Med.

Melissa Lederer

Melissa Lederer

Chief Experience Officer

mHub


Melissa Lederer, chief experience officer, is focused on leading teams to design solutions that drive engagement, collaboration and success for mHUB corporate partners and startups. A seasoned business professional with more than 20 years of broad experience in both corporate and agency settings, Melissa has served a variety of technology-based businesses of all sizes and has a special passion for supporting high-growth startups on brand formation and scaling into new markets.

Over the past 10 years, Melissa has been an active force in helping to build Chicago’s robust entrepreneurial community. Melissa was a member of the founding team of 1871, Chicago’s innovation hub recognized by UBI Global as the #1 university-affiliated incubator in the world and served as its chief marketing officer for more than two years. Following 1871, Melissa helped found Chicago’s healthcare incubator and innovation center MATTER, where she was responsible for defining and building the MATTER brand and managing all areas of the company’s marketing, communications and events. Melissa continues to support MATTER strategic initiatives and special projects.

Prior to her years focused on driving civic entrepreneurship, Melissa served as the SVP of marketing for Q Interactive (formerly CoolSavings) where she oversaw all marketing, communications and creative functions and served on the company’s senior leadership team. Melissa was recognized in 2019 and 2020 in the Crain’s Chicago Business “Notable Women in Manufacturing”.

Tony Lorenz

Tony Lorenz

Global Head of Corporate Development

rEvolution


Tony is the Global Head of Corporate Development and a founding investor at the industry leading sports marketing firm, rEvolution. Tony recently led the Event Solutions business at Apollo backed, Notified. As CEO of PRA (PRA), Tony transformed the business through 19 acquisitions to lead its sector in the Americas. Tony is a graduate of Harvard Business School – Owner/President Management program, and holds a BS in Accounting from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

William A. McComas

William A. McComas

Shareholder

McComas Fuel Co.


William A. McComas is the Managing Partner at Bowie & Jensen and a corporate attorney focusing on the technology sector. A leading technology attorney, he represents companies, investors, and entrepreneurs in many different technology industries. He counsels clients throughout the country in connection with financing, mergers and acquisitions, sales of assets, equity financings, and other general corporate matters. He is well established for helping companies to manage and develop commercial technology and strategies. He often publishes and speaks on such topics and has received numerous awards including citations in Best Lawyers in America and multiple "Lawyer of the Year" honors.

John McNulty

John McNulty

CEO

Didgebridge, LLC


 

 

Daniel Miller

Daniel Miller

President

A1 Garage


 

 

Michelle Moreno

Michelle Moreno

Managing Partner

VentureDNA


Michelle Moreno is a Managing Partner with VentureDNA, leading the Investment Banking services and supporting the firm's advisory services. Focused on U.S. and global high growth companies, activities include Capital Raising, both equity and debt, for the issuance of Series A and B securities and related corporate debt offerings. Industries served include Technology and Services companies in Life Sciences, Healthcare, MedTech / Medical Devices, Professional Services, Manufacturing / Industrial Technologies, Marketing, Education, Energy, Food, and Government Services. Michelle has worked with companies of all sizes from Fortune 500 and large public companies through to family-owned businesses. Investors include institutional funds, family offices, and qualified investors.

Hafeezah Muhammad

Hafeezah Muhammad

CEO

Backpack Healthcare


Hafeezah Muhammad is the CEO of Backpack Healthcare, passionate about leveraging technology to address critical societal issues. With an extensive background in leadership and a profound understanding of the transformative power of A.I., she embarked on a mission to revolutionize mental health support for children. Her visionary leadership has catapulted her company to the forefront of the industry, setting new standards and paving the way for a more accessible and inclusive approach to mental wellness. She has acquired two venture backed companies in the last six months.

Thomas Parro

Thomas Parro

Senior Managing Director

MERK Capital Corporation


Mr. Parro is an operationally focused professional with recognized expertise in optimizing and expanding company enterprise values throughout investment lifecycles and macroeconomic cycles.  He has 27+ years of experience in C-level management, private equity, family office, and institutional investing and portfolio management. In addition, Mr. Parro has considerable expertise in the strategic development and integration of both start-ups and acquired companies both domestically and internationally.  

For the past 10 years Mr. Parro has owned and operated an independent sponsor private equity investment group. In that 10 years has invested in 5 platform companies and several add on acquisitions. He has develop an extensive network of investment bankers, brokers, lawyers, accountants and consultants that provide the opportunity to review over 700 investment opportunities a year in various industries and platforms.

Prior to MERK, Mr. Parro led the mergers & acquisitions effort at Globe Union Industrial Inc. (“Globe Union”).  He was instrumental in growing Globe Union from a private label $125 million single product line company to a $750 million branded broad based product line company over a five year period with operations that included North America, Europe, Taiwan, and China. Mr. Parro also led the mergers & acquisitions effort for Field Container Co. (“Field Container”).  He was instrumental in acquiring numerous companies that help grow Field Container from $350 million to $500 million over a five year period. His primary responsibilities were integration of the companies in all facets of the operations including, manufacturing, sales and marketing, administrative services, and IT. While at the financial services division of GE Capital for approximately eight years, Mr. Parro managed numerous strategies that led to the growth of various companies through both organic as well as acquisitions.  

Scott Parsons

Scott Parsons

Head of Sponsor Finance

Old National Bank


 

 

Michael Ross

Michael Ross

CEO

Ross & Associates


Michael Ross is the CEO/Founder of Ross & Associates, LLC, a boutique publishing and technology consultancy serving the entire publishing community, from PreK through higher education, and an executive coach to CEOs in the Chicago area.

Previously he was the SVP and GM at Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., and EVP and Publisher of World Book.


He is the author of "Publishing in the Digital Age: How Business Can Thrive in a Rapidly Changing Environment."

Justin Seamonds

Justin Seamonds

Prime Minister of Fun and CEO

Roti Restaurants


Justin joined Roti in early 2020 and led it through the pandemic, positioning it for growth in the fast-casual Mediterranean segment. Previously led Dean & DeLuca (including transacting to a new owner), and led food startups and challenger brands across consumer categories. Hyper-focused on Roti as a unique combination of craveable-healthful-affordable food that can fuel Food For A Full Life for it's guests and teams.

Kevin Slaughter

Kevin Slaughter

Partner

Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC


Kevin Slaughter is a partner in the Corporate Practice Group. He focuses on representing clients in complex commercial transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, financing agreements, joint ventures, private offerings, supply/service agreements, distribution agreements, development and licensing agreements, and manufacturing agreements. Kevin has particular experience representing Fortune 500 companies in middle market transactions. Additionally, Kevin is a go-to attorney for clients in the cannabis industry, advising them on a range of issues including license applications, corporate governance and funding. He also assists cannabis clients with organizational structure, real estate matters, branding and licensing agreements and supply agreements. Clients appreciate Kevin’s practical advice, his effective communication skills, and his knack for problemsolving. Relying on his extensive experience and strong interpersonal skills, Kevin has achieved exceptional results for his clients. Above all, he listens to his clients to understand their needs, goals, and objectives. Kevin earns their trust and confidence by employing an analytical yet pragmatic approach that is centered around accomplishing the business objectives of his clients in a responsive, efficient, and effective manner.

Danielle Solomon

Danielle Solomon

Partner

FORVIS


 

 

Stuart Sorkin

Stuart Sorkin

Investor & Operating Advisor

Sorkin Advisory


Stuart Sorkin is an investor and operating advisor in food/CPG space. He currently sits on 4 fiduciary or advisory boards. Stuart is past CEO of Affy Tapple, LLC for which he identified and led the acquisition. The once small local brand became the largest wholesale caramel apple and handmade confection company in the USA. Under Stuart’s leadership, the company grew twelvefold until he successfully exited in 2018.

Prior, Stuart was a leading business banker working with small and midsize, privately held, entities in a wide range of industries. He gained valuable experience working closely with entrepreneurs and family businesses. Stuart is a CPA and has a keen understanding of the “numbers” including product costing.

He is an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) for Future Founders (part of 1871) and a member of the SLOFIG angel investment group. He is active in Ice Hockey related charities and is a committed hockey parent.

Rob Stepen

Rob Stepen

Business Performance Advisor

Insperity


Rob Stepen, Business Performance Advisor with Insperity applies decades of experience as a business owner to work with Small to Mid-size businesses to realize their company goals by improving their efficiency, accelerating growth and driving revenue by introducing our PEO Model.

 

Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan

CEO

Vanqua Bio


Dr. Sullivan is co-founder and CEO of Vanqua. In addition, he has been a Venture Partner with Orbimed since January 2019. Previously, he was the Vice President of Research at Abbvie where he was responsible for the company’s research efforts in a variety of therapeutic/disease areas including oncology, immunology, neurology, hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis.

Jim has advanced more than 100 compounds into clinical development across a number of disease states and technology platforms. These include products on the market for HCV (Mavyret and Viekira), the first-in-class Bcl2 selective inhibitor, Venclexta, for hematological cancers, a new oral agent for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, RINVOQ, and multiple compounds currently in Phase II or III clinical trials. He has authored/co-authored more than 130 scientific publications and is an inventor on 11 patents.

Jim is an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University and serves on the board of several companies and foundations including Regis Technologies, Genomics Medicine Ireland, Genuity Science, MATTER Healthcare Incubator, Chicago Biotechnology Accelerator and the Pistoia Alliance. He earned his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin and conducted post-doctoral research in neurobiology at Northwestern University.

Sue Tinnish, PhD

Sue Tinnish, PhD

Vistage Facilitator

Vistage Worldwide


Sue Tinnish, PhD is an executive Vistage coach working with CEOs and Presidents of middle-market companies. She supports executives as they deal with their own leadership issues (delegation, time management, prioritization, decision making & mindset) as well as supporting their organization’s growth addressing issues like talent optimization, sales, finance and risk.

She is trained in Positive Intelligence and completed the Latino Leadership Institute’s Insight to Inclusive Leadership.

Previously, Sue worked and led in a variety of setting including academia, corporate banking, consulting and being an entrepreneur.

Michael Wallach

Michael Wallach

Vice President

Levy Family Partners


Michael Wallach is a Vice President of Investment for Levy Family Partners, the Family Office of Larry Levy (Founder and former CEO of Levy Restaurants). Michael oversees the family’s venture portfolio and is responsible for global deal origination, due diligence and fostering strategic relationships to maximize return potential. He assisted the family in taking Del Taco (NASDAQ: TACO) public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company and is a Board Observer to Aura Frames. Michael holds an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

Jonathan Webb

Jonathan Webb

Co-Managing Partner

National Christian Foundation


Jonathan Webb is a Co-Managing Partner at the National Christian Foundation (“NCF”) and has 30+ years of finance experience from a career in investment banking and private equity. He has extensive expertise in mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, principal investing, strategic planning, and business development.

At NCF, a leading advisor of donor advised funds, Jonathan is a member of the Mergers & Acquisitions team, which focuses on originating and structuring non-cash gift strategies for the granting of public equities and alternative assets (closely held business interest, real estate, and intellectual property). As the industry’s recognized leader in complex gifts, in 2023 NCF executed $1.2 billion in transactions.

Prior to joining NCF, Jonathan was a co-founder of Legacy Acquisition Corporation (“Legacy”), a $300 million Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) which successfully executed its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Other experience includes working at Duff & Phelps as a Managing Director in Mergers & Acquisitions, a Vice President at Lehman Brothers, and in various other roles at Oppenheimer & Company, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Oppenheimer, and Loop Capital Principal Investments.

Jonathan studied finance at Morehouse College and holds an MBA degree from Columbia Business School. He serves on boards for both non-profit and for-profit entities and enjoys a variety of hobbies and mission work.

Justin M. Weber

Justin M. Weber

Investment Officer & Corporate Development Officer

Family Office


We actualize opportunities in water, alternative, energy, and infrastructure projects nationwide by delivering programmatic value creation via organic and inorganic growth of actively managed portfolio companies.

We create value by proving the team and resources to commercialize and adopt emerging technologies, utilize alternative data, and execute atypical strategies to solve for x.

Conference Location

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