The Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship offers a weekly Distinguished Entrepreneurs Lunch program where local experts on entrepreneurship tell their unique stories and share their expertise and knowledge. This casual, fun and informal environment provides an opportunity to get advice and ask questions. Beginning in mid-March, the sessions will take place over WebEx.
Spring 2020 Featured Entrepreneurs:
Wednesday, January 29: Tom Walzer, Saco Foods
Tom Walzer is CEO of Saco Foods with a unique background as both a senior executive of a publicly-traded company and a successful entrepreneur, serving as owner-operator of multiple private companies. Tom worked at Rayovac for over 17 years and then transitioned to pursue his entrepreneurial passion by purchasing Ancora Coffee Roasters and then Saco Foods which just completed an acquisition with California Sun Dried Tomatoes. Tom graduated from UW–Madison with an MBA degree in accounting and finance.
Wednesday, February 5: Doug Barton, UBIX AI
Doug Barton is President and Chief Customer Office of UBIX.AI, a cloud-based, open-source data science platform that helps users of all skill levels develop and deploy big, fast data architecture and AI pipelines. Previously Doug served as Director of IBM Watson and held senior leadership positions at Closedloop, Hyperion, and PriceWaterhouse to name a few. Doug graduated from UW–Madison with a BBA degree in accounting.
Wednesday, February 12: Jennifer Lane and Priyanka Verma Jahr, Laquerus
Jennifer Lane and Priyanka Verma Jahr are Managing Partners and Co-Founders of Laquerus. They graduated in May 2017 with their MBA degree from UW–Madison’s Center for Brand and Product Management. In two of their entrepreneurship classes, they pursued a business idea for a modern nail salon that caters specifically to college students and young professionals. After graduating, Jen and Priyanka raised a friends and family round of funding to help bring their class project to life. In 2018, Laquerus opened its doors as Madison’s only waterless and non-toxic nail studio. Their company was created to make getting your nails done a more enjoyable experience. Their services are designed to prioritize the health of their clients and team members.
Wednesday, February 19: Greg Baker, Bascom Ventures
Greg Baker is Founder and Managing Partner of Bascom Ventures, a UW alumni venture fund investing in UW–Madison alumni-led companies. The fund was created to enable UW–Madison alums to invest in companies with a connection to the school and simultaneously support the campus entrepreneurial ecosystem and the next generation of Badger entrepreneurs. Greg is a highly accomplished executive with experience in corporate leadership, business development, startups, M&A, strategic planning, and more. He has spent much of his career growing business in the electrical products, packaging, and chemical industries. Throughout, he has been buying, selling, and combining companies to fit strategic goals. Greg has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from UW–Madison and an MBA from Duke University.
Wednesday, February 26: Tobias Zutz, Gregor Diagnostics
Tobias Zutz is CEO and Founder of Gregor Diagnostics, a venture-backed molecular diagnostics company that is developing a new screening test for prostate cancer. He was an early member of the research and development team at Exact Sciences that developed Cologuard, a non-invasive screening test for colorectal cancer. Tobias also worked at two other small Madison-area biotech companies. He graduated from UW–Madison with a BS in Biochemistry & Genetics and an MS in Biotechnology.
Wednesday, March 4: Amy Jo Pedone, Valenza Chocolatier
Amy Jo Pedone is a Master Chocolatier of Valenza Chocolatier. Amy Jo’s sole focus during her twenties and early thirties was climbing the corporate ladder of Fortune 50 companies. With drive, a strong work ethic, long hours, and over one million airline miles traveled, she was at the top of her game in the commercial real estate finance-lending world until a life changing event lead her to her true passion. She completed the Professional Chocolatier Certification, an internship through Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts, and earned an Ecole Chocolat Master Chocolatier Certification. Amy Jo graduated from UW–Madison with a BBA degree in finance.
Wednesday, March 25: Founder of Independent & Co. and Mike Forbes, CEO of Alter Eco
Come join us to meet Megan Gardner and Mike Forbes. Megan is a sought-after CEO adviser and board member for fast-growing technology businesses. A seasoned dealmaker, she is dedicated to helping CEOs navigate the challenges of rapid growth. Prior to Alter Eco, Mike worked at California Olive Ranch and held marketing roles at General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Fortune Brands and was a consultant at McKinsey & Company. Megan holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and a BA from Smith College. Mike holds a MBA degree from Harvard Business School and a BBA degree in marketing with honors from UW–Madison.
Wednesday, April 1: Jason Franklin, WV Ventures
Jason Franklin, Ph.D., is the Founding Managing Director of WV Ventures, a $100M VC joint venture between Foxconn, Advocate Aurora Health, Johnson Controls, and Northwestern Mutual. Dr. Franklin is an award-winning computer scientist and holds the 2012 Allen Newell Award (named after one of Artificial Intelligence’s founding father), a highly-cited researcher, co-inventor of FAWN (flash-storage array technology), and deep tech entrepreneur turned venture capitalist. He invests in companies building the future of enterprise technology. He previously worked as a visiting lecturer at Stanford University and co-founded and served as CEO of a mobile security startup, Stamp Labs. Jason graduated with top honors from UW–Madison with a double major in computer science and mathematics and a certificate in business. He received a Ph.D. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.
Wednesday, April 8: Kevin Hykes, Relievant Medsystems
Kevin Hykes is the Operating Partner at Versant Ventures and CEO of Metavention, a clinical-stage medical device company focused on the development of interventional therapies for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Kevin was previously President/CEO of Cameron Health, developer of the first and only subcutaneous implantable defibrillator until acquired by Boston Scientific. He spent sixteen years at Medtronic where he held leadership positions in the CRM, Neurological, Heart Valve, and Cardiac Surgery businesses in the US and Europe Kevin received his MBA from Northwestern and his BBA from UW–Madison.
Wednesday, April 15: Robert Phillips, TIBCO Software
Robert Phillips, CFA, is the Global Director of Machine Learning & Data Science at TIBCO Software where he works with Fortune 100 business and IT executives to help transform their companies using data and analytics. Prior to joining TIBCO, Robert was Vice President, Head of Financial Services at Alpine Data (a predictive analytics startup), where he built and grew the New York City office. In 2013, Robert taught himself to code in Python and immersed himself in a data science program to pivot his career away from finance on Wall Street to focus on tech in Silicon Valley. Robert earned his BBA degree from UW–Madison with a double major in finance and economics.