Some of the most active entrepreneurs, investors and service experts from Wisconsin and beyond will take part in informative panel discussions during the first day of the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison.

The in-person conference, which continues Thursday, Nov. 9 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, will also feature speakers, workshops, company pitches and an “Investor Intros” segment to connect emerging companies with angel and venture capitalists.

Learn more, check out our sponsors and register at Here are topics to be covered Wednesday, Nov. 8:

The financial returns investors need: What that means for entrepreneurs
Investors evaluate your company based on the potential return you may provide in the context of their entire investment portfolio. In today’s volatile investing environment, learn how you can persuade them to invest in you, based on factors such as investment stage, investor types and fund objectives. Experienced panelists with backgrounds in angel, seed and venture funds will discuss how they view return potential; opportunities in the context of an overall portfolio; today’s macro economy; and how your valuations and key metrics affect their investment decisions.

Moderated by Mike Thorson, Inventure Capital, with panelists Dana Guthrie, Gateway Capital Partners; Laurence Hayward, ATOMS VC; and Tim Keane, Golden Angels Investors

Coming to terms with your term sheet: Lower valuations, down rounds and more harsh realities
It can be tougher to raise money in today’s uncertain economy, especially if investors believe your company is over-valued. What’s in the fine print for term sheets these days, and what do tougher terms tell you about who’s going to be in control if and when a downturn comes?

Moderated by Eric Lauria-Banta, Foley & Lardner, with panelists Jonathon Horne, Idea Fund of La Crosse; Kurt Roots, Bend Health; and Victoria Thayer, Novii CPA

Reverse pitch: A founder asks investors what went right – and wrong
Investors sometimes turn down a deal on first inspection but rethink their decision if new information surfaces or they see the potential of co-investing with others. Join entrepreneur Kevin Barnett of Pyran, Leon Ostrowski of Wisconsin River Business Angels and Brad Bodden of Wisconsin investment Partners for a case study that led to funding for Pyran.

Moderated by Kevin Barnett, Pyran, with panelists Brad Bodden, Wisconsin Investment Partners and Leon Ostrowski, Wisconsin River Business Angels

How we funded our companies: Entrepreneurs describe what works for them
What funding path works best for you? How much capital do you need? How much equity are you willing to give up? Those are among questions entrepreneurs should ask themselves as they consider where and how they find sources of capital. We will hear how some young companies pulled it off … their own way.

Moderated by Nick Myers, RedFox AI, with panelists Mark Gehring, ImageMoverMD; Rachel Neill, Carex Consulting Group; and Brian Wiegand

What kind of deals are getting funded (and what is not) in 2023?
Many observers predicted COVID-19 would devastate the early stage market. It was the opposite, with Wisconsin charting two record years for early stage deal values. What deals are getting funded, however, in a year dominated by inflation, interest rate hikes, war and supply-chain troubles? We will examine where investors are putting their money as 2023 moves on.

Moderated by Katie Schmitz, Ziegler Link-Age Funds, with panelists Maggie Brickerman, gener8tor; John Neis, Venture Investors; and Greg Williamson, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Wisconsin’s best shot at federal tech dollars: How to engage
Federal legislation has set in motion a series of “use-inspired” research efforts in various sectors that could drive more innovation and job creation in industry. Join our panel to learn how you might engage with any one of three multi-state projects that are competing for dollars in areas as diverse as water and energy, personalized medicine and bio-health technology, and quantum computing.

Moderated by Kevin Little, Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, with panelists Dean Amhaus, The Water Council; Gloria Marí Beffa, UW-Madison Dept. of Mathematics; Aaron Olver, University Research Park and chair of Biohealth Tech Hub coalition; and Adhira Sunkara, WiSys.

The conference will feature many opportunities for young companies to learn:

  • About 40 company presentations in two different segments and the “Investor Intros” speed-dating segment.
  • Keynote speakers and targeted panel discussions featuring leading entrepreneurs, investors and others tied to the tech sector making an impact nationwide.
  • The 10th annual Triple E award presentation from Susie and Matt Younkle.
  • Exhibit hall showcasing more than 30 innovative Wisconsin companies.
  • A Nov. 8 conference reception, two luncheons, two breakfasts and other networking opportunities, including an investors-only dinner.