Cory Nettles, whose work in the private and public sectors has helped build a robust foundation for Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial community, will receive the Ken Hendricks Memorial “Seize the Day” award June 2 during a luncheon at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.

The conference, to be held at the Italian Community Center, returns in-person to the Cream City to celebrate the region’s rise as a startup and scale-up hub. Registration is open at

Nettles is founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital Inc., a private equity fund focused on buyouts and providing growth capital to small businesses and lower-middle market companies in the Upper Midwest. He also served as secretary of the former Wisconsin Department of Commerce, now the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., in the early 2000s, during which time he was an architect of the state’s early stage tax-credit law – the Qualified New Business Venture program.

That program remains in place today and has been successfully adapted over 17 years to changing conditions in Wisconsin’s early stage economy, with bipartisan support from successive governors and Legislatures. Nettles was recently co-chair of the Wisconsin Growth Capital Coalition and serves on a range of business and civic boards and committees, mainly in the Milwaukee region.

The award, which celebrates entrepreneurial leaders who have been crucial to Wisconsin’s economic growth, is named in honor of the late Ken Hendricks, a Beloit businessman and 2006 “Seize the Day” award winner who died in an accident in late 2007.

The Tech Council produces the June 1-2 Entrepreneurs’ Conference and administers the award, which has gone to entrepreneurs who have shown persistence in building their companies.

Past winners include Don Weber of Logistics Health Inc. (2004); Bob Cervenka of Phillips Plastics (2005); Ken Hendricks of ABC Supply (2006); Jan Eddy of Wingra Technologies (2007); Michael Cudahy of Marquette Medical Systems (2008); Toni Sikes of The Guild and (2009); Bill Linton of Promega (2010); Bob Hillis of Direct Supply (2011); Kay Koplovitz of USA Network (2012); Fred Foster of Electronic Theatre Controls (2013); Craig and Lea Culver of Culver Franchising System Inc. (2014); Jim Berbee of Berbee Information Networks Corp. (2015); Mark Gehring of HealthMyne (2016); Zach Halmstad of Jamf (2017); Dude and Kerry Frank of Comply365 (2018); Sue Marks of Cielo (2019); Kevin Conroy of Exact Sciences (2020) and Don Zietlow of Kwik Trip (2021).

Putting early stage pieces together is the theme of the 20th annual conference, where entrepreneurs from around the state will showcase their innovations, services and technologies. Up to nine panel tracks formed under three unique stages of “launch,” “grow” and “succeed” will appeal to entrepreneurs in all stages. Detailed panel information will be posted soon at

Produced by the Tech Council, the Entrepreneurs’ Conference is among the largest events for entrepreneurs and early stage investors in the Upper Midwest. Other highlights will include:

  • Diligent (Baker’s) Dozen: Top 13 finalists from the Governor’s Business Plan Contest square off on the afternoon of June 1st
  • Greg Piefer, CEO of SHINE Technologies, keynote presentation on the morning of June 2nd, sponsored by Wisconsin Investment Partners
  • Governor’s Business Plan Contest awards ceremony on June 2nd
  • Innovation Showcase featuring exhibits from Wisconsin companies
  • A presentation by the winner of the Wisconsin YES! youth business plan contest, and;
  • Plenty of chances to network with seasoned entrepreneurs and investors over food and refreshments, including a June 1st reception.

Sponsors so far are: Aberdean Consulting, Affiliated Engineers, American Family Insurance, AT&T, Baird Capital, Baker Tilly, BDO, Center for Technology Commercialization, City of Fitchburg, DeWitt, Findorff, First Business Bank, Godfrey & Kahn, Greater Green Bay Chamber, Health Tradition, HealthX Ventures, Husch Blackwell, J.P. Morgan, Madison College, Madison Development Corp., Madison Gas & Electric, Makin’ HEY!, Marquette University, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Medical College of Wisconsin, Michael Best, Mobile22, N29 Capital Partners, Neider & Boucher, Ogden Glazer + Schaefer, PDS, Perkins Coie, Quarles & Brady, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, Ruder Ware, Uber, University Research Park, UWM Research Foundation, UW-Madison Innovate Network, UW-Madison Office of Business Engagement, UW-Madison Office of University Relations, Venture Investors, Versiti, WIPFLi, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Wisconsin Dept. of Financial Institutions, Wisconsin Technical College System and Zendesk.

To become a sponsor, contact Angela Schlobohm at For more information, visit or call 608-442-7557.