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

The conference, which continues Thursday, Nov. 8 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 and register at

Here are topics to be covered Wednesday, Nov. 7:

“I think I need money: Now what?” This panel will help young companies explore the various financing options available to them, from angel and venture capital to venture debt to loans, grants and bootstrapping strategies. Moderated by Katie Schmitz, Ziegler, with panelists: Craig Schedler, Northwestern Mutual Future Ventures; Abby Taubner, gener8tor; Lorrie Heinemann, Madison Development Corp; and Ankit Agarwal, Imbed Biosciences.

“Startup leadership: Building an ideal executive team from idea through exit.” Having the right team in place is essential to young companies as they grow and evolve. Moderated by Andrea Dlugos, Wisconsin Investment Partners with panelists: Mark Gehring, HealthMyne; Carmine Durham, Zurex Pharma; Fred Robertson, Baird Capital; and Beth Donley, Stemina.

“How to get on the Inc. 5000 ‘fastest growing’ list (other than just growing).” Hear from four Wisconsin companies that cracked the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies, including the No. 1 company. Moderated by Mark Bakken, HealthX Ventures, with panelists: Jason Swanson, SwanLeap; Jason Potter, Farwell; Renee Bemis, Driftless Glen Distillery; and Joseph Taylor, Penrod.

“Financial returns for investors: What ‘treps should know.” Hear some of the basics of raising capital from investors. How your idea is presented counts – especially if you anticipate some oft-asked questions from those who may risk money on your company. Moderated by: Michael Thorson, Inventure Capital, with panelists: Scott Button, Venture Investors; Kelly Fitzsimmons, Custom Reality Services; Tim Keane, Golden Angels Investors; and Taha Jangda, HealthX Ventures.

“Taking the plunge: Executing a successful equity round.” How much money 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 money. Moderated by: Nic Herdrich, Michael Best, with panelists: Jackie DiMonte, Hyde Park Ventures; Greg Baker, Bascom Ventures; and Mark Reinstra, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

“Building tomorrow’s comp sci workforce: Can it be done in Wisconsin?” The need for talent in fields such as data science, coding, artificial intelligence and more is growing. Can Wisconsin fill that gap through computer science educational programs at all levels? Moderated by Steve Lyons, SJL Government Affairs & Communications, with panelists: Sean Roberts,; Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau, UW-Madison; and Susan Koehn, M7 Talent Initiatives.

The conference will also feature:

  • About 40 company presentations and the “Investor Intros” speed-dating segment.
  • Keynote speakers Kelly Fitzsimmons, Custom Reality Services, and Aaron Kennedy, founder of Noodles & Company.
  • A conversation with Terry Sivesind, the winner of the “Excellence in Entrepreneurial Education” award.
  • “Office Hours,” offering the opportunity to meet with subject experts on a variety of topics in small discussion groups or one-on-one.
  • A Nov. 7 evening conference reception, two luncheons, two breakfasts and other networking opportunities, including an investors-only dinner.

The Tech Council produces the conference. Check out our sponsors and register at