MADISON – Manuel “Manny” Villafana, the cardiac device entrepreneur who launched some of the most successful tech companies in the Twin Cities, will speak Oct. 30 at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison.

Go to to learn more about the conference and to register.

Villafana is best known for having launched two major medical device companies — St. Jude Medical and Cardiac Pacemakers, which is the predecessor of Guidant Corp. Both companies were blockbusters that have transformed the medical device industry. He is now the founding partner in Kips Bay Partners LLC, a Minneapolis-based venture capital firm.

Villafana will speak on the “Trials and Tribulations of an Entrepreneur,” bringing more than 40 years of medical device industry and product development experience to the conference stage. In addition to St. Jude Medical and Cardiac Pacemakers/Guidant, Villafana was the founder or co-founder of three other publicly traded companies, GV Medical, ATS Medical and CABG Medical. He is also co-developer of the St. Jude heart valve, and co-inventor of the first open pivot heart valve from ATS Medical.

Villafana recently received the “Living Legend in Medicine” award by the International Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons. His other awards include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, National Master Entrepreneur of the Year and a spot in the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.

His address is scheduled over lunch during the conference, which runs throughout the day Oct. 30 and during the morning of Oct. 31.

The Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium is targeted at companies preparing to compete for private equity capital at the state, regional or national level. Early-stage companies from Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest will be professionally “coached” by venture and service professionals, as well as veteran company executives with stories to tell. The symposium will also feature the return of the “Elevator Pitch Olympics,” a 2005 conference hit that allows brief investor presentations for selected companies from all technology sectors.

The symposium’s agenda will highlight an instructional track for early-stage companies from a mix of technology sectors, and will be led by Courtney Price and Mack Davis of the Denver-based Venture Quest LTD. VentureQuest helps organizations create bottom line profits by capitalizing on developing people, market opportunities and new business ventures.

The “Elevator Pitch Olympics,” open to most companies that register for the conference, will be scored by members of the investment community, who will give constructive feedback on each company’s pitch.

Companies wishing to register for the conference or to review “Frequently Asked Questions” about the conference should visit   

Registration rates and sponsorship rates are available online. Conference features include:

–A “Power of Angel Investing” seminar for accredited investors who are angel investors or who may want to become angel investors. This is part of a series produced by the Wisconsin Angel Network. The focus of this workshop will be due diligence.

–A dinner speech by Dr. Thomas “Rock” Mackie, a leading figure in the field of radiation therapy and the co-founder of TomoTherapy Inc., one of Wisconsin’s fastest-growing tech companies. He will speak at a dinner honoring SBIR award winners and the winner of the Governor’s Tech Transfer Award.

–A technology showcase that will feature developments at leading research institutions.

–A workshop on how to compete for federal SBIR and STTR grants, as well as a dinner honoring grant recipients.

–A workshop on how to be successful in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which has awarded nearly $500,000 in cash and in-kind prizes to Wisconsin companies since 2004.

–An Oct. 30 reception in the convention center’s Grand Terrace.

The Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium is co-produced by the Tech Council, the non-profit science and technology adviser to the Governor and the Legislature, and its partners.

The conference chairman is Tod Linstroth of Michael Best & Friedrich, a former chairman of the Tech Council. Steering committee members represent: Baird Venture Partners, Foley & Lardner, Grant Thornton, La Follette Godfrey Kahn, Madison Gas & Electric Co., the Marquette Golden Angels Network, the Marshfield Clinic, Mason Wells, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Quarles & Brady, Reinhart Boerner Van Duren, Smith & Gesteland, U.S. Bank, UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations, UW-Milwaukee Graduate School, Venture Investors of Wisconsin, Wipfli LLP, the Wisconsin Innovation Network, the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, the Wisconsin Small Business Innovation Consortium, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Wisconsin Investment Partners, the Wisconsin Angels Network and Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.