Ron Bote, Director at Wipfli

In addition to your tax specialty practice, you’re passionate about startups in Wisconsin. Tell us more.

I have so much appreciation for the energy and the enthusiasm to build a startup from the ground up.  It’s not easy and often more than not, it will not succeed.  However, that doesn’t stop them from doing it again.  Startups share my energy for unique experience, working with new relationships and hard work.

Wisconsin’s midwestern values and culture allows for startups to thrive. There is a sense of community across the state with a support system that genuinely wants to share knowledge and experiences. There are great ideas and entrepreneurs growing in Wisconsin. Every year, we see increasing interests from outside Wisconsin investors. In the next 3-5 years, I believe there will be great opportunities for the current group of early stage startups that will fuel a boom for emerging tech startups in Wisconsin. 

You’ve been in the tax industry for more than 30 years. What is special about working for Wipfli?

My career has provided me the opportunity to work for large multinational public accounting firms and private industry.  A few years ago, I wanted to pivot and work with smaller organizations that were part of the community.  Wipfli, as a Wisconsin company, grew from the Midwest roots with a mindset to be part of the community. That mindset lured me to join them. I’ve watched the firm grow from a regional to a national firm with experienced talent from people who had similar interests and transition as I did. With all the virtual meetings last year, I was able to connect to my colleagues all over the country that I know would not have been as accelerated if it had not been for the joint effort to defeat COVID.

What are you passionate about in your life away from work?

I’m passionate about many things so it’s hard for me to count them all. However, I’m all about new experiences. I guess that’s why I enjoy working with startups. Since moving to Madison about 15 years ago, I’ve really taken advantage of Wisconsin’s outdoor activities. Initially, it was linked to my need to compete so I ran and biked a lot. I’ve now transitioned to appreciating nature thru hiking and golfing. I try to take it all in especially with these times. I’m a foodie at heart, so there’s usually cheese, wine or a good microbrew involved with it. 

We encourage you to connect with Ron Bote on LinkedIn.

Kathy Collins, Vice President Economic Development at Madison Region Economic Partnership

Describe your mission and goals with your new role at Madison Region Economic Partnership.

As vice president of economic development, (big title, big job!) I will lead attraction efforts or “selling” the Madison Region to potential employers. That includes everything from making sure we’re putting out best foot forward on the national stage to helping companies find the right property/community to locate here. I’ll specifically be focused on growing our key industries: Advanced Manufacturing, Agriculture, Food & Beverage, Healthcare, Information Communications Technology and Bioscience.

Additionally, the future of economic development is in regionalism and that is what I want to continue to foster here in our Madison Region. As our larger urban centers garner more national press, I want to make sure we’re leveraging that to benefit communities all throughout our eight-county region. From a quality of life standpoint, we’re in the unique position to be able to offer a state Capitol, Big 10 research university system, picturesque farm life and beautiful suburban and small-town neighborhoods within the same few-hour radius.

Tell us more about your professional development journey, as you were most recently at UW-Madison Office of Business Engagement.

I have had the incredible opportunity to work from many different sides of the table-In private sector banking, government technology economic development and entrepreneurship, biotech advocacy- business development, and with the amazing UW-Madison university-industry engagement team developing talent pipelines, research relationships and professional development opportunities with businesses throughout the world.  This journey has developed relationships in both rural and urban markets that can be leveraged in my role with MadREP. I highly recommend the UW Center for Professional Development Executive Education as a way to grow in self direction and real world business challenges.

What are you passionate about in your life away from work?

Post-COVID: Family, friends, faith in the future!

Greg Robinson, Managing Director at 4490 Ventures

What kind of evolution have you seen at 4490 Ventures in your 7 years?

From the beginning, the strategy for 4490 Ventures has been to invest in high potential, early-stage tech companies, typically as they are rasing their first institutional round of financing. Our approach is to build a high conviction/high concentration portfolio, which means we invest in a smaller number of companies, investing more time and more money in fewer companies, hopefully resulting in a couple of companies becoming very large and successful. Our belief is that a couple very large winners will more dramatically impact the Wisconsin tech ecosystem than if we tried to spread our time and money around to a greater number of companies.

You’re on the Board of Directors for a number of Wisconsin startups. How does that enhance your perspective as an investor?

Being on the board of Wisconsin startups provides the opportunity to clearly see what it takes to build a highly scaleable business in the state. Wisconsin has lots of talented and ambitious people undertaking impressive projects, but the key to success is coupling those people with others who have been a part of the rapid scaling of successful tech companies in the past. We work very hard to support our local founders, to help them grow as leaders, but we also help them build out a world class team capable of executing against the founders original vision.

What are you passionate about in your life away from work?

When I am not working, there is no place I would rather be than skiing. I have skied all my life and all over the world. It affords my the opportunity to go to some of the most beautiful places on earth, spend extended time with friends and family and to physically challenge myself. When it’s storming and the snow is really coming down, many people will head for shelter, this is when conditions are at their best and great memories are there for the taking.

 

 

Tim Keane, founder and director of Golden Angels Investors

You’ve been in the investing and entrepreneurial ecosystem for about 20 years. What has been your biggest takeaway?

The passion, dedication, smarts and leadership qualities of the team are of paramount importance.  With them, the team has an excellent chance of success and the investors fortunate enough to be along for the ride will also do well.

You’re a mentor to many entrepreneurs. What is the biggest piece of advice that you have for newer startups?

Build a great business.  Everything else comes second.  That includes creating and leading a dedicated team, exceeding customers needs, and providing excellent value.  Everything else will follow along. 

What are you passionate about in your life away from work?

My family, of course.  We have three children and seven grandchildren, all here in the Milwaukee area.  After that, I have a photography passion, (timkeanephotography.com) and play a variety of Celtic wind instruments. And a little, bad golf.

Gretchen Jameson, Chief Learning Officer, Kacmarcik Enterprises

You were most recently a senior vice president at Concordia University. What goals do you have in your new role at Kacmarcik? 

Most of us are keenly aware of our workforce challenges here in Wisconsin. As such, the work I will contribute at Kacmarcik Enterprises will elevate opportunities for the employees within our family of companies to develop their skills and talents. We are also keenly aware of the need to develop the whole person, we might say hands, heart, and head. When we help people explore their curiosity, learn new things, pursue their interests — we move them from potential to possible. We believe employers need to lean into the opportunity we have to uniquely support our talent so that they flourish; yes, at work because that’s just good business, but also at home and in their families, neighborhoods, and communities, because that is good for all of us. This is why we will place learning and human performance at the center of our corporate profile. But, we aren’t limiting our efforts only to what is good for Kacmarcik Enterprises. Our vision is to extend access to the learning we develop to members of the community who desire greater opportunities. That’s pretty animating for me and was a big part of what led me to join Jim Kacamrcik’s team. He’s extraordinarily serious about creating maximum and meaningful impact for 1 million people each and every year. That’s a big goal. I love achieving big goals.

Tell us more about your professional development journey.

You know, the other evening I was reflecting on this with my spouse. A person might look over my LinkedIn profile and note a pretty unconventional career path from classroom educator to Chief Learning Officer, with stops along the way as a national advocate for teens, a corporate communications director, an entrepreneur, a higher education strategist. What’s the through-line? I’m a teacher. My passion is to effectuate the formation of people and places toward their fullest potentials and brightest futures. The space from here to there for any one of us is only limited if we stop learning, believing, and doing. My professional development journey, through various roles and as a lifelong learner, is animated by my vocational vision: to help people discover, achieve, and advocate their distinctive, diverse aspirations. I love this work.

What are you passionate about in your life away from work? 

At this stage and in this season, my family is probably my leading passion. My girls are 8 and 13, so that keeps me hopping as a Girl Scout troop leader, Milwaukee Ballet mom, after school tutor — and I have a terrific spouse who leans in equally, which makes all the difference.

Beyond that — whether as a volunteer, church member, volunteer, or as a member in TEMPO Milwaukee — my passion point is focused on how to partner with people to create a better community and that starts within each of us. We are in an extraordinary moment, culturally and socially, and it’s critical that leaders engage: how can we best honor the dignity of our neighbor? And who do we see as neighbors? The friendships we seek, how we listen deeply and radically, the cultural experiences we pursue — all of these are opportunities to engage the moment. I am passionate about interrupting what is comfortable for me — for my kids, for our family, for the networks and contexts I am privileged to influence — in an effort to be part of building what can be for our community and our city.


Reach to Gretchen on LInkedIn to connect with her and learn more!

Wade Hanna, VP of Treasury Management at First Business Bank

What is your secret sauce to developing strategic partnerships in the ecosystem?

I wish I was smart enough to come up with a secret sauce for anything!  To me, it’s just being active in the ecosystem.  We like to call it “playing in traffic”.  When we first got involved with the Wisconsin Tech Council I remember having a meeting with Tom [Still].  We didn’t want to just send in our membership dues and get a free lunch once in a while.  We asked how we could be more directly involved.  That led to opportunities to be involved with some of the conferences and really getting to know many of the people and companies in the ecosystem.  First Business Bank is very entrepreneurial itself, so it’s a natural fit for us to work with so many of these kinds of companies and partners. 

You’ve been at First Business Bank for more than 20 years; how has Wisconsin’s tech ecosystem changed over time?

It has definitely grown, for one thing. I would say there has also been shifting over time of what is the “hot industry” or area of focus.  When I first started, Madison was definitely a biotech town.  Then some things happened in pharma and mobile apps came along which I think really drove the “med tech” push.  Investors, for one, really liked the opportunity for a faster exit.  Now I’d say it’s more balanced and diverse across many sectors.

What are you passionate about in your life away from banking?

I’ve become passionate about running and exercise in general.  For most of my life I thought you only ran after a ball or if something was chasing you.  Seeing loved ones not being able to enjoy life because of health problems was motivation for me.  Over the past few years I’ve gone from barely being able to run around the block to completing three marathons and several other races.  Competing in races changed running in my mind from a chore to something I really enjoy.

Please connect with Wade Hanna on LinkedIn.

Dana Guthrie, managing partner at Gateway Capital Partners

What macro goals do you have in your investing role?

My main goals are to achieve above national average returns for my investors and do so while positively impacting the entrepreneurial communities that we target. We, at Gateway, intend to do well and do good – by identifying emerging entrepreneurial geographies that lack venture capital and being the first institutional dollar into young startups in those areas. In Wisconsin, the largest of which is Milwaukee County.

How did you go from engineer to angel investor to venture investor?

I worked at a Fortune 500 company in various roles associated with product development. The most recent being a Product Manager for a multi-million dollar, global software offering. A few years ago, I founded an angel network called Alchemy Angel Investors with the hypothesis that if I ensured that my investors were from diverse backgrounds both professionally and personally, we would see unique deal flow and we did. I think that time helped me to establish trust and rapport with investors. Ultimately, I had an opportunity to connect with Dan Voell and the Badger Fund to launch Gateway Capital and fortunately some of the same investors that supported Alchemy also are supporting me in Gateway Capital as well.

What are you passionate about in your life away from work?

Outside of work, I’d consider myself a “sports girl”. I’m a former collegiate athlete, but forever competitor. So, I’m always looking for new ways to push myself. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of cycling when the weather is nice enough to do so.

I’m also very passionate about seeing more young girls and minorities involved in STEM.


Connect with Dana on LinkedIn!

Jessica Silvaggi, Ph.D., Director of Technology Commercialization, UWM Research Foundation

What goals do you have in your role at UWMRF this year?

This year we began the first round of our new Bridge Grant, a gap fund to help our start-ups. The grants will help the companies reach key milestones for their business. We were awarded a $200K capital catalyst from WEDC, but we need to match it 1:1. We are half way there, so my goal is to raise the remaining $100K from donors by June 2021 so we can continue the program for phase 2. We are also creating a quick license template to make start-up negotiation easier and faster for UWM faculty and students.

You’re growing a group of executive mentors at UWM. How will that program help startups and entrepreneurs?

I started the UWM ENGAGE mentor program in early 2020 to help any UWM related start-up, whether alums or current faculty/students. I pair an innovator with 2-3 mentors that have expertise in areas that fit with what the innovator currently needs, whether guidance, networking, or feedback. We have so many entrepreneurial teams, but often they lack the experience. This program will build stronger teams that will be better able to attract investment to succeed. I hope more will take advantage of this opportunity, both innovators and mentors.

What are you passionate about in your life away from UWMRF?

I am a fitness and biohacker nerd. With my background in molecular and cell biology, I love to learn the latest on improving mind and body for the best “health” span and longevity. I am addicted to health-based books and podcasts, and as a hobby I am a health and fitness coach. Another favorite is quality hang out time with my family and friends. I am passionate about a positive mindset and try to be grateful for every moment big or small, whether it is a family movie night, an exciting trip, a gorgeous summer day, or delicious food.

Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn!

Paul Radspinner, president and CEO at FluGen

What prompted you to start FluGen in 2007?

Two things- one aspirational and one personal.  First, I had been lucky enough to work with great scientists at WARF over the years I was there and knew that there were many technologies that could make a big difference in people’s lives.  With that in mind I met with Drs. Yoshi Kawaoka and Gabi Neumann and we agreed to start a company.  The goal was to make a better flu vaccine and save lives and we feel like we are well along that path.  The personal goal was to create something from scratch that would make me excited to get up every morning.  While at times the ride has been a little harrowing, I can honestly say I have met that personal goal.

FluGen has been active in developing new approaches to vaccine. What are your hopes for public acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines?

My hope is that these amazing vaccines that have been made, studies and delivered in months rather than years will be readily available and accepted by people all over the world.  I know it can be disconcerting when you are bombarded by information- both good and bad- about these vaccines.  It is especially hard for everyday people who do not work with vaccines or pharmaceuticals.  But we have been here before.  In the 18th century people were vaccinated against smallpox and 2-3% died.  Imagine that!  Clearly, we are not facing that kind of risk with these vaccines.  I hope that everyone who has questions or doubts will turn to their physicians and not to the internet for advice.  This is a great opportunity to focus on “we” not “me”.

What keeps you busy and fulfilled outside of work?

Since the pandemic started, the anticipation of that long commute down to my basement office and the Zoom meetings that await me every day keep me thoroughly stimulated!  I am enjoying my first grandchild, Luka, more than I ever thought I could.  My wife Kimm and I live on Lake Wisconsin and are avid cyclists.  Most recently we are trying to figure out how this new smart bike we just bought can save us from a lifetime of pandemic-induced-obesity.  In my own time I like to get away from work by reading history and novels.  Most recently I am halfway through the Ian Toll trilogy on the Pacific War.  It is very well written and tells a great story rather than recounting battles step by step.  I recommend it highly to all.

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Paul Radspinner is a member of the Tech Council and can be reached LinkedIn.

Mark Ehrmann, partner at Quarles & Brady

Describe your specialty practice within Quarles and Brady. What are your “sweet spots” as a business attorney?

As a business attorney, I work as outside counsel to clients in a variety of industries.  I specialize in transactional work, such as mergers and acquisitions and angel and venture capital financings.  I also work in the emerging company space where I work with startups and their founders and investors and research institutions who are spinning out technologies.  What I like about my job, is that I am able to work with creative, intelligent and motivated people and help them grow their businesses and that I have different matters to work on every day.

You’ve practiced throughout the Q&B network of offices, including Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and beyond. What’s your take on the state of the tech economy in the Upper Midwest?

I believe the tech economy in the Midwest is similar to other parts of the country.  Companies that are well positioned because of their products or industries are getting funded, but it would be nice to see more successful exits.  One positive I have seen from the move to virtual events is that investors from other parts of the country can attend presentations and pitch events easily and they would likely not have attended similar events in person.  What is difficult with virtual events is people miss the personal connection which often closes the deal.

What keeps you busy and fulfilled outside of work?

I am an avid sports fan, specifically college sports and especially Badger sports.  I spend most of my free time watching, reading about or attending sports events.  COVID has been difficult, because I have not been able to attend Wisconsin football or basketball games in person.  I also enjoy traveling with my wife Tammy and two daughters, who both now live in other cities and often schedule trips around Badger sporting events.  I am looking forward to resuming my trips and watching sports in person.

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Mark Ehrmann is a long-standing board member for the Tech Council and can be reached on LinkedIn and via Quarles & Brady.