We look forward to sharing an insider look of the Tech Council corporate and individual membership base.
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.
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.