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Chicago Fellows

Aksh Gupta, Occasion

Aksh Gupta is the CEO of Occasion, an OpenTable-style online booking and payment engine for local merchants. Occasion, as a standalone product, grew out of a market need Aksh identified while building another company. Aksh comes from a family of three generations of entrepreneurs. Aksh launched his first business at the age of 19. Aksh has a Masters degree in Economics from DePaul University and is currently working towards a Masters in Applied Statistics. Aksh is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Amelia Chen, Simplify Chicago

Amelia Chen is the CEO and co-founder of Simplify Chicago, a luxury concierge service offering our most commonly requested services on a single platform. Prior to founding Simplify, Amelia was trading equity and commodity options with a proprietary trading shop in Chicago. Amelia has also worked at JPMorgan as a Private Wealth Management Analyst catering to the financial needs of individuals and families in the North Shore area. She also has her Series 7 and 63 license. An alumnus of Northwestern University, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics/International Relations. Amelia is passionate about helping busy professionals create more time for themselves. She is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Ariana Neuner, InHub

Ariana is the Co-Founder of InHub (, the first online platform designed for institutional investors and fiduciaries to complete the investment advisor selection process in an efficient, organized and diligent way.   Prior to starting InHub, she worked at Graystone Consulting, Morgan Stanley’s elite institutional consulting division where she worked with retirement plans, foundations and family offices in all aspects of their accounts.  Ariana holds a degree in Finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and was recently recognized by Worldwide Who’s Who for Innovation in Finance & Technology.  She has a specialty in investment consulting & fiduciary guidance, and is passionate about solving problems & inefficiencies is this space.  She is 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Aris Michalopoulos, Empeopled

Aris Michalopoulos is the founder and CEO of Empeopled, a community-based conversation platform that delivers its users a feed of better content and conversations related to their interests. Prior to empeopled, he worked at Citadel Investment group, where he was a director of crude derivatives trading. This is Aris’ third social media company, he founded a college social network,  in 2004 and a mobile social networking exchange application, Snex, in 2008. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Chicago, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2005. Aris is passionate about transforming social media into a medium of action and believes that by bringing political structure to social tools, we can help the world solve the world’s biggest problems. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Chris Campbell, Review Trackers

Chris Campbell is the Chief Tracking Officer of Review Trackers, a tool that helps multi-location businesses track online reviews. Prior to Review Trackers, he worked at Lakeshore Branding, where he lead digital strategy. Chris has has consulted with clients such as PepBoys, Nissan and Party City. He is an expert in digital marketing and operations.  Chris was awarded the entrepreneur of the year at DePaul University in 2009. He holds a degree in Communications from DePaul University. Chris is passionate about helping startup communities grow and helps run Startup Weekend events around the world as a volunteer facilitator. He is 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Elaine Russel, Heirlume

Elaine Russell is the CEO and co-founder of Heirlume (, a jewelry website that uses technology to help men find the perfect gift for the woman in their life. Prior to Heirlume, she worked at Tiny Prints, where she worked in Business Development and managed the Wedding Paper Divas brand. Elaine has also worked at Storeplacer as VP of Product and in her past life she did investment banking at JPMorgan. She  is an expert in e-commerce and online marketing. She has her MBA from Kellogg School of Management. She  is a fan of every digital start-up. Elaine is passionate about solving the problem that will allow more shoppers to be comfortable transacting online. She  is 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Jacqueline Smith, Kiesque Inc.

Jacqueline Smith is the founder and CEO of Kiesque, Inc., an award-winning beauty brand. Featured in Allure, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Self, Real Simple, Better Homes & Garden and Brides, the TODAY show and Katie Couric, Kiesque has revolutionized the beauty industry. After years of wondering why there weren’t more well-designed and functional products on the market, Jacqueline decided to build Kiesque, a company that promotes “Beauty with Brains,” as a launchpad for innovative beauty products. She used her scientific skills and love of design to create Kiesque’s first product, Liquid Palisade, a patented DIY nail product designed to create a salon-worthy manicure at a fraction of the cost. Named a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago, Jacqueline also shares her time away from the office with her three children.

Jason Goodrich, Leasabl

Jason Goodrich is the founder and CEO of Leasabl, the Airbnb for business space. He is also the founder of Shortlist, a venture-backed event platform (Excelerate Labs 2011). Prior to starting his own companies, Jason guided news operations for the Chicago Tribune. He contributed to several award-winning reports, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The common thread in Jason’s professional life has been his ability to discover and act on crucial information for huge, underserved markets. His proudest personal accomplishments mostly involve making his wife and son laugh. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Joseph Sheahan, Savvo Digital Sommerlier Solutions

Joseph Sheahan is the Co-founder and CEO of savvo digital sommelier solutions, a digital technology startup that deploys wine recommending kiosks in the aisles of grocery stores.  Prior to savvo, he was the Finance & Operations Manager at a healthcare IT startup called ViMedicus and was a Cofounder and CFO of NovoView Diagnostics, a diagnostic medical device company built around a licensed university technology.  Joe began his professional career in the hospitality industry and has held a variety of roles from wine buyer to General Manager of independent and corporate restaurants.  He has now combined his wine knowledge, operational experience and entrepreneurial drive to create this newest venture.  Joe is passionate about building solutions for real world problems.  He has a Bachelors of Science in Economics from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Kristi Klemm, Yankee Hollow

Kristi Klemm is the CEO and Founder of  Yankee Hollow, a monthly artisanal cheese and goods subscription box and marketplace. Prior to Yankee Hollow, she worked at Groupon where she was employee 40 and one of the first marketing hires, where she created the brand GrouponWorks and developed many of the SMB marketing strategies still used today for the company, and its clones all over the world. Kristi has also worked at, Yahoo! HotJobs, and has consulted for dozens of startups. Her expertise lies in the areas of operational marketing and helping traditional processes and business models evolve to meet current market needs.  Kristi's work earned the top 10 B2B Websites of 2010 by B2B Magazine. She holds a degree in English. She  is a fan of travel (not vacations), bad pop music and the Chicago culinary scene. Kristi is passionate about solving the problem of crime in Chicago using technology. She  is 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Leasa Navarro, SitterSwap

Leasa Navarro is the Co-Founder and CEO of SitterSwap, a collaborative exchange that helps parents trade babysitting duties for free with their trusted circle of friends. She is also the Co-Founder of kickSprout, a social and educational community for expecting and new parents and winner of the Red Tricycle Award for Most Awesome Groups for Moms and Dads 2012 & 2013. Prior to starting both ventures, Leasa was an Interior Designer at Looney & Associates and worked on such projects as the Empire Ballroom renovation for the Grand Hyatt NYC. She holds a degree in Humanities and Pre-Law from Michigan State University and furthered her design education with a degree from Harrington College of Design in Chicago. Leasa has found a passion for social entrepreneurship in the parenting space and loves to help others make life as a parent easier. She is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Matt Loseke, Tincan

Matthew Loseke is co-founder of Tincan, a platform that enables people to create, share, and listen to short clips of audio. Prior to Tincan, he spent over four years at Groupon where he was an original member of the Engineering department. Matthew has also worked at, Sears Holdings Corporation, and Office Of The Special Deputy Receiver. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and is a fan of The Lean Startup Methodology. Matthew is passionate about approaching solutions to meaningful communication in an ever increasing signal-ridden landscape. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Natalya Chytry, Primetime Post

Natalya Chytry is the founder and CEO of Primetime Post, a full service social media marketing agency.  Natalya understands that both creative strategies and flawless execution are required to deliver high impact social media campaigns. With strong views on the primacy of original eye catching content at the core of good social media marketing she took the bold step of launching her own agency in 2013: Primetime Post, Inc.  With a sharp attention to detail, Natalya guides a multi-disciplined team of creatives; developing a distinctive voice for your brand and utilizing a highly analytical approach in targeting your audience.  Her passion, personal touch and creative vision will infuse your brand with personality and inspire meaningful connections.  She is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Nishanth Samala, Strados

Nishanth Samala is the founder of Strados, an app that helps translate how the cryptic lingo of cars into human friendly language. Prior to Strados, Nishanth worked on advanced 3D content at Nokia/HERE Maps. He has also worked on design, prototypes, and strategy for the Tribune Media Group, IIT Institute of Design, PepsiCo Nutrition Ventures, Chicago Loop Alliance, and Precise Path Robotics. He is an expert in human-computer interaction and robotics. As of Fall 2013, he is a senior at the Illinois Institute of Technology and is completing a degree in Computer Science. Nishanth is passionate about bridging the gap between the physical and digital spaces and loves how technology can evoke strong emotions. When he’s not working, Nishanth spends his time mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, skydiving, road tripping, obsessing about cars and brainstorming crazy new ideas. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Rowida Assalimy, Ro’s Beverages LLC

Rowida Assalimy is the founder and CEO of Ro’s Beverages LLC. He received the Best New Product award at Coffee Fest Chicago 2012. He was also a finalist in University of Chicago New Venture Challenge Finalist in June 2013 & Elevate Fueled By Fairfield Finalist in July 2013. He holds bachelors degree from Kansas State University and MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Ryan Jacobs, CloudSpotter

Ryan Jacobs is the founder and CEO of CloudSpotter Technologies, a company powering next generation photo sharing solutions used by event photographers, groups and individuals. With CloudSpotter's platform, users are able to effortlessly and automatically share photos without compromising anyone's privacy preferences. Ryan has a colorful entrepreneurial background which spans different elements of the photo sharing space. Following his undergraduate studies at Emory, he launched an innovative student portal concept, founded an event photography company and developed Spiral Entertainment, a large-scale special events production company based in Atlanta. Ryan later joined online audience measurement firm ComScore in Chicago, where he reported the latest photo sharing trends to photo site clients prior to pursuing his MBA at Ross (University of Michigan). Since graduating business school, Ryan has been working with a talented team on CloudSpotter Technologies. He is passionate about solving problems using the latest technologies, and is a 2014 Fellow in the Chicago chapter of Startup Leadership Program.

Ryota Sekine, Origami Inc.

Ryota Sekine is the co-founder and COO of Origami Inc, offering personalized art products to put an end to generic gifts. Prior to launching Origami, he was a student at the University of Chicago, where he studied immunology and business, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in June 2013. Ryota is also the co-founder of a youth-led film production cultural exchange program, supported by the Clinton Global Initiative U and the U.S.-Japan TOMODACHI Initiative. Ryota is passionate about mobilizing young people to address issues in global health, education and demographic shift. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Thomas Verbiscer,

Tom Verbiscer is a product designer in search of his first entrepreneurial founding experience. He is currently a Product Architect at Ifbyphone where he is helping to create a marketing automation platform that spans all forms of media and advertising. Tom is an expert in product and software architecture and holds a Masters degree in Computer Science. He is a believer in the great power of simple ideas and that humankind is only scratching the surface of what it will someday grow to achieve. Tom is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Tim Hines, Business Traveler Social

Tim Hines is a serial entrepreneur, consultant and keynote speaker specializing in social media, mobile technology and entrepreneurship. Based in Chicago, Tim has been working in marketing, social media and the corporate travel industries for over ten years with companies such as the Tribune Company, TicketMaster and the CIA. Tim Hines is Founder and President of Business Traveler Social, where he is responsible for overall direction, strategy and marketing. Since its launch in 2010, Tim and his team have rapidly built BTSocial, creating a new social travel technology aiming to help business travelers increase productivity during downtime. In addition to BTSocial, Tim has founded other mobile startups including CurbNinja and Dibs. Tim has become a prominent connector in the Chicago entrepreneurship and technology community, where he coordinates the monthly Inspire Startups  event and is a current Fellow of the Startup Leadership Program. He also serves on the Community Advisory Board for the Future Founders Foundation helping underserved youth explore entrepreneurship. Tim obtained his degree in marketing from the University of Illinois at Chicago where he was active in the Entrepreneurship club and began development of his first start-up, ConsumerVine. He is a 2014 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Adam Kraft, GeoPollster

Adam Kraft is the co-founder and CEO of GeoPollster. GeoPollster provides real-time location-based political polling. Adam’s passion for gamification and user experience helped GeoPollster become a favorite app for political junkies on Foursquare. After its initial launch, Business Insider called GeoPollster "the most amusing app built on top of Foursquare we’ve seen yet". GeoPollster caught the attention of Canadian media giant Postmedia Network, who asked to partner up for the 2011 Canadian federal election. Adam worked directly with Postmedia’s digital media team to launch GeoPollster Canada. The successful partnership helped Postmedia win a Gold for Best Use of Social Media at the annual Canadian Online Publishing Awards. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Adi Kwatra, Colorz of Life & Hedge Fund Trader

Adi Kwatra, an engineering graduate from IIT Roorkee and University of Southern California and a candidate of the CFA Institute, uses his expertise in Investments, Computer Sciences and hardware based acceleration of computationally intensive algorithms while working as a Senior Strategy Developer at a Start-up High Frequency Algorithmic Trading Hedge Fund in Chicago. In his spare time, he co-founded the non-profit called Colorz Of Life, which believed in spreading cultural awareness by celebrating festivals from different cultures and spending quality time with the elderly at assisted living homes. He also actively volunteered as an Entrepreneurial Mentor for 3 years at BUILD which promotes entrepreneurship among youth. He is a 2012 SLP Fellow and Co-Program Leader for the founding class of SLP Chicago.

Brittany Laughlin, Gtrot

Brittany Laughlin is the co-founder of Gtrot, a social travel startup up looking to make trip planning more social. Previously she served as Marketing Manager at American Express, managing the launch plan for the Lowe’s Business Rewards Card to over 20,000 new cardmembers in the first 6 months. Brittany has won the esteemed American Express Open Innovation Award two years in a row and was nominated for the 2009 Chariman’s Award for Innovation. Brittany graduated from NYU’s Stern School of Business with a B.S. in Marketing and International Business and a minor in Film and TV from Tisch School of the Arts. Brittany is also a fanatic traveler and has visited 35 countries across all 7 continents. She was selected as a 2010 Fellow to the Startup Leadership Program in New York.

Ben Reid, Foodie Registry

Ben is the Founder & CEO of Foodie Registry (, THE wedding registry for restaurant date nights. Under Ben’s watch, Foodie Registry has expanded to 5 US cities, 140 restaurant partners, and has seen significant customer and sales growth. Prior to Foodie Registry, Ben was a successful equity options trader and educator at boutique proprietary trading firm PEAK6 Investments. Ben is an expert in startup operations, the gifting and wedding businesses, and financial derivatives. Ben holds a degree in Marketing from Michigan State University and an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Ben is an avid runner and traveler – he has run in two marathons and met his (Chicagoan) wife backpacking in Germany! Ben strongly believes empowering startup activity and entrepreneurship is the key to global economic growth and prosperity. He is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Brian Busche, BankBadger

Brian Busche is the Founder of BankBadger, an online banking application intended to help parents teach their kids about managing money in the digital age. Brian currently works at Leo Burnett, where he is a Senior Creative Technologist, leading the development of Web-based marketing projects for Fortune 500 Brands. Brian has also worked at Rendition Multimedia, a company he started in 1999 which lead to the creation of RPMworld in 2001. RPMworld Virtual Drag Racing became a profitable online game, and is one of the early examples of a virtual economy, real-time multiplayer interaction, and affiliate syndication of a Flash game. He is an expert in Adobe Flash development, and Actionscript programming. Brian was lead developer on a team which received a Webby Award in 2010, for Raytheon’s “Sum of All Thrills” interactive learning xperience. He holds a degree in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa, and became a Macromedia Certified Flash Developer in 2004. He is a fan of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Brian is passionate about bringing children and parents together through mutual online game play and educational software. His current venture aims to leverage the Internet to educate children about managing their money with the direct involvement of their parents. He is 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Brian Bauer, Kurfuffl

Mr. Bauer is the Founder & President of Kurfuffl, a social platform that tallies, tracks and organizes the formal, informal, friendly or foe-ly competitions of your daily life. Bauer has built a reputation as a valued leader for startup business ventures, using his well rounded experience in mergers and acquisitions, business process and human capital management to propel high growth businesses to reach their potential. As the Vice President of Operations and Client Services at Cellit, he acted as the internal mobile stakeholder for numerous Fortune 500 companies and nationally recognized brands. Bauer served as Vice President & General Manager of Barrington Interactive, which included the ground-up creation of a self-sufficient technology, content and sales division with a focus on hyper-local news and information. In his spare time, Bauer is an avid triathlete. Bauer received his B.S. in Business Administration from Truman State University and graduated cum laude from the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business’ Executive Program. He is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Bryon Finke, Furnishly

Bryon is the founder of Furnishly, an early-stage Chicago startup that is establishing a more efficient marketplace for second-hand furniture in urban environments. Bryon currently works as a management consultant for Accenture specializing in strategy & business development. He has most recently spent time in the firm’s Products Innovation group, working to build new businesses with sizable revenue streams internally. Additionally, he has spent time building financial models for energy and life sciences clients. Bryon enjoys following market trends and staying on top of today’s most exciting consumer technology companies. He holds a BS in Enterprise Systems Engineering from the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

Dinesh (Dino) Ganesarajah, PreScouter

Dinesh (Dino) Ganesarajah is the Founder and CEO of PreScouter. PreScouter connects corporate R&D labs to new inventions created at universities, bridging the multi-billion dollar gap in technology transfer. Ganesarajah started his career in the early days of OpenBet Technologies, building some of the most trafficked European gaming websites, such as and At the BBC, he was a Portfolio Manager, looking after the project and resource prioritization process for the BBC’s $120M new media activities. He enjoys public speaking, blogging, coding and other nerdy stuff. Ganesarajah has MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, where he was a McCormick Scholar. His undergraduate is an MEng Computing from Imperial College London, where he won the Project Prize for best final year thesis. He is 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

David Jacobson, Veridigm Inc

David Jacobson is the founder and CEO of Veridigm, Inc. Veridigm offers age verification for online businesses. He holds a communications degree from Northwestern University concentrating on film studies. He is also a partner and Executive Producer at Scrappers Film Group. SFG concentrates on feature length documentaries and commercial work for educational institutions and small businesses. David enjoys fronting a post-punk band while holding season tickets at the lyric opera. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

David Wiley, Nu Flow Midwest

David Wiley graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business with a major in Business Process Management. After graduation David worked in the consulting industry for 5 years with two small Chicago companies. The first company was Textura, an internet software company for the construction industry. There he was responsible for training, implementing and supporting five large general contractor clients in the southwest. After a few years he was ready for a new challenge and found a job with a small strategic sourcing firm called Gibson Consulting. At Gibson Consulting he was responsible for helping large organizations understand their spend data across multiple ERP systems and how to use that data to help in vendor negotiations. With his experience in implementing technology and his business background David was approached about starting Nu Flow Midwest in March of 2012. Nu Flow Midwest is the Chicago area’s exclusive installer of Nu Flow’s epoxy pipe lining technology. Nu Flow’s cured in place epoxy pipe lining is an effective procedure that restores leaking, corroded or eroded pipes without the costly expense and disruption of pipe replacement. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Dennis Ai, JiveHealth

Dennis Ai is the Founder and CEO of JiveHealth. JiveHealth aims to end the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by developing innovative games that target behavior change within children and adolescents. Although Dennis began his career in finance at Goldman Sachs & Co. within their Hedge Fund Strategies group, he found that his true passion lies in the challenge of solving big problems. As one of Illinois’ Fifty for the Future awardees in 2012, Dennis is finishing his B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Northwestern University, and he enjoys running, golf, tennis, and following the Boston Celtics. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago

Eric Zabinski, DermBids Inc.

Eric Zabinski is the founder of DermBids (, a service where people can obtain personalized quotes from doctors for cosmetic related procedures without the hassles of consultation visits. Eric currently works as a consultant at an international business insurance broker. He has extensive experience advising clients across many types of industries ranging from small businesses to multi-billion dollar international companies. He is skilled in sales, negotiating, risk management, and B2B consulting. Eric is an active volunteer with the Chicagoland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen participating on their Associate Board. In his free time Eric enjoys playing golf, practicing his cooking skills, traveling, and reading books and news articles related to business, startups, and technology. He holds a BS degree in Finance from Eastern Illinois University. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Eyal Amir, FasPark

Eyal Amir is Co-Founder, CEO of FasPark, a company producing backend software and mobile app that helps drivers find street parking in real time. Eyal is also an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His company FasPark uses machine learning and probabilistic inference on graphs to speed up drivers looking for parking in metropolitan areas. Before taking a faculty position at UIUC in 2004 he was a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University, and received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in mathematics and computer science from Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Eyal is a recipient of a number of awards for his academic research, including IEEE "10 to watch in AI" (2006) and the Arthur L. Samuel award for best Computer Science Ph.D. thesis (2001-2002) at Stanford University. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Jason Weedon, Gourmet Gorilla

Jason Weedon is the Founder & CEO of Gourmet Gorrilla. Confronting growing childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, in addition to a lack of access to healthy food in schools, Jason Weedon was inspired to start Gourmet Gorilla with his wife Danielle, to create a source for healthier, better tasting meals in schools in the Chicagoland area. At the same time, he also identified a lack of a robust local and sustainable food system to support the option of healthier meals. Gourmet Gorilla was created as a way to solve both of these issues. Jason previously spent 12 years in environmental consulting, and received his MA in geology from the University of Aberdeen, UK. He is a member of the Great Lake Food Hub Network and through his leadership at Gourmet Gorilla, was awarded a 2011 HUFED, USDA grant to bring fresh produce programs to underserved areas using schools as hubs. Jason’s work centers around helping build healthier bodies and minds in our schools, and creating innovative ways to produce healthier meals and source more sustainable ingredients from our local food system. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Jenn Yee,

Jenn Yee is the Founder of MBA Social (, an online lifestyle magazine and survival guide that provides the nation’s top MBAs with content covering popular topics such as Love & Dating, Career, Entrepreneurship, Social Life, and more. Jenn is currently a Consultant at Clareo Partners, a strategy consulting network that provides innovative growth solutions for companies ranging from startups to large corporations. Jenn has also worked with high-profile media companies such as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, National Geographic Society, Time Out, and Emphasis Media in the Asia-Pacific region. Prior to founding, Jenn led technology development and social media strategy for, an online platform that matches small- to medium-sized businesses with over 3000+ sources of public and private financing in the Chicago and San Francisco markets. Jenn enjoys vegetable gardening, watching NFL football, and the finer points of sandwich cuisine. She received her M.B.A. from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, her B.A. from Williams College, and is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

John Morgan, Motozuma

John Morgan is the founder and CEO of Motozuma, a first-of-its-kind automotive social savings platform where prospective car buyers can set up a free account, tap into rewards from automotive partners and start saving for a vehicle down payment. He has grown Motozuma to become the leader in automotive social savings. With more than 13 years’ experience in automotive sales and marketing, he was instrumental in establishing a partnership with Hyundai Motor America to provide Motozuma users with added savings, via a dollar-for-dollar matching incentive up to $500, on new car purchases. In addition to leading Motozuma, John also founded Synergy Marketing Partners in 2007. His extensive background also includes marketing positions with a professional sports team and an automotive manufacturer’s in-house agency. He has spoken at several industry events and was recently recognized by the Center for Financial Services Innovation as one of The Next Wave of Innovators. John graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Jordan Wolf, Swipedin

Jordan Wolf is currently Cofounder and CEO of Swipedin. Swipedin is a social offers platform with a suggestion-based, self-serve dashboard. Wolf started his "career" while still a Junior studying Finance at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. There, he helped plan the launch of Add the Flavor, whose patented technology for flavored plastic has helped disrupt products such as straws, dog toys, and mouth guards. In addition to his work with Add the Flavor, Wolf worked as a new product development consultant with Nielsen BASES post-college. His former team has consulted for multiple refreshing and filling products that are still in market today, and likely made it to your belly during a 4th of July cookout! Apart from long work hours and seeking new business opportunities, he can be found talking with other entrepreneurs about growth ideas for their startups, drawing, or poolside with a new book and a beer. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Kadesha Thomas, CareContent

Kadesha Thomas founded CareContent, Inc. to help health care organizations educate and engage patients online. CareContent offers a reserve of feature stories, patient quizzes, slide shows and current medical news articles that health care organizations can customize and publish on website landing pages or in e-newsletters. Kadesha has seen the insatiable need health care organizations have for web content from two perspectives: She served as an editor at the University of Chicago Medicine and later launched a freelance writing practice focused specifically on health care organizations. Her clients have included University of Chicago Medicine, Advocate Health Care, the American College of Surgeons, the American Hospital Association and the National Hemophilia Foundation. Prior to her work in health care communications, Kadesha served as a Peace Corps volunteer, managing a teen clinic in one of Nicaragua’s poorest villages. In her spare time, she enjoys salsa dancing, touchy conversations, reading non-fiction and watching the same romantic comedies over and over. Born and raised in the Chicago area, Kadesha is a member of Westlawn Gospel Chapel in Chicago’s North Lawndale community. She holds a bachelor of science in journalism from Florida A&M University and a master of public health from Tufts University School of Medicine. She is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago

Kate Janeczko, Twotara Inc.

Kate Janeczko is the Founder and CEO of Twotara, Inc. Twotara is redefining the "gender neutral" or "unisex" infant market by introducing a line of reversible baby clothing and accessories that are pink on one side, and blue on the other, finally an alternative to yellow and green! Twotara hit store shelves nationwide in November 2011, and has since garnered the attention of the Today Show, American Baby Magazine, Pregnancy and Newborn Magazine, and numerous online "mommy bloggers". Kate started her career in Broadcast Journalism, working behind-the-scenes as a Newscast Director at WMBD-TV (CBS--Peoria, IL) and KMOV-TV (CBS--St. Louis, MO). In 2004, while at KMOV, she won an Emmy for her performance commanding the production crew through a fast-paced, graphic intense, multiple live-shot car-chase, which occurred during the 6pm newscast. After a successful, but short lived, broadcast career, Kate wanted a new challenge and moved to a sales position at a start-up insurance firm. Here is where Kate learned how to sell (can you say "COLD CALL"), and still believes if you can sell insurance you can sell anything! In her free time, you will find Kate teaching indoor cycling classes at Flywheel Chicago, or exploring Chicago on the hunt for the perfect chocolate chip cookie! She is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Katie Sciortino

Katie Sciortino believes that every day is an opportunity to inspire, thank, celebrate, discover, play, gift and most importantly to love. This belief combined with her passion for crafting unique cards and experiences for friends and family led to the creation of her first startup, Luvi, still in early stage development. In addition, Katie is passionate about storytelling and is currently associate producing the documentary, Remember Me Sue, about the Sue Duncan Children’s Center on the South Side of Chicago. Previously, Katie worked as a Story Producer on the History Channel series Great Lake Warriors at Chicago-based Towers Productions. Katie has a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University and holds degrees in Public Relations and International Affairs from The University of Georgia. Katie is a lover of alliteration and avocados and enjoys journaling, traveling, running and practicing yoga. She is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Kelly Reid, Quite Speculation

Kelly Reid launched as his personal blog in May 2009 after being laid off from a failing startup. It was never meant to be anything more than a way to keep track of his favorite hobby, trading Magic: The Gathering cards. The blog grew in popularity quickly, which required him to hire more writers, an editor, and eventually a co-founder. In January 2011, officially registered as a business and began charging a monthly fee to read the articles on the site. They are growing about 50% year-over-year and are expanding into market analysis software to help other traders get the most out of their inventory.

Kelly is a contributor, covering the Chicago tech and startup scene. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Lakshmi Bhargave, Roomations

Lakshmi Bhargave is a Co-Founder of Roomations connects homeowners with crowdsourced interior designers online who virtually create 3D renderings of a room and tag products from big box retailers like Crate and Barrel, Ikea and Home Depot. Through this platform, the site makes interior design services more affordable for everyday people. Lakshmi began her career as a Graphic Artist and went on to do Marketing for both services and consumer companies like Kirkland & Ellis, Accenture and Kellogg’s. Lakshmi holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, where she focused on Marketing and Entrepreneurship. She has a passion for interior design and is always the go-to person for friends and family with their home projects. She is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Maliha Mustafa, SPARK Chicago &

Maliha Mustafa cofounded SPARK Chicago, a six-day incubation contest for startups. She served as the Chief Marketing Officer and was pivotal in creating the brand in only five months. Currently she is working on a product to help aspiring entrepreneurs improve their elevator pitches, and hopes to make entrepreneurial education more accessible to all. Prior to Chicago, Maliha lived in New York for nearly a decade as a former management consultant at Archstone Consulting and investment banker at Lehman Brothers—working in equity research and investment banking. Maliha attended high school in Aurora at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). She serves on the alumni board as an elected representative and judges in the entrepreneurial TALENT program. Maliha graduated cum laude from Barnard College, Columbia University with a BA in Political Science. She is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Marian Mangoubi, BVM MEDIA

Marian Mangoubi is a Co-Founder of BVM MEDIA, an entertainment3.0 company that creates engaging multimedia content for young adult females. Prior to BVM MEDIA, she worked in digital media at DraftFCB and MediaEdge Interactive (MECi) now part of MindShare. Before getting into digital media, Marian worked in marketing and research roles at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity under the Illinois Film Office and Illinois Bureau of Tourism. Her first job out of college was as a Licensed Stock Broker for one of the few online trading companies, TD Waterhouse (now TD Ameritrade). She is an expert in digital, mobile, and integrated marketing, and knowledgeable in film and television entertainment. Marian holds an MBA and a BA in Sociology. She loves TV especially Burn Notice, Gossip Girl, Lost, Dr. Who, and The Good Wife, looks up to Oprah, Warren Buffet, and those working on social causes, and admires such brands as Alloy Media & Marketing (and its subsidiaries), GrubHub, and Tom’s Shoes She is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Moses Hohman, Human Practice

Moses Hohman is co-founder at Human Practice, a Chicago startup that helps patients find doctors through people they trust. Prior to Human Practice, Moses was VP of Development at Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD), a cheminformatics startup in Burlingame, CA. In 2011 CDD won Bio-IT World’s Best Practices Editors’ Choice Award for its software’s role in the collaborative search for new tuberculosis therapies. Moses has also worked as Associate Director of Bioinformatics at Northwestern University’s cancer center, and as a software developer at ThoughtWorks. He completed a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and an AB magna cum laude at Harvard University. Moses is the son of a talented union organizer and leader, who spoke truth to power and complacency in the union’s upper ranks, and of a mental health nurse manager driven by the joy and purpose of hard work. He likes to think he has inherited some of their courage, work ethic and commitment. He is married to his co-founder, who is a surgeon in private practice in Chicago. They have a two-year-old son. Moses loves cooking, foreign languages and travel, near or far. He is a 2012 fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Scott Cronin, Northwestern University

Scott Cronin is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University working on next generation power plant systems utilizing highly efficient fuel cell technology. His work primarily focuses on understanding long term performance degradation in these systems such that methods can be developed to mitigate these problems. These efforts led to the development of a consulting business with his advisor for a Global Fortune 500 company. Prior to this, he worked with organic electronic materials at Northwestern University and with metals at Caterpillar Inc. He has received several internal graduate fellowships at Northwestern University and an Honorable Mention for the National Science Foundation’s graduate fellowship program. He is interested in transferring proven technology from research labs into useful devices or services that can benefit society. In his free time, he plays sports, takes voice/music lessons, and improves upon his android app. He is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Scott Mandel, Snapclass

Scott Mandel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Snapclass. Snapclass is an online learning platform giving students instant access to tutors. Classes can be taken 1 on 1 or in a large group in our state of the art classroom. Previous to Snapclass, Scott was a successful trader and professional poker player. He is an educated risk taker, excelling in situational analysis, game theory and psychology. Scott enjoys competitive sports, traveling and great wine. Scott received his undergraduate degree in Finance from Michigan State University, with Specializations in International Business and Asian Studies. He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Sinan Franklin, Blknotes

Sinan Franklin is the cofounder of Blknotes an early-stage local search startup; a web platform which curates reviews and recommendations from Black American points of view, empowering users to explore their communities from their unique perspectives. Sinan currently works as a Media Supervisor for Starcom MediaVest Group specializing in multicultural media strategy and activation. She has extensive experience across a variety of industries and clients, including Allstate Insurance, Disney Theme Parks, and Best Buy. Most recently, she was in charge of US Hispanic TV, and digital tactical planning across fifteen brands under the Procter & Gamble umbrella. She holds a B.A. in Communications. She is a fan of Public Radio, cupcakes, and remarkable UX design. She is passionate about solving web and mobile products problems for multicultural consumers. She is 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Srinath Kotte, CareFusion

Srinath (Sri) Kotte is a Research and Development Engineer with CareFusion, a global medical technology company. As part of the Engineering Development Program, Sri has worked in a variety of business units to help commercialize a wide range of products from surgical instruments to ventilation consumable sets. Prior to CareFusion, Sri worked with an international team for Carl Zeiss Meditec in Jena, Germany, gaining valuable business development and market research experience. Sri’s passion for entrepreneurship and health stems from his experience at a medical device start-up and continues today as he pursues a project to develop a novel material to be utilized in prosthetic limbs. Sri graduated with honors from the University of California, San Diego with a BS in Bioegineering. He is a 2011 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program San Diego and Co-Program Leader for the founding class of SLP Chicago.

Sue Kim, dressmeSue

Sue Kim is the Founder of dressmeSue, a fashion advice platform for people who hate to shop. Prior to dressmeSue, she created a unique freelancing service called Bgency, helping advertising agencies solve the problem of getting high quality creative and technical work done fast. Sue has also worked as a Java developer for Peapod, an online grocer founded in 1989 and acquired by Royal Ahold in 2000. Sue is an expert in passion and customer empathy. She was put on a Female Founder to Watch list by Women 2.0. Sue holds degrees in Sociology and Korea Studies. She is a fan of Lean Startup and wants to have fun making a difference. Sue is passionate about living in world where there are no more problems to solve. She is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Sujata R. Emani, Cleveland Whiskey

Sujata R. Emani is the Research Director of Cleveland Whiskey, LLC a technology-driven American whiskey and spirits company creating a disruptive innovation in the spirits industry that challenges the methodologies of traditional spirits production. Her diverse academic background includes doctoral research in biochemistry and cell biology in Roger Tsien’s lab at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), as well as Master’s work in astrobiology and optical detection technology at Carnegie Mellon University. A self-proclaimed space junkie, Sujata conducted research with NASA-JSC where she experienced the exhilaration of microgravity at 33,000 feet aboard the KC-135A “Vomit Comet”. Sujata’s dedication to community and social responsibility led her to organize the 2nd Annual Business Plan Competition at UCSD which launched her into a non-profit start-up that connects and assists socially responsible entrepreneurs and innovators. She is an advocate for women and under-represented populations in higher education, a member of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society, and was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student by UCSD-Graduate Students Association. Sujata takes an active role in local political movements and performs music and improvisational comedy with her friends. Sujata is dedicated to revitalizing her hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, through growth and stewardship of the young entrepreneurs movement. She is a 2012 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

Zach Haller, Found in Town

Zach Haller is the Founder and CEO of Found in Town (FiT), an online lost and found service that offers businesses unique lost device recovery tags that serve as a unique and meaningful promotional product. FiT's messaging system that connects businesses to users while facilitating the return of lost items is pending the approval of a utility patent. Zach was born and raised the Twin Cities suburbs, and graduated from the Honors program at the University of Wisconsin - Madison before moving to Chicago to pursue a career as a paralegal in immigration law. Inspired by the lack of a universal lost and found system on the Internet, he dove into entrepreneurship to bring FiT to full launch in January 2012. FiT has received extensive press coverage, having been featured in Fast Company, NBC Gadgetbox, Crain’s Chicago Business, TimeOut Chicago, the Game Changers Radio Show, and NBC Inc.well, among others. Zach also teaches fitness classes at the Chicago Athletic Clubs. He enjoys music (electronic and singer/songwriter), politics (news junkie), and travel (the further away, the better). He is a 2013 Fellow in the Startup Leadership Program in Chicago.

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  • June 1 - July 15: Admissions Round 1
  • July 31 - Round 1 Decisions
  • July 16 - August 1: Admissions Round 2
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