2021 speaker profiles

Fireside Chat Keynote speakers:

John Byrnes

John Byrnes​ is a lawyer and private equity investor who earned a highly respected reputation in commercial banking, corporate finance, and venture capital during his 40-year professional career in the financial services industry. He is currently Chairman of 5 Lakes Institute.

John began his business career in 1971 doing debt restructuring and corporate re-organizations.  He joined the Marshall & Ilsley Bank in 1977, where he did merger and acquisition financing and multi-bank credit agreements. In 1982 he organized the private equity arm of the M&I Corporation; for 15 years he led the team that successfully invested $200 million of bank capital in more than 30 venture capital and private equity investments. John managed the 1998 spinout of M&I’s private equity team into Mason Wells, a newly-formed, equity investment firm that under his leadership as Chairman and Executive Managing Director successfully raised and deployed more than $1 billion in three independent buyout funds. All three funds had top-decile performance. Shortly after John’s retirement in December of 2015, Mason Wells raised $615 million for Mason Wells Buyout Fund IV, making it the largest independent private equity investment firm in Wisconsin.

But a tally of John’s career positions does not accurately reflect the impact he has had on the Wisconsin technology, finance and startup scenes.   In late 2000, John was a founding member of the Wisconsin Technology Council.  John was instrumental in organizing and funding the first Wisconsin Entrepreneur Conference and Governor’s Business Plan Contest, annual activities that continue to this day. John was a member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Economic Growth Council, where he proposed and sponsored legislation to permit angel investors to write off part of their venture capital commitments at the time of the investment. This tax credit legislation (Act 255) is now heralded for dramatically increasing the availability of early-stage venture capital in Wisconsin and has been copied in many other states.  In 2007, John founded and funded the Milwaukee Institute and for 10 years John also served on the Board of Trustees of the Medical College of Wisconsin.  He has served on countless other corporate boards and is still involved as a Director with selected companies.   John is a frequent public speaker.  John currently runs his family office, where he manages a small portfolio of direct investments in early stage, technology businesses. John received his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and his undergraduate science degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Mike Splinter

Mike Splinter retired as executive chairman of the board of directors for Applied Materials, Inc. in 2015.  He joined Applied as president and chief executive officer and a member of its board of directors in 2003 and became chairman of the board in 2009. Mr. Splinter is a 40-year veteran of the semiconductor industry and led Applied Materials to record revenue and profits during his decade-long tenure as CEO. He is the recipient of the Semiconductor Industry Association’s 2013 Robert N. Noyce Award for his outstanding achievements and leadership in support of the semiconductor industry, and was awarded the Public Service Star (Distinguished Friends of Singapore) by the President of Singapore.

Mr. Splinter serves on the boards of the NASDAQ OMX Group and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company as well as boards of several emerging tech ventures.  He is a General Partner at WISC Partners, a venture capital firm focused on Wisconsin tech companies.  He is committed to education and sits on the board of the University of Wisconsin Foundation.

Prior to joining Applied Materials, Mr. Splinter spent 20 years at Intel Corporation where he held a number of positions including executive vice president and director of Sales and Marketing, and executive vice president and general manager of the Technology and Manufacturing Group.

Mr. Splinter began his career at Rockwell International in the firm’s Electronics Research Center where he became manager of the company’s Semiconductor Fabrication Operations and was awarded two patents. Author of numerous papers and articles, Mr. Splinter earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in electrical engineering, as well as an honorary doctorate, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Ramu Sunkara

Ramu Sunkara is the CEO of Alan AI, Inc. He is a graduate of IIT-Madras and UW-Madison. In 2006, before the iPhone was introduced, he started a mobile video service, Qik, in his garage. Qik service enabled smartphone users to do video chats, video messaging, video sharing, and live video streaming. He raised $16M in venture funding for Qik. The firm survived the 2008 financial crisis to become the market leader in mobile video (#1 in Google Play and #2 in Apple App Store) when it was acquired by Skype in 2011 for $150M.

After Qik, Ramu and Andrey (CTO) teamed up again to co-found Alan AI. Alan AI has developed fundamental AI technology leveraging the “non-verbal context” in every application to allow people to tell their applications, via voice, exactly what they need, and to have the application provide in return what is being requested from it on the spot. The initial deployment of a meeting voice assistant was announced by TechCrunch in early 2017. Users were wowed by the meeting Voice Assistant experience and the team realized that enabling voice assistant in any application is the bigger, game-changing opportunity. They then pivoted to build the Alan AI Platform. To date, we have Alan voice assistants deployed for mission-critical safe and secure handsfree operations and have thousands of developers deploying in-app voice assistants on the Alan Platform. Our vision is to become the de facto Voice Assistant Platform for enterprise applications.

Fireside Chat Moderator  Kathleen Gallagher

Kathleen is Executive Director of 5 Lakes Institute.  She is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and published book author with expertise in business and science communications and extensive connections in technology-related industries.  During more than 20 years as a business reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathleen won a number of prestigious awards, but none more notable than the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. She was awarded journalism’s top honor for co-authoring a series of articles about how doctors at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for the first time in history sequenced all the genes of a patient for diagnosis.  At the Journal Sentinel, Kathleen also wrote a weekly Investment Trends column, did extensive investigative reporting into large, multi-state businesses, traveled to places like the Gulf of Mexico with one of the country’s best energy industry analysts, uncovered important information needed for scientific and technical stories, and delved into cutting-edge science at, for example, a startup that sold stem cell-derived heart cells to large pharmaceutical companies.

Prior to joining the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathleen was a Communications Coordinator at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and a Writing Instructor at the American Institute of Banking. Kathleen has an MA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BA in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summit Co-Chairs:

Allen Dines

ajdclosecrop1-13Allen Dines is an Executive Advisor at WISC Partners, a strategic operating capital fund founded by a group of Silicon Valley-based UW-Madison alumni. Allen has more than 30 years of experience at the executive level working at the interface of science and technology.  His passion is creation and growth of new ventures.  He is also active as a mentor and advisor with MERLIN mentors, 100State, gener8tor, Madworks Accelerator and MadVentures.  Most recently Allen was Assistant Director, New Ventures at the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations.  During his tenure at UW-Madison he founded or provided original inspiration for many of the programs and events that today are mainstays in Madison’s startup scene. In 2003 he founded the Midwest Research University Network (MRUN), an alliance of Midwest university commercialization managers and others focused on fostering startup ventures.  Prior to joining UW- Madison, Allen was involved in three startup ventures, all in the biotechnology sector two of which he co-founded and all of which sold to leaders in their respective industries.  Prior to these ventures, Allen was an Associate with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. in Bethesda, MD working with the Pharmaceuticals, Agrichemicals and Food practice.  Allen holds degrees from the University of Michigan including a B.S, a Masters in Natural Resources and an MBA.



Matt Younkle

Matt is a successful serial entrepreneur. He owns and manages several software companies, including Move Counselors, LLC and Pythonic Corporation. Move Counselors develops a platform that connects relocating employees to trusted partners in order to get moved faster, easier, and on budget. Pythonic develops machine learning technologies that automate insurance underwriting and claims workflows.

Prior to Move Counselors and Pythonic, Matt co-founded murfie.com, a music streaming platform and marketplace. He’s the inventor of the TurboTap, a device that pours draft beer faster and with less waste that’s used in pubs and stadiums worldwide. Prior to TurboTap, he helped pioneer streaming audio and video on the web at Vosaic, and he developed technology that grew the first food in space onboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. 

Matt has received product-of-the-year honors from Popular Science and TIME Magazine. He has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin and is a recipient of the University’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award.



Other speakers:


Dennis Barnum,  MERLIN Mentors, Pitch & rePlay Wrangler, Patient Care Partners

Dennisbarnum01938b3Dennis Barnum has over thirty years’ experience in the high-technology and services industries, primarily in computer software and services. He holds a master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and participated in the MBA program at the University of Minnesota. He began his career at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. He subsequently spent several years with Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis in a variety of management positions in the domestic and international software and services divisions. Since 1986, Barnum has been involved in either high-tech startups or recovery of high-tech companies. He has founded several technology companies, and has led turnarounds of several others. He is active in the Merlin Mentors program and is currently helping his wife Debby grow her rapidly expanding company, Patient Care Partners, as an “unpaid intern”.




Susie Younkle, Program Director, MERLIN Mentors

Susie Younkle is Program Director for MERLIN Mentors, a startup mentoring program sponsored by University Research Park. In this role, she coordinates the organization’s 100+ volunteer mentors and supports its many early stage entrepreneurs. Susie also enjoys helping start and grow businesses, with a particular focus on the financial aspects of startups. She currently manages accounting for a few Madison-area small businesses, including Pythonic AI and the Forward Festival. She was previously Controller for Madison startup Murfie Music and Chicago-based TurboTap, maker of a patented device for pouring draft beer. Susie is passionate about volunteering and she serves in board and leadership roles with several non-profits, including the Madison Public Library Foundation, Wisconsin Union Association, and Junior League of Madison. She is a graduate of the Wisconsin School of Business with a degree in Finance.



The virtual 2021 Summit is August 12

Registration is open and free

Register below for:

Keynote Fireside Chat

Pitch & rePlay

Note: The Summit is included with Forward Pass purchase but registration is still required.

Find it

Registered attendees will receive a link to log into the virtual session

Watch for an email shortly prior to Aug 13


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