2020 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.

Tom Erickson

Tom is the founding director of the School of Computer, Data & Information Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Assembled in 2019, the School includes Computer Science and Statistics departments together with the Information School. With an aggregate growth rate of almost 800% in undergraduates in the past 10 years, the School was created in recognition that the future of high tech involves both cutting edge research and education in the core sciences and the enrichment of this work with an understanding of the societal impact posed by the pervasiveness of computing and big data.  The School has key objectives to extend digital thinking across campus while engaging with industry, sometimes reimagining traditional businesses in a digital context and other times partnering to commercialize advanced research in digitally savvy organizations.

Tom serves on the boards of several emerging tech companies in North America and Europe, in the areas of data science, analytics, and payments processing.

Prior to returning to his alma mater, Tom had been a founding director and CEO of Acquia, a Boston-based software company that he grew from founding to $175M in revenue and 800 employees.  A majority share of Acquia was acquired in 2019 by Vista Equity Partners for more than $1B.  In 2012, Deloitte named Acquia the fastest growing private software company in the USA.

Tom has also served in several executive roles in software companies in his 40 year career, including Teleatlas (TomTom), Systinet (Mercury Interactive/HP), webMethods, Baan, and MRO Software (IBM).

Tom is passionate about opportunity, equality and education.  He loves the outdoors, cold or hot, and prefers to be around bodies of water.  He is at home anywhere on the planet and has been known to try to speak with the residents of every country he’s visited in their own language, with mixed degrees of success.  It’s common to find him in the garden, on the ski slopes or with a camera in his hand.  Food and wine are his weaknesses, and he prefers cooking over dining out.  Tom is the proud father of two young men.  He holds a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

George Roberts

George is a venture partner at Open View Partners. Since 2003, George has been making private investments and serving as a board member of several fast growing venture capital funded software companies.  From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.  George also served as a member of the firm’s executive management team responsible for restructuring Oracle, increasing profit margins from 22% to over 40%, and positioning Oracle as the second most profitable company in the industry after Microsoft.  Other notable milestones in George’s tenure at Oracle include growing revenue tenfold from $30 million to $300 million in the Central Sales Division over a seven-year period, architecting the channel strategy for North America, and realigning the organization’s go-to-market approach from a heavy direct sales focus to a balanced distribution model incorporating telesales and broad based channel programs.

Prior to Oracle, George served in various executive positions at System 5, a technology startup, and at Applied Data Research, a large software vendor, where he drove significant sales growth and exceeded revenue objectives for six years.  George holds a BS in Marketing and Finance from University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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 2020 Summit is August 13

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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