The headline tech conference of the Forward Festival, the Forward Technology Conference (FTC) is geared toward startup founders, tech geeks, and those wanting to build successful technology companies. Whether you’re thinking about launching a startup business or you’re an experienced entrepreneur, you’ll find this conference relevant and insightful.

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Leadership/Entrepreneurship [clear filter]
Tuesday, August 21


Cultivating Tech Talent in WI
Our panelists will provide their perspectives on the impact of technology on the jobs of today and the future. The perspective will cross industries, from high tech to manufacturing to construction, as well as functions, from recruiter to workforce development. Specific topics will include how we can remain competitive in recruiting technology talent across sectors.

avatar for Laura Strong

Laura Strong

CEO, Propagate Health
I am a biotechnology executive with more than 15 years of operational as well as strategic experience. At Propagate Health, I am building a core network of advisors and entrepreneurs across healthcare, life sciences, and technology to enable problem-oriented innovation. During my... Read More →

avatar for Lucas Frisbie

Lucas Frisbie

Startup Team Strategist, StartingBlock Madison
A bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my career which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I learned the true meaning of attention to detail and customer service while serving as a Food & Beverage Manager at one of the top hotels & restaurants in Chicago (Park Hyatt). Then I got... Read More →
avatar for Seth Lentz

Seth Lentz

Deputy Director, Workforce Development Board of South Central WI
Seth Lentz serves as the Deputy Director for the WorkforceDevelopment of South Central Wisconsin (WDBSCW). In thisrole, Mr. Lentz brings nearly 20 years of experience inworkforce development. Today, he focuses on deliveringinnovative workforce development strategies using a careerpathways... Read More →
avatar for Chris Reader

Chris Reader

Director of Health & Human Resources Policy, WMC
Chris Reader is the Director of Health & Human Resources Policy at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest trade association representing employers.Chris works with lawmakers and state agencies to advance pro-growth reforms in a number of policy areas including... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 10:15am - 11:00am
Tripp Commons (2nd Floor)


Women Becoming Investors
During this presentation you'll hear from local women leaders to learn about how women can leverage their dollars to become investors in startup companies. Women have more personal wealth than ever before in history, yet we aren't investing our dollars like our male counter parts are. Learn investor lingo, what it takes to become an investor, and how you can start putting your money to work to benefit startups and entrepreneurs in Wisconsin.

avatar for Heather Wentler

Heather Wentler

Co-Founder, Doyenne Group Inc
Heather Wentler believes all women and girls are strong, independent individuals capable of success. Professional trained as an educator, Heather pivoted into entrepreneurship as the Co-founder & Executive Director of Doyenne and the Founder of Fractal. She serves on various organizing... Read More →

avatar for Amy Gannon

Amy Gannon

Co-founder & Director of Entrepreneur Development, Doyenne
With more than 10 years experience working with startup businesses, Dr. Gannon has expertise moving entrepreneurs through the idea validation, launch and growth stages. She designs, plans and facilitates developmental opportunities for entrepreneurs, including: 2-day strategic planning... Read More →
avatar for Dana Guthrie

Dana Guthrie

Dana has over a decade of experience in the building automation, facility management, and energy conservation industries. She also has an extensive background in engineering, sales, operations, entrepreneurship, and investing.
avatar for Nhi Le

Nhi Le

Director, gBETA Madison @ gener8tor
Nhi is the gBETA Madison director and is currently completing her PhD in stem cell research at UW-Madison. She received her BS degrees in Materials Science & Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Tech. Nhi was born in Vietnam and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 10:15am - 11:15am
Old Madison (3rd Floor)


Higher quality hiring: How to grow your workforce with intention
As a startup owner(s) it is hard to know when you need help and what help you do need as you are hiring your first employee. While your startup grows, you want to attract the right talent, and those right people might be friends and family, or they might be strangers, and they might be working remotely from another city or state. How do you tie it all together? Of course, this all must be aligned with your company culture, mission, and vision. In the best-case scenario, individual employee and departmental goals are aligned with the organization’s initiatives. In this 60-minute session, you will learn the state and federal requirements when hiring employees, how to recruit a diverse workforce, and how to implement that talent with appreciation, and reflecting your organization’s personality.

avatar for Jane Clark

Jane Clark

Founding Partner, Clark & Gotzler, Attorneys at Law
Experienced Founding Partner with a demonstrated history of working in the employment law and HR communities. Demonstrated experience advising business owners, entrepreneurs and non-profits on employment law, HR, and employee benefits. Professionally skilled in Employment Law, HR... Read More →
avatar for Tricia Perkins

Tricia Perkins

Strategic HR Advisor, Clark & Gotzler, Attorneys at Law
Experienced HR professional with 20 years of experience in hospitality, financial, non-profit and various other industries with the ability to be a strategic HR advisor during difficult times, conduct sensitive workplace investigations and facilitate engaging and interactive work... Read More →
avatar for Jen Remsik

Jen Remsik

CEO, Training Tracker
Jen is the CEO of Training Tracker. Jen is establishing Training Tracker as the go-to cloud solution for training compliance and auditing. Under Jen’s management, Training Tracker will continue to be profitable and to improve customers experience.Jen received her MBA in Small Business... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 11:15am - 12:00pm
Tripp Commons (2nd Floor)


Focus on Inclusion Not Diversity
Leaders have long recognized that a diverse workforce is the way forward. Part of the problem is that “diversity” and “inclusion” are so often lumped together that they’re assumed to be the same thing. Without focusing on inclusion separately, the crucial connections that attract diverse talent, encourage their participation, foster innovation, and lead to business growth won’t happen. As a leader how do you shift your and your organization's thought?

avatar for Jocelyn Kopac

Jocelyn Kopac

Entrepreneur, Educator, Writer & Photographer
I consider myself a creative person!My career began when I stumbled upon my passion, entrepreneurship, at the age of 7. Starting an organic, farm fresh egg business, as a child, brought me into the 'Trep' (short for Entrepreneur) world and I just knew I could not leave!Since then... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 11:30am - 12:00pm
Reception Room (4th Floor)


Agile Insights & Innovation: How to Learn from Customers Throughout the Development Process
94% of companies say they're adopting some kind of agile innovation practices, but most are a work in process. They need to figure out how to build customer input into every step of the journey, but traditional research approaches are slow and expensive. At this session, we'll talk about practical ways you can learn from your customers -- quickly and iteratively -- so that you're making smart decisions and avoiding product mis-steps.

avatar for Jane Boutelle

Jane Boutelle

CCO/Co-founder, Digsite
I set marketers up for success, by providing them with a fast, efficient, affordable way to get real consumer feedback to guide product and marketing decisions.With Digsite, marketers and brand/product managers can have the online community they've wanted -- either as a way to get... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 1:00pm - 1:30pm
Beefeaters (3rd Floor)


Successful Startup Hunting for Do-ers
Not everyone can have the next great idea for a product or service. For any idea to turn into a business, it needs a handful of key early stage do-ers on the team. Aside from the founding entrepreneurs, these early team members are often the key to success. But how does a do-er find the right opportunity with the right team and the right fit? And what does a founder need to know about finding, recruiting and hiring their earliest team members? This session will discuss the key steps a do-er must take to find opportunities and some thoughts on how to evaluate them for a successful match.

avatar for Brian D Johnson

Brian D Johnson

Entrepreneur & Early-Stage Business Executive
Builder. Leader. Get-stuff-done guy with two successful exits.Entrepreneur and experienced manager skilled at creating and leading high performing teams through strategic planning, growth cycles, building infrastructure, and managing change. Proven leader with results in the private... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 1:00pm - 1:30pm
State Room (4th Floor)


Panel: Madison tech's top salespeople share secrets to their success
Whether you are new tech start-up struggling to figure out how to secure your first customer or a more mature tech company struggling with stagnant growth, this is your opportunity to ask this seasoned panel of successful tech sales execs for their advice on how to push through to the next level. With experience ranging from start-ups disrupting established markets to multi-million dollar deal markers with Fortune 500 companies, you'll learn what tech buyers need and want from their modern-day sales experience.

avatar for Jim Walker

Jim Walker

Rockypaths Consulting
Jim Walker is an accomplished Senior Manager and Consultant with morethan 25 years of success across the consumer goods, food & beverage,construction, utility, and government sectors.Jim is the founder of the INSPIRE Communication Leadership Program,and teaches the concept to audiences... Read More →

avatar for Jennifer Javornik

Jennifer Javornik

Technology Growth Executive, Filament Games
Jennifer Javornik is a technology growth executive who specializes in new business development, partnership management, revenue growth, and entrepreneurship. She is a founding member of the Wisconsin Games Alliance, an affiliation of video game studios and stakeholders focused on... Read More →
avatar for Luke Perkerwicz

Luke Perkerwicz

Co-Founder, Akita Box
Luke co-founded AkitaBox 3 years ago with a vision of using data to help unleash the potential of facility management teams and reduce building operations cost. He has helped grow the company to over 85 team members, close 2 rounds of investment and develop clients in 30 states. Prior... Read More →
avatar for Jesse Theiler

Jesse Theiler

CEO& Founder, Emelar Consulting
Salesforce thought leader with acclaimed leadership success and decisive business process vision in the development and deployment of Salesforce using strategy, people systems, and processes to solve big business problems. Dynamic CEO with proven track record of results. Passionate... Read More →
avatar for Debra Voss

Debra Voss

Regional Sales Manager, Orion Health
Driven by a strong desire to connect with people to develop meaningful professional relationships to help clients achieve desired results and success. Strategic thinker, practical implementer, effective collaborator, and experienced leader.

Tuesday August 21, 2018 1:45pm - 2:30pm
Tripp Commons (2nd Floor)


Startup-Corporate Partnerships
Join CMFG Ventures and two of their partner companies, Align and Forevercar, as they discuss the challenges and successes of working with VC organizations, how they have secured investment from a variety of organizations, and lessons learned.

avatar for Paul Cho

Paul Cho

CEO, Align
avatar for Mark Hodes

Mark Hodes

avatar for Mandi Salo

Mandi Salo

CMFG Ventures
avatar for Ryan Weber

Ryan Weber

Great North Labs
Ryan is a Founding, Managing Partner at Great North Labs (GreatNorthLabs.com). Great North Labs is a Minnesota based venture capital fund geographically focused in the upper Midwest. Great North Labs invests in early stage tech startups across any industry. The fund is managed by... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 1:45pm - 2:30pm
State Room (4th Floor)


Build Your Network of Mentors
Mentors are an important part of an entrepreneur’s team. Learn from startup founders how to find the right mentors – through a formal program (such as MERLIN Mentors or gener8tor/gBETA) and/or by building your own network. Hear tips for creating successful, mutually rewarding relationships with mentors.

avatar for Alex Kubicek

Alex Kubicek

CEO, Understory
Understory is a property-level analytics platform which allows for efficiency optimizations around the claims process that create a large financial impact. We are using the principles of IoT to solve a big blindspot in the insurance industry with our hail monitoring networks. Hail... Read More →
avatar for Alex Lindemeyer

Alex Lindemeyer

Co-Owner, Short Stack Eatery
avatar for Alex Wyler

Alex Wyler

Co-Founder & CTO, EatStreet
Forbes 2018 30 under 30 - Consumer Technology. An experienced leader, engineer, and entrepreneur. Co-founder and CTO at EatStreet.
avatar for Susie Younkle

Susie Younkle

Program Director, Merlin Mentors
Susie Younkle is Program Director for MERLIN Mentors, sponsored by University Research Park. In this role, she coordinates the organization’s 100+ volunteer mentors and dozens of active teams that assist entrepreneurs. Susie also enjoys helping start and grow businesses, with a... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 3:30pm - 4:30pm
Tripp Commons (2nd Floor)


Gender Equality for Tech Entrepreneurs
Despite the numerous benefits of gender diversity in tech for everyone from investors to customers, VC funding for companies with female CEOs and the proportion of tech companies with female founders remain low. An inside look at the gender-based barriers local tech entrepreneurs have faced, as well as benefits and proposed solutions. Attendees will learn how they can contribute to equitable resources and inclusive spaces for tech entrepreneurs of all genders.

avatar for Kaitlin Marquardt

Kaitlin Marquardt

Full Stack Software Engineer, POLCO
Kaitlin is a Full Stack Software Engineer at POLCO, a civic engagement platform for local government and advocacy groups. She is also a scientist committed to improving the health of individuals who’ve experienced trauma. She specializes in data analytics, machine learning and visualization... Read More →

avatar for Abigail Barnes

Abigail Barnes

Co-Founder and CEO, Allergy Amulet
Abi Barnes is an entrepreneur, author, and attorney. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of Allergy Amulet, which is creating a paradigm shift in food safety with a consumer food allergen/ingredient detection device. She is the author of An Entrepreneur's Guide to Certified B Corporations... Read More →
avatar for Laura Berkner

Laura Berkner

COO, Stimmi
Laura Berkner is an energetic professional with a wide and varied background and experience. She is co-founder of Stimmi, LLC a mobile care plan for persons with autism or other disabilities. Laura is deeply committed to making a difference and helping create the best quality of life... Read More →
avatar for Kristen Slack

Kristen Slack

Founder & CEO, Prof2Prof
Kristen Slack is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she has held numerous teaching, research, and administrative roles. Kristen is a frequent social media commentator on the higher education sector, and an advocate for the higher education workforce... Read More →

Tuesday August 21, 2018 3:30pm - 4:30pm
Old Madison (3rd Floor)