Featured Speakers 2014

December 2014

JK-2014At our December lunch, Forecastle Festival founder JK McKnight discussed how he leveraged his environment, creativity, networking and innovation to grow the festival, which began as a small community event at Tyler Park in 2002, into a major, international attraction. Now one of the summer’s most anticipated arts and music festivals, Forecastle draws more than 60,000 attendees from 2,192 cities and 49 states to Louisville’s Waterfront Park. In addition to featuring a who’s who of musical acts such as The Black Keys, Widespread Panic, Smashing Pumpkins, My Morning Jacket, Bassnectar, The Flaming Lips, Band of Horses, Sleater-Kinney and The Avett Brothers, Forecastle has consistently promoted local artists and focused on environmental activism and outdoor recreation. In 2013, the festival’s economic impact on the city of Louisville was estimated at $14 million. In 2010, McKnight fulfilled his dream to create an activism arm of the festival, The Forecastle Foundation, an international, environmental 501(c)(3) organization that partners with organizations in biologically rich hot spots across the globe. McKnight is a graduate of St. Xavier High School and attended the College of Charleston, Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville.

November 2014

Charasika, TendaiAt our November lunch, Tendai Charasika and Bobby Ferreri, two former economic development executives, discussed what they learned in their roles with Greater Louisville Inc. to now lead successful startup ventures. Charasika and Ferreri are former executive directors of GLI’s EnterpriseCorp, the entrepreneurship arm of the region’s leading economic development organization that is dedicated to fostering high-potential, early-stage companies. Both said their experiences with GLI are what inspired them to “just do it,” and strike out on their own. Charasika and Ferreri talked about their work at GLI, why they decided to take the leap toward entrepreneurship and how they continue to apply the knowledge they gained from supporting the Louisville entrepreneurial community to their new roles. After leaving EnterpriseCorp earlier this year, Charasika became CEO of SuperFanU Inc., which aims to be the Ferreri, Bobbytop fan engagement platform for sports teams and brands around the country. His leadership responsibilities include guiding the vision and strategy of the company, while ensuring the execution of value-creating milestones. After his tenure at EnterpriseCorp ended in May 2013, Ferreri founded Ferreri Partners PLLC, a fast-growth law firm focused on workers’ compensation defense and corporate law. The firm has grown to include a team 11 professionals, two office locations and clients throughout Kentucky. As managing partner, Ferreri is responsible for driving the firm’s strategic growth for the benefit of its stakeholders.

October 2014

ChakrabortyVenture Connectors hosted film producer Milan Kumar Chakraborty, CPA, at its Oct. 1 luncheon meeting. Chakraborty’s newest film, “Produce” was filmed in and around Louisville, and was also screened at the IdeaFestival this year. He discussed why film is a viable investment and business opportunity on par with any other type of investment, as well as the positive economic impact independent films have on the communities where they are produced. Chakraborty also shared how to leverage investments for film and how, as a CPA turned film producer, he is able to maximize revenue, economic incentives and shareholder value on his own movies. Chakraborty graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg,Va. After working for two years at Arthur Andersen LLP, Milan joined the internal audit department of Time Warner Inc. He then transferred to the Filmed Entertainment group that consists of Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, together the largest producer of film and television in the world. Chakraborty has worked for multiple groups within the companies, including distribution, production and post-production. He has performed detailed reviews of 10 feature film productions and four television productions in six countries with budgets ranging from $5 million to $200 million. Chakraborty has also produced five feature films, including: “Rock Slyde,” starring Patrick Warburton and Andy Dick; “Alter Egos,” a superhero mystery with Kris Lemche, Brooke Nevin, Joey Kern Danny Masterson and Johnny Ventimiglia, and score by Sean Lennon; and “The Lifeguard,” starring Kristen Bell and Mamie Gummer, written and Directed by Liz W. Garcia. “The Lifeguard” was selected in competition in the 2013 Sundance film festival.

September 2014

In anticipation of the Louisville mini Maker Faire held in conjunction with IdeaFestival later in September, Venture Connectors hosted a panel of local “makers” at its Sept. 3 luncheon meeting. Panelists discussed a brief overview of what the local “Maker Economy” looks like, as well as how the movement is positively impacting the city, its business climate and the lifestyles of its citizens.

Campbell BoyerVenkatBrad LuysterMitchell, Deanna-cropped





Campbell Boyer, a consultant and entrepreneur, served as moderator. Boyer and a group of friends launched the Louisville mini Maker Faire in 2013 to bring attention to the creativity and innovation of his local community. Natarajan Venkatakrishnan (Venkat) has served as director of research and development for GE Appliances, a division of GE Appliance & Lighting, since 2006. He also leads FirstBuild, a new model for the manufacturing industry that brings together engineers, designers, scientists and home enthusiasts from around the globe via FirstBuild.com, an online community. Brad Luyster is a Louisville native, engineer and maker. He currently serves as president of the LVL1 Hackerspace, in addition to organizing the Louisville Hardware Startup Meetup and assisting in organizing the Louisville mini Maker Faire. Deanna Mitchell is senior visual designer at Mad*Pow, a design agency founded in 2000 that uses human-centered design to create strong, multi-channel experience strategies, intuitive digital experiences and streamlined processes for its clients.

August 2014

nick3Nick Such, a co-founder of Awesome Inc, works with startups and helps teach introductory software development classes at Awesome Inc U. He previously co-founded indoor mapping startup BuildingLayer, and used to design and race alternative fuel vehicles with the University of Kentucky's Solar Car Team. He enjoys serving as an organizer and facilitator for Startup Weekend, and is actively involved with OpenLexington, the local Code for America Brigade. Awesome Inc launched in 2009 and has started (and shuttered) several different initiatives with the goal of growing the startup community in Kentucky. Over time, Nick and his partners began to see too many startups that didn't have a product, hadn't made any sales and didn't have more than a pitch deck. So, they started Awesome Inc U during the summer of 2013 to teach people how to turn their ideas into something tangible. They started with training in software development (Ruby on Rails, iOS Apps, video games with Unity 3D), Since 2013, 178 people ages 9 to 55 have gone through the company’s “1-Day Crash Courses,” and nearly 1,000 K-12 students participated in its “Hour of Code” activities in December.

June 2014

KImberly Naisef    Dayna Neumann     Haley Stevens





Women’s entrepreneurship has become a fundamental economic force in recent years. Women-owned companies represent nearly 37% of all businesses across the globe, according to the Harvard Business Review. Today’s trends indicate that women will be a driving force of entrepreneurial growth in the future. Our June luncheon featured a panel discussion featuring three, dynamic women in entrepreneurship: Kimberly Naisef, Dayna Neumann and Haley Stevens. The panel was moderated by Suzanne Bergmeister, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Louisville College of Business and chairman of the Venture Connectors board of directors. Naisef founded Measure CP to provide clients with the most cutting-edge consumer insight. Being able to incorporate the science of social anthropology with market research and social technology forms the basis of Kimberly’s company. Neumann is founder of Exsellerator, a digital strategy company focused on launching her clients’ overdue interactive projects, including websites, software platforms and mobile apps — making them more productive and more profitable.  Stevens joined Louisville Metro Government in August 2012 as program director for the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) as part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Innovation Delivery Team. BEAM is a strategic partnership launched by Mayor Fischer and Mayor Jim Gray of Lexington in 2011 to bring together the 22 counties surrounding the state’s two largest metropolitan areas.

April 2014


When you redefine industries, the key principals can be boiled down into solid customer dynamics, business intelligence, and process management.  Since Geoffrey Rappaport opened the first SuperCuts store in 1975 in Albany, CA, the chain has grown to 2,070 locations in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.  Supercuts was ultimately sold to Minnesota-based Regis Corp.  Superteeth is a retail healthcare model that follows the Supercuts model of being customer-centric.  Oral health is a significant unmet need in most regions, and the original store in Warren, Mich. has been the prototype to perfect and test what makes a retail clinic work.  Rappaport will give his top 6 winning steps to building a retail empire, and discuss how the healthcare model needs to shift for Americans to get the service they deserve.

March 2014


The tech industry remains one of humanity’s most powerful forces for progress, and three trends in 2014 are interconnecting to power the next leap forward. The March Venture Connectors luncheon will feature Tech Republic’s Jason Hiner as he walks us through what these three trends are and how they will shape the future.

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

February 2014

Apple’s famed design guru Jony Ive once said that ‘design is the most immediate way of defining what products become in people’s minds’.  Today, design is deeply integrated in everything we interact with across many different mediums.  VC is bringing together a group of top local designers working in the full spectrum of design, from architecture to packaged goods and digital user interfaces.  Panelists will discuss the similarities and differences of how they approach their design work, their balance of aesthetic and function, and the design thinking process as well as share details of projects in their portfolio.

Ty Adams

Moderator: Ty Adams
Ty Adams: A:K Design: Ty is a design entrepreneur working at the front end of new product & brand development. He has co-founded multiple startups as CDO –chief design officer and is experienced in design thinking, creating unique user experiences and commercializing innovative technology for early stage start-ups and intrapreneurial corporate teams. Prior to forming A:KDesign he led Paoli, Inc. global product development and design for Kimball International’s Advanced Products Group.Active in the entrepreneurial eco-system, Ty previously chaired the Vogt Invention & Innovation Awards, serves on Venture Connectors Board and is a Mentor/Coach for accelerators & programs including NUCLEUS’ LAUNCHit, Velocity and StartUp Weekend Louisville. He has been awarded (8) U.S. Patents and earned his BS in ID (industrial design) from California State University Long Beach.




David Thomas: Mad*Pow

David Thomas is Senior Art Director at Mad*Pow, an experience design agency recognized for pioneering the concept of research-inspired design. As director of the Louisville office, David provides a leadership role for business development, client growth and expansion in the Louisville area. As a Certified Usability Analyst (CUA), and a strong advocate for human-centered design, David is passionate about designing innovative digital experiences that meet the demanding needs of his clients and their customers. David’s worked with brands like: Adidas, Bank of America, ESPN, Aetna, Microsoft, Humana, and Intuit, to name a few.

Jonathan Brannon: Architect

Jonathan Brannon is a local architect and part-time artist, with a continued interest in sustainable urban communities. With a strong emphasis on people-spaces, he has been drawing inspiration from other cultures and leaning how to integrate their best ideas locally. Jonathan currently is an independent practitioner, involved in creating team-based solutions that promote a holistic community design.

Lauryn Morris: Industrial Designer

Lauryn Morris is a Singapore-born American industrial designer with a particularly keen interest in wearable technology and multisensory devices. Raised as an American expat in Southeast Asia, Lauryn has spent the past decade migrating from the Arizona desert to Los Angeles to New York City. Lauryn currently lives and works in Louisville, where she is an industrial design consultant and eyewear designer for Kenmark Optical. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design from California State University at Long Beach, and has worked for design consultancies and in-house design teams on both coasts.


January 2014

BryceButler3 (1)

You have probably heard the terms before: ‘Venture philanthropy’, ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘impact investing’, and ‘triple bottom line’.  What is venture philanthropy and what are the differences in these approaches to the movement?  From impact investing emerging as a distinct asset class in 2010 to the state of the art, find out more from Bryce Butler’s dynamic and passionate address drawing from his experience at Village Capital and numerous other ventures.

Bryce Butler is the Executive Director of the BlueSky Network and both CoFounder & Advisor to the iOS app company Potluck and a manager of Organizational Development at Samtec Inc. As a Founder/Advisor to Potluck, LLC (a mobile creative suite that has made popular iOS apps @Over and @Overgram and most recently @Obabyapp) he assists with operations and strategic planning. He recently founded Access Ventures – a venture philanthropy organization working n neighborhood revitalization through housing redevelopment and microbusiness lending.  Before joining BlueSky, Bryce was the Executive Pastor of Sojourn Community Church. He served on active duty for four years within the US Army and has an M.A. in Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.