Nick Cromydas - New Coast Ventures, CEO & Founder / Hunt Club, CEO & Founder

A member of Forbes’ 2016 30 Under 30 Club, Nick is one of Chicago’s top entrepreneurs with a passion for helping companies grow and innovate.

Nick and his partner Scott Kacyn founded New Coast Ventures in 2014. New Coast Ventures is a digital innovation company helping large companies and entrepreneurs alike to build technology solutions. The duo also founded Hunt Club in 2015. Hunt Club is a technology-enabled recruiting firm that leverages its Influencer Network to find the best passive talent for its partner companies’ open positions.

Nick holds a BS in Corporate Strategies and Communication Studies from Vanderbilt University. He was a four-year letter winner on the Men’s Varsity Tennis Team at Vanderbilt. Nick is also a 2013 graduate of The Brandery.

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Julie Miers - Pop Goes the Weasel Brand Consultancy, Founder & President

Julie has a tremendous depth and breadth of experience, having spent the past two decades working with some of the best global brands on the planet, within CPG, Retail, Consulting and the Ad Agency sectors. She has held senior leadership roles at Kroger, Kellogg, DelMonte, Crayola, Coleman Outdoor and CKS/USWEB, offering deep experience in Food, Beverage, Natural/Organic, Allergy-Free, Kids, Pet, Baby, Health & Wellness, Beauty, Candy, Tools/Hardware, Sporting Goods, Technology, Entertainment and Licensing.

Julie started Pop Goes the Weasel Brand Consultancy to fill a void in the brand strategy and marketing space by focusing on achieving “brandruption” through highly creative approaches, and has provided multi-faceted services to global consulting firms and C-level executives in a variety of industry sectors.

Julie grew up in the beautiful hills of West Virginia, is an outdoor enthusiast, pop culture geek, has a passion for health & wellness, is a coffee junkie, roller coaster rider, animal lover, volunteer and is enjoyable to sit by on long flights.

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Frank Lin - Silas Capital, Managing Partner

Frank is a founding partner of Silas Capital, a growth equity and venture firm based in New York City, that invests in emerging consumer brands. His investments include growing and established brands like Boll & Branch, Lifefactory, Bare Snacks, and Proenza Schouler, as well as new and innovative brands like Casper, Ringly and Tracksmith. Prior to forming Silas Capital, Frank was a Principal at EuclidSR Partners, a venture capital partnership formed by Euclid Partners and SR One, the corporate venture arm of GlaxoSmithKline, and while there he focused on investments in software, consumer products and healthcare. Before that, he co-founded and led corporate strategy for MatchMetrix, a software company that developed personalized recommendation systems for the consumer web. He began his career working for fund managers at Aberdeen Murray Johnstone Ltd. and Neuberger Berman. Frank is originally a Cincinnati native and graduated from the University of Chicago with an A.B. in Economics.

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Ann Mooney - Rising Moon Consulting, Founder & CEO

Ann Mooney is an 18-year P&G veteran and the founder and CEO of Rising Moon Consulting, a firm specializing in brand building, marketing, strategy and in-store experience. Ann forged a multi-faceted career at P&G – thriving across brands, departments, disciplines, retail channels and regions. She made her mark as a commercially savvy Marketer and unconventional corporate pioneer. A few of her notable achievements include: leading Pampers, P&G’s biggest global brand, to record results in NA; pioneering the application of P&G’s brand building framework to the retail environment to drive joint value creation with top retailers; and, providing strategic guidance to dozens of P&G brands – using the lens of in-store to offer candid feedback and actionable direction on initiative launch plans to improve go-to-market strategy and increase the odds of success. Ann is a popular and engaging keynoter and industry thought leader. She was recently recognized by the In-store Marketing Institute as a “Who’s Who in Shopper Marketing 2009,” and is a frequent contributor to leading industry publications including Ad Age, Shopper Marketing Magazine and DDI.

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Mark Achler - Math Venture Partners, Managing Director

Mark was recently the senior vice president of new business, strategy and innovation at Redbox, where he managed the Company’s long-term planning and expansion into new business opportunities. Achler was featured as a mentor to a tech startup on Bloomberg TV’s “The Mentor.”, and in Inc. Magazine Trep Life series.

Prior to joining Redbox in 2009, Achler co-founded one of the first personal computer retail stores in the country and participated in the launch of the IBM PC in Boca Raton in 1981. He then moved to Apple, where he was the worldwide introduction manager for the Apple //c. Upon leaving Apple, Achler co-founded and served as chief executive officer of the Whitewater Group, a company that specialized in development tools and programming languages and shipped the second application for Windows 1.0. After building and eventually selling the Whitewater Group, he co-founded the video game company, Kinesoft Development, where he served as president. Kinesoft was instrumental in developing the technology that allowed Sega and Nintendo scrolling action arcade games to be played on Windows 95. After leaving Kinesoft, Achler served as a founding general partner in Kettle Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund. While at Kettle, Achler was the lead investor in local Chicago companies such as Surepayroll (sold to PAYX) and Novarra (sold to NOK).

Fueled by a lifelong passion for building new businesses, Achler also has helped to co-found Emmi Solutions, a provider of patient education, where he first served as president and later became chief executive officer. Achler is a frequent speaker, resource and ardent champion for the entrepreneurial community; where he is a mentor for TechStars and the Chicago High Tech Academy. He is also now an Adjunct Professor and Lecturer on Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management.

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Bob Arnold - Google, North America Digital Media & Strategy Lead

Bob is the North America Digital Strategy and Media lead for Google, where he drives the digital marketing strategy for all Google products. Additionally, he is focused on developing programmatic buying, advanced digital media measurement and digital agency management.

Prior to Google, Bob spent 3 years at Kellogg and 10 years at Procter & Gamble. At Kellogg he was the North America Director of Digital and Social strategy, leading their digital marketing and social media practice. At Procter & Gamble, he was responsible for the global digital strategy across the Home Care, Feminine Care and Oral Care business units.

Additionally, Bob is an internationally sought after speaker on digital marketing, with conference appearances including Ad-Tech, IAB and Luma Partners Digital Media Summit.

Bob has been recognized many times over by various industry bodies, including being named as a “Media Maven” by Advertising Age, by iMedia as one of the “Top 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators” and by OMMA as a “Marketing All-Star.” His work has been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, New York Times and Investor’s Business Daily, as well as “Groundswell,” a BusinessWeek best selling book.

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Rob Bensman - Hightower Group, Senior Vice President

Rob Bensman, is the SVP at HighTower Group, a North American manufacturer and importer of modern office furnishings and interior architecture elements.

Previously, as VP of Strategic Alliances at Hallmark, Rob led the group responsible for extending Hallmark’s portfolio of brands into new areas by surfacing, evaluating, negotiating, and bringing to market new business opportunities with companies that possess complimentary assets or capabilities. Through these efforts, the group seeks to create marketplace impact and deliver superior financial results for Hallmark and alliance partners.

Bensman joined Hallmark in 2008 as a product manager, eventually moving to Hallmark’s licensing organization where he led the team responsible for managing the company’s music and cause-based relationships.

Prior to Hallmark, Bensman was a brand manager at Procter & Gamble and a consultant for McKinsey & Company and Accenture.

Bensman earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Kansas State University. He received a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

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Levi Bethune - Cladwell, Chief Creative Officer

Levi Bethune is a creative director and entrepreneur with proficiency in identity discovery and storytelling for brands.

He has told stories for Google, Facebook, Intel, Disney, Adobe, eBay, and hundreds of startups and non-profits. Levi serves as the Chief Creative Officer at Cladwell, a clothing guidance subscription service & app. He is a founding partner with Cloverleaf, a personality and culture tool for teams.

Through internships, hardships, fellowships, and spaceships, Levi has chiseled away a career in the creative industry as a trouble-shooter, and a trouble-maker.

He lives in Cincinnati, OH, with his wife, four kids, and no regrets.

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Mike Bott - MedAvail Technologies, VP of Client Deployment & Innovation

Mike Bott is the immediate past General Manager of The Brandery, a role in which he occupied for three years. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of the space and program, Mike tirelessly shared his branding and product management experience with The Brandery companies. Prior to joining The Brandery, Mike worked in brand management at Procter & Gamble, architecting Olay North America’s digital strategy and ecosystem which was awarded P&G’s internal designation of “Best Digital” at the NA Brand Building Awards. Before P&G, he led product launches as a product manager at and AOL. He has a passion for building brands with high quality user experiences, creative monetization, acquisition and retention strategies. He advises a number of VC backed startups, including serving on the Board for Choremonster. Mike graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BBA and MBA and is active in the Irish Angels network. He remains an active supporter and mentor for Brandery companies, both current and past. @mcbott

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Mike Brown, Jr. - Bowery Capital, VC

Mike Brown, Jr. is the General Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown co-founded AOL Ventures and led investments in over 30 companies primarily focused around the next generation of CMO and CTO spend. Before AOL Ventures, Mike worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, helping to invest capital in early stage internet startups on behalf of the British entrepreneur. He began his career at Morgan Stanley. Outside of his professional life Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and co-chairs the Columbia College Young Leaders Council. Mike holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University. @MikeBrownJr

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