The Project Entrepreneur Summit | Chicago offers aspiring and early-stage women entrepreneurs the chance to connect with one another and workshop their ideas with some of the brightest entrepreneurs and investors. Workshop speakers include Carley Roney, XO Group/The Knot, Sonia Nagar, Pritzker Group, Abby Ross, ThinkCERCA and more.
9:00-9:30 AM Check-In
9:30-9:45 AM Welcome Remarks
9:45-10:30 AM Keynote Conversation
10 Minute Break
10:40-11:40 AM Workshop #1
10 Minute Break
11:50 AM-12:50 PM Workshop #2
1:00-2:00 PM Lunch
Carley Roney, Cofounder of The Knot / XO Group Inc.
Carley Roney is co-founder of The Knot, America’s leading wedding planning marketplace, and one of New York City’s most successful Internet companies. Started in the earliest days of the Web, The Knot has expanded into all media, and now has the #1 wedding apps, registry site, print magazines, book series, planner, and Instagram following—and is used by 8 out of 10 couples in the country. Now a public company under the name XO Group Inc. (NYSE: XOXO), The Knot has grown with its audience and launched popular platforms The Nest (for creating a home) and The Bump (for pregnancy and early parenthood).
Carley is also passionate about entrepreneurship. She advises many female founded startups and has served on Rent The Runway’s Board of Directors since inception. Carley speaks at conferences such as SXSW, guest lectures at her alma mater NYU and Columbia University, and has been featured in Inc., Fortune, Vogue, Fast Company, and The New York Times.
Most importantly, Carley is mom to three incredible kids, and lives with husband and co-founder David Liu in Brookyn, NY.
Lori Feinsilver, UBS Head of Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas
Lori is Head of Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility and Executive Communications for UBS Group Americas. She also leads the UBS Foundation USA. Since 2011, Lori has led a strategic overhaul of UBS’s philanthropic and corporate giving platform, creating a more cohesive and impact-driven organization while establishing a culture of service among the region’s 20,000 employees.
Jamie Sears, Executive Director of UBS Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas, and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Programs
Jamie Sears is Executive Director of UBS Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas, and serves as Head of Strategic Partnerships and Programs. She develops and manages the firm’s two flagship philanthropic initiatives focused in the areas of education and entrepreneurship: UBS NextGen Leaders, a $10 million, multi-year investment to increase college access and success for lower-income, first-generation college goers; and Elevating Entrepreneurs, a portfolio of partnerships and programs that provide training, access to capital and network building opportunities.
Rebecca Sholiton, Co-Founder & CEO of WiseApple
Rebecca is the Co-founder and CEO of Wise Apple. Prior to founding Wise Apple, Rebecca worked in Peru building business education programs for female entrepreneurs operating in the F&B and textile industries. While in Lima, she managed programs for the Goldman Sachs Foundation and USAID that impacted more than 1,500 women-led businesses. Rebecca launched her career at Deloitte Consulting focusing on M&A projects.
Alyssa Jaffee, Senior Associate at Pritzker Group
Funding Landscape Overview: Bootstrapping, VC, Crowdfunding, Angel, Family Offices (Understanding your options)
Venture capital seems to be the Holy Grail for entrepreneurs, but is that really the only way to grow your business? Alyssa Jaffee, Senior Associate at Pritzker Group will share what makes a good venture backed business and what other types of funding options that exist between bootstrapping and VC and what may be best for your business model.
Alyssa Jaffee is an investor at the Pritzker Group Venture Capital where she focuses on enterprise software and digital health. Alyssa was also the co-founder of TransparentCareer, 2016 New Venture Challenge winning company focused on helping people make more data-driven career decisions. Alyssa’s prior experience in venture capital includes time at Hyde Park Angels (HPA), one of the Midwest’s largest angel organizations, focusing on B2B SaaS, as well as Healthbox, an early stage healthcare innovation firm, supporting their accelerator program called the Studio.
Abby Ross, Co-Founder & Chief of Partnerships of ThinkCERCA
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Testing
You’ve created a product or service you think will change the game. ThinkCERCA’s Co-Founder & Chief of Partnerships, Abby Ross, will share some good strategies to test whether it actually resonates with your target market and what you can do if it doesn’t.
As the Co-founder of ThinkCERCA, Abby has helped lead Chicago’s fastest growing edtech start-up through 3 rounds of fundraising and scaling the business to reach over 500,000 students across top school districts across the country. Abby currently oversees ThinkCERCA’s product-led growth strategy and is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs in the early to growth stages think about product development, positioning, go-to-market strategy and strategic scaling.
Genevieve Thiers, Founder of SitterCity
Demonstrating Traction: What Metrics Investors Want To See and How To Get Them
Investors are looking to back companies with high growth potential. Genevieve Thiers, Founder of SitterCity, will share what types of milestones and metrics that signal to investors that your company has what it takes to scale and deliver strong returns.
Genevieve Thiers is an disruptor, entrepreneur, speaker and investor that lives in the Chicago area. Her first company, Sittercity.com, is America’s first company to take caregiving services online. Sittercity.com now has millions of users and new locations in the UK and Canada. Genevieve has mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs throughout her career. She is on the board of the CEC, which has created 1871, a co-working space in Chicago. Genevieve teaches classes at 1871 and is a frequent mentor and teacher within the space. She is also an investor in TechStars and the Firestarter fund, and in several female-run new tech startups that target women and lesser-known industries. She is a Chartwell speaker, and see her profile on their site here.
Ita Ekpoudom, Founder & CEO of Tigress Ventures
Telling Your Sixty Second Story:
In the earliest stages of entrepreneurship when you’re still at the idea or concept phase, your biggest asset is your ability to sell yourself and your vision. You know you’re the right person to turn that idea into a reality. But, can you make a compelling case to someone else when you have only a limited amount of time? Ita Ekpoudom of Tigress Ventures will share with you tips on how to create a short but compelling 60 Second Story.
Ita Ekpoudom is the Founder & CEO of Tigress Ventures, an advisory and consulting firm with a mission to engage, educate, and elevate the next generation of successful women business leaders and investors. She is also the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Plum Alley Investments, where she oversees investment opportunities and pipeline for high growth female founded and gender diverse startups. Previously, Ita held product management roles at private equity backed TravelClick and American Express.
Sonia Nagar, Vice President at Pritzker Group
The Perfect Verbal Pitch
You’ve spent hours working on creating the perfect deck for your venture. If you got into an elevator with your ideal investor, could you actually communicate a compelling story about yourself and business in a limited amount of time? Sonia Nagar, Vice-President at Pritzker Group, will share the key elements you should be able to effectively and concisely communicate about yourself and your company to leave them wanting more.
Sonia is a vice president with Pritzker Group Venture Capital, responsible for sourcing, diligence, and oversight for the firm’s investments in consumer, enterprise, and emerging technologies. Most recently, Sonia was vice president of product and head of mobile apps for RetailMeNot (NASDAQ: SALE), responsible for cross-platform strategy and leading an app redesign that earned a 2015 People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Shopping App. Sonia sits on the boards of Sittercity, Curiosity and WiseApple and is a board observer at Interior Define.
Dana Wright, Managing Director at MATH Venture Partners
The Perfect Verbal Pitch
You’ve spent hours working on creating the perfect deck for your venture. If you got into an elevator with your ideal investor, could you actually communicate a compelling story about yourself and business in a limited amount of time? Dana Wright, Managing Director at Math Venture Partners, will share the key elements you should be able to effectively and concisely communicate about yourself and your company to leave them wanting more.
Dana Wright is Managing Director of MATH Venture Partners. She has more than 20 years of investing and operating experience with roles in venture capital, strategy, corporate development, finance and compensation. Dana is the former Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Gavilon, a private-equity sponsored commodity management firm, that successfully scaled its operations and sold in 2013 for a value of more than $4.5 billion. Prior to joining Gavilon, she worked in both corporate and consulting roles. Dana earned a B.S. in Accounting and Business Administration and an M.S. in Accounting and Information Systems from the University of Kansas.
Samara Mejia Hernandez, Senior Associate at MATH Venture Partners
Samara is an early stage investor at MATH Venture Partners with a specialty in financial technology. Prior to joining MATH, Samara spent eight years at Goldman Sachs, where she was continually ranked top 5 in selling financial products, providing market insights, advising on portfolio construction, and consulting on business practices. Samara is actively involved in the Chicago tech community and passionate about helping underrepresented groups get into STEM education, venture capital and entrepreneurship. She is on the leadership council for Women Tech Founders and an active mentor at 1871 and with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.