Chicago’s StartOut chapter began in 2013. Over the years, Chicago has built a reputation as a hotbed of innovative startups. Through humble beginnings in shared office spaces, angel investors organized themselves into networks and incubators to help accelerate the growth of well-known startups from the area.
With local universities formalizing their entrepreneurship programs, Chicago holds the recipe for what is now a robust startup ecosystem.
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25 March 2017
25 March 2017
Programming Board Chair
David Alfini, Esq. is a partner in the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson. He is licensed in Illinois and Indiana. Over 17 years, David has developed a national practice counseling and representing small and large business in a variety of matters such as construction defect, product liability, long-term care, toxic exposure, and premises liability.
Steven is the VP Retail Training Manager for MB Financial. During his five years working at MB, he has worked closely with LGBTQ businesses throughout Chicago and takes pride in being involved with StartOut Chicago and helping entrepreneurs.
James Bain is currently Chief Operating Officer for Parking Panda, the leader in online parking reservations. Parking Panda allows drivers to find and reserve parking online, ahead of time through web and mobile applications and enables garages and lots to market their inventory through an online channel. In 2015 he was named one of the “40 under 40 in Parking” by the National Parking Association. He has yet to form GIP: Gays in Parking.
After earning his MBA from Chicago Booth in 2011, James joined Groupon as a City Manager, in charge sales and operations of all daily deals in such high profile cities as Detroit, Minneapolis and Toledo. In addition, James worked as a Senior Manager in Sales Operations, the merchant research and lead management departments—optimizing efficiencies and shortening the sales cycle for 800 sales representatives across the US.
James is the primary Board contact for the Chicago chapter.
Moira Hardek, Founder & CEO of Galvanize Labs Inc. is challenging education paradigms by combining tech curriculum with gaming. While at Best Buy she created the Geek Squad Academy that taught technology skills to 15,000 under-represented youth.
John Litchfield is an associate and litigation attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, and is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment and Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practices. His primary practice includes counseling clients on a wide range of employment-related matters, including disability accommodations, family and medical leave issues, wage and hour compliance, and other state and federal employment laws. He has represented employers in federal and state litigation matters relating to race and disability discrimination, FMLA claims, and harassment. Mr. Litchfield regularly advises startup and growth companies, in addition to large private and public companies, on employment practices and governance.
Manny Ozaeta is the Director of Membership at 1871, where he supports the broad needs of new and current members. Ozaeta brings with him a wealth of experience through a diverse background in communications, legislative affairs, and customer service.
Heather Roberts is an established technology attorney turned procurement executive. She is currently a Senior Director at Harman International where she is responsible for the global procurement of software and patent licenses related to automotive technologies and professional audio products. Outside of her day job, Heather is heavily involved in building the Chicago entrepreneurial community, acting as the lead for the Chicago chapter of StartOut, a non-profit organization focused on providing opportunities for LGBTQ founders and startups. She is an advisor for WiStem, an incubator for women entrepreneurs and a frequent angel investor. Heather is also passionate about corporate diversity. She started and led the LGBT@moto employee resource group while she was in-house counsel at Motorola and is regularly engaged in public speaking on diversity and entrepreneurship.
Bernadette Smith’s vision is for all people to receive equal treatment as they move through life. She is CEO of Equality Institute, a firm dedicated to consulting with businesses on issues of unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion. She started her career as a pioneer in the LGBTQ wedding industry, where she wrote three books and became a sought-after thought leader, speaker and consultant on issues of inclusion in weddings and travel.
Drew Stern is founder & Co-CEO of Esquify, a venture-backed legal technology company, and has held leadership positions at Salesforce, Buddy Media, Sprout Social and American Express. His passion for technology’s impact on business has been a common thread throughout his career. As an LBGTQ founder, Drew is a strong advocate for workplace diversity, mentorship and entrepreneurship. Drew received his MBA from NYU Stern.
Grant is the Group Vice President of Operations at InContext Solutions – the global leader in cloud-based virtual reality shopping and retail solutions. He has 10+ experience scaling global operational functions for high growth companies. Grant earned a BA at George Washington in political science and history.