WE’VE WALKED THE WALK
MESA Mentors are a group of C-level executives with hands-on experience running software companies at all stages of growth and a shared passion for mentoring. They hail from such companies as Retek, Gearworks, Packeteer, Identix, PayMyBills.com, Unimax, Lighthouse1 and HighJump. Together, they bring decades of “in the trenches” wisdom and experience to emerging software CEOs that spans leadership team formation and development, sales and marketing strategy and execution, overcoming operational challenges, raising capital, building and managing boards, driving revenue growth, and achieving outstanding liquidity outcomes.
Tim Bates, Exponential Group
Tim Bates runs the Exponential Group, a fifteen-year-old company that works with young, early-stage technology businesses in the US, Europe, and Asia developing and bringing to market product and services in the areas of mobile, digital imaging, SaaS, big data and IOT technologies.
Tim started as a software engineer and was the inventor or co-developer of a number of leading-edge computer graphic software systems. He then moved on to managing, running, and starting technology companies that pioneered digital cameras, SaaS services, advanced database systems and e-commerce solutions helping them develop and build markets.
Over the last 25 years, he has been part of senior management teams that have raised close to $50 million in early-stage venture money with investors in the US, Europe, and Asia.
Tim is currently a board member or advisor to a number of companies and works with others as a mentor. He has a BA in Mathematics from St. Olaf College and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.
Joe Blauert, VP of M&A, HelpSystems
Joe has 30 years of software leadership experience spanning sales, operations and finance. His past roles have included: reviewing controls and security of software systems and processes for domestic and international divisions of Honeywell; various sales and sales management roles for a vertically specific software division of ADP which grew 4X over the course of his tenure; and GM, CFO and COO roles at HighJump Software as it grew from $10M to $90M through both organic and acquisition based growth. Joe has received a BSB in Accounting and an MBA in Marketing from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Scott Brown, Chief Technology Officer & Entrepreneur
Scott has spent nearly 25 years in technology leadership positions primarily focused on Healthcare. He has been an executive at publicly traded, VC and PE backed companies. He internationalized Digital River’s ecommerce platform; commercialized and scaled Medtronic’s connected care systems; transformed XRS to a mobile technology company; founded a mobile outpatient management company; launched a pharmacogenomics company out of the Mayo Clinic; led Product, Engineering and Security at Zipnosis; and launched Player’s Health insurance marketplace. His passions are transforming and scaling products and organizations. He is a Tekne award winner and has been a finalist twice.
Dustin Bruzenak, CEO Modern Logic
Dustin Bruzenak is the CEO of Modern Logic, where battle-tested strategists, designers, project managers, and principal developers, with decades of experience, are passionate about solving hard problems. Dustin has spent more than 20 years shipping digital products and technology for companies like Adobe & US Bank. His software is in the hands of millions of users worldwide. As an entrepreneur, Dustin has also founded and sold his own successful technology companies. He applies that experience both at Modern Logic and as an advisor, board member, and guide to companies seeking to build digital products that improve lives.
Daren Cotter, Chief Executive Officer, InboxDollars
Daren is the Founder and CEO of InboxDollars, a marketing technology company that rewards consumers for their online and mobile activities. He founded the company from a dorm room in 2000 and has led the company to 50 employees and $25 million annual revenue, with no outside investment capital.
Daren is an active supporter of the MN tech community as a mentor, advisor, and angel investor. He is knowledgeable in the areas of Consumer Internet, Online Advertising, Marketplaces, Mobile, SaaS, Bootstrapping, and Raising Capital.
Angie Franks, Chief Executive Officer, Central Logic
Angie Franks has over 25 years of technology leadership experience ranging from sales and marketing for a pre-revenue start-up in Kansas City to CEO of a hospital information systems company.
Currently, Angie is CEO of Central Logic. Before that, Angie was the Chief Marketing Officer for SportsEngine, a division of NBC Sports. SportsEngine is a technology company serving the youth and amateur sports industry. Her responsibilities included overall leadership for the brand, communications, marketing and product functions.
Prior to SportsEngine, Angie was President and CEO of Healthland, a national leader in providing information systems designed specifically for rural hospitals. Owned by Francisco Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, Angie led dramatic results in growth, visibility and success for Healthland. Under her leadership the company grew at a 30% CAGR. The company was also recognized by Twin City Business magazine as a 2012 Small Business Success story winner.
Angie spent seven years as vice president of market development for Lawson Software. She also held leadership positions at GeoAccess (now owned by Optum), Healtheast and Medic Computer Systems. Angie and her family reside in the Twin Cities.
Jeff Fritz, CEO, Revel
Jeff has founded and led several successful organizations in the Software-as-a-Service, Consumer Engagement, and Digital Media sectors over the past 20 years. In 1995, he received industry recognition for an employee benefits firm that revolutionized how employee benefits are purchased. In 2003 Jeff created Lighthouse1 (now Evolution1), which launched a new technology model for the consumer driven healthcare industry. This new Consumer Driven Healthcare Software-as-a-Service Platform paved the way for transformation in the healthcare finance industry. Jeff serves on several Boards of Directors including the Chairman position of Cahill Adams, a firm that provides strategic leadership, capital investment and business acceleration for growing companies. He is also the President of the Minnesota Chapter for Entrepreneur Organization (EO), a Global Entrepreneur executive organization.
George Hadjiyanis, Founder & Principal Consultant, Launch Avenue
George Hadjiyanis has over 20 years of business development and marketing leadership experience with emerging software, SaaS and managed service providers. George’s passion is to uncover the critical needs of customers and deliver the right solution to help them meet their strategic goals.
George has led companies to be frontrunners in their respective industries via thought leadership strategies. George was the VP of Sales and Marketing for cloud management software provider Enstratius from the launch of the company through its eventual acquisition by Dell. During his leadership, the company secured numerous Fortune 500 customers and became positioned as an industry-leader including being honored with the Gartner Cool Vendor award. Post acquisition, George led the Dell cloud management sales and marketing organization.
Prior to Enstratius, George held marketing, product management, and sales operations leadership positions for various managed services companies including Agiliti, Zomax, and WAM!NET. George has also been recognized as a Top 100 Blogger on Cloud Computing, was a Yahoo Big Idea Marketing Award finalist, and has spoken at global marketing and technology conferences.
George holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and an MBA in Strategic Management from the University of Minnesota.
Paul Hanson, Vice President of IT, Opportunity Partners
Paul has over 30 years of experience as a business and technology leader, with 14+ years as a Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer. He has founded or co-founded small businesses as well as developed successful teams at mid to large organizations. Career highlights include raising over $30M in venture funding for two software startups. Paul was awarded his first patent in 2012.
Paul is currently a member of the executive management team of Opportunity Partners, one of the largest social services agencies in Minnesota which supports nearly 2,000 people with disabilities each year. He leads the technology team serving 650+ users and managing over 30 locations.
Paul mentors high tech startups in the Minnesota Cup and serves as an advisor to several other tech startups. He received Bachelor of Science degree from Minnesota State University Mankato in 1984, with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Business Administration, and resides in Eden Prairie with his family.
Jack Hauser, Chief Financial Officer, LogicStream Health, Inc.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Drake and receiving an MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, Jack Hauser held roles with Ernst & Young, US Bancorp and Hanrow Financial Group before joining Andcor Companies in 1995. In his seven years with Andcor Hauser provided executive search and strategic human resource consulting services to emerging growth companies and reviewed business plans of selected clients to assess overall viability and determine candidates for investment. In 2003, Hauser joined ABILITY Network Inc. as the Chief Financial Officer, a role he held until 2014. In May 2014, ABILITY Network was sold to a group of private investors led by Summit Partners for $550 million. In January 2015, Hauser joined LogicStream Health, Inc. as Chief Financial Officer.
Rob Juncker, SVP, Product Development, Code 42
Rob has over 15 years of executive experience in startup, early and growth stage software companies focusing on business to business products. Rob recently transitioned into an executive role at Ivanti as VP of Engineering after the Shavlik Business unit was purchased from VMware. At VMware he was Senior Director of R&D for the SMB Solutions team which he joined after Shavlik Technologies was acquired by VMware in 2011. He served as Shavlik’s Vice President of Engineering and Technology Operations prior to the acquisition. Prior to Shavlik, Rob co-founded Gearworks and served as their Chief Technology Officer before it was acquired by Xora (now ClickSoftware). Rob brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of software development, quality assurance, software architecture, SaaS based solutions, mobility, channel development, business partnerships and team development.
Aaron Kardell, VP Product, Lone Wolf Technologies
Aaron serves as the VP, Product at Lone Wolf Technologies. He brings a wealth of real estate tech knowledge from his time as the CEO of HomeSpotter, which he founded in 2009 when he and his wife were searching for a new home — they wanted a better way to do that — the solution, to utilize their iPhones. Before founding HomeSpotter, Aaron authored several Facebook and iPhone apps, including World Conquest and iGarageSale. Aaron also founded Altona Ed, a K-12 education software startup that was later acquired. Aaron is a lifelong entrepreneur who founded his first software business in high school and enjoys biking, running, traveling, and spending time with his family.
Dan Kinsella, Chief Financial Officer (Retired), SportsEngine
Dan has over 20 years of experience as CFO with fast growing companies. Most recently he was part of the team that rapidly grew local software maker SportsEngine culminating in an acquisition by NBC Sports in July 2016. He also led the IPO of Datalink Corporation and helped grow Shavlik Technologies until it was acquired by VMware, Inc. in May 2011. Dan was also the General Manager & CFO at JAMF Software – another rising star in the Twin City software community. Dan’s specialty is helping organizations develop the capabilities needed to get to the next level of market success. In 2015, Dan was named CFO of the Year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Dan is a CPA and holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of St. Thomas.
Todd J. Krautkremer, Chief Marketing Officer, Cradlepoint
Todd has over 25 years of executive experience in startup, early, and growth stage software-driven companies. His expertise spans strategy formation, sales and marketing, strategic partnerships, capitalization, M&A, and team development. He recently returned to the Silicon Valley to partner his former Packeteer CEO as CMO of Pertino, a software-defined cloud networking startup (acquired by Cradlepoint). Previously, he served as COO of Red Lambda, a big data security startup. As President and CEO of Minnesota-based Gearworks, Todd orchestrated a turn-around, raised over $40 million in venture capital, and led the company to the rank of the fastest growing industry player before it was acquired by Xora (now ClickSoftware). Prior to Gearworks, he was VP of Worldwide Marketing at Packeteer (IPO) and also served as VP of Marketing at Sync (IPO). As an innovator and mentor, Todd was nominated for the 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, holds two patents on application-intelligent networks, and sits on several technology and private company boards.
Kent Lillemoe, Chief Financial Officer (Retired), Field Nation
Kent has spent the past 30 years working with emerging growth companies as a financial officer or director. He has been very fortunate to work with some outstanding entrepreneurs and teams as CFO of CyberOptics, Fargo Electronics, MinuteClinic and Field Nation. Kent’s interests and experience cover strategy, product management, financial management, operations and organizational development. Over his career, he has been a key contributor to corporate finance and acquisition transactions totaling $1.0B. Kent has a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of South Dakota, an MBA from the University of Minnesota and was named CFO of the Year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2017.
Jason Marx, President and CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting North America
Jason is President & Chief Executive Officer of Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, North America. In this role, Jason leads the development and delivery of customer-focused software, solutions and information services that serve tax, accounting, and audit professionals. Prior to this, he served as President of CCH Small Firm Services and group Executive for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting Brazil. Jason has more than 30 years of experience in financial services, tax and accounting, and information technology industries, with proven abilities to drive top line growth, accelerate market share and deliver innovative, award-winning customer solutions.
Jason has been named by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Michigan and an MBA, Finance from DePaul University.
Jim Moar, CEO (retired), OptiMine Software, Inc.
Jim has a substantial track record in growing companies quickly and organically, both public and private, both technology and industrial companies, and both mid-sized companies and start-ups. OptiMine is an exciting SaaS-based, start-up company that is “best of breed” in optimizing digital advertising results and with substantial growth opportunity. For OptiMine, Jim raised $12M in VC money in a 3-year period. Previously, as COO of Identix, Jim led a turnaround doubling revenue to $90M in less than 3 years and transforming a $25M EBITDA loss to EBITDA profitability. Identix was then sold for $775M, over 70 times forward EBITDA. Jim has also been the COO or President of DataCard, Tennant, and Liquipak and the CEO of Reshare Commerce. Jim focuses on identifying the greatest points of leverage to quickly improve results, team-developed strategies, and execution.
John Moroney, VP, Sales & Marketing, Lighthouse Software
John Moroney is a sales management executive with over 35 years of experience in high technology products and services. He has a particular passion for sales process design and helping emerging companies uncover their “sales recipe’.
John sold and led sales at enterprise software companies including Fourth Shift (Infor) and Digital Market (Agile/Oracle). Before entering the software industry, he led manufacturing operations at high technology companies in the medical (Phillips), semiconductor (Texas Instruments) and computer industries.
Brian Olsem, President, Versare Solutions
Brian has over 25 years experience leading and building technology and services companies primarily focused on serving Enterprise clients. For the past 20 years Brian has served a variety of company executive and sales leadership roles for technology businesses within Taylor Corporation. Prior to Versare Brian was leading a portfolio of technology businesses and solutions within the Taylor Customer Facing Technology Sector. Growing businesses, solving complex client problems, and adjusting quickly to market, client and employee needs are a just a few of the passions that drive Brian on a daily basis.
Brian currently resides in Waconia with his wife and four children.
Douglas Olsem, Supply Chain/CIO Executive (Retired), Schwan’s
Doug has over 35 years of executive leadership in a private Fortune 500 private company. He has a proven track record of developing company growth, driving operational efficiency, and talent development. He has extensive experience in supply chain and information technology. Doug has also played a key role in developing a data company from scratch. He also played a key role in a food-based business division start-up that saw it grow sales to over 100 million dollars. During his career, he has initiated and lead several initiatives to drive profitability to the bottom line through cost savings, automation, and overall operational excellence initiatives. Helping a company grow and working with people to make things better are things that Doug loves to do.
Ivan Pandiyan, Executive at GE Healthcare
Ivan Pandiyan is a life science, health care, medical technology executive with over 25years of global leadership in startups and fortune500 companies such as Medtronic and Danaher and GE. He has successfully led product and technology strategy planning and execution including M&A and competitive go to market strategy. He has mentored over 50+ startups in the Minnesota community at gBeta Medtech and MN Cup. Ivan has a masters degree in electrical engineering from The University of Texas and an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Kim Perry, Director, West Monroe
With expertise and perspective spanning the healthcare ecosystem, Kim works closely with clients to develop strategies for achieving their business goals. Kim’s business development efforts have been instrumental in establishing West Monroe in the Minnesota healthcare market and growing our Minneapolis office. In addition to cultivating client relationships and leading successful engagements, Kim is building a community-based innovation hub to address critical healthcare issues in Minnesota – with plans to expand to additional markets.
Kim joined West Monroe from Xerox, where she was vice president of sales for the Healthcare Payer and Pharmaceutical practices. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.
Kevin A Spanbauer, Chief Executive Officer, Edwards RideCare
Kevin possesses a track record of providing resources to technology companies with core competencies in business development and building high-performing teams, but also acting as a business catalyst to connect clients to investor communities, customers, partners, and other technical resources. He acts as a “Trusted Adviser” to software companies at various stages of growth. Kevin has built some of the strongest relationships as anyone in Minnesota’s software industry, . He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Computer Science & Mathematics, along with an MBA from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.
John Tedesco, Chief Executive Officer, Drip
John is an entrepreneur, chief executive and company director with 15 years’ experience building and running venture-backed technology businesses. He is the founder of three SaaS companies providing information services, financial services and location-based services to both businesses and consumers. He has an established track record in identifying market opportunities, building world-class teams and delivering award winning products and services to market across a variety of industries, including commercial real estate, payments and mobile/wireless. John graduated from Fairfield University in Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting and from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with an MBA in entrepreneurship and information strategy.
Troy Thibodeau, Chief Marketing Officer, Ascentis Corporation
Troy has spent the past 17 years in go-to-market leadership positions at technology companies. Leading Sales & Marketing, Product & Technology teams at smaller, high growth businesses and large multinational technology providers, Troy’s passion for identifying market needs, addressing those needs with compelling technology offerings and driving customer delight to fuel business growth have lead to repeatable business success.
Troy’s experiences include B2B and B2C, with a strong expertise in Software as a Service (SaaS) business models. Most recently, Troy helped lead Sovos Compliance from a 40 employee tax compliance technology business to a 700 employee business-to-government regulatory technology provider across 3 continents. Prior to Ascentis, Troy held leadership roles at Sovos, Concur, Gelco and Honeywell.
Troy takes his greatest reward from helping grow talent, build high performance teams, and loves opportunities to make “dry” or technical industries interesting and meaningful.
Jason Tober, CEO, Delaget
Jason has more than 20 years of senior leadership experience in high growth technology businesses. He co-founded his first company at the age of 24, a boutique technology consulting firm which was acquired three years later. More recently Jason led global Sales and Alliances at Shavlik Technologies until it was acquired by VMware, Inc. in 2011 where he served as Sr. Director, Sales. Jason joined JAMF Software in 2012 where he led global Sales & Marketing prior to joining Delaget in 2015 as CEO. Delaget, a 2015 Eureka! Award winner, is a SaaS analytics company, leveraging Big Data in the restaurant vertical to improve operations, minimize loss and deliver revenue and profitability growth. Jason holds a BA in Biology from St. Olaf College.
Chris Heim, President and CEO at AbeTech
Chris is a growth-focused executive with 12 years of executive experience, who welcomes the challenge of working within fast-paced, technology-based, and innovative companies. As CEO of Rimage Corporation, Chris helped orchestrate the spinoff from a public company to a private company with a PE investor.
Currently, as President and CEO at AbeTech, Chris is leading the company through significant growth – doubling revenues from $50M to $100M (via organic growth and five acquisitions), as well as guiding culture amidst the increase from 80 to 130 team members. His specialties include strategy, market development, Traction EOS principles, and fostering team-focused culture.
Alongside his executive duties, Chris serves as an elected city official and sits on the board of directors for the CEO-Roundtable organization.
Jody Vogelaar, SVP Marketing & Content, SportsEngine
Jody has more than 20 years of experience leading marketing and product launches in the media, technology, and software industries. Currently, Jody is SVP of Marketing & Content for SportsEngine and is responsible for marketing, creative services, and content strategy.
Prior to SportsEngine, Vogelaar was VP, Marketing for Los Gatos, CA-based Roku, leading the launch of Roku Player & TV products, and overseeing marketing for more than 100 product SKUs in 9 countries, helping grow the company from 5MM to 19MM active users during his tenure.
Before Roku, Jody held marketing roles with CBS, Disney Interactive, and was a longtime 21st Century FOX/News Corp marketer, having led pay-television and digital acquisition and subscription marketing assignments in the U.S., China, and London over a decade. While at The Times of London, Vogelaar was a key player in the launch of The Times’ digital subscription products, overseeing marketing and subscriber acquisition efforts, nearly doubling the total subscriber base in the first year. Vogelaar also led marketing campaigns for 3 consecutive #1 app launches, and is the recipient of more than 25 marketing industry awards.
Ken Schempp, Entrepreneur & CEO of eDocument Resources
As Entrepreneur and CEO of eDocument Resources, Ken was responsible for developing business strategies, leading innovation, and defining a vision for technology consulting and implementations. Under his leadership, he created opportunities that enable organizations in the industries of healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, finance, government, and human services to achieve greater operating efficiency while at the same time reducing costs. Ken has also been highly involved in all aspects of sales and sales leadership over his career.
In 2016 Ken initiated and directed a small non-profit (Connect the Dots) to provide an avenue to “give back” to the local community by assisting the under employed. This is an ongoing effort as Ken has joined with UpWorks MN in a leadership role.
Ken is a graduate from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. In 2006, the Twin West Chamber of Commerce nominated Ken as an Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, a distinction based upon business leaders who guide their organization with sound business strategies, financial success and community involvement.
Ken has spent many years “backpacking” around the world and continues his love to explore the world as well as the north woods as an outdoor enthusiast.
Connell Smith, Fractional CEO Pivotal Strategies Consulting
Connell Smith has over 30 years’ experience building and directing successful technology businesses from software startups to large global corporations.
Currently Connell operates as a fractional CEO, helping turn around small businesses with growth challenges.
Previously Connell ran a business division for Entrust, a global digital security, identity and access management technology business; helped build two software startups, in collaborative enterprise ebusiness solutions, and hosted mobile applications, both as VP of Product Operations responsible for the product marketing, product management and software development organizations; and ran a unit for Rockwell Automation, a $5B global leader in automation and control products.
Connell has an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Minnesota, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada.
Jack Dempsey, Senior Advisor of NEP
Jack Dempsey is a Senior Advisor (Operating Partner) at Norwest Equity Partners (NEP), the Minnesota-based middle market private equity firm. His role at NEP includes working with portfolio company CEOs and management teams on growth and strategy opportunities. Prior to NEP he was a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, where he spent 18 years; and at Pentair, Inc. where he was President of several global business units over a 5 year time frame. He is an active mentor in the Twin Cities start-up community – including mentoring at more than a dozen Techstars accelerator programs – and Venture Capital and Angel Investor.
Brett Keirstead, VP Sales, Sense
Brett is an experienced, passionate Sales leader with a diverse background in helping organizations grow revenue and increase enterprise value. Brett has led sales in several highly successful MN-based software companies including Jobs2Web and Avionte. He is the author of the book We Are All Sales, People published in 2020 that focuses on advancing the sales profession and helping non-salespeople improve their communication and relationship management skills at work, home, school, and in their community. Brett is a certified coach and mentors several rising executives in building growth organizations in their businesses.
Chad Eckes, Principal and Founder, C Squared E
Chad Eckes is an all-around strategy, marketing, and M&A athlete, with over 25 years of professional experience spanning roles in consulting, product management, marketing, corporate development, and finance, within enterprise (B2B) technology, software and software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses.
An independent consultant since 2008, Chad has served over 30 clients helping them achieve their growth goals through improved go-to-market strategies, voice-of-the-customer intelligence, sales enablement, and marketing effectiveness. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, Chad worked in senior leadership roles within 3M Company and Accenture.
Chad holds an undergraduate degree in economics and mathematics from Northwestern University and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is also a certified Pragmatic Institute™ product manager.
JP Little, JP Little LLC and Crosslake Certified Practitioner, Crosslake Technologies
JP has over 30 years of experience in software engineering, product/program management, senior business, and technical leadership, and corporate strategy. His focus has been across the health IT spectrum, including payers, EMRs, PBMs, and pharmacies. He is trusted as an advisor to executives on how to deliver change and re-architect their business.
JP has a BS in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota, and an MS in Computer Science from the University of St. Thomas.
Alex Becker, VP Sales, Linnworks
Alex brings 30 years of Sales, Sales Leadership, and General Management experience leading cross-functional teams globally. His GTM experience transcends the SMB, Mid-Market, and Enterprise segments. He is a tenacious Go-to-Market problem solver in SaaS – in start-up, scale-up, and high-growth organizations. He genuinely cares about the success and well-being of others and is relentless with his time to mentor others in their pursuits.