Unleashed 2021 speakers will share their perspectives on scaling businesses and building startup communities. These lightning talks are meant to spark further conversations outside the formal sessions. 

2021 Confirmed Speakers

Charlie Mulligan, Co-Founder and Managing Director of GiveGab

Charlie is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of GiveGab, the world's leading platform for community-wide fundraising.  During his 30+ year career in entrepreneurship, Charlie’s companies have created 100s of high-paying jobs, attracted 10s of thousands of clients from around the world, and gained a market beating return for all of more than 100+ individual and institutional investors.  

Christine Tate, Angel Investor, Entrepreneur, Startup Mentor

Christine Tate is a the COO of Vara Safety, a biometrics company in Troy, NY. Tate is also an Angel Investor actively involved in early stage/seed investing in the Northeast. She serves on the due diligence committee of the NYC-based ARC Angel Fund and is a member of Funding Post Angels.

Christine is active in the Upstate New York startup community including the Statewide INY initiative based in NYC, as well as mentoring companies for the StartFast Venture Accelerator, the Tech Garden Sandbox in Syracuse and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Chuck Stormon, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor, Mentor

Chuck Stormon is a seven-time serial tech entrepreneur and investment fund manager who mentors other entrepreneurs, serves on corporate boards, and invests in Seed/A stage B2B SaaS companies. He does his best to live and work his values of equality of opportunity, diversity, and sustainability.

As Partner at StartFast Fund II, Chuck focuses on investment selection, due diligence and portfolio company development. As a Managing Director of StartFast Venture Accelerator, Chuck participated in 48 lead investments and numerous portfolio company boards.

Chuck purchased Acumen Detection, a manufacturer of molecular diagnostic reagents, from SRC, Inc. of Syracuse, NY in 2019. In 2020, he executed a change of control transaction with the Dairy Farmers of America. He serves as CEO of the subsidiary.

David Deutsch, Seasoned Investment Banking & Advisor 

Trained at Wall Street's largest firms, David and his firm have completed over 130 assignments since 1993, specializing in the growth and sale of great private companies. From Upstate NY, VT, and NYC -- via Middlebury College and Columbia Univ. Grad. School of Business -- David is about brains, heart, relationships and results, as manifest in the four pillars of his professional activities:  David N. Deutsch & Company (leading NY-based M&A firm); TheBoardAdvisor (advising private company owners and boards); The Presidents Council (consortium of CEOs, Wall Street execs and family offices who meet quarterly and invest together); and Camp David (a weekend of business-and-broader discussion and camaraderie).

When he's not advising clients, David does triathlons, Krav Maga, and is a single Dad to three above-average children. David speaks English and the language of closely-held and family enterprise, with a "soft spot" for those in Upstate NY.

Guha Bala, Gaming Development Expert & Investor

Guha Bala is the President of innovation investment firm, Velan Ventures, and the Cofounder of independent gaming studio, Velan Studios, in Troy, NY.

Prior to these ventures, Guha started gaming studio Vicarious Visions in 1991 with his brother Karthik Gala. Vicarious Visions grew to more than 150 employees, and worked on more than 100 games, including big console releases like Guitar Hero, Skylanders Swap Force, and Skylanders Superchargers. The company’s games sold as many as 40-50 million units, and generated billions in sales. The Bala brothers started the company when they were teenagers in high school out of their parents’ basement. Vicarious Visions was sold to Activision Publishing in 2005.

Jack Greco, Founder and Investor | ACV Auctions, Cupule Ventures

Jack Greco is a father, founder, advisor and angel.  He co-founded or supported the early creation and growth of dozens of companies across Upstate New York, including ACV Auctions, AireXpert, Azuna and The Lumber Exchange. Greco dedicates time and capital through Cupule Ventures, develops next generation technology with One Link Venture studio, and writes for the Buffalo Bridge. Greco serves as a board member to several startups, Monroe Community Hospital Foundation, DKE Beta Phi Alumni Association, University Heights Tool Library, Via Center for the Blind and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

All of this comes second in life to his role as a father to his very adventurous 5 year old son, Little Jack. Greco holds an M.B.A. from the Simon School of Business Administration and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Rochester.

Jay McHarg, CEO of AeroSafe Global

Jay McHarg is the CEO of AeroSafe Global, the leading provider of cold chain as a service for the biopharma industry.  AeroSafe provides the safe, efficient, and sustainable delivery of temperature sensitive therapeutics all over the world.  Jay has combined his engineering and business experience to lead the creation of innovative solutions for 25 years.   Jay has BS and MS engineering degrees from McGill University, as well as an MBA from Babson College.  In addition to being a proud member of Upstate Venture Connect UNY50, Jay is also a National Technology Institute for the Deaf (NTID) @ RIT Foundation Board Member and an Endeavor Network Entrepreneur.

Kate Brodock

Kate is CEO of Women 2.0 and Founding Partner of W Fund, a venture capital fund that invests in women- and diverse-led tech startups. She’s also an EIR at LaunchNY, and a long-time mentor for Techstars. She was recently CMO of untapt, an AI-driven tech talent marketplace based in NYC and has held the role of Adjunct Professor in PR and Marketing at at Syracuse University.

Driving diversity, equity and inclusion action and awareness has been absolutely central to her work, and she additionally enjoys putting her experience in the tech industry to work advising and mentoring startups.

Kate has spoken at and been featured in numerous places, including SXSWi, Collision Conference, Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored, IBT, MSNBC, TechCrunch, the BBC and Al Jazeera America.

Marnie LaVigne, President & CEO of Launch NY

Dr. Marnie LaVigne has spent more than 30 years in both the private and public sectors creating new products and start-up businesses, driving innovation and economic growth in high-tech industries, such as life sciences, informatics, and advanced manufacturing. 

Dr. LaVigne has a bachelor's degree in neuroscience and a doctorate in clinical psychology, both from the University of Rochester. She is the President and CEO of Launch NY and chair of the New York State Economic Development Council (NYSEDC) and a member of the Board of Directors for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the State Science and Technology Institute (SSTI), Upstate Venture Connect, Western New York Venture Association, and numerous advisory boards. 

Martin Babinec, Entrepreneur, Venture Catalyst & Investor

Martin Babinec is the Chairman and founder of Upstate Venture Connect. He founded Silicon Valley based TriNet in 1988, serving as CEO for the company's first 20 years and Chairman until 2010. TriNet's cloud based HR services help 17,000 small to mid sized companies and the company has grown to annual sales of $4+ billion – listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TNET. He remains active as the company's largest non-institutional shareholder and serves on TriNet's Board of Directors.

He is Founder/Managing Director at UpVentures Capital – making direct investments in 30+ startup companies and serving as limited partner and advisor to a dozen venture capital and seed funds, several of which he helped start as an Upstate Venture Connect initiative.

Nasir Ali, Community Builder, Mentor & Investor

Nasir Ali is the CEO and co-founder of Upstate Venture Connect. He has been actively building the high growth entrepreneurial ecosystem across Upstate New York since 2004.

Ali is an active angel investor and fund manager. He was the founder and Executive Director of UNY’s first angel fund in 2007 and helped start similar angel funds in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and the Hudson Valley. In 2011, he launched StartFast Venture Accelerator, a private capital-backed startup accelerator program invested in 48 pre-seed startups from 2012-2020. StartFast Fund II is a Seed/A stage venture capital fund targeting B2B SaaS companies outside the traditional coastal VC hubs. He is also a board member and advisor to numerous entities including the NYS Innovation Venture Capital Fund, Next Gen Venture Partners, Fitzgate Ventures and multiple StartFast portfolio companies.

Ron Martere, Vice President of North Business Group, Steelcase

Ron Martere leads the North Business Group for Steelcase. Steelcase is a recognized industry leader supporting clients globally. They have appeared on Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” list 16 times as of 2021.  Ron joined Steelcase in 1999. Prior to Steelcase he was on the leadership team for a Palo Alto-based start up company and served 5 years on active duty as a U.S. Army officer.  He is an International Business graduate of Auburn University and holds a German Business certification through the Goethe Institute.

Savneet Singh, President & CEO of PAR Technology Corp.

Savneet Singh is the President & CEO of PAR Technology Corp. (NYSE:PAR), one of the largest restaurant technology companies in the world. After taking the helm at PAR, Savneet restructured and recapitalized the business, and has led the transformation of PAR from a legacy hardware provider, to a fast-growing SaaS business.

Mr. Singh is a partner of CoVenture, LLC, a $500MM multi-asset manager with funds in venture capital, direct lending, and cryptocurrency. In 2009, Mr. Singh co-founded GBI, a large financial software platform that allows investors to buy, trade and store physical precious metals. Mr. Singh serves on the Board of Osprey Technology (NYSE:SFTW) and SharpSpring (NYSE:SHSP) and has been a successful early stage investor in Uber, Ripple, Rippling, SoFi, Postmates among others.

Shawn Dunwoody

Shawn is a multi-disciplinary creative force for change transforming the lived experience in Rochester, NY and sharing his experiences with communities across the US. His experience as a DirectorProducerDesignerMakerInfluencerDeveloper, and Artist gives him the opportunity to establish cutting edge, creative design in a variety of forms.

Shawn's practice in creative implementation and innovative planning focuses on urban interventions and community forms of urban development. He believes in contextual knowledge, an original approach, and imagination as the basis for crafting new forms of appropriation of space, common producing, and creative development.

Shawn brings “stay creative” thinking to the table in everything he does and aims to integrate the needs of people and the possibilities of technology with the genius of great experiences. He understands that creativity inspires and plays on our curiosity. This inspiration makes people want to hear more, learn more, and engage more. 

Upstate Venture Connect
235 Harrison Street, #41,
Syracuse, NY 13202


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