Conference Panel

Brian Abraham

Brian Abraham, Spartan Innovations

Dr. Abraham is the Executive Director of Spartan Innovations focusing on creating New Ventures from Michigan State University intellectual property. Dr. Abraham overseas all aspects of Spartan Innovations from formation and infrastructure development to exit strategies for New Ventures created.

Dr. Abraham purchased Kentco (now ProteQ) in 2011 with his business partner in order to re-enter the Defense contracting business with a firm positioned for renewed growth. At Kentco, Dr. Abraham supports various client programs on a technical and business level while managing the company infrastructure and growth strategies. Prior to joining Kentco, Dr. Abraham was the founder of Groveland Capital LLC and before that director of private investments for Whitebox Advisors (Minneapolis, MN). He was also President and CEO of Bluefin Robotics. He has also held leadership positions with Battelle Memorial Institute and Bruker Biosciences. Dr. Abraham has lectured and been published extensively in areas ranging from Analytical Chemistry to Entrepreneurship. Dr. Abraham currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at The Ohio State University and has served in the same capacity at Babson College.

Brian Ardinger

Brian Ardinger, NMotion

Brian Ardinger (@ardinger) is the Managing Director of Nebraska's startup accelerator NMotion and Entrepreneur in Residence at NUtech Ventures. He is co-founder of The Big Plate, a collaborative community for entrepreneurs and startups and former Chief Marketing Officer at Nanonation. Brian is a regular contributor to industry publications, a public speaker and quoted industry expert with over 20 years of experience in interactive media, marketing consulting, and research.

Prior to these most recent projects, Brian was head of research at Ion Global, a Hong Kong headquartered technology firm where he developed Asia’s first dedicated customer experience lab to analyze and measure how customers utilized technology in their shopping and online experiences. In addition to his work overseas, Mr. Ardinger has been a Senior Consultant with Gartner based in Silicon Valley where he implemented strategy and research for multinationals around the world and managed projects in industries ranging from software to telecommunications. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Nebraska in Omaha and an MBA from Penn State.

Loyce Arthur

Loyce Arthur, Associate Professor of Theatre Arts, University of Iowa

Loyce L. Arthur is an Associate Professor in the Theatre Arts Department at the University of Iowa and co-director of the Caribbean Diaspora and Atlantic Studies Program in International Programs. She is a costume designer for the Theatre and coordinator of the Iowa City Community Engagement Carnaval Project. She worked with 900+ Iowa artists and community members to produce the Iowa City Carnaval Parade at the Iowa Arts Festival in 2013 and 2014 parades. She has designed costumes for numerous productions including carnival costumes for the Iowa City Carnaval Parade; Brokenville, and Nocturnal Wanderer at the Aggelon Vima Theatre, Athens, Greece; and The Brothers Sun and Moon at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C. Her work at the University of Iowa includes Slaughter City, 14, Versailles, Shadows of the Reef, and Angels in America.

Research awards have given her the opportunity to study carnival design in Trinidad, Brazil, Cuba, London UK, and Toronto, Canada. Key areas of creative research are Caribbean carnival art and design and world mask and carnival traditions.

Lisa Barnes

Lisa Barnes, Executive Director, Iowa Summer of the Arts

Lisa Barnes has served as Executive Director of Summer of the Arts since November 2009. Prior to that, she worked as a meeting planner at Pearson and ran her own conference and association management business for 13 years working with a wide range of clients. She has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Iowa. She spent many years volunteering in the Iowa City area with Meeting Professionals International, Girl Scouts and Regina Education Center. She was also a volunteer coach for Iowa City Kickers and West High Cheerleading. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, husband Kevin and children Miranda and Jason, reading, movies and various sports.


Christina Bartels, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce

Nancy Bird

Nancy Bird, Executive Director, Iowa City Downtown District

Nancy Bird is the Executive Director of the Iowa City Downtown District and a certified planner. She moved to the Iowa City area in September of 2012 for the ICDD position from Seattle, Washington, where she spent the past 15 years consulting to municipalities and business improvement districts. Nancy received her BA from Drake University and MA from Illinois State in Political Science through an economic development program and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. She has a passion for design, planning, and economic development as it relates to Downtowns and enjoys working with diverse groups to address complex civic issues.

Shonna Dorsey, Managing Director, Interface: The Web School

Shonna is a co-founder and the Managing Director for Interface: the Web School. Shonna was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and is an alumnus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) where she earned both Bachelor's and Master's of Science degrees in Management Information Systems (MIS). Her career includes training facilitation, project management and application development. She has earned the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Project Management Institute-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certifications through PMI. Shonna is a board member of the UNO Alumni Association, chairs the UNO Information Science and Technology Alumni Advisory Group, and is an adjunct faculty member for UNO's graduate MIS program. As a professional who is passionate about education, Shonna is excited to extend support to the region's tech talent development and retention efforts through Interface: the Web School.

Geoff Fruin

Geoff Fruin, Assistant City Manager, City of Iowa City

Geoff Fruin currently serves as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Iowa City, where he has worked since 2011. Prior to working in Iowa City he spent eight years with the Town of Normal, Illinois where he last served as the Assistant City Manager. Before serving in local government, Geoff worked as a research assistant for the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as with the Chicago Transit Authority and as an intern in the White House. He has Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Iowa in Business Administration and Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Mark Ginsberg

Mark Ginsberg, President, M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers and Objects of Art

I have to ask, “What is it that attracts us, our families and our businesses to a place?”

It is many things; there is not just one answer. But one powerful attractant is our culture, those things that distinguish us from one another. That is our people, customs, recreation, in a word our ART. What defines us and makes us unique is what makes our lives exciting and creative. Not surprisingly this also has the ability to attract visibility to an issue and humans wanting and willing to engage.

Celebrating the arts in Iowa is enrichment for the whole community and one that Mark Ginsberg has made his life's pursuit. Well known for initiating not only new cultural programming but also hoping to inspire other businesses, large and small, to follow the lead, Mark's career spans nearly three decades of committed activism in the arts.

As an art dealer and the owner of M. C. Ginsberg (jewelry arts studio, antique, early 20th century jewelry and fine timepieces, boutique manufacturing) in Iowa City, Mark Ginsberg has created something more than a profitable business dedicated to the bottom line. Soon after buying his father's jewelry store in 1985, he established the M. C Ginsberg Fund to better serve the arts community in Iowa City through free exhibitions, public lectures, artist's workshops and community arts events. Ginsberg went on to found the annual Iowa City Jazz Festival and served as executive producer from 1990‑1997. Now in its twenty-second year, this three‑day event attracts over 60,000 people from all over the country and is considered by the international jazz community to be one of the finest jazz venues in the U.S. today.

Other community programs involving M.C. Ginsberg's participation or sponsorship include: The Perspective Series; Hancher Outreach Program, providing at‑risk children access to theatrical tours and free performances; the M. C. Ginsberg Community Arts Partnership, an annual "Artist's‑In‑Residence" community program; and the free Friday Music Concerts, on‑going since 1987, as well as serving as a charter board member to the Iowa City Community Cultural Incubator.

David Hensley

David Hensley, Director, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and Associate Vice President for Economic Development, University of Iowa

David K. Hensley is the Associate Vice President for Economic Development, the Executive Director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, and a Clinical Professor in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business at The University of Iowa. He provides strategic leadership for entrepreneurship activities across the UI campus, teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and is actively engaged in providing business and technology commercialization consulting services to UI faculty/students and community entrepreneurs. Outside of his university activities, David has over 25 years’ experience in business, consulting, and strategic management; he has provided start-up and management consulting services to several companies throughout the Midwest. David also serves on several community entrepreneurship and economic development boards. David earned his B.S. degree in Economics and Political Science from The University of Iowa and holds an M.B.A. in Finance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Paul Jaques

Paul Jaques, Spartan Innovations

As the Director of Student and Community Engagement for Spartan Innovations, Paul Jaques works with the MSU undergraduate students on their business ideas and inventions to potentially get them to market. This effort is combined with funding from two endowments, Forest Akers and Gerstacker, which are available to the undergraduate students. He also works with the State of Michigan community on all entrepreneurial efforts and events.

Paul earned his Bachelor of Science in Advertising/Public Relations from Grand Valley State University and followed up with a Masters in Public Relations from Michigan State University. He has worked in the career placement field for 12 years and has gained a great deal of experience through his work with CareerQuest, OnLine Employment Services, and most notably Michigan State University. Paul was awarded the “10 over the next 10” award in 2010 from the Lansing Chamber of Commerce. At Michigan State University, Paul was the Associate Director of Student and Business Engagement where he played a significant role in connecting students and businesses with internship opportunities and providing guidance through these processes. In addition, he also has taught classes at the university and has focused his energy on social media and its effects on commerce and society. He is the Co-Creator of Art Alley, an Art Gallery in Lansing’s REO Town, and the NeoCenter, a business incubator in Lansing.

Lori Mullins

Lori Mullins, Community and Economic Development Administrator, City of East Lansing

Lori Mullins received both her Bachelors of Landscape Architecture and Masters of Urban and Regional Planning degrees from Michigan State University. She is a Licensed Landscape Architect, who has been with the City of East Lansing for 15 years. Her experiences there have included leading multi-disciplinary teams to implement capital improvement projects as well as actively participating in both local and regional planning and community development initiatives. She has also been a project manager on multiple redevelopment projects, business development efforts and grant administration assignments. Lori was one of the founding members of the Grand River Connection (GRC) a local young professional’s organization. She has held multiple positions on the Executive Board of the Michigan Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects and on the Michigan State University Landscape Architecture Alumni Advisory Board.

Lori, her husband and their two children live in East Lansing where they enjoy the cultural amenities of the college town when they aren’t partaking in other Pure Michigan adventures like boating and skiing.

Mark Nolte

Mark Nolte, President, Iowa City Area Development

Mark Nolte provides business development assistance to existing companies, emerging companies and those researching our area for development.

Before joining ICAD Group, Mark served as a senior manager and training consultant for The Abilities Fund, a nationwide community developer targeted to advance entrepreneurial opportunities for Americans with disabilities and organizations that serve them. Previously, he was assistant director for the Institute for Social and Economic Development where he managed city, state and federal programs to aid low to moderate income Iowans. He also assisted with Dave Loebsack’s political campaign and was a candidate for the Iowa Legislature in 2006.

An Iowa native and a University of Iowa graduate, Mark served as an Americorps VISTA supervisor and an Iowa City Housing Authority Advisory Panel volunteer. He co-owns Nolte Academy of Dance in Coralville with his wife, Leslie.

Andre Perry

Andre Perry, Executive Director, Englert Theatre and
Co-founder/Director of annual Mission Creek Festival

Andre Perry lives in Iowa City where he serves as the Executive Director of the Englert Theatre, a 100-year-old performing arts space in the heart of downtown. He is also the co-founder and director of the Mission Creek Festival, a weeklong exploration of music, literature, theater, film, and food culture that inhabits established venues as well as non-traditional performance spaces in Iowa City.

Andrew Sherburne, Co-founder, Film Scene

Andrew Sherburne is cofounder of FilmScene, a non-profit cinema in downtown Iowa City. Andrew is a filmmaker and partner at Northland Films, where he has produced three feature documentary films. He is a published children's author, a semi-professional photographer and throws a mean slow-pitch knuckleball on the softball diamond. He lives in Iowa City with his wife Liz, two children and a chocolate labrador.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, Director, New Economy Division, Lansing Economic Area Partnership

Jeff Smith is Director of the New Economy Division of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (Leap, Inc.). The division’s mission is to create and support the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Lansing Region, thru Business Incubation, Acceleration, Programs and Events. Prior to joining Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Jeff spent 4 years as Project Manager for New Economy Initiatives for the City of East Lansing, as well as staff of the Lansing Regional Smartzone. Jeff has been involved in the launch of the East Lansing Technology Innovation Center, The Hatch, Lansing Startup Weekend, Ignite Lansing, The Hatching, The DirtyFeat Adventure Race, Launched, and Pointillism. He has co-founded startups and non-profits, and continues to develop new programs and events to help the Lansing Region become a hub for entrepreneurs. Smith has served as a board member on the Entrepreneur Institute of Mid-Michigan, the Downtown Lansing YMCA, Prima Civitas Foundation, and the Capitol Collective. He received the Lansing “10 Over the Next Ten” award and “Volunteer of the Year” by the YMCA of Metro Lansing. Jeff is a proud graduate of Michigan State University, earning both a Bachelors in telecommunications and a Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Jeff, his wife, and two children live in East Lansing and are proud to call the Lansing area home.

Andy Stoll

Andy Stoll, Co-founder, Seed Here Studio (Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Iowa)

Andy Stoll co-founded Seed Here Studio, a social good company dedicated to building a stronger community of entrepreneurs and creatives in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids region of the US; co-founded Startup Iowa, the 8th region to join the White House initiated Startup America Partnership; and serves in advisory roles with a number of startups.

Seed Here Studio and Startup Iowa recently co-produced the Up America Summit, the first North American gathering of startup community builders who are part of Up Global, the organization formed through the recent merger of Startup Weekend and The Startup America Partnership.

Andy is a sought after speaker on startup community building, cities, creativity, social entrepreneurship and travel, speaking regularly to entrepreneurial conferences, economic development groups and at numerous colleges and universities. Andy has been a featured speaker at SXSW, for the Startup America Partnership and at numerous TEDx events (including this talk on "Fostering A More Entrepreneurial City").

Andy previously co-founded The James Gang, a community-building, social entrepreneurial-incubator that was named the Iowa City Press Citizen ‘Person of the Year’, for having the largest impact on the community. Andy recently completed a 4-year, 40-country solo trip-around-the-world, and moonlights as a photographer, sometimes chef and occasional cooking class instructor.

company link:
personal link:
twitter: @andystoll

Jill Thayer Liliedahl, CEO,

Jill Thayer Liliedahl is CEO of in Lincoln, Nebraska. SitStay started in 1995 as the pet industry’s first eCommerce retailer. Nearly 20 years later, the company helps dogs and their humans to lead happy, healthy lives through providing high-quality pet products and solution-focused content to their customers. The products at SitStay are healthful, enriching and good-dog-approved.

Liliedahl also owns Pop Art LLC, producing all-natural gourmet popsicles, and has worked in the start-up industry at Nelnet and NUtech Ventures, as well as in Industry Relations for the Office of Research and Economic Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has both participated in and staffed a business accelerator and has seen the benefits of them firsthand as a service provider and an entrepreneur.

Liliedahl is also co-founder of Ladies Who Launch-Lincoln, a group established for female entrepreneurs and the people who support them, to encourage exchanging lessons learned in our growing startup community.

Jacob Yarrow

Jacob Yarrow, Programming Director, Hancher Auditorium

Jacob Yarrow is Programming Director for the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, a multidisciplinary presenter that presents 20-25 performances each year and a wide variety of education and artist residency programs. He oversees marketing and communications as well as audience development and education. He serves on the boards of Chamber Music America, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, and Any Given Child Iowa City.

Prior to coming to Iowa, Jacob was Executive Director of Garth Newel Music Center in rural Bath County, VA where he founded the Virginia Blues & Jazz Festival. Jacob also worked as education director at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in Washington, DC, where he ran professional development seminars for arts professionals throughout the United States. Jacob began his career as a touring musician and as a junior high music teacher.