Story spotlight with Ann Arbor’s tech visionaries.
Friday, October 8 | 10 a.m. – noon
Free In-Person or Virtual Event
603 E Liberty St.
From origin stories to behind-the-scenes accounts of the fascinating technologies being developed here, join us in person or online as we hear from the brilliant minds growing the Ann Arbor region’s innovative companies.
Tech Talk features inspiring TED-style talks by leading innovators in their respective fields. Online and in-person tickets are available.
Also, if you’ve registered for any Invest360 session, be sure to join us for the Invest360 celebration after Tech Talk where a “People’s Choice” vote will select the foremost Invest360 company who will receive an additional $50,000.
This event is hosted by Ann Arbor SPARK.
Tech Talk Speakers
Jermaine ‘Jay Hero’ Dickerson
Jermaine ‘Jay Hero’ Dickerson
Jermaine ’Jay Hero’ Dickerson’s journey begins in the bustling city of Detroit as a young artist and aspiring superhero. In his bright red cape, he would often fight imaginary foes, envisioning himself as a superhero. Today, his affinity for nerd culture has encouraged him to use his superpowers for good through social impact work and community engagement as the founder and executive director of Hero Nation. He believes the key to living an empowered life starts with discovering the hero within.
Hero Nation Mission
At Hero Nation, our mission is to empower youth using superheroes, comic books, and video games.
Elaine Ezekiel is the Director of Marketing at Atomic Object, where she connects teams of software craftsfolk in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Chicago with clients fixing the future.
Through this role, she’s shared Atomic with a national audience through Forbes Magazine, fostered ties between Atomic and local nonprofits, overhauled the company’s sales data systems, grown a small but mighty team of inbound marketers, and fostered a network of Atomic fans in her hometown of Ann Arbor and throughout the midwest.
Elaine is an audiobook fiend and an aspiring bikepacker — connect with her on Linkedin to share titles or routes!
Natalie first started her career in the retail and luxury goods industry, working on household brands as a global sourcing professional. Wanting to make an impact closer to end-users, Natalie decided to pursue her MBA at the University of Michigan. At the time, she noticed a lack of quality gaming titles made for women and decided to pursue a startup that is not only a women-led gaming studio but also could challenge the status quo by putting stories and relationships first. Since then, she’s been involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ann Arbor and at the University — including programs such as the Desai Accelerator and the Social Venture Fund.
When Natalie’s not throwing ideas about female gaming experiences at the whiteboard, she’s probably planning the team’s next virtual happy hour.
Jasmit Kaur is the CEO and co-founder of Culturebie, an Ann Arbor-based HR analytics company. Culturebie provides a web-based data analytics platform that helps organizations understand their people and improve their culture.
Jasmit has over 15 years of experience in human resource management and data analytics. She previously worked at PwC as a management consultant and at Microsoft in organizational development. She has advised Fortune 500 companies, global multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, and start-up companies on HR processes, change management, and leadership development. At Microsoft, she was the founding HR manager for the company’s India research lab, a global talent management consultant, and advisor to CXOs for people strategy. Jasmit has an MBA from XLRI and a master’s in data science from the University of Michigan.
CEO, Genomenon, Inc.
Mike is the CEO of Genomenon, an Ann Arbor venture-funded company, commercializing a genomic search engine that leverages Artificial Intelligence to organize the world’s genomic knowledge and put it at the fingertips of clinicians to diagnose patients suffering from rare diseases and cancer, and researchers to create precision medicine targeted at these diseases.
Mike is a four-time serial entrepreneur with several successful exits under his belt and with 30 years of CEO experience starting, building, and growing high tech, software companies.
He wrote the business plan for his first company, Steeplechase Software, while in the MBA program at the University of Michigan and started the company in 1993. Steeplechase was #89 on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies when it was sold to Schneider Automation in 2000. In 2001, he lead a turnaround at Interlink Networks. In 2008, Mike joined Online Tech as co-CEO and sold the company four years later for a 10X return to its investors.
Aubrey Martinson is the executive director for CultureVerse, where she leads a collaborative team dedicated to bringing unseen art and cultural artifacts to the light of day. For 20 years, Aubrey has worked with individual artists and non-profit organizations to create exciting programs and events. Since receiving her BFA from Albion College, her personal mission and journey has been to create opportunities for people to connect with one another using the arts as a catalyst. During her time as executive director for Chelsea Center for the Arts, she helped form ongoing programs like the Midwest Literary Walk, Chelsea Writer’s Workshop, and Art Meets Business – a business coaching program for artists. Most recently, she worked as Director of Development at The Purple Rose Theatre and also as a non-profit management and fundraising consultant through her firm A.T. Martinson & Co. Aubrey is also co-founder of Chelsea Alehouse Brewery and serves as board secretary of Michigan Brewers Guild.
University of Michigan
University of Michigan XR Initiative
The XR Initiative, founded in September 2019, actively engages the University of Michigan community with knowledge and content through immersive technology. The XR Initiative actively works with all 19 schools and colleges to fund new projects and provide consultation. This initiative will formally ask us to consider how we can leverage emerging XR technologies to strengthen the quality of a Michigan education, cultivate an interdisciplinary scholarly community of practice at Michigan, and enhance a nationwide network for academic innovation.
Jeremey’s vision is to revolutionize higher education through the use of extended reality technologies such as augmented, virtual, and mixed realities.
Espervita Therapeutics, Inc.
Espervita Therapeutics, Inc.
Roger Newton has worked for 40+ years in the pharmaceutical and biotech life sciences industries. He is formerly the executive chairman and CSO, and also founder, president/CEO, and director of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc., which has its business offices in Ann Arbor. Prior to these appointments, Roger was senior vice president, Pfizer Global R&D, and director, Esperion Therapeutics, a Pfizer, Inc. company.
He was co-founder, president/CEO of the original Esperion founded in July 1998. Under Roger’s leadership and the team’s effort, Esperion built a portfolio of mechanism-based biopharmaceuticals focusing on HDL therapy and small molecule lipid regulating agents. Esperion was acquired by Pfizer for $1.3 billion in February 2004 (13x cash on cash return) and operated as a separate unit within Pfizer until its closure in May 2007. Pfizer then divested Esperion in May 2008 and Roger restarted the company as an independent enterprise.
Roger and the Esperion team raised enough equity financing and venture capital to develop Nexletol (bempedoic acid) from preclinical to FDA approval in February 2020. Nexletol is a novel, oral LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) lowering drug, which lowers LDL-C by an average of 18% without an increased risk of muscle pain and weakness as observed with statin drugs. Nexletol can be used with statins in patients who cannot reach their LDL-C goal because of muscle pain and weakness at higher doses. Bempedoic acid in combination with ezetimibe (Nexlizet), which also received FDA approval in February 2020, can be used to produce an average of 38% lowering of LDL-C. Prior to founding the original Esperion, Roger was with Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis from 1981-1998. As a Distinguished Research Fellow and Chairman of the Atherosclerosis Drug Discovery Team, he co-discovered and was the product champion of what is now the largest selling and most prescribed cholesterol-reducing drug in the world, atorvastatin (Lipitor®).
Roger began his career as a translational basic scientist with a focus on treating and preventing atherosclerosis (Cholesterol and Lipoprotein Metabolism) during his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California San Diego at LaJolla. Roger has a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science (Lipid Metabolism) from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Science degree (Nutritional Biochemistry) from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in Biology from Lafayette College. During his research career, he has co-authored over one hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles and chapters.
Roger serves or has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Espervita, Esperovax, and Esperion Therapeutics, Celsee Diagnostics, Swift Biosciences, and Rubicon Genomics. He has also served as President and Board Director of the American College of Nutrition, and a member of the National Advisory Boards of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, Life Sciences Institute, and Taubman Medical Research Institute. Roger also currently participates as an Executive-in-Residence in the Center for Positive Organizations in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan interacting with students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
Julia C. Owens, Ph.D.
Julia C. Owens, Ph.D.
Julia is an entrepreneur, executive, and board member in the biotechnology sector. She co-founded Ann Arbor-based Millendo Therapeutics in 2012, serving as CEO for nine years, establishing its strategy, building its endocrine disease pipeline, and attracting a world-class team. Under her leadership, the company raised $195 million from both the private and public markets and advanced four distinct product candidates into clinical studies in six different indications.
Earlier in her career, Julia served as senior vice president, corporate development and strategy at Lycera Corp. She also held business development roles at QuatRx Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Shionogi following the approval of Osphena®, and at Tularik Inc. (acquired by Amgen).
Julia is on the board of biotech company Metacrine, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the Leadership Council of the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, and the Investment Advisory Board of the Michigan Biomedical Venture Fund. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco and a B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in molecular and cellular biology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Vijay Ramachandran is the director of AI and modeling center of excellence. He joined KLA straight after graduate school at Ohio University in 2000. During his time with KLA in Silicon Valley, Vijay worked with multiple KLA product divisions in a variety of roles including software engineer, software manager, applications engineer, program manager, and marketing manager.
In 2017, Vijay joined Facebook as a principal program manager, supporting their central ads machine learning team.
Vijay returned to KLA in 2019 to be part of its then incipient efforts to found and grow the AI and modeling center of excellence at KLA’s new Ann Arbor Headquarters. The center supports multiple KLA product organizations and specializes in three functional areas – physics modeling, AI/algorithms and software.
City of Ann Arbor
City of Ann Arbor
Dr. Missy Stults is the sustainability and innovations manager for the City of Ann Arbor. In this role, she works with all city operations, residents, businesses, the University of Michigan, nonprofits, and others to make Ann Arbor one of the most sustainable and equitable cities in America and to implement the A2ZERO Carbon Neutrality Plan. Prior to joining the city, Missy worked with cities and tribal communities around the nation to advance their climate and sustainability goals, including during her time as the Climate Director at ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and as a consultant to philanthropic organizations. Missy has a Ph.D. in urban resilience from the University of Michigan, a Masters in Climate and Society from Columbia University, and undergraduate degrees in Marine Biology and Environmental Science from the University of New England.