Story spotlight with Ann Arbor’s tech visionaries.
Thanks again to the fantastic Tech Talk presenters and all the folks who joined us at the Michigan Theater! If you have a suggestion for next year’s Tech Talk, share your nomination with us at email@example.com.
2022 Tech Talk Speakers Click speaker photo for their bio
APT Solar Solutions
Adaptable Powerful Transformative Solar Solutions
Dr. Mojtaba Akhavan-Tafti is a space scientist, inventor, and cleantech entrepreneur. Mojtaba is the founder of Adaptable Powerful Transformative (APT) Solar Solutions, whose mission is to unlock the power of the Sun by revolutionizing solar electricity generation and distribution. Mojtaba is also a research faculty at the University of Michigan College of Engineering where he investigates the inner-workings of the Sun, Earth, and the medium therebetween and teaches satellite mission design and analysis.
Diane is the Program Director for MedTech Innovator. She has extensive experience designing and running innovation programs through her previous roles as the Innovation Manager at the University of Michigan’s Innovation Partnerships Startup Incubator and as an innovation consultant with The Inovo Group, Diane co-designed and -ran the HealthSpark Accelerator program at 20Fathoms in Traverse City, MI. She has lived and worked on three continents, speaks six languages, holds a PhD in Oncology from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and enjoys being the designated Eastern Time zone person for the team.
Greg Gage is the co-founder and CEO of Backyard Brains. He is a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer who loves tinkering with all things electric. Currently, Greg is developing new tools, curricula, and experiments that allow the general public to participate, hands-on, in neuroscience discovery. He is a senior fellow at TED and has given 10 TED talks. He’s an award-winning investigator at the National Institute of Health, and he was recognized by Barack Obama for being a Champion of Change at the White House for his commitment to citizen science.
Arnold Kadiu is the co-founder and CEO of Intermode. He spent his college years learning how to build solar cars at the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He spent the majority of his professional career working at Ford, first in research working on next-generation electric vehicles, earning six patents in the process. Later he went on to transform how Ford thought about used vehicles through their mobility incubator, now called Ford Next Ventures.
Today he focuses on building the Raspberry Pi of robot vehicles. Intermode’s mission is to standardize robotic vehicles, making them affordable to all, so that their economic, environmental, and societal benefits can be fully realized.
Laura Kempf Merative
After a successful career in finance, Laura decided to take a different role as a Lean Champion. Little did she know at the time, that the new position would set her on a path of process improvement that also included improving her leadership style. Inspiring Bold was born from this journey and while she shares many experiences and learnings, her focus on self-awareness and servant leadership have been key in changing her leadership, changing her life, and changing the world around her.
This journey has taken her to her current role as MarketScan Client Success & Delivery Director (which she loves). It has reconnected her with a love for writing and allowed her to find a new passion in serving clients. In focusing on self-awareness and servant leadership, she encourages and inspires other leaders to do the same.
Laura Kempf received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Purdue and an MBA from the University of Chicago. She authored her journey in a book titled “Inspiring Bold” and teaches Lean Leadership as an adjunct professor at Oakland University.
Akadeum Life Sciences
Brandon McNaughton Akadeum Life Sciences
Brandon’s mission is simple: to create new and useful technologies that solve real-world problems. This has spanned scientific research, venture capital, and starting two venture-backed companies.
Currently, he is the CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences, where he was one of the original founders of the company. Akadeum is a global leader in buoyancy-based technology in cell therapy manufacturing, clinical diagnostics, and cell and molecular research for human health and life sciences.
Brandon also has a passion for cultivating the local startup ecosystem. This led him to codevelop and teach the Entrepreneurship Practicum—one of the first courses of its kind at the University of Michigan—and where he shared his expertise in customer discovery and in using human-centered design for high technology applications.
Brandon received his PhD in Applied Physics from the University of Michigan and a BS in Physics from California State University Bakersfield. He currently lives in the countryside south of Ann Arbor with his wife of 20 years—who is also an entrepreneur—and two high-school-aged sons.
Peter Mertens Sartorius
Peter (Pete) is an Operations Network Strategy Manager for Sartorius Group a Leading International Partner for the Biopharmaceutical Industry and Life Science Research. Pete is currently the project lead on the new Sartorius Ann Arbor 130,00 square foot North American Flag Ship building being built as their Center of Excellence here in the U.S.
Pete has 22 years in high-tech new product development, taking ideas from concept to production. He has worked with entrepreneurs, startups, and major corporations leading operations. He has worked in the medical, biodefense, consumer commodity, and gaming industries. Pete has been the developer of many production manufacturing departments and operation site functions setting up start-ups for acquisitions, and lean operation processes for major corporations.
Pete joined Sartorius in 2016 as one of the Sartorius acquisitions. He has worked as a site leader in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and now lives here in Michigan. He has his MBA from the University of New Mexico with a high-tech concentration.
Heidi Poscher Prentice 4M
Heidi Poscher is an Ann Arbor townie and former University of Michigan student-athlete. Much of Ms. Poscher’s career has been spent consulting at the C-suite level for some of the largest domestic Investor-Owned Utilities, offering guidance on technology planning, systems integration, and operational/performance improvements. After over two decades of experience in the energy, communications, and real estate development sectors, Ms. Poscher has turned her focus to the family-owned Prentice 4M (4M) of Ann Arbor, MI. 4M has been built with a focus on creating transformational opportunities for the way people live and work, strategically integrating technology into the development of real estate and lifestyle assets. Designing forward-looking solutions that meet the needs of the community is the hallmark of 4M’s mission.
A proud 1991 Eastern Michigan Accounting grad, Linda Smith has more than 35 years of personal entrepreneurial experience in farming, real estate, and life science ventures. Linda co-founded Michigan Innovation Headquarters (MI-HQ) with her husband in 2015. As serial entrepreneurs, they launched MI-HQ a collaborative business incubator and accelerator campus which has grown to 170,000 sq. ft of flex office, wet lab, and manufacturing space as a start-up venture.
Working with early-stage companies for over 25 years has provided Linda with a unique insight into what makes a successful start-up. She enjoys helping other entrepreneurs succeed.
Andy Vassallo is the Chief Growth Officer at GDI Infotech, the creator of the APEX Methodology (Active Performance Execution) and author of The Focused CEO: Why some organizations thrive and some spin their wheels.
Andy is known for his big-picture point-of-view. He’s able to see opportunities for improvement and risk points in a variety of industries to pinpoint problems and diagnose solutions. Along with the enterprise-wide view, his technology background makes him adept with details. Couple these traits with his direct, transparent, and imaginative style, and you’ll understand why he is a proven Get-Sh*t-Done advisor and consultant.
As a consultant, he brings over 30 years of executive leadership, management consulting, professional services, application development, outsourcing, and information technology experience in assisting his clients. His experience includes executive leadership at companies ranging from entrepreneur start-ups, venture back groups, and large multibillion-dollar Fortune 100 companies.
During his career working in Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Denver, and Michigan. Andy currently resides in Michigan, with his wife and two children. On most weekends, weather permitting, you can find him on the golf course.