Luke Francl, founder and community catalyst. Luke has been a professional software developer for over a decade. In that time, he’s worked with nearly every web technology out there (including Tcl). After a brief fling with the crushing poverty of Silicon Valley startup life, he became an independent consultant specializing in building awesome software at exorbitant rates. Luke attended the first MinneBar in 2006, where he met Ben. He started MinneDemo that fall and has been at it ever since.
As designer, developer, entrepreneur, and catalyst, Ben has worked hard to ensure the organizations and communities of which he is a part thrive. Ben started MinneBar as “BarCamp Minnesota” after talking with the founder of BarCamp at a conference in California and later founded Minnestar with Luke Francl. After running the agile software development consulting firm Refactr for several years, Ben co-founded SmartThings—an IoT platform that went from Kickstarter to acquisition by Samsung in two years. These days Ben advises startups and is working to launch Goodfolio—a nonprofit seeking to apply evidence and reason to determine the most effective ways to improve the world through social giving.
Michael Gorman is a founding Managing Director of Split Rock Partners. He is an active supporter of the local entrepreneurial community, and works closely with organizations providing guidance to emerging companies. In addition, Michael served as president of the Minnesota Venture Capital Association in 2000 and 2001. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University, as well as MBA and JD degrees from Harvard University.
Robert founded Geek Squad in 1994 with $200. In 2002, The Geek Squad acquired Best Buy and opened Geek Squad precincts in all Best Buy US and Canadian stores. Now, with over 25,000 Agents, The Geek Squad is now the world’s largest technology support company offering phone, in-store, and in-home, and online support. In 2010, Robert was appointed as the Chief Technology Officer for Best Buy.
Rob is a founding partner of Great North Labs, an early stage venture fund focused on the Midwest/Great Lakes region. Previously, Rob was CEO and co-founder of NativeX, which was acquired in 2016. In 2006, Rob shared the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award with his twin brother, and business partner, Ryan Weber. Rob was also named to the 2007 Inc. 5,000 CEO’s Under 30 list.
Jamie Thinglestad is CTO of SPS Commerce, the retail industry’s most broadly adopted cloud services platform. Previously, he served as CTO for leading financial publishers including the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, Enterprise Media Group of Dow Jones and MarketWatch, Inc. He was the founding CTO of BigCharts, the leading provider of financial tools and information to consumers and financial services companies via the web. In 1999, BigCharts was acquired by MarketWatch and the technology is still used by Dow Jones & Company today. In addition, Jamie has developed and managed products and technologies for properties including Barron’s, Virtual Stock Exchange, Dow Jones Newswires and Dow Jones Indexes. Jamie is excited to leverage his fifteen years of technology industry experience to further Minnestar’s mission of helping to seed innovation in the technology community throughout the Twin Cities and the region.
Kevin Spreng is a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller, & Ciresi. Kevin’s practice focuses on helping entrepreneurs and investors build technology based businesses by providing experienced, practical and tech savvy counsel in the areas of corporate finance, general corporate matters, mergers and acquisitions, strategic intellectual property monetization, and technology transactions.
Adrienne Peirce, taskmaster and community catalyst. Adrienne brings solid project management from her time as an engineer in the medical device world, and strategic business development from her MBA at Carlson to match her genuine interest in building the technology community. She has a particular interest in technology for non-profits and general social good. Adrienne attended a few MinneBars and MinneDemos before joining Ben and Luke in maintaining the great momentum and moving the organization forward.