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Board Members


Jim Bernard is Senior Vice President for Digital at the Star Tribune with responsibility for all the company’s digital operations, including Bernard, who joined the Star Tribune in 2010, previously was General Manager of, a highly successful national financial website that is a division of the Dow Jones Digital Network. During his tenure, he oversaw a complete redesign of the site and a 35 percent increase in site traffic and visitors, as well as a doubling of search traffic. Prior to becoming General Manager of MarketWatch, Bernard held several executive positions with Dow Jones, including Vice President of Customer Quality, Vice President of Strategy and Planning and Vice President of Strategy and Market Intelligence for the business-to-business division. Born in Detroit, MI, Bernard has worked his entire professional career in the Twin Cities market. He has an MBA from the University of Minnesota with a concentration in entrepreneurship and a BA in English from the University of Iowa.


Sona Mehring is the founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a nonprofit providing a caring social network with services for those going through a health journey. Since creating CaringBridge from a personal experience in 1997, CaringBridge has grown to serve more than 44 million people – helping them connect and provide support worldwide. Sona is frequently recognized and honored for her passion and visionary leadership. She was named one of 2011’s “Most Influential Women in Technology” by Fast Company. In 2010 she received the Health Care Heroes Award from Twin Cities Business magazine. She also has received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community, was recognized and highlighted by as one of the nation’s leading Women Working for Change.


Justin Porter has numerous years of experience in a variety of technology and business roles. His most recent position was working in an environment where he was responsible for launching high technology-based start-up companies. He previously worked with a variety of consulting clients in a professional services role. He has a balanced mix of consulting, industry, and technical experiences, allowing him to be leveraged in all phases of a company. Mr. Porter has experience across many technology sectors including life sciences, physical and engineering sciences, software and information technology, and agriculture. Mr. Porter holds a BSB in Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurial Studies from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and an MBA from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management.


Casey Helbling is an entrepreneur and agile web architect with over 15 years full life-cycle experience in design, development and implementation of web based software systems. Mr. Helbling began his career building web applications for Imaginet and then as a consultant for the St. Paul company Fourth Generation. In late 2003 he founded Clear Consulting, an agile web development firm focused on delivering successful software projects through effective communication. In 2010, he founded Software for Good, a web and mobile development firm focused on making the world a better place by building software for companies doing great things.

Jenna Pederson


Jenna Pederson is a business owner, community builder, and technical entrepreneur with a passion for community and equity-building.

As founder and owner of 612 Software Foundry, Jenna helps entrepreneurs make their product ideas a reality—from starting with an idea and seeing the big picture, to aligning the technical strategy with the business strategy and positioning it for growth.

Jenna is a community builder at heart and is passionate about making space for more women in tech and entrepreneurship. She is a proud co-founder of Hack The Gap, led the Twin Cities Geekettes for a number of years, served on The Iron Yard Board of Advisors for Minneapolis, and served on the City of Saint Paul’s Innovation Cabinet to develop a strategy for job and business growth around technology and innovation in Saint Paul. She currently serves on the Minnestar Board of Directors and is a founding member of WE*.


Lifelong career technologist. Founder, Bitmatter, IT consulting.

I enjoy a good point . a thoughtful pause , exciting times ! and a hundred peculiar ways. Love to be surrounded by highly creative creatives. Laughing. Learning. Doing.

Passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, supporting Minnestar community + many more. You’ll find me here and there at many tech events. If you see me, please do say hello.


Jeff Sellner is a principal at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. Since joining the firm in 1998, Jeff’s practice focuses on providing consulting, tax and assurance services to software developers, life sciences, technology and other high growth businesses. He has experience working with entrepreneurs on various issues including business strategies, profitability modeling, capital planning, intellectual property management, risk mitigation and succession planning. Jeff leads the firm’s technology industry group and has been a speaker on topics such as strategic and business planning, raising capital, entrepreneurship and starting a business.


Kristin Dean is currently the Vice President of People at Revel, Healthcare tech start-up in Minneapolis. Previously, Kristin was the Vice President of Operations and Human Resources at Delaget, software company in St. Louis Park for approximately 2 years.  Kristin built Delaget’s HR function and hired 70 people in year one and 60 people in year two, in addition to building out a benefits plan and creating a performance culture based on winning, teamwork and fun!

Prior to that, Kristin was the Head of HR at Code42, security and backup company in Minneapolis, where she built the HR function taking the company from 250 employees to 400 in under three years hiring an average of 150 employees per year for 3 years.  Kristin also built out the Talent Acquisition, Compensation and Benefits, and Employee Relations teams brining the HR team from two to ten.

Lindsi Gish


Lindsi Gish is the founder and owner of gish&co.—a small strategic communications and digital marketing firm in Minneapolis. She’s also a former nonprofiteer, insatiable problem solver, digital enthusiast, Jane-of-many-trades, and self-aware extrovert. After spending a number of years at a regional nonprofit, followed by a global PR firm, Lindsi saw an opportunity to use her significant experience and robust network to develop creative approaches to solve communications and marketing challenges for nonprofits and small businesses—efficiently and cost-effectively. Founded in 2014, gish&co. does just that.

Lindsi also serves on the board of directors for Still Kickin, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that helps awesome people get through awful things, and is a former board member of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) where she was Director of Programming. She was an early participant in such community events as Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis/St. Paul, is a proud Fueled Collective (COCO) member, and attended her first Minnebar in 2007.


Damien Riehl is a technology lawyer and technologist with experience in software design, data privacy, and cybersecurity. Damien has 15 years’ experience working for judges and firms on complex litigation. His practice experience includes data privacy (CIPP/US), patents, copyright, trademarks, business torts, breaches of contract, antitrust, financial litigation, and appeals.

In addition to legal practice, Damien began programming in 1985, started web design and development since 1995, designed software by leading a dev team in Lean and Agile processes, and recently began dabbling in Python to perform Natural Language Processing. Damien is currently a Vice President and Engagement Manager at Stroz Friedberg (an Aon company), managing digital forensics and cybersecurity engagements to bolster clients’ data security and resilience — both reactively and proactively.


Antoinette Smith has been a part of the Twin Cities tech community since moving from her hometown of Chicago in December of 2010. She has worked in a variety of roles since that time, from solutions engineer to software engineer. Antoinette is the co-founder of Techquity –a local organization focused on creating an inclusive tech economy for people of color in tech. She is also the co-owner of RawaySmith, a software/digital service company. Since completing a dual masters in business and software engineering at the University of St. Thomas in 2017, Antoinette has finally found the time to return to her goal of completing 50 marathons in all 50 states (she has 15 so far).


Joel Crabb has served as Chief Architect for Minnesota’s two largest consumer goods retailers, Target and Best Buy. At Best Buy, Joel led the multiyear project that rebuilt from scratch as a distributed cloud-based e-commerce platform. At Target, Joel has created the Target Retail Platform, a single unified view of how a retailer can build all its applications to function as a multi-channel entity. Joel has spent most of his working life building large scale software systems for enterprises in and around Minneapolis. He has worked in multiple industries and companies from startup medical devices, power utilities, health insurance, online banking, work force management, rail car commodity trading, online education, long haul trucking logistics, and currently, retail. Joel has a BSEE from Washington University in St. Louis, a MSNE from the University of Wisconsin, and an MBA from the University of Minnesota.


Caroline Karanja is the founder and CEO of 26 Letters, a technology enabled equity and inclusion company. Using data, insight and learning opportunities, 26 Letters helps address equity in education and helps organizations understand and incorporate, diversity, equity and inclusion in their attraction, recruiting and advancement efforts. Caroline is also active in the local entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem. She is on the board of the U-YMCA and participates in the community to encourage more youth people to explore their entrepreneurial ventures.


Heather Mickman is VP Platform Engineering + Practices at Optum. Throughout her career, she has built APIs to unlock enterprise data, created awesome platforms, led Ops organizations, and built supply chain software for Fortune 50 companies. Heather has a passion for technology, building high performing teams, driving a culture of innovation, and having fun along the way.

Advisory Board

Luke Francl

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.

Ben Edwards

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

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 Stephens

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.

Robert Weber

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

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

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

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.


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