Twin Cities Startup Week 2021 Twin Cities Startup Week 2021
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Shark Tank Reverse Pitch

Neela Mollgaard
Launch Minnesota, Executive Director

Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director of Launch Minnesota, is working to create an environment to support entrepreneurs and nurture tech startups with a goal of fostering an innovation ecosystem across the state that draws global attention, talent, and capital.
Launch Minnesota, started in 2019, is spearheaded by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in partnership with a statewide advisory board and private sector stakeholders.
Neela’s career has involved bringing people together to create change. She has been a leader and facilitator of innovation across organizations and communities. Most recently, she served as a founder of the nonprofit Red Wing Ignite which supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and students to succeed in the 21st-century economy. By forging partnerships with government, academic, corporate, and community partners, Red Wing Ignite developed an innovative ecosystem model that garnered national attention.

She has served in a variety of leadership roles with local organizations and nonprofits. She is a former member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, and founder and chair of Women Cents, a nonprofit that supports children and families. Neela was named in Twin Cities Business Magazine’s “TCB 100: The People to Know in 2020.”

Tammy Meehan Russell
The Plum Catalyst, Founder/ Chief Catalyst

Tammy is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of The PLUM Catalyst, a strategy and technical program management boutique DBE/TGB consulting firm; operating at the intersection of the future mobility technology companies, research entities, governments, and nonprofits. The PLUM Catalyst brings Passion, Learning, Understanding and Mobilization of the new mobility solutions for creating equitable vibrant communities and experiences; including strategic planning and Business to Government (B2G) engagement and funding planning support for the latest in tech start-up companies. She is currently leading exciting new Smart Rural Mobility and innovative career pathways projects, and has led the new University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies’ MnCAV ecosystem strategic research plan and infrastructure investments. Tammy contributes to state task force efforts including the Texas CAV Task Force and the Minnesota CAV Innovation Alliance.  Tammy has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree from the University of St. Thomas.

Tara Olds
MnDOT, Deputy Director

Tara Olds is the Deputy Director of MnDOT’s Connected and Automated Vehicles Office. Tara leads the office’s engineering, research and deployment programs, implementation of the state’s CAV strategic plan, and development and implementation of the CAV Statewide Strategic Communications and Engagement plan. She also works to create programming to advance the safe deployment of CAV technologies to promote equitable and sustainable transportation while partnering on regional and national research and policy development.

Sabina Saksena
Founding Member of Smart North and CEO of Cytilife

Founder/ Owner of Cytilife

Tim Sexton
Minnesota Department of Transportation, Assistant Commissioner

Tim Sexton serves as Chief Sustainability Officer and Assistant Commissioner for Sustainability and Public Health at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  He leads a team that works across government and with private- and nonprofit-sector partners to reduce climate pollution, improve system resilience, promote public health, and develop creative partnerships to support livable communities. Tim is actively involved in national and international efforts to support sustainable transportation through leadership roles with TRB, AASHTO, and PIARC.
Tim previously directed MnDOT’s transit, active transportation, and environmental programs.  Before coming to MnDOT, he managed air quality, energy, and climate policy for the Washington State DOT, built green roofs in Germany, and co-founded a land use planning firm focused on sustainability and resource conservation.  Tim has a BS in Anthropology, MS in Urban Planning, and MPH in Environmental Health from the University of Iowa.

Danielle Elkins
City of Minneapolis, Mobility Manager

Danielle currently serves as the City of Minneapolis’s Manager of Mobility, leading a new Mobility team working to create an equitable, accessible, and innovative Mobility program for the City. Prior to joining the City, Danielle served as an executive advisor to Minneapolis Public Works as a part of the FUSE fellowship program, which is a national fellowship designed to imbed mid-career executives in cities and counties. Danielle worked across Public Works leadership and staff to bring collaboration to their most innovative transportation projects, while also working to establish the City as a leader in new mobility
and develop a new team at the City.

Danielle has worked with local government leaders on infrastructure issues for over 15 years and is a recognized leader in local and state transportation policy. Before coming to the City, Danielle created the consulting firm Civic Ideation to bridge the gap between government, engineering and technology.
Prior to that, she was the youngest-ever Director of Government Affairs for the engineering consulting firm CH2M, coordinating all stakeholder and government engagement efforts for the company’s most complex programs, projects, and pursuits in the Southeast. Danielle also co-founded and ran Advance Atlanta, a non-profit advocacy organization that successfully increased transit funding in the metro Atlanta region. Danielle began her career in transportation working as a design engineer on projects such as the California High Speed Rail Program in California. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Southern California.

Ryan Broshar
Matchstick Ventures, Partner

Ryan Broshar is the co-founder and General Partner for Matchstick Ventures - an pre-seed and seed stage venture capital fund that focuses on the North and the Rockies. Prior to Matchstick, Ryan was the co-founder of BETA and Twin Cities Startup Week. He also was the Founder of Techstars in the Twin Cities with the Techstars Retail Accelerator w/ Target. He currently resides with his young family in St. Paul, MN.

Diane Rucker
University Enterprise Labs, Executive Director

Diane Rucker is the Executive Director of University Enterprise Labs (UEL), an incubator for startups in biotech, medtech, and life sciences.  She is the Board Chair for the Towerside Innovation District, and serves on several other boards including the Ramsey County Workforce Innovation Board (Tech Committee), and the St. Paul Full Stack Innovation.  Diane has a passion for helping small, local entrepreneurs to succeed, honed by her work in the MIT/Boston, London, and Paris ecosystems during her Executive MBA at MIT Sloan.

Tuning in virtually? Watch live on Hopin on the Stage here.

The Future Cities Shark Tank Pitch is a catalyst that connects government, start-up funders, talent and others in the innovation and technology markets to find ways to use automation, connectivity and other tech solutions to advance livability, safety, mobility, access, equity and sustainability.