Meet the Mentors

Below is a list of some of MERLIN’s mentors. It is not inclusive of its entire membership.

Terry Sivesind

Terry Sivesind has been active as an entrepreneur and angel investor in the Madison area biotechnology industry since starting as one of the early employees at Promega Corporation in 1985. Since that time, Terry has been involved with the creation of several companies including PanVera, Mirus, Metabiologics, Renovar and Cellectar. He is also the co-founder of Wisconsin Investment Partners, Wisconsin’s first angel investor network. Sivesind is also the founder of the Silver Lining Foundation. Along with serving on the Board of various companies, Terry is also a member of the UW School of Business Dean’s Advisory Committee, the UW-CALS Dean’s Life Science Committee, the Badger Angel Capital Network, and the Board of the Cambridge State Bank. He holds a B.S. and a MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Wayne Harris
Wayne Harris has been the Owner/President of 6AM Marketing since 2004. As President of a full service marketing firm, he is responsible for managing, overseeing and approving all aspects of human resources, development of new business, financial reporting and budgeting, client retention and the maintenance of account service. Prior to founding 6AM, he was President and Served on the Governor’s Cabinet for Forward Wisconsin, managing the promotion of the State of Wisconsin’s business advantages in order to entice new business and jobs to boost economic activity within the state. From 1972-2000, Wayne was involved in numerous roles with McDonald’s Restaurants, and ultimately owned 11 restaurants in Madison, WI.

Matt Younkle
Matt is a successful serial entrepreneur. He owns and manages several software companies, including MCA Development and Cardigan, a digital business card platform. Prior to Cardigan, Matt co-founded, a music streaming platform and marketplace. He’s the inventor of the TurboTap, a device that pours draft beer faster and with less waste that’s used in pubs and stadiums worldwide. Prior to TurboTap, he helped pioneer streaming audio and video on the web at Vosaic, and he developed technology that grew the first food in space onboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. He has received product-of-the-year honors from Popular Science and TIME Magazine. Matt has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin and is a recipient of the University’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award.

Susan LaBelle
Susan is a Faculty Associate at University of Wisconsin – Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health where she helps run the Master of Science in Biotechnology program. She was most recently Managing Director at the Office of Corporate Relations at UW-Madison. Her previous experience includes providing interim leadership and consulting in strategy and marketing for companies and non-profit organizations. Susan has strategy and marketing experience in the life sciences, pharmaceutical and medical device industries and has been part of leadership teams that created and launched several start-up businesses at large companies.

Max Duckworth
Max Duckworth is the co-founder of MaSa Partners, a Madison-based impact investment venture that provides capital and advisory services to early-stage, mission-driven companies. Since inception, MaSa has made nearly 20 investments in companies innovating, disrupting and delivering solutions in energy, food and agriculture, natural resources, healthcare, life sciences, and other areas of our lives.  Previously, Max was a senior executive at Constellation Energy, a Fortune 500 company where he held a number of commercial leadership roles over a fourteen-year career. Max also served as commercial lead in the $5B nuclear divestiture transaction that created Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG) in partnership with Electricité de France. Max has served on a number of private company and charitable boards, and also as an advisor to the Energy Analysis & Policy (EAP) program at UW-Madison. Max received a BS and MA in Physics from Imperial College, London and Boston University, respectively. He is an Associate of the Royal College of Science, and has published several peer-reviewed papers on climate change and renewable energy.

Toni Sikes
Toni Sikes, founder, is the visionary behind The Guild. She started the company in 1985 as a publisher of sourcebooks for design trade professionals to help artists find greater markets for their work. In 1998, she founded the website and catalog as a way of bringing artists’ work directly to consumers. For 22 years, Sikes served as CEO of The Guild. She continues to serve on the company’s Board of Directors, as well as the boards of Craft Emergency Relief Fund (an organization committed to supporting the careers of craft artists throughout the United States), Aid To Artisans (an international craft organization focused on economic development), the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, the Wisconsin Technology Council, and the Chazen Museum of Art. Sikes is also active in Wisconsin economic development organizations and has authored several books in addition to The Artful Home. Today, Sikes serves as Senior Advisor to Gruppo, Levey & Co., a New York investment bank providing M&A, financial and strategic advisory services to the direct marketing and e-commerce industries. Sikes heads the Gruppo, Levey initiative to help young Internet companies raise venture capital. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Alabama and an M.S. in Market Research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mike Sanders
Mike is a technology executive with experience in enterprise sales, marketing, business development, product management and team building. He’s led customers and teams through major market transitions caused by disruptive technologies. He’s led the buildout out of sales and technical operations in competitive markets and was a member of the senior leadership team during a major recapitalization and company sale. He’s currently leading sales and operations for Rosh Review, an EdTech company providing medical education. Sanders is a UW Madison graduate.

Mark Schweiger
Mark has over twenty-five years of significant experience in both large and small organizations. His focus has been the competitive food/consumer products industries, with over ten years of progressive responsibility in major CPG companies like JM Smucker, Kraft Foods and ConAgra Foods. Mark is also the co-founder of two start-up companies, each with successful exits. He grew first (SHK Foods) to $30MM revenue and sold to a Fortune 500 company. The second company (Sologear) was successfully launched, grown and sold to a global firm headquartered in Paris. He also has significant consulting experience with at least six Fortune 500 firms and many mid-market and small companies. Mark began his career in marketing, sales and strategy. He gained full experience in finance, operations and general management and has had consistent success in assembling teams, setting objectives, developing strategies and managing execution to achieve goals. Mark has additional experience serving as a director on several boards.

Laura Strong
Dr. Laura Strong is currently founder and CEO of Propagate Health, where she is building a core network of advisors and entrepreneurs across healthcare, life sciences, and technology to enable problem-oriented innovation. Prior to that, she was President and C.O.O. at Quintessence Biosciences, Inc. She was the first employee of Quintessence and wrote the business plan for commercialization of five proprietary technologies licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The plan was instrumental in raising initial capital from angel investors in 2001. After recruiting a President and CEO in 2002, Dr. Strong supported additional fundraising campaigns for a total of more than $13 million. Dr. Strong’s primary responsibility was the development and execution of strategies to advance the company’s proprietary cancer therapies through human clinical trials to the marketplace. Dr. Strong managed the company’s Scientific Advisory Board as well as the intellectual property portfolio. As a National Institutes of Health pre-doctoral fellow, Dr. Strong earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Strong is co-author of twelve publications and co-inventor on three issued patents and multiple patent applications. She has completed Executive Education coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School in Financial Management, Project Management, and Business Planning.

Dennis Barnum
Dennis Barnum has over thirty years’ experience in the high-technology and services industries, primarily in computer software and services. He holds a master’s in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and participated in the MBA program at the University of Minnesota. He began his career at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. He subsequently spent several years with Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis in a variety of management positions in the domestic and international software and services divisions. Since 1986, Barnum has been involved in either high-tech startups or recovery of high-tech companies. He has founded several technology companies, and has led turnarounds of several others. He is active in the Merlin Mentors program and currently Director of Operations for Thalchemy, a UW-Madison inspired startup.

Janet White
Janet is a business executive in the life science industry.  She has more than 30 years of experience running business units, leading commercial functions, and working in R&D. She is currently a director at Promega providing SBU leadership for global marketing, product line management and strategic planning.  She moved to Madison from Switzerland, where she was SVP/General Manager for a scientific services-based business unit for Lonza, a global supplier to the pharma/biotech industry.  Prior to the Swiss adventure she lived in Maryland, where she led a business unit for the life science company Cambrex. She enjoys helping businesses grow profitably through product line and technology expansion in combination with commercial execution. In executing these strategies, she has had the opportunity to license technology from start-ups as well as acquire and integrate early-stage companies. Janet is a biomedical and electrical engineer by training, earning her BSE from Duke University and an MS from George Washington University.

Linda Leikness
In 2001, Linda helped launched Deltanoid Pharmaceuticals. She assisted the two founders (UW profs) in writing a business plan and establishing a start-up pharmaceutical development company and secured funding through a 2001 series A round and 2007 series B round, and developed staff and created infrastructure to support a flexible business model. Previously, as CFO/Treasurer, she assisted PanVera Corporation, a start-up life science company with 35 employees grow to 50+ employees, built a new facility to support the growth and assisted in the transition after an acquisition by Aurora Biosciences in CA. Prior to PanVera, Linda joined Pleasant Company when it employed fewer than 100 employees and worked with the founders to secure financing and build infrastructure supporting the company’s growth to $280M+ in annual sales, with over 1,000 employees.

Tim Burland
Tim Burland has been a member of MERLIN Mentors since its inception. He has 30+ years experience in biotech management, product development, marketing, and life science research. From 1997-2002 he was VP & General Manager of bioinformatics company DNASTAR; from 2003-2010 he was President and Chief Executive Officer of scientific instruments startup GWC Technologies;  and from 2013-2016 he was Chief Operating Officer of nanotechnology company Platypus Technologies.  He is currently Principal of Tim Burland Consulting, advising companies large and small on product development, commercialization, business strategy, fundraising, and marketing.  He received his PhD in Genetics from Leicester University, UK.

Roy Elkins
Roy Elkins is a well-known music technology entrepreneur who has been leading industry innovations for over twenty years. Roy is the Founder and CEO of Broadjam Inc., serving independent musicians and industry giants such as the Academy of Country Music, Warner/Chappell, Peavey and others., the company’s popular independent website now hosts over 70,000 artists and 350,000 songs. The site is known for its musician-friendly services, including website hosting, artist profiles, reviews, contests, transmit mechanism, charts, download sales and deliveries to radio, film, tv and advertisers. Before founding Broadjam, Roy was the Vice President-Sales and Marketing for Sonic Foundry and held several Director-level positions with Ensoniq Corporation. He maintains a database of over 5,000 music industry contacts including executives at virtually every company in the music industry and past and/or present clients such as Les Paul, D.J. Jazzy Jeff, the Beach Boys, the Allman Brothers, BoyzIIMen, Joe Walsh, ELP, Yes, Journey, Skid Row, Randy Jackson, Will Smith and many others. He is a musician and songwriter who thoroughly understands the musician’s world.

Pete Johnson
Pete Johnson has a variety of engineering, sales and marketing experience in the software and electronics industries. Pete is VP of Business Development at Atomm, Inc., founder of 5Elements, Inc. and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Sonoplot, Inc. Previously, he was the Director of Worldwide Marketing for Xpedion, acquired by Agilent Technologies. Prior to Xpedion, Pete was in marketing for Sarvega, an XML router company, which was acquired by Intel and was an associate with TeleSoft Partners, a venture capital firm in the software and communications space. He also held various engineering, marketing, applications and sales roles at Escalade Corporation up to its acquisition by Mentor Graphics and LSI Logic. Pete received his MBA from the University of Chicago and holds a BSEE from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jon Alling
Jon Alling is an engineer and product designer with over 15 years of consumer product design experience. He has worked in a consulting capacity for a range of companies from inventors and small startups to global market-leading corporations. He also founded and ran an innovation incubator at a major fitness equipment manufacturer.  He has been named as inventor on 10 patents, has traveled to China and Taiwan extensively supporting design and manufacturing, and has been certified as a Six Sigma Green Belt.  Most recently he founded his own product design and consulting studio.

Scott Little
Scott Little is the President and founder of Focal Point International, a consulting business in the area of Product Development Processes and Project Management.  He recently owned and led Spectral Systems, an infrared optical manufacturing business serving the analytical instrument and military markets. Prior to starting Focal Point, Scott was a leader of high technology analytical and medical instrument companies, Including Nicolet Instruments, ThermoFisher and PIKE Technologies. With Nicolet Instrument Corporation, Scott led the company’s new product development activities for 15 years. As part of Thermo Electron, he served as President of Spectronic Unicam, a UV-Visible Spectrometer company. He was the President of PIKE Technologies, a world leader in optical sampling accessories for molecular spectroscopy. He was on the Governing Board of Directors for the Coblentz Society and has been a Merlin Mentor since 2009. Scott received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University.

Gregg Johnson
Gregg was the co-founder of four biotechnology companies built around WARF patented technology starting in 1988.  During the past 30 years, he has filled all leadership roles for various high-tech, high growth potential companies. Gregg is a very active Merlin Mentor and has been for the past 10 years.

Dan Olszewski
Dan Olszewski is the Director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. Prior to joining the UW, he was CEO and Chairman of PNA Holdings where by growing Parts Now! and acquiring Katun Corporation revenues increased from $26M to over $400M during his tenure. With the assistance of Private Equity sponsors, he also led the successful buyout of the founder in 1999. Before joining Parts Now! Olszewski was a consultant at McKinsey and Company. He has also worked for IBM, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance in Tokyo. Olszewski graduated from UW-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer sciences, and he received an MBA from Harvard. Olszewski serves on the board of directors of World Data Products Inc and Sologear. He is also on the advisory board of Cascade Asset Management and the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society.

Matt Peterson
Matt Peterson has applied information and communications technologies to the needs of media and healthcare enterprises, engineering and creative professionals, and the public. Operating at the nexus of technology and business, he has launched new products, services, and businesses, opened new markets, and created value within within a wide range of businesses and markets. Matt’s endeavors are informed by the range of his work from founder (SWI, MyWeather) to executive with publicly-traded companies (Computervision, Dynatech, Mediware) and by his global perspective: he has lived and worked overseas, managed international operations, is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s International Strategic Marketing Management program in Europe, and serves on the Board of the Madison Committee on Foreign Relations. Matt is currently work on early-stage projects with mobile devices and with clean-tech and on his consulting and transitional executive practices. Matt serves on the MDC Venture Debt Advisory Board.

Derrick Van Mell
Derrick Van Mell is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Management Terms & Practices, a professional development firm.  The Center is the standards body for general management and helps managers foster effective collaboration.  They provide a plain-English toolkit for planning, analysis and project management.  At the heart of their work is the GM’s Index of Terms, the framework of management science as well as a library of edited resources in all six management disciplines.  Like many executives and directors, Derrick brings different experiences and perspectives to bear on his Merlin protégé’s issues. Local clients have ranged from Epic Systems and Johnsonville Foods to Group Health Cooperative and Genetics Computer Group. Derrick lectures at home and abroad. He is the author of the books Question-Based Planning and Buildings Matter. He has a B.A. in economics from Tufts University, an MBA from Loyola University and an M.A. from Northwestern University. He belongs to several community groups.

Don Wolf
Don Wolf is a product design engineer with 25 years experience designing scientific equipment. Don has designed products for five different companies, and was also one of the founders of a Madison-based scientific instrumentation company. Don has spent extensive time working with customers, and has experience with many aspects of product design and manufacturing. Don received his Bachelors Degree and his Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Bob Wood
Bob has been active with Wisconsin Investment Partners (WIP) since its inception in 2000 and serves as a co-manager. WIP is an angel investment group whose 75 members have to date invested in 35 early stage companies. Bob’s background includes the start-up through sale of Space-Metrics, LLC, a manufacturing firm specializing in commercial and residential cabinetry, store fixtures, and office furniture. His prior experience includes involvement in the start-up of American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. His on-going interests in urban re-development include the mixed-use projects at ‘Capitol Point’ and ‘Nolen Shore’ in central Madison. His experience includes managing a medical device start-up company through funding, product development to the start of clinical trials, and recruitment of a permanent CEO. He currently serves on several Boards, entrepreneurial conference committees, and through Wood Investment Services assists start-ups with business development, funding, and project management.

Allen Dines
Allen Dines is an Executive Partner at WISC Partners, a strategic operating capital fund founded by a group of Silicon Valley-based UW-Madison alumni. Allen has more than 30 years of experience at the executive level working at the interface of science and technology.  His passion is creation and growth of new ventures.  He is also active as a mentor and advisor with MERLIN mentors, 100State, Madworks Accelerator and MadVentures.  Most recently Allen was Assistant Director, New Ventures at the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations.  During his tenure at UW-Madison he founded or provided original inspiration for many of the programs and events that today are mainstays in Madison’s startup scene. In 2003 he founded the Midwest Research University Network (MRUN), an alliance of Midwest university commercialization managers and others focused on fostering startup ventures.  Prior to joining UW- Madison, Allen was involved in three startup ventures, all in the biotechnology sector two of which he co-founded and all of which sold to leaders in their respective industries.  Prior to these ventures, Allen was an Associate with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. in Bethesda, MD working with the Pharmaceuticals, Agrichemicals and Food practice.  Allen holds degrees from the University of Michigan including a B.S, a Masters in Natural Resources and an MBA.

Tom Schwei
Thomas Schwei, BBA and United States CPA, is an independent consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs, focusing on leadership, finances and general management practices. He spent 16 years as DNASTAR’s General Manager, where he successfully managed the daily operations and commercial aspects of DNASTAR, a life science software company headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. He also served as the Chief Financial Officer for Scarab Genomics, a biological research company affiliated to DNASTAR through common majority ownership. Prior to that, he also spent 13 years for Ernst & Young, six years leading the finance and accounting area for Promega Corporation and a leading financial operations for a few other locally based companies. He has also served as a judge for the annual Governor’s Business Plan Competition in the State of Wisconsin, USA, reviewing and evaluating dozens of business plans in a wide range of industries and he has served on the boards of directors of numerous non-profit organizations, including serving three years as President of Presbyterian Student Center Foundation on the University of Wisconsin campus and three years as President of Working Capital for Community Needs, a microfinance organization meeting the needs of the working poor in Latin America.