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Pitch Night 2020: The Judges

Alex Brown

As founder and CEO of cloud services firm 10th Magnitude, Alex Brown is recognized as a thought leader in tech-driven business innovation and industry economics. 10th Magnitude, headquartered in Chicago, is the largest pure-play Microsoft Azure services firm in the United States. Brown is a prominent voice in the tech industry, regularly sharing his experience and perspectives. He sits on the advisory board of The Channel Company, presenting at their events and contributing to their publications; he speaks at Microsoft industry events and has presented with IDC. For decades, he has championed the positive economic and business impacts of technology adoption and implementation with customers and peers. Alex holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Oberlin College and a MBA in Corporate Strategy and Finance from the Yale School of Management.

Troy Henikoff

Troy Henikoff is Managing Director of MATH Venture Partners and an active mentor with Techstars. Henikoff was a Co-founder of Excelerate Labs, which became Techstars Chicago in 2013. He also helps manage the FireStarter Fund, teaches Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business and is on the Board of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. Prior to Techstars Chicago, Henikoff was the CEO of OneWed.com, the President of Amacai, and co-founder and CEO of SurePayroll.com. He built the technology for Jellyvision (creators of “You Don’t Know Jack!”) and was the President of Systemetrics. His first company was Specialized Systems and Software. He has an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Brown University and a Master’s Degree in Project Management from Northwestern.

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny is President of Sawdust Investment Management, and the founder and former CEO of CDW Corporation, a direct seller of technical gadgets including computers and networking equipment. Seeing the great demand for computers  in the early 1980s, Krasny began buying computers to resell them eventually forming MPK Computers. He then changed the name to Computer Discount Warehouse (CDW) and steadily grew the business as an online store for IT products. In 1993, he took CDW public, then retired in 2007 after selling the company to Madison Dearborn Partners. Krasny has an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Sheila Patel

Sheila Patel is a serial entrepreneur turned bag designer. After a successful career in the law practice industry, she founded The LIFE Bags Company to give back to the community where her parents are from in India. She is an experienced Senior Partner with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry while starting a commercial real estate firm. Patel holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pepperdine University, Juris Doctorate from DePaul University and Executive MBA focused on nonprofit management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She is skilled in a plethora of areas such as negotiation, team building, organizational leadership, writing, fundraising and design.

Sally Pofcher

Sally Pofcher is Operating Partner at L Catterton, the world’s leading consumer growth investor.  She is an active Board member on a number of portfolio businesses, advisor to a broader set of portfolio CEOs, and active in deal assessment.  Pofcher was Chief Executive Officer of PaperSource from 2007-2015, and Chairman of the Board from 2015-2017. Over eight years, she built a team that transformed the company into a design-driven brand, grew the company from 20 stores, to 120 stores by end of 2016, and delivered profitability in line with top-decile specialty retailers.  Paper Source is a curated stationery, gift, and crafting destination named one of the top 12 most innovative consumer and retail brands in 2014 by “Entrepreneur” magazine. Prior to Paper Source, Pofcher was SVP of Strategy and Business Development at Gap Inc. and a partner at McKinsey & Company. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northwestern University/Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Brian Shields ’02

Brian Shields has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Coder Inc. since 2015. He is an experienced entrepreneur and technology executive who has served in leadership roles throughout his career in banking, marketing, and strategy consulting. A recognized innovator with a strong business acumen developed over 12+ years working with companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 to early stage startups, Shields’ career began with selling concessions at the local pool followed by summers working as a runner on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a concentration in Cinema Studies. Brian speaks conversational French and German, and his personal interests include travel, art, history, cinema, economics, and political affairs.