Speakers 2020


Our first lunch of 2020 featured Mayor Greg Fischer, who talked about how Louisville is working with national and local partners such as Microsoft, JP Morgan Chase, Jefferson County Public Schools and University of Louisville to grow the city’s tech workforce and make Louisville a hub for innovation in high-tech growth areas such as data science, artificial intelligence and the internet of things.


At Venture Connectors’ February lunch, Rabbit Hole Distillery Founder & CEO Kaveh Zamanian shared how the company has become one of the fastest-growing American whiskey brands in the United States. He talked about his strategic partnership with Pernod Ricard, and how he continues to put his creative vision and commitment to innovation to work in fueling the growth of Rabbit Hole.



At our April lunch, Katie Grant Blakeley, discussed her entrepreneurial journey with PetFirst, including the path to its recent acquisition by MetLife. She shared that with nearly $75 billion spent on pet care annually in the United States, PetFirst is filling a critical need by helping pet parents afford life-saving procedures for their furry family members.



At our first virtual meeting in June, Nick Campisano of Campisano Capital and Stacy Griggs of El Toro shared about their roles in the Gateway to NuLu building in the booming East Market Street corridor. Campisano discussed the why, what and where of investing in a mixed-use property, and Griggs talked about the growth of El Toro and his decision to locate his company’s headquarters in this exciting new tech hub.


“Who am I without my company?” That’s the question Louisville native Taylor Trusty asked himself after he sold Blackstone Media to a Boston firm two years ago. At our July virtual lunch, Trusty shared all about his entrepreneurial journey — which included a move to New York City — his loss of identity and world travels after he sold his firm, and what he learned along the way. 



Our August virtual lunch featured digital transformation leader Mike Nettles, who shared how Panera, Papa John’s and others in the pizza industry have used artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to drive higher levels of guest engagement and team productivity, which helped them increase sales and meet rising labor costs as a result.




At our September event, Louisville City Football Club President Brad Estes shared an inside look at the journey of a pro sports startup in a college town. He talked about the emergence of professional soccer in the United States, the planning and effort behind bringing a club to Louisville, the logistics of building a stadium, and the latest news about Lou City.




At our November event, Colleen and Maggie Clines, sisters and co-founders of Louisville-based Anchal Project, shared their story of social entrepreneurship, and how it is helping to change the world. Anchal Project is a nonprofit social enterprise that addresses the exploitation of women by creating opportunities that support empowerment. The organization has provided nearly 500 exploited women with alternative careers in textiles and design since it was founded in 2010.



Venture Connectors was pleased to feature Bryce Butler and Mallory Sanborn with Access Ventures at our December virtual lunch. They gave an update on the organization’s Reconstruct Challengea regional prize competition that’s testing local and national innovative solutions to solve social and economic inequities within our community. A Louisville-based private operating foundation, Access Ventures launched the Reconstruct Challenge over a year ago. Through this prize competition, it awarded $300,000 each to six innovations that are working to increase access to affordable housing in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Butler and Sanborn talked about what they’ve learned, the impact the innovations have had so far, and what’s to come.