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Michigan VCtalk

Michigan VCtalk

By Ara Topouzian
Michigan VCtalk is a podcast series (launched in 2020) developed by the Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA). Each episode will focus on guests such as investors, entrepreneurs, and other thoughtful leaders that are making a difference in the Michigan ecosystem. Hosted by Ara Topouzian, Executive Director of MVCA.

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Skot Welch, Managing Partner, New Community Transformation Fund
Skot Welch is the Founder/President of Global Bridgebuilders (GBB). The firm is a results-focused organization with extensive experience in the development and implementation of sustainable, process-focused cultural competency, inclusion initiatives accomplished through comprehensive assessment and measurement systems development. He is also a Managing Partner of the newly formed New Community Transformation Fund. This is an investment fund based in Grand Rapids, Michigan to support diverse business owners. The fund aims to increase ethnic and racial diversity in business ownership in West Michigan. In addition, it will focus on businesses that intend to provide multi-generational wealth creation within historically disadvantaged groups. Ara and Skot talk about this new fund as well as other issues surrounding diversity, equity & inclusion. 
October 8, 2021
Kelly Sexton, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Research - Technology Transfer and Innovation, University of Michigan
As associate vice president for research – technology transfer and innovation partnerships, Kelly works closely with the vice president for research as well as other leaders across the university to provide visionary and strategic leadership of UM’s innovation, business engagement and technology transfer activities, including the Office of Technology Transfer and the Business Engagement Center. In this role, she supports and encourages university-wide programs for intellectual property development, innovation, and engagement with business and venture communities in the region, across the nation, and around the globe. Ara and Kelly talk about the work happening at the Tech Transfer office and their impact in Michigan as well as a new fund they created. 
August 13, 2021
Jim Tenzillo, Vice President, Invest Michigan
Jim is a Chicago native who joined Invest Michigan in 2016. He has over 10 years of experience in finance, entrepreneurship and business development. At Invest Michigan, Jim sources and leads new deals, manages and supports portfolio companies and serves on the boards of select portfolio companies. Jim and Ara had a great conversation covering a variety of topics including how Invest Michigan was created and the work they have done over the years with the Michigan entrepreneur community but we also discussed his methodology on working with entrepreneurs and managing expectations as well as his advice on how he approaches providing valuable support to them; and then we covered some of the work that is needed to help attack unconscious bias when it comes to helping fund diverse entrepreneurs.
July 9, 2021
Wayne Embree, Executive Vice President, Rev1 Ventures
Wayne Embree, Executive Vice President at Rev1 Ventures (Columbus, OH) is an experienced seed-stage investor with a track record of fueling startups with guidance and venture capital. He’s been involved in over 200 investments, including sitting on over 50 boards and taking more than 60 businesses through exits. Throughout his career, he has maintained his passion and enthusiasm for helping entrepreneurs change the world. Wayne has a BS in Natural Sciences from Western Oregon and an MS in Urban Planning from the University of Oregon. This episode is sponsored by Michigan Rise (
June 1, 2021
2021 MVCA Annual Research Report
MVCA recently presented a webinar focused on an analysis of the venture and entrepreneurial community in Michigan through the release of the 2021 MVCA Research Report. This event features Michael Gross (Managing Director, Beringea, MVCA Chair), Jeff Rinvelt (Partner, Renaissance Venture Capital, MVCA Vice Chair & Research Report Chair) and moderated by Ara Topouzian (Executive Director of MVCA). This episode is sponsored by Michigan Rise (
May 7, 2021
Chris Rizik, CEO & Managing Partner, Renaissance Venture Capital
Chris Rizik is the founder, managing partner, and Chief Executive Officer of the Renaissance Venture Capital, a first-of-its-kind network fund formed by a consortium of Fortune 1000 and major private corporations. Renaissance works to invest in and strategically connect venture capital funds and start-up companies with major corporations. Chris is also the founder and publisher of, America’s most popular soul music online magazine. Recorded in October, 2020.
April 6, 2021
Adrian Fortino, Managing Director, Mercury Fund
Ara talks with Adrian Fortino, an experienced founder, operator, engineer and investor in the industrial technology sector. He is a Managing Director and leads the Intelligent Manufacturing practice at Mercury Fund (Houston, TX). Mercury Fund is an early-stage venture capital firm. With over $300 million under management, Mercury focuses on entrepreneurs and technology innovation originating in the U.S. Midcontinent. 
March 4, 2021
Jeff Farah & Justin Field, NVCA - Reflections on 2020 US Presidential election for venture investing
MVCA hosted a recent virtual webinar with Jeff Farrah and Justin Field from the National Venture Capital Association to discuss venture investing in the year ahead, including the impacts related to the Biden-Harris administration policy items, tax and carried interest, research and tech transfer, and capital markets. 
February 2, 2021
Razat Gaurav, CEO, LLamasoft
Ara talks with Razat Gaurav, CEO of LLamasoft, an artificial intelligence supply chain management company. Located in Ann Arbor, MI, LLamasoft was acquired by Coupa for $1.5B, marking a significant exit for their venture capital investors. Learn more about Razat's background and philosphies of being a founder. 
January 13, 2021
David Ollila, Entrepreneur / Founder of 100k Ideas
Ara talks with David Ollila, whose pivotal work for improving and growing local economies has captured the attention of leaders at all levels and earned him multiple invites to the White House. David had his first idea for a product as a seven-year-old worried about his mother cutting fruit. Though the idea never quite stuck, David hasn’t stopped tinkering to find solutions to problems he encounters. A serial entrepreneur, innovator and inventor, he now holds 16 patents on everything from sporting goods to wearable technology. While constantly thinking about new ideas, David provides his expertise and experience to help cultivate entrepreneurship and opportunity in Flint at Skypoint Ventures, 100K Ideas and the Ferris Wheel Innovation Center. (Special thanks to James Carpp, Rehmann for engineering this episode)
November 30, 2020
Jennifer Baird, Founder/CEO, Fifth Eye
This episode features Jennifer Baird, Founder & CEO of Fifth Eye. She is a serial entrepreneur with nearly two decades of experience founding and leading high potential startups as CEO. Her vast experience includes raising angel capital, grant funding for early-stage tech companies and raising venture capital funding as companies grow. She currently leads Fifth Eye, an Ann Arbor, MI based medical device software company building clinical early warning systems for hospitals. (special thanks to James Carpp, Rehmann for engineering this episode)
October 20, 2020
Michigan VCtalks Promo
Have you ever been interested to listen from individuals that make up the great strength of Michigan’s investment and innovation community? Their strategies, insights, philosophies have had a major impact affecting the overall economic growth and drive job creation in our great state. Welcome to Michigan VCtalks!   Our podcast series will spotlight a variety of these guests. We will talk to investors – VC’s and Angels. These conversations will extend to entrepreneurs – Founders and Startups, as well as other thoughtful leaders that are making a difference in the Michigan ecosystem.  My name is Ara Topouzian, and I am the Executive Director of Michigan Venture Capital Association and also the host of Michigan VCtalks. As the voice of the Michigan entrepreneurial and investment community, our association strives to increase the amount of capital and talent available to venture and angel investors so we can fund Michigan’s most innovative entrepreneurs and work closely with them to transform breakthrough ideas into new companies and industries. So what do you need to do next? That’s easy….tune in and listen to Michigan VCtalks! Follow, subscribe and share our episodes with others. Thank you! 
September 17, 2020