Preview our 2013 speaker lineup
Above: Speakers from Growco 2012
Brendan Anderson

Brendan Anderson

co-founder and managing partner, Evolution Capital Partners

Brendan Anderson’s passion for helping small companies was born out of his own experience growing up in an entrepreneurial family. As far back as 1988, Anderson has been fascinated by the capital gap within the small-businesses growth sector and rapidly came to the conclusion that providing best practices in addition to growth capital could consistently produce wonderful results for the management, employees, communities, and investors. Since 2005, Evolution has partnered with seven entrepreneurs. Three companies with Evolution made the 2012 Inc. 500|5000. Anderson is the former president of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in Cleveland, an association of more than 100 executives, and he remains a very active member and mentor in EO.


Sir Richard Branson

founder, Virgin Group

In 1970, at age 20, Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin as a mail-order record retailer. Since then, Virgin has become one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands, having expanded into air and rail travel, leisure and hospitality, entertainment, telecommunications, health and wellness, space tourism, and clean energy through more than 400 branded companies in 30 countries, with global branded revenue of $21 billion. Branson was awarded knighthood, in 1999, for “services to entrepreneurship.” In 2004, he launched Virgin Unite to help revolutionize the way businesses, government, and the social sector work together—using business as a force for good. @richardbranson was named Britain’s most influential person on Twitter.




Norm Brodsky

founder, CitiStorage; partner, Black Gold Suites; co-author, Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs; columnist, Inc.

Street Smarts columnist and senior contributing editor Norm Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur who has founded and built six businesses. In 2008, he sold CitiStorage, a document-archive business based in Brooklyn, New York, for $110 million. With his co-author, Bo Burlingham, Brodsky has chronicled his entrepreneurial journey in his column in Inc. and in the book Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs. Brodsky is one of the most sought after business-advice experts in the country.

Bo Burlingham

Bo Burlingham

editor-at-large, Inc.; author, Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big; co-author, Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs

Bo Burlingham is an editor-at-large of Inc. and the author of Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big. He has also written two books with Jack Stack, the co-founder and CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. and the pioneer of open-book management. Burlingham co-authors with Norm Brodsky the popular monthly column in Inc. called Street Smarts. Their book, originally titled The Knack, is now available in paperback under the title Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs.


Scott Case

CEO, Startup America Partnership; chairman, Network for Good

Timothy (“Scott”) Case is a technologist, entrepreneur, and inventor. He was founding chief technology officer of Priceline.com, a start-up that reached a billion dollars in annual sales in less than 24 months. As CTO, he was responsible for building the technology that enabled Priceline’s hypergrowth. In January 2011, Case was named CEO of the Startup America Partnership, where he and his team are supporting a national network of vibrant start-up communities that maximize start-up success. Case also serves as the chairman of Network for Good, a national nonprofit that has distributed more than $475 million to 60,000 nonprofits and provides online fundraising and communications services to more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations. He is on the advisory boards of By Kids for Kids, Tickets-for-Charity, and ThreeJars.
@tscottcase @startupamerica

Simona Covel

Simona Covel

senior editor, Inc.

Simona Covel is a senior editor at Inc. A former Wall Street Journal reporter, she has reported and written on an extensive range of business and financial issues, from the bond market to entrepreneurship. Her background also includes roles in content and marketing strategy.

Johnny Cupcakes

Johnny Earle

founder and head chef of a bakery that isn’t, Johnny Cupcakes

Out of the trunk of his beat up ’89 Camry, Johnny Earle turned a simple idea into a multimillion-dollar business using nontraditional methods. Starting his business in 2001, at the age of 19, Earle developed his company without a business plan, start-up loans, investors, wholesaling, or even conventional advertising. Johnny Cupcakes does not sell cupcakes, however; Earle designs his frosting-scented stores as vintage bakeries, displaying limited edition T-shirts inside refrigerators and bakery cases. He managed to launch one of the most recognized independent T-shirt brands in the U.S. and Europe, with retail store locations in Boston, Los Angeles, and London.



Allison Fass

deputy editor, Inc.

A longtime business journalist at Forbes and The New York Times, Allison Fass has also worked in venture capital and innovation at Hearst Interactive Media and digital strategy at a start-up consultancy. A graduate of Duke, Fass earned an M.B.A. from Columbia, where she was also a Knight-Bagehot fellow.

Donna Fenn

Donna Fenn

author, Upstarts! and Alpha Dogs; contributing editor, Inc.

Donna Fenn is the author of two books, Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success and Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack. Fenn is also a contributing editor at Inc., a blogger on BNET/CBSi and Inc.com, and an experienced international keynote speaker. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Working Woman, Parents, Reader’s Digest, and The Washington Monthly, among other publications.

Dan Ferrara

Dan Ferrara

deputy editor, Inc.

Dan Ferrara is the deputy editor at Inc., where he has worked since 2003. He has also been an editor at several other National Magazine Award–winning magazines, has edited books, and, in an interlude both instructive and humbling, owned a small art gallery.

Joe Gillette

Joe Gillette

chairman and CEO, Stage 2 Networks

Joe Gillette has 25 years of experience in the telecommunications industry and is a recognized industry pioneer and visionary leader. Gillette founded his first company, Gillette Global Network, in 1995. GGN quickly became one of New York’s most successful CLECs. In 2000, GGN merged with Eureka Broadband to create Eureka Networks. Gillette founded Stage 2 Networks in late 2004 and launched operations in early 2005. Since then, Stage 2 Networks has emerged as a leading provider of hosted voice, unified communications, and network services in the New York metro area as well as other leading U.S. cities. Gillette has received numerous industry awards, including the American Business Awards Gold Stevie for Executive of the Year in Telecom in 2012.

Burt Helm

Burt Helm

senior writer, Inc.

Burt Helm is a senior writer for Inc., a position he has held since February 2011. He writes features about entrepreneurs and the inevitable drama of starting a company. His 2012 cover story, “Turntable.fm: Where Did Our Love Go?” was recognized as one of the best magazine feature stories of the year by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW). “After the Squeeze,” his 2012 feature examining commercial lending practices after the recession, won a SABEW prize in the smallbusiness category. Prior to Inc., he worked as a reporter for Bloomberg News, a department editor for Businessweek, and a staff writer for Businessweek.com.


Elle Kaplan

founding partner and CEO, Lexion Capital Management

Elle Kaplan is the founding partner and CEO of Lexion Capital Management, one of the only 100-percent-woman-owned asset management firms in the U.S. A selfmade entrepreneur, Kaplan arrived in New York City with $200 and no job. Since then, she worked her way up Wall Street and earned her executive M.B.A. in finance from Columbia University. Throughout her career, Kaplan envisioned a higher standard in finance that would empower clients and serve their best interests. She foundedn Lexion Capital Management in 2010 to set that standard. Her goal is to build a more ethical, more transparent, more inclusive Wall Street. Kaplan’s expertise has been sought out by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and CNN Money, among many others.

Ami Kassar

Ami Kassar

founder and CEO, MultiFunding

Ami Kassar is founder and CEO of MultiFunding, a nationally renowned small business advocate and leader. He’s committed to ensuring that small business owners have the best possible access to the capital they need to help grow and manage their businesses. Ami has been featured in the New York Times and The Huffington Post, he’s guest-authored a column for the Wall Street Journal, and appeared on Fox Business News. Ami is the 2012 recipient of the Small Business Advocate Award and blogs regularly about small business issues for the New York Times. He developed Banking Grades, a free tool that helps small business owners discover which banks are lending to small businesses.

Christopher Kelly

Christoper Kelly

co-founder and principal, Convene

Chris started his entrepreneurial career selling candy in elementary school and has since gone on to start a portfolio of businesses including Coconuts Bar & Restaurant in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica; evoJets Private Jet Charter in Aspen, Colo.; and Convene (formerly Sentry Centers) – the largest provider of dedicated conference centers in Manhattan. Chris self-funded and boot strapped his early ventures before going on to eventually raise
over $16M through various rounds of friends-and-family, private equity and institutional investments. In 2011, Chris was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of its “Coolest Young Entrepreneurs” (30 Under 30 list) for both evoJets and Sentry Centers.

Dave Kerpen

Dave Kerpen

co-founder and CEO, Likeable; author, Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business

Dave Kerpen is the co-founder and CEO of Likeable, an award-winning social-media and word-of-mouth marketing firm composed of communications and consultancy agency Likeable Media and software platform Likeable Local. Likeable was named to both the 2011 and 2012 Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Kerpen’s first book, a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller, was Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (and Other Social Networks). His second book is Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver.


John Mackey

co-founder and co-CEO, Whole Foods Market; co-author, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

John Mackey is co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, co-author of the new book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Conscious Capitalism. Mackey has devoted most of his adult life to selling natural foods and building a better business model. He helped build a $10 billion Fortune 500 company that is now one of the top 20 supermarket companies in America.


Les McKeown

president and CEO, Predictable Success; author, Predictable Success: Getting Your Organization on the Growth Track—and Keeping It There and The Synergist: How to Lead Your Team to Predictable Success; columnist, Inc.com

Les McKeown is the president and CEO of Predictable Success, a leading adviser on accelerated business growth. He has started more than 40 companies in his own right, and was the founding partner of an incubation consulting company that advised on the creation and growth of hundreds more organizations worldwide.



Lisa Price

founder and president, Carol’s Daughter; author, Success Never Smelled So Sweet: How I Followed My Nose and Found My Passion

From humble beginnings in her Brooklyn kitchen, Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter, transformed her beloved hobby of mixing up fragrances and creams at home into a beauty empire. Price is the recipient of numerous awards and also the author of Success Never Smelled So Sweet, a remarkable memoir that chronicles her transformation from a young black woman deep in debt and burdened by low self-esteem into the president of a multimillion-dollar business. Price is an active philanthropist and currently sits on the board of the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now (FFAWN), a charity that is dedicated to empowering women and instilling confidence so they may achieve their dreams.

Lewis Schiff

Lewis Schiff

executive director, Inc. Business Owners Council; author, Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons

Lewis Schiff is the executive director of Inc. Business Owners Council, a membership organization for Inc.’s top entrepreneurs. He maintains a blog about behavioral entrepreneurship on Inc.com. He has co-authored two books, The Influence of Affluence: How the New Rich Are Changing America and The Armchair Millionaire. His new book, Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons, which focuses on the wealth-creating behaviors and attitudes that work best in the new economy, was published by HarperCollins in March.


Eric Schurenberg

Editor in chief, Inc.

Eric Schurenberg comes to Inc. with a career-long track record in business media that includes managerial stints at Money, Business 2.0, Goldman Sachs Group’s personal wealth management business site, and Fortune. Most recently, he was editor in chief of BNET.com at CBS Interactive Business Network, where he conceived, staffed, launched, and oversaw MoneyWatch.com. He is also a monthly commentator on Nightly Business Report, the national PBS television program.


Paul Spiegelman

co-founder, The Small Giants Community; founder and chief executive, The Beryl Companies; columnist, Inc.com

The Beryl Companies includes BerylHealth, a technology-focused patient experience company dedicated to improving relationships between health care providers and consumers; The Beryl Institute, a membership organization that serves as the global community of practice and premier thought leaders on improving the patient experience in health care; The Circle, a training company that helps businesses enhance employee engagement and develop positive workplace cultures; and The Small Giants Community, a global organization that brings together leaders focusing on values-based business principles. Paul Spiegelman is leading a unique, peoplecentric culture that has remarkably high employee- and customer-retention rates.


Baratunde Thurston

co-founder, Jack & Jill Politics; founder, Cultivated Wit; author, How to Be Black

Baratunde Thurston is a politically active, technology-loving comedian from the future. He co-founded the black political blog Jack & Jill Politics and served as director of digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology start-up Cultivated Wit. Then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know.” Thurston travels the world speaking and advising and performs standup regularly in New York City. He resides in Brooklyn, New York, lives on Twitter, and has over 30 years’ experience being black. He writes the monthly back-page column for Fast Company, and his first book, How to Be Black, is a New York Times bestseller.


Howard A. Tullman

president and CEO, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy

Howard A. Tullman is the general managing partner for Chicago High Tech Investors and a member of Mayor Emanuel’s Council of Technology Advisors and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council, as well as an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management. Over the past 40 years, in addition to founding more than a dozen high-tech companies, creating thousands of new jobs, and training dozens of talented managers who have gone on to lead their own ventures, Tullman has created, developed, and achieved liquidity in excess of $1 billion for a number of his businesses, including CCC Information Services, Imagination Pilots, Coin Dealer Services, Tunes.com, Worldwide Xceed Group, Kendall College, and The Cobalt Group.


Robbie Vitrano

co-founder and chairman, Trumpet; co-founder, The Idea Village; co-owner, Naked Pizza

Robbie Vitrano is co-owner of Naked Pizza (ranked in 2011 as the fourth most influential quick-service-restaurant brand). Since its launch in late 2006, Naked Pizza has more than 500 stores in development around the world, with more than 25 locations now open. Vitrano is also co-founder of entrepreneurial hub Idea Village, which has helped launch more than 200 ventures in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as co-founder of Trumpet, named a Top 10 Most Innovative Advertising Agency by Fast Company. He lectures and writes extensively on branding, entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility in the postrecession, post-mass media business environment.

Alejandro Velez

Alejandro Velez

co-founder, Back to the Roots

Alejandro Velez founded Back to the Roots, an urban farm in Oakland, California, with Nikhil Arora upon graduating from UC Berkeley in 2009. Currently, Alejandro manages the sales and finance sides of Back to the Roots and is helping to lead the company towards profits, even in its young years. Along with Nikhil, the duo created the Grow-
Your-Own Mushroom Garden and the Home Aquaponics Garden. Alejandro was recognized in the Hispanic magazine PODER as a 30 Under 30 as well as on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 (Food and Wine category) in 2011. He and Nikhil were selected in 2012 as one of Inc. Magazine’s “Coolest Young Entrepreneurs.
@BTTRVentures @VelezAlejandro


Alexa von Tobel

founder and CEO, LearnVest.com

Alexa von Tobel is the founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, the award-winning financial-management and lifestyle website. Originally from Florida, von Tobel received an A.B. in psychology at Harvard College. Upon graduation, she worked as a trader at Morgan Stanley before leaving to be the head of business development at Drop.io, a venture-backed start-up in New York City. She enrolled in Harvard Business School in 2008, only to take a leave of absence shortly after to launch LearnVest. Von Tobel was named a 2012 Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur and highlighted recently as “One of the Coolest Young Entrepreneurs” in Inc. magazine’s 30 Under 30 feature.

Clayton White

Clayton White

founder, South Coast Angel Fund, LLC; managing director, Simmons & White LLC

Clayton White has over 25 years experience in legal, finance, budgeting, management and strategic planning for start-up and early-stage companies. His background includes organizational structure, mergers and acquisitions, financial management and controls, capital structure, and corporate governance. He has taken companies through the venture capital process and successful exits. His education includes a B.S. in Physics, an MBA—Management and Finance, and a Juris Doctor – he is licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Alabama.

Naomi Whittel

Naomi Whittel

founder and CEO, Reserveage Organics

Naomi Whittel sought to become a health and wellness innovator when she started Reserveage Organics in 2009—providing science-based nutritional supplements inspired by clinically researched ingredients and the world’s healthiest cultures. Whittel also founded two sister companies, ResVitale and Re-Body, and two subbrands, CocoaWell and Reserveage Advanced Solutions. Her brands have launched more than 140 science-based products and won more than 25 industry awards for product excellence. An innovative entrepreneur, Whittel is committed to sustainability, organic and Fair Trade certification, and transparency. She founded the D.A.W.N. Network—Developing and Advancing Women in Naturals—a national initiative to expand female leadership in the naturals industry.

Tim Williamson

Tim Williamson

Co-Founder & CEO ,The Idea Village

Tim Williamson is co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 with a mission to identify, support, and retain entrepreneurial talent in New Orleans. An entrepreneur by trade and by training, Williamson has successfully started and operated five entrepreneurial ventures in four cities and has been a steadfast advocate for making New Orleans a vibrant entrepreneurial community.