Startup Experts

We are grateful to all our amazing expert speakers for volunteering their valuable time to speak and interact with the participants of the Executive Certificate in Entrepreneurship.

Chris Kaufman

A strategic, serial entrepreneur and a compassionate, creative leader, Chris Kaufman has over twenty years of experience in brand building, marketing creative, and product design. Named one of Techweek’s “100 Most Influential People in Technology in Detroit” twice, his multidisciplinary approach has led to a successful track record building world-class teams and lucrative, game-changing businesses. He’s the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of StockX, a revolutionary, global e-commerce platform lauded as the world’s first “Stock Market of Things,” where he built a full-service, in-house creative agency from the ground up. Recently valued at $3.8 billion, StockX has created over 1,500 jobs around the world, many of which are in Detroit. Kaufman been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes, earning accolades from the Webby Awards, TechCrunch, WebAward, Word of Mouth Marketing Association, and Michigan Venture Capital Association for his innovative work at the nexus of leading edge design, user experience, and current culture brands. Kaufman. Kaufman began his career at the forefront of the e-commerce revolution, a versatile designer crafting award-winning user experiences through web and app design and marketing creative. After earning a BFA in Graphic Design from Eastern Michigan University, he honed his design acumen as the Interactive Design Director at Quicken Loans, then took a position as Professor of Graphic Communication at Baker College, mentoring entrepreneurial and design students in Southeast Michigan. Over the next few years, Kaufman co-founded several successful venture-backed startups, including Quizzle, where he served as Creative Director, and UpTo, where he served as Chief Creative Officer, developing extensive entrepreneurial expertise and a keen understanding of customer behavior. He worked as Vice President of User Experience for Shift Digital before joining the Advisory Board at GameAbove, a dedicated team of notable Eastern Michigan University alumni gathering funding (over $20 million since 2019), resources, and support for EMU and the surrounding Ypsilanti community.

Joseph (Joe) Morrison

Joseph Morrison is an attorney at Bodman Law.  Morrison represents high-growth companies in an outside general counsel capacity. He focuses on emerging companies that leverage technology to build their business and brand. He also represents venture capital firms and high net worth individuals that invest in high-growth companies. His business and technology background gives him the ability to deftly advise ambitious entrepreneurs facing legal and business challenges. 

Before joining Bodman, Joe worked for Accenture as an information technology consultant in Washington, D.C. He also served as corporate counsel and consulting manager for a Michigan-based IT startup, where he helped scale the company to 50+ employees and $3 million in revenue.

Clay Phillips

Clay Phillips is the Mobility Technology Lead for the MI-SBDC.  He is an experienced executive in the fields of open innovation, intelligence, business development, and strategy. Since 2014 he has been an innovation and growth strategy advisor for numerous startups, large companies and non-profits. He has worked with clients in the automotive, mobility, energy, IT, health care, materials, financial services, and specialty chemicals industries. Since 2018 he has served as the Mobility Technology Lead for the Michigan Small Business Development Center where he supports Michigan’s entrepreneur ecosystem and advises early-stage star ups in the mobility sector. He has been an instructor for the NSF’s Midwest Innovation Corps program, mentor for GAMIC and TechStars-Detroit, and other mobility focused accelerator programs. He also serves as an Executive Advisor to SRI International. Prior to 2014 Clay was an executive at General Motors where he held leadership positions in corporate intelligence and strategy, alliance management, and innovation commercialization. He was a founding member and VP of GM’s corporate venture capital arm, GM Ventures, and led commercialization due diligence for the R&D Center’s open innovation and internal startup program.
Earlier in his career he managed international product and portfolio planning and new business development initiatives. Clay holds a BA from Trinity College and an MBA from Columbia University. In between degrees he served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Navy. For fun, he plays guitar in a band, composes and records, and enjoys sailing whenever possible.

Linda Smith

A 1991 EMU accounting grad, Linda Smith has 35 plus years of personal entrepreneurial experience in farming, real estate and life science ventures. Linda co-founded Michigan Innovation Headquarters with her husband in 2015. Serial entrepreneurs, they launched MI-HQ, a collaborative business incubator accelerator campus which has grown to 170,000 sq. ft. of flex office, wet lab and manufacturing space as a start up venture. 
At 80 companies and growing, MI-HQ fosters Life sciences, Alternative Energy, Medical Device, Waste to Energy, Corporate Development and Micro Electronics together in a community environment.   MI-HQ was awarded Ann Arbor Spark Project of the Year in 2020. Over 25 years working with early stage companies has provided Linda with a unique insight into what makes a successful start up. She enjoys helping other entrepreneurs succeed. 

Wendy Thomas

Wendy Thomas is the Southeast Region Director for the Michigan Small Business Development Center which services Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Her extensive and rewarding career, spanning over 20 years, has led her to incredible professional growth opportunities. In addition to successfully helping small businesses launch and grow, she has spent the last 14 years, in leadership and management roles. Wendy serves on several small business advisory boards and committees. She is also a mentor in the Eastern Michigan University Executive Mentor Program and the Michigan ACE Women’s Mentorship Program. Wendy has received recognition for Outstanding Volunteer for the CEED Detroit Loan Program, Michigan Small Business Center of Excellence and Innovation Award, and SBA Small Business Consultant of the Year. Wendy is also certified as a Small Business Consultant and a Small Business Administration Export Trade Specialist.

Wendy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Michigan State University, Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Entrepreneurship, and a Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Eastern Michigan University. She also complimented her academic achievements with studying business practices abroad in Asia and Europe including China, England and France.


John Tuttle

John Tuttle is Vice Chairman and Chief Commercial Officer for NYSE Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (NYSE: ICE). As member of the senior leadership team, Tuttle leads the commercial outreach and business development of NYSE Group. In this role, he oversees NYSE’s Global Listings, Capital Markets, and Exchange Traded Products businesses and is responsible for managing the Exchange’s relationships with more than 2,200 NYSE-listed companies and overseeing the creation of new offerings in emerging and growing sectors of the economy. Since joining NYSE in 2007, Tuttle has served in a succession of roles including Chief Operating Officer, Global Head of Listings, Chief of Staff, Head of Corporate Affairs, and as Managing Director of Global Affairs and Government Relations for NYSE Euronext, then-parent company of the New York Stock Exchange as well as five other financial exchanges in Europe. Prior to joining the organization, Tuttle held various roles in the United States Government, including at the United States Department of State and at the White House. John holds a MBA from the University of Notre Dame and BBA from Eastern Michigan University.


Frank Urban

Frank Urban is the Director of Venture Creation at Spartan Innovation. He specializes in commercializing early stage therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices. He assists in spinning out MSU based startup companies within the life sciences. He is also the program director for Spartan Innovations’ Conquer Accelerator program for both East Lansing and Grand Rapids. Prior to Spartan Innovations, Frank was a Licensing Associate in the Office of Technology Commercialization at Wayne State University. Prior to that, he had varied business development, sales and scientific roles for a number of life science companies, to include Everist Genomics, Charles River Laboratories, MIR Preclinical Services, Molecular Imaging Products, Pfizer and Parke Davis. He has also worked as a consultant for numerous start-up companies and managed various laboratories at the University of Michigan. Frank has a MS in Molecular Biology and a CBA from Eastern Michigan University and a BA in Biology, General Science and Physical Science from Concordia College.


Zach Wigal

Zach Wigal graduated from Eastern in 2016, earning his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing. He is the founder of Gamers Outreach, a charity organization that provides recreation to children in hospitals through the power of video games and the gaming community.

As of 2020, Gamers Outreach programs enable an estimated 1.5 - 2 million play sessions for patients across 200 healthcare facilities each year. The organization also hosts one of the largest LAN parties in North America - Gamers for Giving - brings together gamers and esports enthusiasts to support hospitalized families. Zach has been recognized as a 2019 CNN Hero and named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list (2017) for his work in the games for health space.