LUKE SKERTICH

Background - I grew up in the Western suburbs of Chicago and earned my Bachelor’s degree in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I developed a keen interest in academic research during undergrad, which laid a solid foundation for my approach to product development in tech. In my free time, I enjoy travelling, science fiction novels, hiking, & staying active.

“Ask me about” - Planning and leading a trek, what it’s like to work at a startup. product management, switching careers, and woodworking.

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - I have a passion for exciting entrepreneurial ventures. I worked as a Product Manager at three B2B tech start-ups in Chicago, spanning the benefits administration, fintech and human capital management spaces. I’m actively involved in fundraising and volunteering for Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley. I currently work as an Associate at M25, the most active early-stage VC firm in the Midwest.

Fun fact - I hiked Mount Whitney with my brother, which is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and the Sierra Nevada, with an elevation of 14,505 feet.

Favorite recent book or podcast - The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin

TINA DJENGE

Background - I was born and raised in Serbia, and moved to the Chicago suburbs for high school. After undergrad in Chemical Engineering, I worked for a technology licensor in the oil and gas industry, initially as an advisor eventually turned product manager building IoT digital advisors. I spent a few years in data and analytics building semantics technology before moving to co-found a data-science company for the retail industry. When I’m not working and there is no quarantine, you can find me at wine bars, exploring cities around the world or at art galleries. During quarantine, I just drink coffee and read HBR articles.

“Ask me about” - VCIC, NVC, Polsky incubator and the accelerator, starting and growing a company, finding cofounders and building teams, the right time to leave a full-time job and Chicago restaurant suggestions.

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - When I figured out I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I mapped my journey out of the corporate world → Get into product management, grow skills in analytics, do MBA to derisk the entrepreneurial journey, all while developing an idea and testing it’s concepts. Today, I'm a year and a half into building a company with a great team. I stay involved and active with the VC scene across the US and the world, and I’m particularly passionate about diversity in entrepreneurship.

Fun fact - I lived/worked in 11 countries and visited 30+ . One of the most memorable trips was camping in the Serengeti in Tanzania and observing the big 5 animals.

Favorite recent book or podcast - Crazy Rich Asians - the trilogy!

Raabia Budhwani

Background - I was born in Pakistan and raised in Texas and Georgia. My insatiable desire to understand human behavior led me to get an undergrad degree in psychology and linguistics and a master’s degree in urban planning. My career as former diplomat, consultant, federal entrepreneur, and social impact fund manager colors my approach to entrepreneurial problem-solving and investing.

I’m passionate about increasing representation of underestimated and underrepresented founders in venture and entrepreneurship, and weaving meaningful societal impact into the DNA of startups before they become bad corporate actors.

“Ask me about” - SNVC, PE/VC Lab, GSIP, impact investing, family offices, life design and career pivots, building healthy organizational cultures (and how to manage organizational dysfunction!), cross-cultural teams, venture pathways for nontraditional VCs, growing your own food, Vipassana, philosophical life questions.

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - Since my first lemonade stand at the age of 8 meeting the needs of neighbors during hot Texas summers, I’ve been building and investing in innovative solutions to solve problems in domestic and international emerging markets. I’ve been an ecosystem builder, impact investor, intrapreneur, and, now, armed with the resources at Booth, I’m venturing into an entrepreneurial journey.

I’m connected to national networks of fund managers and institutional investors focused on diversity and inclusion in the VC industry, structured a fund to invest in minority and women-led companies in Chicago, and regularly advise founders and investors on equitable investment strategies.

Fun fact - I started my career in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan and trekked on horseback along the Kyrgyz/Chinese border with no technology or modern amenities.

Favorite recent book or podcast - Shoedog by Phil Knight & Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Ari Perlin

Background - I moved to Chicago six years ago with two suitcases and an open invitation to sleep on my friend’s couch. While still not a Bears fan (Go Steelers!), Chicago has become home. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, I studied Mathematics at Penn State before working in strategy and operations at two Fortune 500 companies (Aon and Kraft Heinz, respectively). I more recently cofounded a medical diagnosis software company, Vaizian, where I’m the CEO.

“Ask me about” - New Venture Challenge, Polsky Accelerator, I-Corps, Booth’s startup life, being a founder, healthcare startups, customer discovery, building an ecosystem, managing productivity, leaving a stable job, product validation, Beatles trivia, and obscure indie bands on Spotify.

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - Cofounder and CEO of a medical startup. Active in Booth/Polsky entrepreneurship programming and Chicago’s startup life. I love discussing innovation within life science, healthcare, and biotech. My B@B goal is to encourage more Boothies to explore startup and take the entrepreneurial leap.

Fun fact - I’ve been less than a foot away from fully grown great white sharks while cage diving off the coast of South Africa.

Favorite recent book or podcast - “Bad Blood” - the user guide on how NOT to run a healthcare company.

Chris George

Background - I was born and raised in New Hampshire, but have lived in the Midwest since college at Miami University and in Chicago post-grad. I think I can call myself a Chicagoan after living here for 10 years, but my wife would tell you I’m still a New Englander in heart, mind, and vocabulary. Here in Chicago, I’ve worked for the past 8 years at Civis Analytics, a data science software & consulting startup, where I’ve helped grow the business from a handful of members as part of the founding team to over 200 people at present.

“Ask me about” - Data science (AI/ML), venture capital / VC Lab, NVC, generalist startup roles, business development, intersection of politics and technology, being a teaching assistant at Booth

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - At Civis, I’ve worn a number of hats across consulting, product development, business development, and business operations as we’ve scaled from seed to Series B. Recently, I started a VC internship with Motivate Venture Capital through the PE/VC Lab, and am competing in the 2021 New Venture Challenge with Weat. Post-MBA, I’m looking to continue to leverage my experience in data science and entrepreneurship in early stage operating or investing roles.

Fun fact - I’m a proud dog dad of a 2-year-old golden retriever named Frannie, who has never met a human she didn’t love.

Favorite recent book or podcast - The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday & How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen

Aniko Berman

Background - When I moved to Chicago four years ago it was the first time I had ever stepped foot in the Midwest. I had a very coastal upbringing: born in San Francisco, early childhood in Berlin, then NYC, SF, Paris, and NYC again. For me, then, Chicago is actually quite exotic. In the pre-Booth before times, I was fully in the art world: art history for college and grad school, then career as a commercial gallery director both in Chicago and New York. Booth has opened my eyes to so many things. I am now fully leaning into the entrepreneurship and investment space, and currently working with the 2019 NVC winner My Art Cache (an art e-commerce platform, naturally).

“Ask me about” - PE/VC lab, VCIC, search funds, career pivots/leaps of faith, how to leverage non-traditional backgrounds in an MBA context and identify transferrable skillsets, how the art world is basically the same as venture capital, buying/selling/appreciating art, museums and galleries, vintage furniture stores, classic country and old soul music.

Involvement in Entrepreneurship/VC - At My Art Cache, I'm working with the founder to refine the product, grow our customer base, and strategize for the future. As part of the PE/VC lab, I recently started an internship at Hyde Park Venture Partners.

Fun fact - As a gallery director, I worked with then-little known painter Amy Sherald and was there for the ride when her portrait of Michelle Obama was revealed to the world.

Favorite recent book or podcast - The Full Ratchet, Zero to One.