Alumni Connections - No. 93 - April 2012

Alumni Connections is a sampling of alumni news. Alumni on the Move, Alumni to Know, CEO Watch: Taking the Lead, and CEO Watch: Making Headlines share news gleaned from media online and in print, including news submitted to Chicago Booth Magazine. Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to

Alumni on the Move

Apollo Investment Corporation:
Mark Harris, ’08 (AXP-7), has been named CFO. The investment company is headquartered in New York.

ASTM International Committee on Occupational Health and Safety:
Thomas Slavin, ’83,
has been named chairman. The committee sets standards for such health and safety issues as silica, metalworking fluids, and ergonomics. ASTM International is based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Slavin is global safety and health director at Chicago-based Navistar.

Neal Cohen, AB ’82, MBA ’84,
has been named executive vice president and CFO. The aerospace and defense company is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

Banner Apartments LLC:
John Nikolich, ’92,
has been appointed executive vice president, capital markets and investor relations. Headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, the company invests in real estate and manages property.

Behringer Harvard:
Andrew Bruce, ’02,
has been appointed CFO of Behringer Harvard Opportunity REITs I and II. He will continue to serve as senior vice president, capital markets. The real estate company is headquartered in Addison, Texas.

BG Medicine, Inc.:
Brian Posner, ’87,
has been named to the board of directors. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, the biotech company develops tools and tests to aid in the detection of heart disease. Posner is president of Point Rider Group LLC.

CBOE Holdings, inc:
Edward Provost, ’87 (XP-56),
an executive vice president, has been named chief business development officer. The holding company for the Chicago Board Options Exchange and other subsidiaries is based in Chicago.

Cotton Creek Capital:
Lee Rash, ’09,
has joined as senior associate. The Dallas, Texas–based private equity firm focuses on middle market companies.

Miles McHugh, ’93,
has been appointed CFO. Headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the company makes flexible packaging and special coatings.

Fifth Third Bank Entrepreneurship Institute:
Eileen Weisenbach, ’92,
has been named director. The institute is part of Northern Kentucky University Haile/US Bank College of Business.

Hefty Wealth Partners:
David Abuaf, AB ’02, MBA ’08,
has joined as chief investment officer. The wealth management firm is based in Auburn, Indiana.

Hotel Asset Enhancement Value, Inc.:
Richard Musgrove, ’89,
has joined as executive vice president. Based in Providence, Rhode Island, the company manages hotel assets and consults on hotel real estate.

Integrated Diagnostics:
Donald Seaton, ’85,
has been appointed CFO. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the biotech company develops blood-based molecular diagnostic tests.

JS Investments Limited:
Maleeha Mimi Bangash, ’03 (AXP-2),
Has been appointed chief strategy officer. The asset management firm is based in Karachi, Pakistan.

Maurice Holmes, ’92,
has joined as managing director, market development for alternative investments. The New York–based firm is the US member firm of KPMG International Cooperative, which is headquartered in Amstelveen, Netherlands.

Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc.:
Curtis Espeland, ’02 (AXP-1),
has been elected to the board of directors. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, Lincoln Electric makes arc welding products. Espeland is senior vice president and CFO of Eastman Chemical Company.

MENA Hydrocarbons:
Omar Nasser, ’09 (EXP-14),
has been appointed director of corporate development of MENA based in Cairo, Egypt. Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the company explores for oil and gas in the Middle East and North Africa.

Brian Krelitz, ’84,
has joined as market manager, professional products. The insecticide company is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Survey Sampling International:
Christopher Fanning, ’91,
has been appointed president and chief operating officer. The company offers data sampling, collection, and analysis for survey research. It is headquartered in Shelton, Connecticut.

Thetford Corporation:
Kevin Phillips, ’95,
has been named executive vice president, North America. Headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the company makes sanitation and refrigeration products for the recreational vehicle, marine, and heavy truck industries.

Visteon Corporation:
Robert Krakowiak, ’96,
has been appointed vice president and treasurer. The automotive supplier has corporate offices in Van Buren Township, Michigan, Shanghai, China, and Chelmsford, United Kingdom.

The Weather Channel:
Chris Walters, ’01,
has joined as chief operating officer. The television station is based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alumni to Know

Maggie Anderson, JD ’98, MBA ’01, spoke about the book she co-wrote, Our Black Year, at Eastern University, said a February 6 article in the Daily Eastern News. Anderson and her husband spent a year attempting to buy goods only from black-owned businesses.

With the departure of some old-guard employees at John Buck Co., some are questioning the state of the company, as John Buck, ’02 (XP-71), is handed more and more of the company reins from his father. But Buck doesnt see a problem. “We havent missed a beat,” Buck said in a March 5 Crains Chicago Business article. “Weve got a bunch of deals were working on. We havent lost any opportunities that Im aware of.” Buck first joined his fathers firm in 1996. He has done leasing and project management there. He currently is working on a couple of hotel developments, the article said.

Jeff Carter, ’07, once asked Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, Do you bet on the horse or the jockey?

He said in start-ups, always bet on the jockey,” because great jockeys can change course, Carter writes in a March 6 article. Carter, an independent speculator, writes about what he thinks makes a great jockey. One crucial characteristic: leadership qualities. An idea person does not necessarily make the best CEO, but “leadership characteristics can be taught,” Carter said.

Another characteristic: clear communication. “The best founders ask their investors to clearly state their expectations. This minimizes conflict,” he said.

In the wake of a cheating scandal, in which several principals and teachers in Atlanta, Georgia falsified their students test scores, Erroll Davis, ’67, was asked by the Georgia governor and the Atlanta mayor to take over as school superintendent. Davis, former CEO of a Wisconsin utility company, answered the call. “When I look back at my life, I dont want my contribution to have been shaving a few eighths off a bond deal to make a million dollars,” he said in a February 20 New York Times article. The article said Davis has been thorough in rooting out corruption and effective in getting to know and praise the remaining honest teachers. When he meets with principals he tells them, “Education is the only industry in this country where failure is blamed on the workers, not the leadership,” the article said.

An impending banking crisis in China may be temporarily softened by the countrys policy of transferring bad loans to government-owned entities, however, that strategy has its own drawbacks to the economy, said Ben Fanger, MBA ’05, JD ’05. “The seeds of a potential crisis started in 2008,” Fanger said in a February 29 Wall Street Journal article. “In an effort to fuel growth, China more than doubled its loan book in the two years following the crisis by increasing loans to both infrastructure and corporations. History tells us that such spikes in lending are almost always followed by a banking crisis, or at least a wave of bad loans that must be cleaned up. It also became clear that much of Chinas lending was being allocated for policy reasons, not creditworthiness. As concerns about inflation mounted, and China slowed credit growth in 2010, banks lent to state-owned enterprises but left private companies and real estate developers starved for cash. Last year analysts estimated that between $1 trillion and $2 trillion of nonperforming loans would eventually surface because of this lending gut.”

Fanger is cofounder of Shoreline Capital Management, which invests in Chinese distressed assets.

Megan McArdle, ’01, recalls in a February 9 Atlantic Monthly article that back in October she had publicized the fact that "the share of national income going to the top 1 percent had fallen dramatically." McArdle had released this disclosure which had come from a discussion with Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance. In the magazine article, McArdle debated whether or not income inequality will continue to worsen. "Maybe," she concluded. "I think the answer at the moment is we simply dont know—Im not sure theres empirical reason to prefer one story or the other. I do think we should be wary of confident extrapolations in either direction."

Giving consumers a chance to pick their own electric utility to save money just became easier with a new app launched by Power2Switch in conjunction with the Illinois Chambers of Commerce. "Were thrilled that the Lakeview East Chamber is leading the way and that we are able to share our cost-saving service with even more businesses in Illinois," said Phil Nevels, ’10, Power2Switch cofounder and chief operating officer. "High electricity costs impact all businesses. Our rate comparison widget empowers owners to save a great deal of money on their electricity bills in minutes."

"The US economy is gaining steam," said Jim Oberweis, ’03 (XP-72), in a February 8 article in Forbes. He cited improvements in the gross domestic product, employment, consumer spending, and housing sales. When picking stocks, however, Oberweis recommends innovative small-cap companies that will grow no matter the state of the economy. He listed four specific stocks in the article.

Lukasz Pomorski, PhD ’06, and a colleague from the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management have won the 2012 Canadian Investment Research Award of $10,000 Canadian dollars. The award was presented by the Toronto CFA Society and Hillsdale Investment Management for the research paper “Is Bigger Better? Size and Performance in Pension Plan Management.” One of the papers key findings is that “the majority of superior returns come from expansion into alternative asset classes, such as private equity, real estate, and infrastructure, where size and direct investment capabilities are an advantage,” said a March 1 article in Digital Journal.

HeyMath, a Chennai, India–based online mathematics platform, is set to launch a Facebook-like social networking site for mathematics this year, said a February 3 article in the Economic Times of India. Sitting on HeyMaths board are Jerry Rao, ’81, and former IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan, Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, the article said. The story was repeated in a roundup of Indian news in the Wall Street Journal and in a Dow Jones International News story on February 2.

StrongMail is offering a free whitepaper with recommendations on email marketing. The resource, called “The Ultimate Email Lifecycle Marketing Guide: Post-Purchase Programs,” drew recent press attention from PRWeb, Business Wire, and Reuters.
Business Wire and PRWeb also ran a February 22 article about how Joss & Main, an invitation-only retailer, ratcheted up sales after using StrongMail to standardize its email program.
A team of Booth students, finalists in the 2003 New Venture Challenge, have been credited in the past with developing the business plan that enabled StrongMail to attract financing. One of them, Rita Ravindra, ’04, is the former director of finance at StrongMail Systems.

Shoprunner, an online shopping site that offers free two-day shipping, recently bought Shopsanity, an online shopping organizer, a deal that drew the attention of on February 7. Shopsanity cofounder John Rodkin, ’05, offered an explanation in a blog on the Shopsanity website following press coverage of the transaction. Rodkin said that the number of transactions recorded by his company was growing “exponentially,” after just nine months of existence. “Im proud of how hard the team cranked, and Im extremely proud that what we built scaled like mad and grew quickly on a lifetime total of $7K of marketing spend and no PR.” He said that the two online businesses are a “great strategic fit.”

While business school grads arent flocking overseas for jobs in record numbers, they are more open to geographic flexibility, said a February 8 Bloomberg Business Week article. For example, Ronald Rolph, ’11, had a chance to work in the United States or take a position with the same company overseas that offered multiple attractions of engineering, construction, and project management work in the mining and metals industry in Santiago, Chile. Rolph took the job in Chile. “Just because you go overseas initially does not mean youre relegating yourself to working overseas for the rest of your career,” Rolph said.

Jay Schmelter, ’92, is founder and managing director of RiverVest Venture Partners. The St. Louis, Missouri–based firm recently sold four life science companies for more than $1 billion, according to a February 6 press release. One of the four companies, Salient Surgical Technologies, Inc., was founded by Schmelter. “At RiverVest we strive to build early-stage life science companies to sell within three to five years, including companies we found,” Schmelter said. “Our strategy is to focus on a few high potential investments, take an active role, sometimes as interim management, and leverage our research, clinical, operational, and investment expertise to make them attractive for strategic buyers.”

A new talk radio show, “Other Peoples Money,” is being hosted by Jeffrey Sexton, ’07. The one-hour Sunday evening show is being broadcast to the Louisville area and southern Indiana on WKJK in Louisville. “I am not an armchair quarterback,” Sexton, portfolio manager for the Deluxe All Cap stock fund, said in a press release. “I walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to investing,” he said. “The results of my research instilled convictions and taught me the consequences of managing ‘other peoples money.”

To improve development of players in youth soccer, U.S. Soccer is pairing with EXACT Sports, a company that offers behavioral assessments and sports psychology tools. “There are many elements within soccer that are mental, such as managing adversity during a corner kick, being confident in goal, showing leadership on the field, and interacting with coaches and teammates,” said Barry Tarter, ’03, EXACT Sports executive director, in a February 21 news item at EXACT Sports is monitoring and training more than 4,000 players and coaches in Development Academy clubs. To do so, the company is using a new behavioral assessment tool called the Mental Achievement Program.

“There is no perfect time to launch a company,” said Vikram Vuppala, ’07. Vuppala, a medical doctor, cofounded NephroPlus, which runs kidney care clinics in India, in 2010 in the midst of a global recession. “Considering the economic climate, we decided not to go for venture funding,” Vuppala said in a February 19 article in the Economic Times of India. “We wanted to prove the concept first.” The company focused on patients and caregivers, holding events for them. “The first five patients are important. They will carry the word around,” Vuppala said. Today the company runs five centers.

The business is a dream come true for Vuppala. “I always dreamt of establishing my own business,” he told Post Noon in a March 3 article. “After I completed my high school, I decided to set up a business. I graduated in engineering from IIT Kharagpur and did my MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business to realize my dream,” said Vuppala, who invested his life savings to start NephroPlus.

Vuppala had been working as senior associate at McKinsey & Company when he returned to India in 2009 to become an entrepreneur, said a February 23 article in the Economic Times.

CEO Watch: Taking the Lead

Andrew Ackerman, ’95

The new mobile app and website aim to make managing digital memories quick and painless.

Urs Daniel Baumann, ’95
CEO, Bellevue Group

The financial services company is headquartered in Küsnacht, Switzerland.

Donna Zarcone, ’87
President and CEO
Economic Club of Chicago

Zarcone had been serving as interim president before she recently was named to the top spot. The club formulates public opinion on business issues and works to identify young business leaders.

CEO Watch: Making Headlines

John Hamilton, 86
Veyance Technologies

Hamilton writes about leadership in a first-person article published March 1 in Smart Business. Of the several characteristics he discusses, the foremost is building trust. "Your employees will decide if you are trustworthy enough to follow before they will decide if you are smart enough to follow or whether your strategies are brilliant enough to follow. Trust from employees comes from the same source trust comes from in all relationships—honesty," Hamilton wrote. "Surprisingly, many leaders find this difficult. These leaders want maximum control over the behavior of their employees, while minimizing employees freedom of action. You may not believe this, but how many times have you heard something like, "We cant tell them that, theyll all quit,"? Or been tempted to split hairs when an employee asks a difficult question about a future decision with "We have no plans", when you are 90 percent sure you know what you are going to do? This kind of borderline dishonesty is a trust-buster."

Karan Goel, AB ’04, MBA ’06
Founder and Former CEO
PrepMe Inc.

Goel stepped down as CEO of the online college test preparation website he founded following the start-ups sale to Naviance, a division of Cincinnati, Ohio–based Hobsons Inc., which provides software and other tools for higher education administrators and students. Goel said in February 20 Crains Chicago Business article that after a break he may start another company. In an announcement of the deal in a February 16 PRNewswire article in Digital Journal, Goel said, "In a time of increasing mandates for student success, schools and districts need cost-effective, comprehensive programs that help students connect learning to personalized goals. The combination of PrepMe and Naviance will allow students and families to realize the impact their PSAT, SAT, and ACT test preparation has on post-secondary planning and achievement." The same quote appeared in a February 20 article in PEHub.


Sean Harper, AB ’03, MBA ’09
Cofounder and CEO

Harper enlisted the help of Joshua Krall, ’09, cofounder and chief technology officer, to work on the start-up, which offers online comparison shopping for credit card processors, after Harper found himself "shocked at how inefficient" the process was. "Finally finding what I thought was a ’good deal’, I learned later that I overpaid by $40,000 in the first year... money that I could really have used elsewhere in my business," Harper said in a January 31 Illinois Technology Association ITA Spotlight article. Chicago-based FeeFighters employs developers and designers across the globe.

Matt Maloney, SM ’00, MBA ’10
Cofounder and CEO

The online food ordering company has grown out of three offices since its 2004 inception. "This is our fourth office and at every point weve said, ’theres no way were going to max out of this office," Maloney said. "Every time weve been wrong." The online site now offers its services in approximately 300 cities, with its mobile app growing to account for 20 percent of orders, he said. Back in 2004, Maloney and cofounder Mike Evans were working late nights at "We were hungry and sick of ordering the same pizza all the time," Maloney said in a February 22 article in Business Insider. "Its kind of funny that it really was hunger that inspired [GrubHub].

Joe Mansueto, AB ’78, MBA ’80
Founder and CEO

Mansueto chose an auction-based initial public offering because "it just squared very nicely with the ethos of Morningstar to help investors of all stripes and not just institutional investors," he said in a February 19 article in the Boston Globe. The IPO was "a terrific success," though the plan to go a nontraditional route took some gumption. "Its not easy to go up against Wall Street," Mansueto told the newspaper. He credited his Booth education and type of business—investor services—with giving him the capacity to do so. "Most people have IPOs only once in their life and they tend to trust the professionals, the Wall Street Bankers, the way theyd instinctively trust a dentist or a doctor. You have to have a lot of self-confidence and a lot of expertise to go against that advice."

Jeb Ory, ’11
Founder and CEO

Ory and Kilton Hopkins, ’10, chief technology officer, were slated to take their start-up to the SXSW (South by Southwest) Accelerator competition, held in Austin, Texas, March 12 to 14. The company makes an app to consolidate all mobile communications by person or relationship. It was one of 48 companies invited to the competition out of nearly 700 companies that applied. “The initial version well launch [at SXSW] will be focused on very basic information thats contained on your mobile device or integrated within peoples email,” Ory said in a February 28 Crains Chicago Business article. Later the app will allow users to add information from social networking profiles. “Well also let you split up [different categories of contacts] so that if you have customers phone numbers and friends phone numbers, they dont both show up in a mailing list for a marketing email list—thats a big pain point,” Ory told Crains. Added to the app will be a day-management system of communication reminders. 

This is the inflection point, the difference between people-centric and function-centric software,” Hopkins told Crains. “Nobodys done that before, make software about people. People have been stored as data, as contacts or customers. Theyre pieces of information or accounts. But were realizing that by putting together a Twitter profile, a Facebook profile, an email address, and a number from your mobile devices phonebook, youre talking about a person. Put all that information together and you have the worlds first people-centric mobile relationship management platform.”

Michael Polsky, ’87
Founder, President, and CEO

Polsky has been appointed to the Argonne Board of Governors. Argonne does research in the fields of energy, environment, technology, and national security. Polsky also is a member of the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.

Dhiraj Rajaram, ’03
Founder and CEO
Mu Sigma

Rajaram is hailed as "Master of Data Universe" in a headline for a February 5 profile in India’s Business Today. The story looks at his unconventional ways, from his continued thriftiness despite monetary success, to his insistence on being super selective when hiring an A-team. Yet, "the seven Indians on his sales team never held a sales job before; four have less than a years experience," the article said. His strategies appear to be paying off: the data analysis company has raised almost $150 million, the article said, and his company has been valued at about half a billion dollars.

Uzi Shmilovici, ’11
Founder and CEO
Future Simple

Mobile computing, smart computer algorithms, and plummeting software creation and distribution costs are revolutionizing the small business software industry. "For the first time in the history of business software, small businesses can use software that is as good, if not better, than the software bigger corporations use,"Shmilovici wrote in a February 12 guest post for Forbes. Future Simple provides customer relationship management software for small businesses. "There hasn’t been groundbreaking innovation in the business software space for the last decade," he said in an Illinois Technology Association ITA Spotlight article that ran January 31. "We’re building the future of it."

Kevin Willer, ’10 (XP-79)
Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center

Chicago’s tech community planned to party at South by Southwest, a music festival with a tech sideshow held in Austin, Texas. Willer told Crain’s Chicago Business in a March 2 article that the gathering will offer a chance for the tech world’s money and talent from Silicon Valley, Austin, and elsewhere to meet Chicago’s tech money and talent. The article said reps from many of Chicago’s start-ups would be attending, including those from Braintree, founded by Bryan Johnson, ’07 (XP-76)), FeeFighters (see Sean Harper, AB ’03, MBA ’09), and GrubHub (see Matt Maloney, SM ’00, MBA ’10). 5Degrees is in a competition there (see Jeb Ory, ’11).

Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to