One of the honors of being an e-Fest finalist is the opportunity to get your ideas in front of some big names in the business world. Each year, e-Fest judges generously donate their time and expertise to the event, helping young entrepreneurs gain the confidence they need to pursue their dreams. Get to know this year’s judges by reading a little about them below.
Richard M. Schulze
Founder, The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation
Founder and Executive Chairman, Best Buy
2023 Keynote Speaker
In years to come, Richard Schulze hopes that his legacy will be his major contributions to three important areas: business, education and entrepreneurship.
Richard M. “Dick” Schulze, the founder of The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, is also founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy Co., Inc., the world’s largest multi-channel, consumer-electronic retailer.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, Schulze is the ultimate entrepreneur and is living the American dream. From a modest background, he and a hand-picked team built a retailing empire based in the Twin Cities. Through it all, he adhered to his life-long values of integrity, humility, honesty, and respect – both in his professional career and his personal life. In years to come, Schulze hopes to be remembered by a personal legacy involving three major contributions through business, entrepreneurship education and philanthropy.
After working as a manufacturer’s representative for electronics components, in 1966 Schulze founded his own company, The Sound of Music. The business expanded to six stores in Minnesota by 1983, when Schulze renamed it Best Buy, adopted a warehouse format, and expanded into many more kinds of consumer products. The company soon went public and began a period of remarkable growth when Schulze revolutionized the industry by introducing the superstore to electronics.
Schulze served as Best Buy’s Chief Executive Officer from 1983 to 2002 and then as Chairman until 2012. He rejoined the company in 2013 as Founder and Chairman Emeritus. Today, Best Buy employs more than 145,000 people and operates more than 1,400 stores in the U.S. and 479 stores in Canada, China, and Mexico.
Schulze’s most recent entrepreneurial venture includes the purchase and operation of Aurora Anguilla, a resort in Anguilla, BVI. Schulze is in the process of revitalizing the multi-faceted complex into a luxury resort with family-centric programming which includes an extensive entertainment center. The entertainment center features an amphitheater, which celebrated its grand opening on December 31, as well as a waterpark, which is scheduled to open in summer 2023.
Although his plans to attend college never materialized, Schulze became trustee and major donor of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota – the school where he enrolled before joining and serving full-time, active duty in the Air National Guard. In 1998, the University of St. Thomas awarded him an honorary doctoral degree. (He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota.)
In 2000, Schulze and his late wife, Sandy, donated $50 million to St. Thomas – then the largest donation ever to a Minnesota college or university – founding the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship in Schulze Hall, part of the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus.
Founded in 2005, the Schulze School has worked to become a leader in entrepreneurship education and outreach. Students learn to turn innovative ideas into sustainable businesses and hundreds of businesses have benefitted from its expertise, consulting and start-up support.
Schulze served on the University of St. Thomas’ board of trustees for 20 years, 1995-2015, before retiring from the board. He now serves as trustee emeritus.
Schulze has long supported nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. He and Sandy established the Richard M. and Sandra J. Schulze Family Fund in the mid-1990s as their main vehicle for donations to Twin Cities’ social service charities related to health care, education, and family. Sandy died in 2001 from mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
A desire to identify and fund “transformational change to benefit mankind” led Schulze to start The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation in 2004. In June 2013, Schulze announced plans to gradually expand the Foundation from $100 million to about $1 billion. Schulze chairs the Foundation’s board of trustees.
Schulze has four adult children, who rotate service on the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation’s Board of Trustees, 14 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild. He is now a permanent resident of Florida.
Ann Winblad is an incredible supporter of e-Fest and student entrepreneurship. Over the past 7 years, Ann has served as a Championship Judge, professional development workshop presenter, advisor, and mentor to the entire e-Fest team. We are so proud to have Ann join us again to serve as Championship Judge to help select the Grand Champion winners of the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Ann Winblad is co-founding Partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, a venture capital firm she co-founded in 1989. She is a well-known and respected software industry entrepreneur and technology leader. Her background and years of experience in the software industry have been chronicled in many national and international business publications.
Hummer Winblad Venture Partners was the first venture firm focused exclusively on software. In her 30-year career as a venture capitalist, Ann’s firm has launched over 160 enterprise software companies and led investments that pioneered successful companies across the enterprise software sector: Business Intelligence, Analytics, Software Development, Integration, Data Center Optimization, Cloud Computing and Security.
Ann began her career as a systems programmer at the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. In 1976 Ann co-founded Open Systems, Inc., a top selling accounting software company. After the acquisition of Open Systems by UCCEL (a NYSE company), Ann served as a strategy consultant for clients including IBM, Microsoft, Price Waterhouse, and numerous start-ups. In addition, Ann has co-authored the book Object-Oriented Software and has written articles for numerous publications.
Ann received a B.A. in Mathematics and in Business Administration from the St. Catherine University, as well as an M.A. in Education focused in International Economics from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. Ann also has an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of St. Thomas.
Angelina will be joining e-Fest as a Championship Judge to share her experience as a leader in Sports-Tech and to assist in selecting the Grand Champion team from our Top 5 student entrepreneur teams.
Angelina Lawton has combined her passion for sports, branding, and technology to become Founder + CEO of Sportsdigita and a respected leader in the sports industry. She was recently named by Forbes as one of “The Most Powerful Women in U.S. Sports” and was featured in Inc. Magazine for her success.
Sportsdigita has disrupted the industry by partnering with more than 450+ brands across professional sports and enterprise to elevate presentations with their interactive platform, DIGIDECK.
Angelina received a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in Journalism from Arizona State University and was formerly the SVP of Corporate Communications for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tim Welsh joins our esteemed panel as an e-Fest championship judge. We look forward to Tim bringing his wealth of experience in consumer lending and financial services to the judging panel this year.
Tim Welsh is vice chair of Consumer and Business Banking for U.S. Bancorp. In this role, Tim oversees the company’s largest grouping of business lines, covering a wide array of services and products that help us become central to the financial lives of our consumer and small business customers, including branches and business banking along with a variety of consumer lending and servicing operations, such as mortgage, auto lending and dealer services. Prior to joining U.S. Bancorp, Tim spent more than 26 years at McKinsey & Co., where he most recently served as a senior partner specializing in financial services and the consumer experience. He also led McKinsey’s global learning and development function and co-led the firm’s people strategy.
Tim holds a masters of business administration with distinction from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in social studies from Harvard University. In addition, Tim is a founder of the Itasca Project, a dedicated team of business, government and not-for-profit leaders who are working to improve the quality of life in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He is also active on many non-profit boards in the Minneapolis-St. Paul community, including Greater MSP, Minnesota Orchestra, Minneapolis Institute of Art and The Constellation Fund, among others. Tim is on the boards of Allina Health, a $4 billion non-profit healthcare system, and Upside FOODs, a start-up company Fortune Magazine has called “the hottest tech in Silicon Valley.”
Shawntera Hardy is a seasoned leader whose 20-year-career is rooted in a bias for inclusion, a focus on outcomes, and a penchant for design-thinking. With extensive experience in public policy, economic and workforce development, healthcare, international relations and environmental sustainability, she brings to each role a lens of proximity, which has allow her to make connections or fill the gaps between power, participation, and profits.
A champion for enterprise effectiveness and inclusive economies, she has built four companies of her own, led high profile organizations in both the public and private sectors, and managed many complex projects. Given the volatility of today’s political, social, and financial climates, Shawntera’s experience and expertise have become increasingly more vital. Through her firm Amethyst Advisory Group, she advises clients from all sectors on their most challenging organizational and community issues. She helps leaders thrive in the midst of disruption, reimagining processes, business models, and outdated ways of thinking.
Utilizing her educational experience immersed in human centered design, Shawntera works alongside her clients to build pathways for maximum impact and transformation. Her curiosity-based approach involves a relentless commitment to experimentation that helps leaders navigate uncertainty and build resilience for future challenges. She guides organizations into what they want, and out of what they don’t by asking “How might we?” and “How dare I?”
As founder of PolicyGrounds Consulting, she provides strategy and leadership training for entities looking to engage in the public policy ecosystem. As cofounder and former Chief Strategy and Culture Officers for Plural (fka Civic Eagle) – where she now serves as a Board Advisor – Shawntera co-led the development of public policy intelligence software that automates state and federal legislative tracking. Lastly, As co-founder of Fearless Commerce, she builds high growth resources that strengthens the capacity and connections of businesses owned by Black Women.
Prior to becoming a full-time business owner, Shawntera was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) where she led a team of 1300 and oversaw an annual budget of approximately $900 million. Additional past leadership roles for Shawntera include: deputy chief of staff for Governor Mark Dayton; public policy director for FreshEnergy; government relations manager for HealthPartners; city planner for the City of Saint Paul and legislative assistant in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Shawntera holds a Bachelor of Science in Consumer Affairs from The Ohio State University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. She has multiple awards for her professional and community work and she has and continues to serve on multiple non-profit and private boards.
Damian Novak is a serial entrepreneur that has started or purchased hundreds of companies throughout his career. Mr. Novak has extensive knowledge and experience in the field of structuring businesses through personal acquisitions, management and consulting to outside firms. He is currently the Chairman of the board for Fresh Vine Wine (NYSE: VINE), on the board of Fold of Honor TN, and owner of many private companies.