Mentors & Partners

The Creative Destruction Lab’s success is dependent on a wide network of mentors and partners to achieve our goal of enhancing the commercialization of science for the betterment of humankind. Our mentors are accomplished entrepreneurs, experienced operators, and active angel and venture investors, and regularly meet with ventures to help founders set and achieve their business objectives through the program’s duration. Our partners include corporations and UW-Madison entities that contribute time, connections and financial resources to help our ventures scale massively.

CDL Mentor Network

CDL mentors are integral to the success of the Creative Destruction Lab, as they provide the business judgment to each cohort of startup founders. Participating ventures meet with the mentors in five one-day mentoring sessions, interacting to identify and customize objectives for the venture to focus on over the following eight weeks. Mentors include accomplished entrepreneurs, experienced operators, and active angel and venture investors, and have real-life experience to offer sound business judgment to grow a massively scalable business.  

CDL-Wisconsin is proud to include 60 mentors from all over the world, including many UW graduates and faculty. See the complete list of CDL-Wisconsin mentors, with a sample of our mentors below.

Loved the respectful disagreement between mentors on several of the companies. This demonstrates a couple of key points: 1) the mentors are engaged, passionate, and take CDL very seriously, and 2) even within a group of highly qualified and experienced group of business executives, there is a wide divergence of opinion on the right paths. Which is all the proof needed for the justification of CDL. Imagine the plight of a startup CEO without the benefit of this insight from multiple angles. — Gary Griffiths, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Wisdom LLP

John Neis

John is currently Executive Managing Director of Venture Investors of Wisconsin, healthcare-focused VC firm with over $275M in assets under management.

Joan Lamm-Tennant

Joan Lamm-Tennant is the independent Chair of the Equitable Holdings and Alliance Bernstein Boards of Directors. She is also an advisor to numerous private equity and venture capital firms focused on early stage insurtech.

Richard J. Davidson

Richard J. Davidson is a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Founder of the Center for Healthy Minds. Davidson is best known for his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain.

Kyle Nakatsuji

Kyle is currently Founder and CEO of Clearcover, a Chicago-based digital car insurance company that has raised over $300 million to date. Clearcover aims to make purchasing car insurance more efficient and less expensive.

Telisa Yancy

Telisa Yancy is President of American Family Direct, overseeing all companies selling direct to customers for American Family Insurance. She joined American Family in 2009 and has held roles of Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

Mark Bakken

Mark Bakken is a seasoned entrepreneur-turned-investor. Collectively, Mark’s companies have done over $360 million in sales and raised more than $38 million in venture capital, and he has successfully bought and/or sold eight companies.