Board of Directors

The Board of Directors provides broad oversight of the financial and organizational health of Spark Ventures. Specifically, the Board is involved in fundraising, setting policy and ensuring continued alignment to Spark’s mission, vision and goals. The Board meets quarterly and works closely with the CEO to accomplish these objectives.


Scott Barbeau

Staff ScottScott Barbeau is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. He spent the first 15 years of his professional career working at Lucent Technologies, Parson Group, and Hyperion Solutions in sales and management roles. He has been  actively involved with Mercy Home, Chicago for Boys & Girls, FFHM  Orphanage, and Songs of Love Foundation. He is currently employed as a professional musician.

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Molly Baskin

Board - Molly Baskin2Molly has been Managing Director of the Ansley Consulting Group, a retained executive search firm, since 1999. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the Harvard Business School. She serves on the Board of Directors of American Capital, LLC (NASDAQ: ACAS), a specialty finance firm; of eLynx, a privately-held software company serving the residential mortgage industry; and of Warner Power, a privately held firm that provides highly engineered power conversion products and services worldwide. She serves on the Audit Committee of American Capital and eLynx, chairing the committee for eLynx. Molly is a member of Women Corporate Directors, the Wellesley College Business Leadership Council, the Board of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (for which she chairs the Audit Committee), and the Alumnae Board of the Women Students Association at Harvard Business School (for which she is Vice Chair).

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Marisa Daley

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Marisa Daley’s career in the management-consulting field has spanned more than 16 years and multiple industries and regions. In 2002 she founded HPT Advisory Services, an economically disadvantaged woman-owned small business (EDWOSB), where she serves as president. HPT provides management consulting services to federal agencies. Prior to HPT, Marisa worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers and consulted for the Centers for Disease Control. She is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland.

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David Goldstein

Board - David - David board picDavid was born and raised in New York. He attended college in Washington, D.C. and law school in Chicago, where he currently lives. He has worked in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office (Juvenile Division) and currently is a real estate attorney. He specializes in representing developers of affordable housing. David served as a board member of Open Hand Chicago (previously Vital Bridges) and as their Board President for more than three years. He has traveled to New Zealand, Brazil and throughout Asia and Western Europe. David traveled to Zambia with Spark Ventures for the first time in August 2008, and has returned every-other year since to volunteer and visit his friends at Hope Ministries.

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Steve Gant

Board - Steve GantSteve was born in Honduras and lived in Latin America during his early years. He was also stationed in Venezuela and Colombia during his military career. He received his B.S. in Physics from Auburn University and went on to develop a distribution channel in Latin America for Internet Security Systems. He now serves as the Managing Director for Modulo Security Solutions. Steve joined the board after serving on the Latin America Search committee for Spark’s second partner.

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Kathleen Jackson, Secretary

Board - Steve Gant

Since 2008, Kathleen Jackson has provided independent financial advice to businesses, senior executives, business owners and private clients. She earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree in education from Portland State University. Prior to forming her private practice, she held senior management positions in banking, trust and investment management firms in and around the Chicago area. She is actively involved in the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago Charitable Fund which she founded in 2004. The Fund focuses on “improving leadership skills of non profit managers in the Chicago area” and has provided scholarships to 40+ local not-for-profit executive directors to attend a week long course at the Harvard Business School for leadership and business training. Kathleen is an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she teaches a sales leadership course in financial services.

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Richard Johnson, CEO

Staff - Rich

Rich Johnson is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Spark Ventures. He was born and spent his early childhood in Japan and California, prior to moving to northern Illinois. Rich received a BA in Communications and MA both from Trinity International University. His work experience has included business marketing and consulting, leadership and management for several nonprofits, and higher education administration. Rich is currently serving as an advisor and board member with several Chicago-area nonprofits and social enterprises.

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Daniel Marcus

Dan board picDaniel Marcus is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He was born in Santiago, Chile and immigrated to the United States at the age of 8 years old with his parents and two brothers. Dan attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he  received a BA in Economics.  He has worked in finance most of his career. He  worked at Bear Stearns and currently is an Investment Advisor at Marcus  Capital, LLC. Dan has been involved with various charities including 10 years as a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago and two years at The Night Ministry, working to serve homeless and runaway youth.

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Nancy O’Leary, Treasurer

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Nancy was born and raised in Chicago. She attended Bradley University where she received a BS in Psychology. Nancy has worked in finance and accounting throughout her career. She has spent the last 17 years in the venture capital industry, and currently is the CFO of JK&B Capital, a $ 1 billion venture capital firm located in ChicagoNancy has been involved with various charities, including over 14 years as a volunteer at Children’s Memorial HospitalNancy first traveled to Zambia in 2008 and 2009 on Spark Ventures Partnership Trips, and has returned in the years after to assist with the organizational audit process.

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Patti O'Neil, Chair

Board of Directors - PattiPatti was born and raised outside Boston, Massachusetts and made Chicago her home in 1989. She has a BA in Mathematics and Economics and a Master’s in Applied Economics from The University of Michigan. She is currently the Treasurer and an Assistant Professor at Rush University Medical Center. Previous to joining Rush, she worked as a banker at both Bank of America and First National Bank of Chicago. She is raising her three children in Chicago. Patti is involved in volunteer activities at church, Misericordia, and her children’s schools, and is on the Investment Committee of Saint Ignatius College Prep. She traveled to Zambia for the first time in 2013, and returned in 2014 with her daughter.

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Ross Parr

Board - RossRoss Parr knew little about Spark Ventures before coming across a Chicago Sun-Times article that lead him to join the 2011 Partnership Trip to Zambia. Shortly after returning from the trip he joined the Spark board, becoming a strong advocate for the impact of Spark's work. As Vice President of Sales (for several companies) Ross has worked with start-ups and early stage companies for the last 20 years. Ross holds a Bachelor's degree in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University.

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Jeff Plaisted

Board - Ross

Jeff Plaisted is a seasoned executive with over twenty years of experience in Telecommunications, Technology and Digital Media. Jeff joined Microsoft’s advertising division in 2003 and later built and managed Microsoft’s U.S. Mobile Sales team and advertising Sales Strategy. Jeff was recognized by Business Insider as one of the most Influential People in Mobile advertising in 2012 and again in 2013. Jeff is a graduate of Michigan State University, a member of the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association and holds certifications from University of Chicago/Graham School of Studies and Multi-Media Telecommunications Association in the areas of e-Business and Convergent Technology.

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Nick Schoewe

Nicholas Schoewe is a co-founder and Member Manager of CSS, LLC a Chicago based proprietary trading and investment firm. He has 30 years of experience in finance, holds an M.B.A. from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from M.I.T. He began his career at and became a partner of O’Connor and Associates in Chicago. When O’Connor and Associates was acquired by Swiss Bank Corporation he worked for 6 years as a Managing Director in Swiss Bank’s Tokyo, Hong Kong and London offices. He has previously served on the Boards of the Yampa Valley Bank (Chairman of Asset and Liability Committee), Yampa Valley Community Foundation (Chairman of Investment Committee), Caring for Colorado Foundation (Investment and Program Committees) and Winnetka Congregational Church (Treasurer). He lives in Winnetka, IL with his wife Robbin and 3 children who all hope to go on a Spark partnership trip sometime.

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Tasha Seitz

Board - Tasha - tasha board picTasha Seitz joined the board of Spark Ventures in 2009 after traveling to Zambia to see the positive impact of Spark’s partnership with Hope Ministries and meet the child that she sponsors at the Hope Community School. She is a partner with JK&B Capital, a Chicago-based venture capital firm with over $1 billion under management, where she invests in early stage software companies. Tasha has a bachelors degree in psychology from Wellesley College and a masters in business administration from Stanford University.

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Jochen "Joe" Renz

Board - Tasha - tasha board picPrior to founding SalesEnablers Joe served as the Vice President of Sales Enablement at CA. Across his 19+ year career in IT he lead large consulting and sales operations teams including P&L responsibility of CA’s USD 1bn+ EMEA business based in London, UK. Joe brings a wealth of experience in streamlining operations and driving complex transformation projects. Joe’s passion is to create high performance sales teams through Sales Enablement best practices and enabling technology. Joe was born and raised in Germany and currently resides in Chicago, IL. He received his Diploma Engineer (FH) from the Hochschule Heilbronn, Germany and his Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

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Gary Vlk, Vice Chair

Board GaryGary is co-founder and Executive Vice President of the full service event agency, One Smooth Stone, Inc. After graduating from Columbia College with a BA in Communications, he quickly entered the event production industry  producing meetings, events and entertainment programs in the US, Europe and Asia. Gary has always been local to Chicago and resides in Naperville, IL with his wife Anne and two boys.  He has been a volunteer board member for the Village of Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation since 2000 and currently chairs the marketing committee. Gary traveled to Zambia with his family on the 2009 Transformation Trip. He loves to cycle and has maintained his skill as a keyboardist to participate in his church’s worship band.

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Kathy Campbell Wolf

Board - Kathy - Brian board picKathy Campbell Wolf joined the Spark Ventures Board of Directors in 2014. She brings over 20 years of experience in fashion photography where she worked both as a producer and an agent. She began her career at Elite, before successfully launching her own business. Kathy is the proud mother of two and has previously served on the Board of Directors for her daughter's adoption agency - the Adoption Center of Illinois (formerly the Family Resource Center). She holds a BA in International Studies from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Kathy traveled to Zambia with Spark Ventures in January of 2014 and looks forward to returning with her family.

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Brian Wu

Board - Brian - Brian board picBrian Wu was born in Poughkeepsie, New York and grew up in Maryland prior to attending Wheaton College in Illinois. He spent a significant amount of time living overseas, both in China, where he was an English Teacher, and in Kenya, where he worked for a church and a non-profit organization. He has studied and written on spiritual formation and international economic development. Brian is currently the General Manager of College Park Athletic Club in Deerfield, Illinois and he enjoys all kinds of sports and music. He and his wife, Alison, live in Chicago.

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