People Matter

In 1994, Cindy and Kevin Abel took a leap of faith when they started Abel Solutions, a consulting firm that would, by design, focus on quality of life for their employees, their families, and the Abels themselves.

Focusing on their core belief of “People Matter”, Abel Solutions became a fixture in the local technology space, known for its commitment to employees, customers, partners, vendors, and the community.

Since its founding, the company has remained strongly committed to its core values, maintaining a proud reputation for its priority: creating a culture in which always doing the right thing is paramount.

The company grew to more than 20 employees and generated greater than five million dollars in annual revenue. The Abels exited in 2016.

Giving back to the community has always been a priority to the Abels. Throughout and after Abel Solutions, Cindy and Kevin focused on serving the community by starting and volunteering with various nonprofits and community organizations.

Cindy launched Liv2BGirl, an online space that would provide young girls a positive forum to discuss issues and find camaraderie. She also served on the board and worked as the Interim CEO for Hands on Atlanta; and serves on the CARE Women’s Network – Atlanta Advisory Committee.

Kevin served on the Board of Directors of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, as the Chairman of the Small Business Council. Until recently, Kevin served as the Vice Chair of the Board of New American Pathways, a refugee serving agency. With a longstanding passion for public service, Kevin was a recent candidate for Georgia’s 6th District seat in the US Congress.

At 14, Kevin emigrated from South Africa and settled in Dallas, TX with his family. He attended University of Texas. Cindy, a graduate of University of Dayton, moved up the ranks at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). She and Kevin met through Andersen, while working on the same project.

Their entrepreneurial success story and philanthropic outreach places a true emphasis on the Abels’ core belief that “people matter.”

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Michael J. Coles is an Atlanta business executive, serial entrepreneur, education advocate, philanthropist, and the namesake of the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University.

After more than 19 years in the clothing business, Michael J. Coles founded the Great American Cookie Company in Atlanta in 1977 with his partner, Arthur Karp. They took an $8,000 investment and grew it into the largest cookie store franchise in the United States.

Michael’s entrepreneurial spirit ignited long before he opened that first cookie store in Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, GA. During his nearly two-decade career in the clothing industry, Michael launched two separate businesses. The first was a chain of retail stores selling discounted brand-name clothing (a novel concept at the time), and the second was a young-men’s manufacturing company fittingly named The Great American Clothing Company.

In 2003, he joined Caribou Coffee Company and in his tenure, more than doubled the size of the company, opened a commercial sales division and an international market, and took it public on NASDAQ under the symbol CBOU in 2005.

He always was focused on giving back to the community. Coles’ commitment to community service led him to run for the House of Representatives against Newt Gingrich in 1996 and the U.S. Senate against Paul Coverdell in 1998, the same year he sold Great American Cookies.

For the next four years, he chaired the Georgia Film Commission and served on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, the Kennesaw State University Foundation Board, and the Walker School Board. With his wife, Donna, Michael supports the American Lung Association, Georgia Special Olympics, Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, and the March of Dimes.

Today, Michael mentors entrepreneurs and actively lectures about business, giving more than 75 talks a year at universities and corporate events nationwide. A successful author, Michael has published a children’s book, The Land of the Caring Bou, with his wife. He is co-authoring his autobiography, Time to Get Tough: How Cookies, Coffee, and a Crash Led to Success in Business and Life with Dr. Catherine M. Lewis (Assistant Vice President of Museums, Archives & Rare Books at Kennesaw State University). The book is scheduled for a fall 2018 publication.

Dani Cushion, Cardlytics

Felicia M. Phillips, PPCIW

Jasmine Crowe

Bill Nussey is a serial entrepreneur, who has spent most of his career as a tech CEO. His entrepreneurial journey started in high school, where he co-founded his first company to develop graphics software for early, text-based personal computers. His second company was started out of his college dorm room and ultimately sold business software across 45 countries. He took his third company public and grew it to almost $500 million in revenue. He sold his most recent company to IBM where he later spent 18 months as IBM’s VP Corporate Strategy out of their world headquarters in New York.

Bill’s companies have created thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in value. Along the way, Bill received a degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University, worked as a venture capitalist with Greylock, wrote two books, and received his MBA from Harvard Business School.

In 2016, Bill changed the direction of his career. For the first time in history, energy from the sun and the wind were cost-competitive with energy from fossil fuels. He founded the Freeing Energy Project, whose mission is to accelerate the shift to cleaner, cheaper energy. He began researching and writing a book called Freeing Energy. After the book is published in 2018, Bill is on a mission an plans to create or assist a small set of companies that will help accelerate the Freeing Energy mission.


Starting & Scaling - Maximize Early Stage Investments

10:15 - 11:15 AM

  • This track will provide a full overview of early stage investments.
  • What are investors interested in?
  • How can you maximize on the investment being made?
Moderator: Sid Mookerji

Fintech - The Next Five Years

10:15 - 11:15 AM

  • New trends in financial tech industries
  • What does it mean for businesses and consumer security
  • How to keep companies on the cutting edge of technology.

Panel: Suneera Madhani, Adam Bloomston
Moderator: JP James

Octane Systems1

What's Your Exit Plan?

1 - 2 PM

  • Transitioning to late stage and what you need to be prepared for
  • Bring in later stage CEO(s) and scaling from small to big
  • Learn all aspects of running a company and what it takes to be successful
  • Shifting management style, services, and culture
Moderator: Tom Singh

Blockchain and Private Companies

1 - 2 PM

  • What are asset backed tokens and security token offerings (STO)?
  • Issuing and trading security tokens as per SEC regulation and compliance
  • How is blockchain disrupting fundraising and traditional venture capital industry?
PanelDave Hendricks; Andris Merkulovs; Sen. Michael Williams; Kell Canty; Demian Bellumio
ModeratorArul Murugan