SBAC Startup & Technology Community

On a quarterly basis the Startup & Technology Community facilitates events where over 25 companies apply and 3 are awarded the opportunity to present to a prestigious panel of judges and audience of 75+. Start-up and midsize businesses who showcase their business receive feedback and the winner selected by our panel of judges receives a prize package.

Pitch Committee

Leslee Cohen, Hershman Cohen LLC

Leslee concentrates her transactional practice in securities law, corporate finance and general corporate law. She counsels a variety of entities, from small entrepreneurs and start-up companies to large established businesses, across many industries from real estate to technology in connection with private placements of both equity and debt securities, including venture capital, private equity and “friends and family” investments.  Leslee also structures, negotiates and documents significant business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, joint ventures and other business combinations and financial transactions.  In addition, she handles general corporate matters including commercial contract drafting and review, stockholder and limited liability company agreements and structuring, business restructurings, employment and consulting agreements, and equity incentive plans and agreements, on behalf of a diverse group of clients. Leslee’s practice encompasses Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) compliance for microcap public companies and committees of their boards of directors, providing counseling regarding disclosure and regulatory obligations under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, including corporate governance, ethics and executive compensation issues.  Leslee also represents broker-dealers and investment advisors in connection with securities law issues.

Mike Cavanaugh, Fintech Ranger

As a broker and floor trader on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, Mike started his career providing market insight to clients from the wheat and bond pits. Later, Mike brokered futures and options on futures for individual clients and professional investors off the floor. From there, Mike founded Know Your Options, a registered investment advisor.

Mike has had articles published in the Wall Street Journal, Registered Rep Magazine, OIC Whitepaper, Investment News, Journal of Financial Planning, and many other publications.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Stephen Samlan, Knechtel, Demur, & Samlan

Stephen is an intellectual property attorney and represents a broad range of clients from startups to internationally recognized corporations.  Stephen works with clients on global brand and design protection, clearance and enforcement strategies.  He regularly prepares and prosecutes trademark applications and assists in the management of global trademark portfolios.  Stephen has considerable experience in e-commerce related intellectual property infringement matters.  His practice also encompasses Internet law including the preparation of website legal terms and conditions as well as privacy policies.

Pitch Events

Check back soon to find more information about our upcoming pitch events!

Past Pitch Presenters Testimonials



“The SBAC has been a strong & positive voice for small businesses in Illinois, and I can’t thank them enough. Their pitch event was extremely helpful getting our message into the business community.”

– CartoFront



“Winning the SBAC pitch competition was a critical moment in closing our series seed round of investing. SBAC understands what it takes to build a business from nothing and we value their support and mission.”

– Regroup Therapy


“Winning the pitch competition was a huge high in the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows of startup world. As our first official office, it gave me and my interns a place to thrive. I really felt supported and that the business was going to grow.   Joining the SBAC has vastly grown my network creating my team of CPAs, Lawyers, Investors and a host of other connections and I look forward to continuing on for many years to come. It has been one of the best parts of my experience so far and I will always be grateful.”

-Social Enjoyments


“My presentation was well attended and well received.  The sophistication level of the crowd was high.  Having a complex product such as ours, it was refreshing to start at a high level and move everyone up from there instead of going back to square one.”