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Ben Schmuck

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Co-Founder & CEO

Hey, I'm Ben Schmuck.  I love engaging with people and organizations to help them solve problems.  I founded LeanInno because I believe companies don't need to rely on luck when choosing which product or service to build.


I have 15 years experience helping one of the biggest and oldest brands in the world, Caterpillar, Inc. innovate new products, services, and technology that customers love.  I've coached over 50 startups inside and outside Caterpillar applying the LeanInno framework.  I mentor startups at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago.


With an engineering background, I'm an analytical thinker with business training from the best in the world and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.  And unlike most engineers, I embrace the divergence of design thinking and the uncertainty of early-stage business ideas.

I have a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business


Howard Gerwin

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Co-Founder | Principal, Gerwin Technology Consulting, LLC

Howard Gerwin brings a rare blend of large company, startup and academic perspective to the challenge of bringing innovative solutions to the marketplace using a systems-thinking approach.


Howard spent more than 25 years at CAT, Ford and John Deere taking innovative and diverse products from concept through to production.  Most of that time was spent in the heavy iron world of engines and powertrains.  A few years back while still at Deere, he made a pivot into the world of connected machines, connected sensors, mobile applications and the Internet of Things. 


Howard left Deere in 2018 and jumped headfirst into the start-up community in Champaign-Urbana and the University of Illinois. He advised a number of startups in the AgTech and connected device space.  Howard was a mentor in the National I-Corps program for an AgTech startup and found that the LeanInno process really resonated.  He became an instructor at the Technology Entrepreneur Center to share his passion with students and faculty.  


Howard’s consulting practice focuses on commercializing disruptive and innovative technologies within established industries. 


Howard holds an MS in System Design and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University.




Samantha Melchiori

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Solutions & Services Marketing & Strategy Manager at Caterpillar, Inc.

Samantha is an incredible storyteller and saleswoman.  She is an engaging and highly collaborative leader creating high-functioning interdisciplinary and innovative team environments.  She is a change agent within large, matrix organizations and applies vision, creativity and business acumen to problem solving to deliver measurable results.


She completed post-graduate in Business Analytics at the U. of Illinois – Chicago and holds bachelor’s degrees in fine art and engineering from Wellesley and the U. of Illinois - Chicago, respectively. Samantha has extensive experience with 6 sigma, new product development, product, services and business strategy; digital and product innovation and lean start-up methodology.

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