Strategic Corporate Investment Panel

We are excited to open the discussion to strategic corporate investment at this year's event. Our first panel on April 13 is focused on trends in Midwest investing, including how geospatial is moving into other industries.

Kelly Gillespie

Vice President of Digital Ecosystem Services, Climate LLC and Digital Farming
Bayer Crop Science

Kelly Gillespie serves as Vice President of Digital Ecosystem Services for Climate. Kelly leads the development of infrastructure and relationships that pave the way for new value pools for digital ecosystems. Kelly’s team drives and delivers Ecosystem Services strategies for our environmental and sustainability-focused products, including carbon sequestration and water use efficiency.  

Kelly is a crop physiologist by training with a BA from Knox College in Galesburg, IL and a PhD from University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She did a post doc at the Danforth Center focused on photosynthetic improvements in algae as a potential biofuel. She joined Monsanto in 2011 and has held various leadership positions in Biotechnology, Breeding and R&D portfolio management.

Most recently, Kelly served as Crop Efficiency Portfolio Lead on the R&D Crop Team, where she focused on the global advancement of a flagship technology platform, Short Stature Corn, as well as identifying new research targets in carbon sequestration and nitrogen efficiency for gene editing and biologics. She brings a wealth of experience in translating business opportunities into clear technical strategies.

Kelly is an active participant in the Bayer WiSE (Women in Science Exchange) network, is an advocate for diversity and a peer leader in culture management and expanding the understanding of unconscious bias. External to Bayer, Kelly is active in the American Society of Plant Biology and sits on the executive board of the North American Plant Phenotyping Network. She resides in Ballwin, MO with her husband and 17 year old daughter and is currently trying to face the reality that her daughter will be leaving for college next year.

Yinka Faleti

Ascend Venture Capital

Yinka Faleti is a partner at Ascend Venture Capital. Yinka leads efforts for fundraising, investor relations, marketing and branding, and community engagement, while engaging in the selection of target companies.

Prior, Yinka Faleti was the 2020 Democratic nominee for Missouri Secretary of State. Yinka’s campaign inspired over one million votes--the first African American man to do so in the 200-year history of the state.

Born in Nigeria, Yinka immigrated to the United States at age seven. Yinka’s big break came through education. He graduated as valedictorian of his junior high school in Florida. In lieu of his last two years of high school, Yinka attended and graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. From there, he accepted an appointment to and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Upon graduation, Yinka earned his commission as an officer in the active-duty U.S. Army and served over six years as a combat arms officer in tank units. Yinka attained the rank of Captain after two back-to-back deployments overseas to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring prior to September 11, 2001 and Operation Enduring Freedom in response to September 11.

After his Army career, Yinka moved to St. Louis to attend and graduate from law school at Washington University. He then practiced as a litigation attorney at a global law firm and subsequently as a state prosecutor, where he worked for justice for victims of crime.

Sensing there was even more he could do to help his community, Yinka accepted a position as senior vice president with United Way of Greater St. Louis. There, he led the fundraising and volunteer engagement divisions, raising $300M over four annual campaigns to help one in three people in the Greater St. Louis region. From there, Yinka went on to lead as Executive Director of the successor nonprofit to the Ferguson Commission, Forward Through Ferguson. He led the organization to serve as conscience and catalyst to inspire the St. Louis region on a path to racial equity.

Yinka lives in St. Louis with his wife, Ronke, and their four children.

Andy Dearing

President, Spatial STL Advisors
GeoFutures Initiative Lead

Andy Dearing is a geospatial entrepreneur and is the President of Spatial STL Advisors. Andy currently serves as the lead for the GeoFutures Initiative, an Initiative of Greater St. Louis Inc.  GeoFutures serves as the regional strategy for building an inclusive growth strategy to support the development of St. Louis as the premiere global geospatial hub.  

Andy also is a General Partner at Cultivation Capital, serving on the venture capital group’s Geospatial Tech Fund.  He also serves as an advisor to the Taylor Geospatial Institute, Co-Chair for the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s St. Louis Area Working Group, and serves on several startup and non-profit Boards.  

Prior to Spatial STL Advisors, he served as the CEO of Boundless Spatial, a leading startup in the geospatial industry.  After moving the headquarters to St. Louis and leading the organization in over 200% growth in a 2 year period, he led the exit of Boundless to Planet Labs, Inc in 2019. Andy has also served in leadership roles at Esri, SAIC, and IMAPS over the past 20 years.  

Andy earned his Masters of Business Administration from Maryville University, and holds a Bachelors of Science in Aviation Science and Bachelors of Science in Aviation Management from Saint Louis University.

Sean O'Connor

Managing Director
Conexus Venture Capital

Sean is the Managing Director for Conexus Venture Capital Inc. & Emmertech. Conexus Venture Capital’s first fund, CVC Fund #1, is a 2019 vintage $32M fund focused on prairie based startups. Emmertech is a $60M early stage Canadian agtech fund. Prior to Conexus, Sean was on the leadership team of a Canadian fintech, Grow Technologies Inc. (acquired by ATB). He graduated with a degree in Finance and International Business from McGill University.

Moderated by:

Jill Meyer

Senior Director
Technology Ventures