Rewind with the Best of Kin + Carta FWD19 Rewind with the Best of Kin + Carta FWD19
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Family picture of speakers and attendees at FWD19

Rewind with the Best of Kin + Carta FWD19

  • 16 October 2019

Leaders, pioneers, and innovators: A recap of FWD19

Held October 16 in Chicago, Kin + Carta’s annual innovation summit FWD19 (previously "Solstice FWD19") featured an impressive lineup of industry experts and innovators sharing the latest perspectives on digital disruption and technology advances. 

Aptly themed “Breakthrough,” this year’s speakers revealed compelling insights and shared breakthrough discoveries that have helped drive change and accelerate innovation across industry sectors. 

Indeed, change and uncertainty are two constants in today’s fast-moving digital world, but there are answers amid the chaos. Let’s rewind and revisit the high points from Kin + Carta FWD19.

FWD19 Breakthrough Stories

Breakthrough: A Celebration of Relentless Pursuits

Kin + Carta Create CEO Kelly Manthey kicked off FWD19 by explaining the cycles that all major breakthroughs undergo: an origin, a series of obstacles and emerging opportunities. In the event’s keynote address Kelly sat down with Award-Winning Film Producer and Best-Selling Author Brian Grazer. Drawing lessons from his work on blockbuster films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and 8 Mile, Grazer, talked about his fascination with human communication, bringing out the best in other people, and how creative problem solving has continued to shape his career.

Jesse Clem, Head of Sales and Customer Engineering, Google and Bill DeWitt, Director of IT Infrastructure, Gordon Food Service demonstrated how having the right technology partner can make all the difference when accelerating innovation. Julie Yurko, CEO and President of Northern Illinois Food Bank explained how life puts us in unforeseen situations every day and it’s our job to rise to the challenge and apply what we know to be true.

Breakthrough Fwd2019
Brain Grazer, Producer and Author & Kelly Manthey, Kin + Carta Create CEO


There is no blueprint for transforming a business, but the first moments that catalyze an organization forward are some of the most illuminating. For the Getting To Go breakout session speakers Pam Mayer, Director, Product Management, TIAA; Yoni Solomon, Head of Product Marketing, G2; and Justin Sessink, Director of E-Commerce, Meijer; revealed the starting points of their journeys to alleviate student debt, reach new buyers and drive competitive advantage within the increasingly competitive food delivery market.

Whether it’s meeting rapidly changing consumer expectations, making more informed decisions in less time, or uncovering new unmet market needs, the pressures facing any industry are extraordinary. Speakers Jim Ferolo, CIO & VP of Digital, Maui Jim; Jeremy Groeteke, U.S. Digital Ag Lead, Corteva; and Binoy Das, Partner Solutions Architect, AWS lead the AI and Machine Learning breakout session to demonstrate how they are leveraging these technologies to push through barriers, create elevated experiences for their customers, and deliver tangible business results in the process.

Justin Sessink
Justin Sessink, Director of E-Commerce, Meijer


In the Experience breakout session Julia C. Carreon , Managing Director Digital & Fiduciary Operations at Wells Fargo , warned attendees not to underestimate the impending impact posed by tech-savvy generations. While Sona Raziabeegum , Strategy Lead, Digital Solutions at John Deere explained how new and emerging technologies are helping improve agricultural predictability as they transition from a mechanical world to a modern, connected approach.

During the Modernization breakout session, Ying Zhe, Director of New Account Acquisitions at Discover and Paul Lundin, Director of Kubernetes at VMware both shared their experiences developing agile, value-focused approaches to engineering and innovation. Zhe shared insight into the delicate balance of responsiveness, quality, and speed at scale. Lundin highlighted the unique challenges presented by Kubernetes and the increasingly popular open-source container system.

Vivek Bedi, Head of CX, Northern Trust, Marisa Mann, COO, Solstice, Phillip Swanson, Global Innovation Lead, Whirlpool, Pete Cherecwich, President of Corporate & Institutional Services, Northern Trust


As businesses evolve, managing internal cultural changes is as significant a challenge as any. Pete Cherecwich , President of Corporate & Institutional Services at Northern Trust shared key insights about how to drive innovation within the often rigid confines of today’s corporate structure. Vivek Bedi , Head of Consumer Experience at Northwestern Mutual, stressed the importance of blending cultural expectations and the need to engagement strategies with leaders. For Phillip Swanson , Global Innovation Lead at Whirlpool , achieving a key cultural breakthrough meant creating a transition layer between the company’s network of startup partner organizations and the large, established corporate world in which he operates.


To wrap up the day Caine Wanjau, CTO of Twiga Foods spoke about the strides being made with technology to aggregate retail demand in African cities, to provide low-cost access to better quality foods. 

Self-taught astrophotographer Jon Carmichael provided attendees with an inside look at his exhausting quest to capture what has been called “History’s Most Amazing Photo.” Carmichael’s captivating presentation chronicled his journey and early exploits, as he stressed the importance of curiosity in the drive for breakthrough experiences. One simple yet noteworthy bit of advice he shared with attendees: “Don’t be afraid to ask unreasonable questions.”

Moonshot session
Jon Carmichael, Astronomy Photographer


While many organizations narrowly confine the idea of “labs" to a small group of people and a finite room, at Kin + Carta, we view it more as an innate inquisitiveness — a curiosity that’s been woven into our DNA from the day we were founded. It’s what makes us a digital innovation firm.


Since the initial build, Koko has been updated to take advantage of the latest in technology advancements. This gamified experience allowed attendees to interact with a fast and accurate machine learning model to deliver an elevated experience and give users the chance to learn ASL as well as rank on the leaderboard.


By being a part of The Kin+Carta Connective, we can leverage shared knowledge, increasing the value we bring to our clients. ConnectLive is a progressive web app that allows users to explore the topics that we talk about within the Connective and the experts behind it. The experience enabled attendees to meet these experts at FWD or grab their contact information to reach out later on.


As technology is advancing, more and more everyday tasks incorporate technologies like machine learning (ML), where a computer system becomes more intelligent over time. IdentifAI gives users the unique opportunity to experience technology using Augmented Intelligence (AI) from two different perspectives. Demonstrating how ML can be used for practical purposes, with an in-home experience, while the other viewpoint allowed users to participate in improving the ML model’s intelligence.

FWD Coin

It’s no longer sufficient to merely explain the technical nuances and intricacies of blockchain, so for the second year in a row, FWD attendees have been able to experience them first-hand. By integrating FWD Coin into the very heartbeat of the event attendees, we empowered them to provide feedback on what they were experiencing and collect coins to donate to a charity, all while giving them ownership and control of their digital identities.

FWD19 Sponsors

Google Cloud

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