Remembering Laura Wiley…a Serendipitous Collider


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by in Stories
January 14, 2016

We launched the first Venture Cafe Gathering in St. Louis at 3pm on October 2, 2014. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I was optimistic (as I generally am). I did know I took care of a very important ingredient necessary for success: I engaged smart people to jump into the Venture Cafe madness. Our very first session in the Havana Room, which is our largest meeting room at Venture Cafe, was hosted by the smart people of the St. Louis Inventors Association. Inventors, and those who support them, had to be part of this kickoff event, right? We knew that the people working away in basements and garages had a place at Venture Cafe. Prior to the October 2 session, we had a few meetings with Gary Kellmann and Laura Wiley. They were both taking on new leadership roles with the Inventors Association and looked to relaunch that group. So we jumped into the figurative bed together to kick off the relaunch of their association as part of the launch of Venture Cafe’s programming.

Laura WileyI just recently learned that Laura lost her long and valiant battle with cancer. I learned of this the same week I learned of the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman…both who also battled cancer. While I admired the latter two people for their entertainment talent and the innovation they brought to their respective crafts. I admire Laura for very different reasons. I knew her. I liked her. I respected her. She wanted to be part of the excitement of Venture Cafe, but valued the importance of building relationships. She was warm, funny, and always had a smile and hug for members of the Venture Cafe team. Most of all, she was wicked smart.

I didn’t know her personally, and like many of the people with whom I interact, a professional relationship is all we’ll ever have. That is perfectly fine. The thing I want us all to remember about Laura is that she made professional relationships feel personal. She embodied the essence of serendipitous collisions. I often talk about the fact that the serendipity is related to how people feel during an interaction; however, there is a lot of engineering and purpose that goes into creating the right setting for serendipity. Laura knew that. Laura got that. Laura lived that.

Laura, we are going to miss you. You were here from day one. We’ve had more than 500 educational sessions in our 15 1/2 months of programming. We’ve had more than 20,000 attendees. But the important thing is that we had people like Laura, then and even now, who come together to build the community.

There are two companies in St. Louis with which I’ve interacted that are trying kick cancer in the ass. Get to know the team at Immunophotonics and spend a few minutes talking to Dr. Milind Sant from LipoSpectrum. Or you can get to know Dan Duffy (Cancer survivor) and The Half Fund. I am getting tired of losing innovators to cancer.

  1. Emma Hand says:

    I’m so glad you took a moment to share this. I am touched by the message and the optimism that we need to take from this sad loss.

  2. kathryn shipley says:

    This is very touching! It moved my spirit! Thank you

  3. John Launius says:


    Thank you for posting this. Laura has been my friend since high school and in 2015 had reconnected. She was a guest on my radio show and truly stood for everyone around her. Candidly, she shared with me that life was short for her and I promised to do what I could to assist her. I did. It is my hope that everyone who knew her benefits from her example. Life it too short not to work with people you love and respect. She was one such person. I am better because she was in the world.

  4. David Kenyon says:

    Laura was a wonderful human being and an asset to everyone who knew her. This is a tragic loss after a very brave battle.

  5. Rich Wendel says:

    Well said Travis – to know her was to like and respect her.

  6. Bob Kerch says:

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Laura for 8 or 9 years. She has always been the quintessential type person who makes lemonade out of lemons. She, with her husband, started a new business which she worked so completely, all the while going through the pain of treatments for her cancer. Never once did she allude to her pain or suffering. If asked, she changed the subject. What a wonderful person. All that knew Laura will sorely miss her. Can you imagine what she is doing now in heaven? St. Pete is having meetings with her on how to better market the concept of heaven and making it more poignant. St. Peter had better implement some of her suggestions for all us who will follow. Good bye for now, Laura.

  7. Phil Simeone says:

    I’ve known Laura since HS and we became good friends during college. She was (IS STILL!) such a good natured spirit, and like many, I became a better person knowing her as we shared our thoughts. She was Top of the Class!!! You couldn’t help being drawn toward her like a magnate. Laura was truly creative and her kindness was fathomless. I hope she’s playing like a young woman again with her pet Rabbit, she loved so much. She will be missed.

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