Jessica Tenuta

Chief Product Officer at Packback

Product Designer, Illustrator, Nerd (and proud of it!)

I'm one of the cofounders and Chief Product Officer of Packback, where I work with our engineering team to build a platform that awakens and fuels students' lifelong curiosity. Previously, I designed brands for portfolio companies at Lightbank and Listen Ventures. I founded my first company Inkblot Designs in high school, creating and selling hand-illustrated custom shoes.


Chicago Venture Summit - Spotlight - 2017

Celebrating Failure - Panelist - 2017

ACT-W Conference - Panelist - 2017

Build312 Pitch Competition - Panelist - 2017

Fear Paradox Summit - Panelist, Poet - 2017

1871 WiStem - Instructor 

TEDxNormal - Speaker -  2015

General Assembly   -  Intro to Chicago Design  -  2014

Tech in Motion   -  Presenter  -  2014

NFTE BizCamp   -  Session: User Experience   -  2014

1 Million Cups  -  Presenter  -  2014

Startup Institute   -  Instructor: Typography  -  2014

Startup Institute   -  Instructor: Website Flow  -  2014

NFTE   -  Presenter: Shark Tank Experience  -  2014

Startup Weekend   -  Keynote  -  2014

In college, I cofounded Packback with three other cofounders; Mike Shannon, Kasey Gandham, and Nick Currier. We initially set out to create a more affordable way to rent eTextbooks but realized that - while we could help students save a few hundred dollars on their textbooks - we weren't yet helping get to the root of the problem in education. We realized that the most important way we could help build a better education environment was through awakening and fueling students' lifelong curiosity; the key to self-driven learning and innovation after graduation. We are building a more curious classroom through our platform, Packback Questions, that helps professors scale the value of Socratic discussion in any size classroom. We were recently featured in Forbes, EdSurge, and Fast Company for our work. 

I've given a few talks on our philosophy that curiosity is the key ingredient in driving innovation, but this one is my favorite! I am proud that Packback has appeared on Shark Tank, raised our Series A round of Venture Capital from one of the nation's leading education-focused funds, and is in use by tens of thousands of students all across the nation. I believe that any and all growth experience at Packback is due to being a values-driven organization, that prioritizes continuous learning, fearless curiosity, conscious communication, individual leadership and ownership, kind feedback, and reflective accountability in our decision-making.

In my career prior to Packback, I have been a part of the movement towards a focus on design in venture capital.  I was one of two designers chosen to participate in the Lightbank Design Fellowship in 2013, during which I worked with Fooda, Snapsheet, Bevel, Highground and the Keywell Foundation. I then worked with Listen Ventures, a brand consultancy and angel investment fund that provides world-class branding services to early-stage startups in exchange for equity.  In both, I witnessed first-hand how empathetic design can accelerate the growth of a start-up and help create a lasting connection between the brand and its users, on which I now frequently teach a course at the 1871 Wistem Program on developing a brand purpose to find direction and accelerate growth in early-stage startups.

I started my first company, Inkblot Designs, in high school selling custom hand-illustrated sneakers, where I learned that there is no replacement in the world of business for a deep passion for the work that you do and a genuine care for your customers. 

A passion for illustration and art hasn't disappeared for me, despite being busy and totally in love with my work at Packback, and you can often find me posting new illustrations or pages of a comic book at 3AM (If I can't find time...I make time!)


First (Right/Top): "The World is Changed by Those Brave Enough to Question It" - Presented at the 2015 TEDxNormal Conference

Second (Left/Bottom): "Creating a Question-Asking Culture (In your Business)" - Presented in 2016 in partnership with WTF and 1871




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