Avi Savar, CEO & Managing Partner
Avi Savar is Managing Partner of Dreamit, a top global accelerator and early stage investment fund.
Prior to joining Dreamit, Avi was Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of digital advertising agency Big Fuel. Founded in 2004, Big Fuel grew to become the largest pure-play social media agency globally -- with over 120 employees and clients that included Walmart, Budweiser, GM, Samsung, Ally Bank, Bridgestone, AFLAC, T-Mobile, Carnival Cruises and more.
In June 2011, Avi led Big Fuel to a successful acquisition by French media giant Publicis Groupe, giving Big Fuel a global footprint and making it the most dominant social media agency worldwide.
In addition to being the author of Content to Commerce: Engaging Consumers Across Paid, Earned & Owned Channels, in 2012 Avi was named President of the Cannes Lions Branded Content Jury. He also sits on the board of the Social Media Advertising Consortium (SMAC), the American Express Digital Advisory Board, 4A's Social Media Committee and serves as an advisor to several non-profit's, including: UJA Federation and Grameen America.
Additionally, Avi is an active investor and advisor to several media and technology companies, including: Domino, Promoboxx, Proclivity Media, CMP.LY, Hyphen Lab, DietBet, Wellcaster, Seedfeed, NailSnaps, Trap.it, Plyfe, Magnesis, Know Your Crew, among others.
Steve Welch, Founder & Managing Partner
Steve started his first big entrepreneurial success, Mitos, in 2001 with hardly a cent to his name. Without ever raising outside money Steve built Mitos into a global company in the biotech manufacturing field prior to selling it in 2007 at the age of 29 to a Fortune 500 company. Under Steve’s guidance Mitos developed several critical innovations and patents which transformed the manufacturing process of biological drugs and vaccines and allowed Mitos to develop a global sales and distribution network.
As a 2009 Eisenhower Fellow, Steve has spent time around the world studying all aspects of economic development. Throughout Asia, Europe and North America Steve has examined how economic development is impacted through 1) government policy 2) technology transfer institutions 3) funding sources and 4) culture.
In 2010 Steve published “We are all Born Entrepreneurs” in which he uses his story and those of over a dozen other entrepreneurs to explain what drives entrepreneurs, while at the same time sharing lessons learned from the success -- and failures -- of entrepreneurs.
In 2011 Steve started KinderTown as an educational app store for parents with children ages 3-8. KinderTown helps parents become their child’s best teacher by utilizing game based learning on the tablet with learning in the physical world. In 2013 with almost 400,000 users Steve sold KinderTown to Demme Learning.
In 2015 Steve founded Restore Cyrotherapy to revolutionize the anti pain and recovery industries by providing a unique consumer experience. Restore currently has 6 locations spread through out the country.
Steve currently lives in Austin, TX with his wife Nicole, 9 year old daughter Elena, 7 year old son Jackson, 5 year old daughter Sienna and 3 year old daughter Saylor.
Karen Griffith Gryga, Partner and Chief Investment Officer
Karen Griffith Gryga is an experienced venture capitalist, investor and entrepreneur with over 20 years of investing and operating experience. In addition to serving as CIO, Karen also founded the Dreamit Athena program, which focuses on providing support to female founders.
Before Dreamit, Karen cofounded FashInvest and Lipstick Wisdom. Prior to founding these two companies, Karen was a founder and partner at Liberty Venture Partners, a Philadelphia based venture fund established in 1997 with $150 million under management. Prior to Liberty, Karen was a Managing Director of Philadelphia Ventures Inc., a privately held venture capital management firm with a family of corporate and institutional limited partnerships exceeding $100 million of committed capital.
Karen is well known throughout the entrepreneurial community and was previously on the board of the Greater Philadelphia Venture Group for seven years and was Chairman of the group for the 1999-2000 term. Karen also serves on the board of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
Karen began her career at TRW Inc., a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, in their Federal Systems Division as a software developer. Karen is a frequent speaker on the subject of venture capital and entrepreneurialism in both professional and academic communities. She holds a MBA in decision analysis from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Computer Science from the Moore School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Karen earned her Bachelor of Science degree in computer science (Phi Beta Kappa) from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Steve Barsh, Partner and Chief Innovation Officer
Steve Barsh is Dreamit’s Chief Innovation Officer. Steve has over 30 years of experience starting, leading, launching, and building multi-national companies as well as early stage venture work. He has helped launch dozens of companies that have generated over $400 million in value. He has extensive experience working with entrepreneurs, scientists and physicians on rapid identification and de-risking of critical make-or-break assumptions as well as shaping those companies along with guiding their early stage venture rounds. Steve started his first company while he was graduating college and sold that company 7 years later to MCI where he went on to lead the combined division. Steve taught in the Wharton MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania and has a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children.
Seth Berk, Partner and Chief Marketing Officer
Seth Berk works directly with the CEO and executive team to evolve the Dreamit brand and expand its presence in the startup world. He is an Advisory Board Member and Investor in The Naked Brand Group, a luxury fashion brand specializing in men’s and women’s intimates/sleepwear. In July of 2015, Naked signed Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat as brand ambassador and fellow Advisory Board Member.
Seth was most recently the CMO of Source Marketing, an MDC Partners Advertising Agency. There, he helped reshape their brand position and product offering, and shifted their focus from an integrated agency to a Consumer Experience Marketing specialist.
In 2010 Seth joined the boutique social media agency, Big Fuel as part of the executive management team. He was instrumental in the record-breaking Agency of Record contract with General Motors and the subsequent sale of Big Fuel to the Publicis Groupe. Seth served as CMO through 2014.
Family is Seth's true passion. He has two beautiful children in Chappaqua, NY with his wonderful wife Dana, a fellow marketer and freelance web designer.
Alon Hillel-Tuch, Partner at Dreamit Capital
Alon was the co-founder and the Chief Financial and Technical Officer of RocketHub, one of the world’s largest alternative finance platforms, acquired in 2015. Alon is a founding member of the Forbes Technology Council, and a board member of the Crowdfunding Professional Association. Alon has twice testified in front of U.S. Congress on equity crowdfunding and financial innovation, co-authored three acclaimed whitepapers on the JOBS Act, and was selected to lead FINRA’s Capital Markets Series on the JOBS Act, for which Alon received an award. He also hosted the White House JOBS Council at his offices. The U.S. Department of State named Alon’s previous firm a top 12 global partner for 2015, a partnership he led.
Alon has participated in large speaking engagements such as TEDx, Make Innovation, Campaign Summit, World Finance Conference, CrowdEconomy, OPEN Innovation, and others. Alon has worked on partnerships with the White House, U.S. Department of State, Fulbright Foundation, Cisco, Microsoft, Chrysler, Wieden+ Kennedy, Ovation TV, A&E Networks, and others. Several partners have received awards while working with him: Cannes Bronze Lion (W+K), Emmy (A&E).
Alon earned his M.Sc in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University and was named a fellow of the Earth Institute's Advanced Consortium of Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity; he specialized in genocide prevention and social network theory. Alon speaks English, Dutch, Chinese, and some German.
Arben Kane, Partner at Dreamit Capital
A serial founder and experienced entrepreneur with over 17 years of experience in technology, Arben started four companies still operating today. He is currently Chairman and President of the award-winning Kontur Labs, a Geo Location/Analytics focused Software engineering company that designed & developed the current global DisasterAWARE platform. He also founded Ozolio, a live HD webcam streaming service that increases consumer engagement with brands; FlikMedia, which develops and designs video applications for mobile platforms; iRAPP, which was the first Citrix for Mac Terminal Services solution with top Fortune 100 enterprise clients.
Arben has also served as the CTO or Senior VP of Engineering for several companies, including the App first location-mapping company EchoEcho (acquihire by Apple) , crowdsourced disaster management app UBAlert, Paradise Television, and Fresh Island Fish Co. He is an experienced venture investor, as an angel, as an Operating Partner at Pegasus Capital, and as Founder and General Partner of mBloom.
Arben received a B.S. in Logistics from Berufsakademie Stuttgart and a B.S. in Computer Science from Fachhochschule Darmstadt. He holds four US patents in interactive video viewing and media data processing.
Maureen (Moe) Rinkunas, Platform Director
Moe is the Platform Director for Dreamit, where she crafts the experience for startups participating in Dreamit's accelerator cohorts. She works with founders from recruiting into the accelerator through raising their next rounds.
Over the past 15 years, Moe has worked with hundreds of teams at organizations of all sizes from startups to Fortune 500 companies to help them take ideas from conception to market. Most of her career has been focused on the health and education verticals, with a passion for helping bring disruptive technologies into these markets. She has both a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering as well as an MBA in Corporate Entrepreneurship, all from Lehigh University.
Outside of work, she is a fan of maker fairs and startup weekends, a lifelong student of dance, and loves cooking, entertaining, and photography. Follow her on Twitter @mwrinkunas.
Andrew Ackerman, Managing Director
Andrew is recovering consultant turned serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and angel investor. He is the Managing Director at Dreamit, currently in charge of the Edtech accelerator program. Andrew is also a contributing writer to Fortune, AlleyWatch, The 74 Million, et. al.
Andrew began his career at Booz & Co consulting on strategy and operations for Fortune 100 clients. After a brief stint at Kaplan helping transition their traditional classroom test prep services into online products, he then joined Bunk1.com as COO/Head of Product where he spent eight years building it from scratch to the leading provider of web services to the summer camp industry. After being bought out of Bunk1 in 2008, Andrew managed a family office where he was responsible for both incubating new ventures and for managing over $50M of alternative assets including hedge, private equity, and venture capital funds as well as a number of direct investments in private companies. Andrew was also the founding CEO of Layercake.com and has a keen appreciation for how hard it is to build a successful startup, even under the best of circumstances.
Dr. Phil Christian, Managing Director of Dreamit Health
Phil ("drPhil") Christian is a 2014 Wharton Fellow, an experienced physician, serial entrepreneur, and private equity investor. Prior to joining Dreamit, his professional experiences included Medical Directorships at CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and UnitedHealthcare, and he maintains his responsibilities as Chief Medical Officer of American Health Associates, the nation's largest clinical diagnostic laboratory in the long-term care arena. Clinically-trained in Emergency Medicine, he also holds Board Certification in Quality Assurance, and has consulted for some of the nation's premier health services and Pharma corporations including; Pfizer, Baxter, MedLine, and Healthways Disease Management.
As Physician Executive of an entrepreneurial group founded in the late 1990s, he authored the clinical model for Bravo Health, a venture-backed, full-risk provider group that was later acquired by HealthSpring for $534M, a precedent to a record $3.8B acquisition by CIGNA in 2011.
His affiliations with academic medical centers and large health systems such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, Detroit Medical Center, Catholic Health Initiative, and Bon Secours Health System, have primarily focused on the business of medicine and population health improvement, and he has lead public health initiatives for the CDC, The Department of Health and Human Services, The Chicago Department of Public Health, and The Detroit Health Department.
His current professional interests include digital health technology, microfluidics, and the curation of cognitive behavioral therapeutic platforms. He holds membership in numerous medical and professional organizations, including The Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, and he frequently participates in medical missions in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Liberia, West Africa.
Charles LaCalle, Head of Startup Recruiting & Community
Charles LaCalle devotes much of his time to analyzing edtech and digital health startups as potential investments for Dreamit. He also heads community management for the 250+ Dreamit portfolio companies.
Prior to joining Dreamit, Charles worked as an associate at Flatiron Investors, a seed-stage investment firm. He gained operational experience as a project manager at Allied Health Media (education technology) and a product associate at LearnVest (fintech). Charles holds a dual degree in Government and History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University. He is also on the board of StartOut, which provides mentoring for LGBT founders, and is an active mentor in Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Follow him on Twitter @charleslacalle.
Bryan Adler, Venture Capital Investments Analyst
Bryan Adler devotes much of his time to analyzing potential investments for Dreamit's venture funds. He also helps manage the Dreamit Investor Network, a network of venture capital funds looking to invest in Dreamit accelerator companies.
Prior to joining Dreamit, Bryan worked at UBS Investment Bank for three years focusing on high growth financial technology companies. He also started a mobile application where he learned the complexities of launching a successful product into the market.Bryan holds a degree in Accounting from Baruch College. He is also a mentor at Defy Ventures, which provides mentoring for formerly incarcerated people looking to start new ventures, and is an active mentor at Student Sponsor Partners (SSP). On his free time, he enjoys trying new foods and the occasional spin class.
Sarah Milewski, Senior Manager of EdTech
Sarah works with the Managing Directors on operationalizing startup growth strategies during acceleration cycles in the New York office. This includes connecting startups with industry experts, investment professionals, & potential customers. She works with the founders from admission into the program through raising their next rounds.
Prior to Dreamit Sarah was a first-hire team member of an NYC beauty startup and Co-founder of a venture that completed the MassChallenge accelerator program and henceforth has experienced startup world from many different angles. She holds an MBA from Hult International Business School in London and a BS in Justice & Society from American University where she played Division I lacrosse.
Mike Rinkunas, Senior Manager of Dreamit Health
Mike Rinkunas assists the Managing Directors with operationalizing startup growth strategies during acceleration cycles. This includes connecting startups with industry experts, investment professionals, & potential customers, primarily for the Health track. He also produces and curates Dreamit’s weekly acceleration educational curriculum.
Mike previously founded and lead several boutique digital media companies. He specialized in large volume customized content production for a wide range of industries and applications, including fitness, cooking, product, educational, and instructional related content. Mike holds both a Masters and Bachelors in Industrial Engineering from Lehigh University. When not accelerating companies, he can often be found in the cab of a steam locomotive while volunteering as a railroad conductor at Steamtown National Park.
Annie DiAntonio, Operations Manager
As operations manager, Annie focuses on how the Dreamit acceleration process can continue to be more efficient. In addition to ensuring smooth operation of the Philadelphia Innovation Hub for both staff and startups, she is a critical member of the platform team, working on tasks and projects that span across industry tracks.
Annie is an efficiency guru with a wealth of experience in bringing order to the chaos that is the world of food. She has previously led operations at Real Food Works, Di Bruno Brothers, and others. Outside of work Annie is an obsessed foodie and homebrewer. She loves beer, cheese, and hiking with her husband and pitbull Mavis.
Mark Wachen, Managing Director
Mark was the founder of the Dreamit NYC accelerator in 2011, and now mentors companies in the Dreamit edTech accelerator. In addition to Dreamit, Mark is the Managing Director and Founder of Upstage Ventures, a firm that advises and invests in consumer internet and interactive marketing companies. Mark is a Board member of OrderGroove and Veritonic, and is an investor and/or advisor at a variety of other companies including ChaiLabs (acquired by Facebook), SeatGeek, YouNow, GameChanger, STELLAService, TVision Insights, Switch, and CatchAFire.
Prior to Upstage, Mark was the CEO/Founder of Optimost, the company that pioneered multivariate testing and optimization on the internet. He founded Optimost in 2001 and served as its CEO up until its acquisition by Interwoven in November 2007. Prior to Optimost, Mark worked for seven years at Sony, overseeing a wide variety of Internet initiatives. Mark was CEO of Indimi (Internet Direct Marketing Intelligence, Inc.), a company majority-owned by Sony. In this role, he spearheaded the acquisitions of InfoBeat, AdTools, and DailyRating. Prior to Indimi, Mark was Vice President of Online Ventures for Sony Music, where he directed many online initiatives, including Sony Music's investments in Spinner (acquired by AOL for $300 million), and the launch of the Sony Music Online Website in 1994. Mark graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Follow him on Twitter @mwachen.