The Team

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Avi Savar, 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.

Karen Griffith Gryga

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.

Prior to Dreamit, Karen cofounded FashInvest, an initiative focused on emerging growth entrepreneurs within the retail space. She also cofounded Lipstick Wisdom, which is focused on practical, actionable video-based day-to-day advice for moms with children with neurological challenges.

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.  Notable transactions included Synchronoss (Nasdaq: SNCR), InSoft, (acquired by ape), Liveprint.com (acquired by Kinkos), Cadis (acquired by Aspect Development) and WiseBear (acquired by Michael Milken). Karen has also been Executive Director of MAG, The Mid-Atlantic Angel Group as well as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Context Capital Partners.

Ms. Gryga 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.  Ms. Gryga also serves on the board of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Ms. Gryga began her career at TRW Inc., a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, in their Federal Systems Division as a software developer.  Ms. Gryga is a frequent speaker on the subject of venture capital and entrepreneurialism in both professional and academic communities.  Karen 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.

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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.

Andrew received his MBA in Operations & Marketing from Chicago Booth (Beta Gamma Sigma) and a BA in Economics & Political Science from Johns Hopkins University (Phi Beta Kappa). He speaks Hebrew fluently as well as some Spanish, French & Japanese and is working on JavaScript. He currently lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and 3 daughters.

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Phil Christian, Managing Director of Health Program

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.  

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Mark Wachen, Managing Director of Edtech Program

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 @mwachen n Twitter.

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Steve Barsh, 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.

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Maureen (Moe) Rinkunas, Platform Manager

Moe Rinkunas is 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 @mwrinkunas on Twitter.

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Mike Rinkunas, Senior Manager of Health Program

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.

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Sarah Milewski, Senior Manager of Edtech Program

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.

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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

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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.

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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.