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.
Follow Avi on Twitter @avisavar
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.
David Bookspan, Founder
David is the founder of Monetate, the global leader in providing multi-channel personalization to the world’s best brands. The Monetate Platform is build for speed, with an easy to use interface that allows markets to create, test and deploy real-time personalized experiences – linked across web, email and mobile channels – with little or no IT support.
Prior to founding Monetate, David served as President and CEO of MarketSpan, Inc., whose CaseStream® service aggregated and enhanced court docket information and created new research tools and marketing opportunities for legal professionals. He sold MarketSpan, and CaseStream was rebranded LexisNexis CourtLink.
In previous roles, David has served as Vice Chairman of Mid-Atlantic Angel Group Fund I (“MAG”), President of Robin Hood Ventures, and worked as a partner at Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, LLP. He graduated from Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., Editor, Law Review) and Vassar College (A.B. with honors).
Mike Levinson, Founder
Mike is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He recently founded and serves as CEO of WizeHive, an online collaboration tool.
Previously, Mike co-founded PTS Learning Systems, a company focused on corporate computer training and electronic performance support tools and software. Mike grew the company into a highly profitable international organization with over 200 employees and revenues of $30 million and sold it in 1999.
Since selling PTS, Mike co-founded founded TechWise Group, Inc., an information technology outsourcing firm for small and medium businesses. Mike also was a founder or co-founder of LegalEdge Software, the 3E Institute, and The Academy of Manayunk, where he currently serves on the Board. Mike has also invested in over a dozen technology companies as an angel investor. Mike was graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with an Economics/Accounting degree, obtained his CPA certificate in Pennsylvania, and was graduated from Villanova Law School with a JD.
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.
Follow Steve on Twitter @sbarsh
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.
Andrew Ackerman, Managing Director of Dreamit UrbanTech
Andrew is recovering consultant turned serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and angel investor. He is the Managing Director at Dreamit, currently in charge of the urban tech 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.
Adam Dakin, Managing Director of Dreamit Health
Adam serves as the Managing Director of the Dreamit Health accelerator program.
Adam has held various senior management roles in sales, marketing, product development, clinical affairs, operations, and general management. His career has focused exclusively on building early stage venture-backed health tech companies. Adam has co-founded five health technology companies which have raised over $60M in early stage capital. He is also the co-founder of the PLEXUS Innovation Hub, a Philadelphia-based co-working space focused on early stage health technology companies.
Most recently, Adam served as CEO of PhotoSonix Medical, a company he co-founded that is developing a consumer device for acne. Previously, he served as the CEO of Bioconnect Systems and X-SITE Medical (acquired by Maquet Getinge Group).
Adam serves on the boards of PhotoSonix Medical and ActiveProtective Corp. He is the co-chair of the PACT medical technology advisory board and serves as a Mentor at the Penn Center for Innovation. Adam was awarded the PACT MedTech Leadership Award in 2014. He is a named inventor on seven U.S. patents. He holds a BSE from the Wharton School and an MBA from UCLA.
Jennifer (Jenny) Schretter, Director
Jenny serves as Director at Dreamit where she manages Dreamit's startup acceleration cycles across multiple industry verticals and cities. She is responsible for overseeing all components of Dreamit’s acceleration programs from evaluation and selection of startups for each cycle and as potential investments for Dreamit through completion of the startups’ next funding rounds.
Prior to Dreamit, Jenny was an Associate at Goldman Sachs where she sourced, evaluated, and built relationships with entrepreneurs, early and growth stage companies, and investors. She later served as interim Chief of Staff at a machine learning company following their Series C funding.
Prior to Goldman Sachs, Jenny launched and ran an international jewelry business for five years, served as an independent consultant for marketplace and consumer technology start-ups, and interned at NextGen Venture Partners, where she screened investment opportunities, performed due diligence, and assisted with fundraising and portfolio management. She began her career on Wall Street as an interdealer broker at Tullett Prebon and ICAP plc. She subsequently pursued psychophysiology research and coursework at Harvard University while writing a 93,000-word commercial fiction novel.
Jenny graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a BA in Sociology and holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.
Find out more about her on LinkedIn.
Charles LaCalle, Head of Startup Sourcing & Community
Charles LaCalle devotes much of his time to analyzing urban tech and health tech 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.
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.
Paula Belatti, Venture Capital Investments Associate
Paula focuses on the management and deployment of Dreamit’s venture fund. She is responsible for analyzing potential new investments and for managing the Dreamit Investor Network, a group of venture capital funds looking to invest in Dreamit accelerator companies.
Prior to joining Dreamit, Paula was a senior investment analyst at Ampersand Capital in the Boston area, providing growth equity investments to the healthcare diagnostics and laboratory services sectors. Paula started her career in the investment banking division of J.P. Morgan in New York, covering the oil and gas industry. She graduated summa cum laude with degrees in finance and accounting from Villanova University. In her free time, Paula is a prolific amateur baker and a vocal basketball fan.