MEET THE TEAM
Steve Barsh, Managing Partner
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 over 100 companies that have generated over $1B 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. He is a special advisor to NASA for their annual NASA Cross Industry Innovation Summit. 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.
Darren Sandberg, Managing Partner
Darren brings over 25 years of experience in developing, executing, and investing in growth strategies for emerging technology companies. Prior to joining Dreamit, Darren was a Board Member and held various operating positions at CIML LLC, a holding company for Channel Intelligence (acquired by Google). Darren also spent over 10 years as a private equity and venture investor at Actua, an investment and holding company for SaaS-based technology companies, where he served as a Managing Director. In the capacity of Managing Director, Darren was responsible for sourcing potential investment opportunities and leading the acquisition of portfolio companies, including business model diligence, transaction structuring and post- acquisition growth acceleration. Prior to Actua, Darren held various financial and operating positions. Darren started his career at Andersen in their enterprise division. Darren’s passion and unique strength is identifying promising companies, technologies and people, and helping them develop strategies to achieve their vision.
Karen Griffith Gryga, Managing Director - Investments
Karen Griffith Gryga is an experienced venture capitalist, investor and entrepreneur with over 20 years of investing and operating experience. In addition to Dreamit role, 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.
Andrew Ackerman, Managing Director - Urbantech
Adam Dakin, Managing Director - Healthtech
Adam serves as the Managing Director of Dreamit Healthtech, a leading venture-backed accelerator. His career has focused on building early stage venture-backed healthtech companies. Adam has held various senior management roles in sales, marketing, product development, clinical affairs, operations, and general management. He co-founded five health technology companies which have collectively raised over $60M in early stage capital. Prior to Dreamit, Adam served as CEO of PhotoSonix Medical, a venture-backed 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 Safkan Ear and ZSX Medical. He is an active angel investor and has served on the boards of several early stage health companies. He is the co-chair of the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technology (PACT) medical technology advisory board and serves as a Mentor in Residence for 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. Adam holds a BSE from the Wharton School and an MBA from UCLA.
Bob Stasio, Managing Director - Securetech
Bob leads Dreamit’s Securetech vertical where he sets overall strategic focus, expands the customer network, and works daily with cybersecurity startups from around the world helping them refine their positioning and go-to-market strategy, think through how to scale sales and operations and map out their capital needs along with how to raise their next round. Before joining Dreamit, Bob held multiple roles at IBM Security, leading efforts in Cyber Operations and Threat Hunting. Prior to IBM, Bob worked in the private sector, leading threat intelligence programs at Bloomberg and global financial firms. He also has deep government experience having held positions at NSA’s Cyber Center, U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Army’s Signals Intelligence Corps, the FAA, and NASA. Bob served as a U.S. Army officer and is a recipient of numerous military awards, including the Bronze Star and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Bob is also a Truman National Security Fellow, Brookings Institution Council on U.S. and Italy Fellow, and serves on the advisory boards of multiple startups. He received a BS in Mathematical Physics, holds a Master’s degree in Intelligence Studies, and also completed numerous U.S. Department of Defense professional education courses focusing on intelligence operations. He holds various technical certifications, including CISSP, a globally recognized standard of achievement in the cybersecurity industry.
Charles LaCalle, Director of Sourcing and Marketing
Charles 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, Director - Platform Operations
Sarah works with the Managing Directors on operationalizing startup growth strategies during acceleration cycles. 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.
Brittany Gillow, Director of Accounting
Brittany is responsible for overseeing all components of Dreamit’s Accounting, Finance, and Administrative operations. She also serves as the focal point for human resource management. Prior to joining Dreamit Brittany was the Controller at a national diversified logistics company, and before that she was a ground-floor team member of a Philadelphia Cleantech startup. Throughout her career she has been involved in all aspects of corporate accounting and finance and has focused her efforts on process improvement and driving changes based on strategic financial analysis. Brittany graduated magna cum laude from Drexel University with a BS in Business Administration and she is pursuing an additional degree in Economics. Outside of work she is an active foster parent in the Philadelphia community, and is a volunteer youth soccer coach.
Cameron Watts, Program Manager of Dreamit Securetech
Cameron is responsible for spearheading operations of the Securetech vertical and works alongside the Securetech Managing Director to accelerate companies. As Program Manager, Cameron also aids in the implementation of curriculum, maintaining advisor/mentor relationships, and connecting startups with the Dreamit network of industry experts, corporate partners, program Alumni, and potential customers. Prior to Dreamit, Cameron held roles in venture capital and private equity, as well as serving as an U.S. Army Ranger for 6 years. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a B.S. degree in Economics and a minor in Mathematics.
Ethan Wergelis-Isaacson, Program Manager of Dreamit Healthtech
Ethan is responsible for spearheading operations of the Healthtech vertical and works alongside the Healthtech Managing Director to accelerate companies. As Program Manager, Ethan also aids in the implementation of curriculum, maintaining advisor/mentor relationships, and connecting startups with the Dreamit network of industry experts, corporate partners, program Alumni, and potential customers. Prior to Dreamit, Ethan was a co-founder of a mobile application and worked at Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a BS in Biology and a BA in Spanish.
Jack Kaufman, Marketing & Community Associate - Health
As a marketing and community associate, Jack focuses on sourcing and evaluating health tech startups, assisting with content marketing, and creating opportunities for Dreamit to engage with the startup ecosystem in New York City and beyond. He also works on identifying and executing other promising digital marketing initiatives for Dreamit. Before joining Dreamit, Jack worked as an associate at Bombas, a mission-driven, high-end apparel startup. Jack gained marketing experience through previous internships at companies like Dreamit and Wildbit. He co-authored and successfully marketed "The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Finding Your First Customers," a book that helps early-stage founders identify product opportunities and acquire the initial customers for their companies. Jack graduated cum laude from Haverford College with a BA in Psychology.
Victoria Tripsas, Program Coordinator
As Program Coordinator, Victoria supports Dreamit's acceleration program across multiple verticals. She works with the Program Managers and Director to ensure smooth operations and organization of acceleration cycles. Additionally, she helps coordinate Dreamit events including the Investor Roadshow. Prior to Dreamit, Victoria held roles at Touro College, TED Conferences, and Friends of the High Line in New York City. She graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Communication.
Dustin Carpio, Media Content Producer
As the Media Content Producer, Dustin spearheads the creation of engaging and pragmatic video and podcast content that’s informative and entertaining for startups, customers, and investor partners around the world. Prior to joining Dreamit, Dustin co-created the in-house video production department at the motorcycle e-commerce juggernaut RevZilla.com and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world producing TV content for brands including Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Sony, NBC, and The United Way. In addition to producing high-end content, Dustin has designed and implemented countless studio and production infrastructures. Dustin graduated from Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design with a degree in Film & Video Production and lives in Philadelphia.
Steve Welch, Founder & Chairman
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. Following the sale of Mitos, Steve co-founded DreamIt Ventures, a new business accelerator model.. 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 Cryotherapy to revolutionize the anti pain and recovery industries by providing a unique consumer experience. Restore has over a dozen locations spread through out the country. Steve 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 & Board Member
David is the founder of Monetate, the global leader in providing multi-channel personalization to the world’s best brands. The Monetate Platform is built 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 & Board Member
Mike is an entrepreneur and angel investor. He 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 graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with an Economics/Accounting degree, obtained his CPA certificate in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Villanova Law School with a JD.
Jeff Vinik, Partner & Board Member
Jeff Vinik is the current owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Vinik managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1992 to 1996. After leaving Fidelity, he started hedge fund Vinik Asset Management with partners including Michael Gordon (now President of Fenway Sports Group). In 2010, he purchased a distressed Tampa Bay Lightning franchise and subsequently brought a world-class franchise to life in Tampa Bay. Vinik has invested more than $70 million in private funding into the publicly-owned Amalie Arena to create a guest-first facility recognized as one of the finest in the NHL. Additionally, under the umbrellas of the Vinik Family Foundation and the Lightning Foundation, Jeff and his wife Penny, have invested more than $25 million in Tampa Bay area charities through a variety of programs and donations, the most notable being the Lightning Community Heroes program.
Avi Savar, Partner & Board Member
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.