The DreamIt Managing Partners are all entrepreneurs. We have each founded, built and successfully sold one or more businesses. We have backgrounds in technology, finance, sales and marketing, and law. Many of us are angel investors and have invested in software/SaaS, chip, pharmaceutical, medical device, and other startup companies.
New York, Philadelphia
David Bookspan is one of the founding partners of DreamIt Ventures where he helps startups achieve their next market milestones. He is the Founder and Chairman of Monetate, Inc. an online platform that turns eCommerce websites into agile platforms for testing, merchandising, targeting, and creating personal experience for customers. Monetate was part of 20% of all online retail sales during the 2011 holiday season.
David was the Founder, President, and CEO of MarketSpan, Inc., whose CaseStream® service aggregated and enhanced court docket information, creating new research tools and marketing opportunities for legal professionals. MarketSpan was acquired, and CaseStream was rebranded LexisNexis CourtLink.
As a “has been,” David was President of Robin Hood Ventures, Vice Chairman of Mid-Atlantic Angel Group Fund I and a member of the Computer/IT Investment Advisory Committee of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA.
In a previous life, David was a litigation partner at Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, LLP. He received his J.D from Georgetown University where he was an Editor of the Law Review; and was graduated with double honors from Vassar College.
David also pitched semi-pro in the Spanish Federation of Baseball Leagues. He retired before his outfielders got hurt.
New York, Philadelphia, DreamIt Health – Philadelphia
Mike Levinson is a Founding Partner at DreamIt Ventures; co-founder and CEO of WizeHive, an SaaS productivity tool growing 100% year over year; and an active angel investor with a portfolio of over a dozen technology companies.
Before DreamIt, Mike co-founded PTS Learning Systems, a company focused on corporate technology education and electronic performance support tools. Under his leadership, the company grew into a highly profitable international organization with over 200 employees and revenues of $30 million until he sold it 1999.
Mike also co-founded at later sold TechWise Group, Inc., an information technology-outsourcing firm for small and medium businesses, and was a co-founder of a legal management package called LegalEdge Software. He also helped launch the Aim Academy, a school for bright children who learn differently, where he currently serves on the board.
A graduate from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mike holds a degree in Economics and Accounting, obtained his CPA certificate in Pennsylvania, and graduated with a JD from Villanova Law School.
Steven D. Welch
Steve Welch is a co-founder and Managing Partner at DreamIt Ventures overseeing programs in Austin and Philadelphia. He is the Founder and CEO of KinderTown, the Education App Store for parents with children 3-6 and an active angel investor.
KinderTown is currently one of the fastest growing EdTech companies.
The founder of Mitos Technologies at the age of 23, Steve lead Mitos to develop six marketable patents all directed at improving biotech companies efficiency in manufacturing. Mitos sold successfully to Parker Hannifin (NYSE: PH)—an S&P 500 company – in 2007.
Selected as a member of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008; Steve was awarded the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowship to build bridges internationally in early stage startup communities in 2009, and most recently published a book about entrepreneurship, “We are all Born Entrepreneurs.”
Steve has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Penn State.
CEO DreamIt Ventures
Kerry Rupp is CEO at DreamIt Ventures. She manages the organization’s operations and fundraising efforts and leads the Austin program.
Before DreamIt, Kerry was a marketing and strategy consultant to senior executives at AllRecipes, ReadersDigest, LexisNexis, Payscale, and Taleo. With nearly 20 years of executive strategy and operations experience, Rupp spent much of her time at startups, including: Jobster, MarketSpan and CourtLink and at Automated Catalogue Services.
Kerry is the founder of Holiday Golightly, an online travel service specializing in girlfriend getaway trips. She has also served as Vice President of Business Development at Jobster and Classmates.com; Managing Director & Vice President of Market Planning at LexisNexis; and was a Consultant at both McKinsey & Company and Andersen Consulting. She is the publisher of the book “CRAVE Austin: The Urban Girls’ Manifesto” (2009), and the publisher of “The Parisian Cowboy’s Guide to the Round Top Experience” (2010).
Kerry holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Biology from Duke University. She is an avid adventurer that has visited over 50 countries and been to 49 States in the USA.
Karen Griffith Gryga
Managing Partner, DreamIt Funds
Karen Griffith Gryga is a Managing Partner at DreamIt Ventures where she oversees the Philadelphia cycles and leads fundraising efforts for DreamIt Fund II. She is the co-founder of Liberty Venture Partners, a Philadelphia based venture fund established in 1997 with $150M under management; FashInvest, a media and events initiative known internationally, focused on emerging growth entrepreneurs within Branded Goods, Fashion, Fashion Tech and Retail; and co-founder and CEO of Lipstick Wisdom, a community website for mothers of children with neurological differences.
Karen has nearly twenty years of transaction experience. Along with being a co-founder a Liberty Venture Partners, she was Vice President at Philadelphia Ventures, Fund Manager in Residence at Context Capital Partners, and Executive Directors at the Mid-Atlantic Angel Group. Currently, she is board member of Sidecar.
Karen holds a MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania (with Distinction) and a Masters in Computer Science from the Moore School of Engineering. Karen earned her Bachelor of Science degree in computer science (Phi Beta Kappa) from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Erica Duignan Minnihan
Erica Duignan Minnihan is a Managing Director for DreamIt Ventures focusing on Community Development in the New York City region. DreamIt Ventures runs programs in Austin, Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia and Tel Aviv. In the last 5 years, DreamIt has helped 127 companies and over 400 entrepreneurs turn their ideas into business. She is also Managing Partner of seed-stage investment fund Fortuna Ventures, which invests in technology-enabled early stage companies.
Prior to her work with DreamIt, Erica was Executive Director and a founder of STAR Angel Network, a membership organization for professional athletes and celebrities making investments in high growth potential, early-stage private companies. Erica was also the first Executive Director of Golden Seeds, a national early-stage investor group, where she managed deal sourcing and screening, due diligence, and investment processes for the group. Prior to joining Golden Seeds, Erica has held a variety of roles in the Investment Banking sector, working for firms including Cantor Fitzgerald, Citigroup and Credit Suisse.
Erica herself is an entrepreneur, having founded a beverage company that produces products for mothers focused on healthy lifestyles in 2009 which was subsequently sold to a consumer and media investment group. She has also worked with a variety of early stage and start-up companies providing expertise as a consultant for equity fundraising and general capital strategy. In addition, she has been a regular on-air contributor to MSNBC’s “Your Business” and CNBC’s “Crowd Rules” as a small business expert. Erica received her MBA in finance and real estate with honors from Columbia University and a BA in Business Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles. She currently lives in Tribeca with her husband and 3 children.
Managing Director Emeritus
Mark Wachen is the Managing Director for DreamIt Ventures’ NewYork program. He is the Managing Director and Founder of Upstage Ventures, a firm that advises and invests in consumer Internet and interactive marketing companies and board member of Optify and OrderGroove.
Mark is the founder of Optimost, the company that pioneered multivariable testing and optimization on the Internet; and he served as CEO for the company up until its acquisition by Interwoven in November 2007 for $52 million.
Before his entrepreneurial successes, Mark worked for seven years at Sony overseeing a variety of Internet initiatives. He was the CEO of Indimi, a company majority-owned by Sony. While there, he spearheaded the acquisitions of InfoBeat, AdTools, and DailyRating. He was Vice President of Online Ventures for Sony Music, where he directed 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 has worked with and invested in a variety of other companies, including: ChaiLabs (acquired by Facebook), SeatGeek, YouNow, Thumb, GameChanger, STELLAService, RJMetrics, and CatchAFire.
Mark has an MBA from Harvard Business School and graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College.
DreamIt New York
Andrew is recovering consultant turned serial entrepreneur, startup mentor and angel investor. He is the Managing Director for DreamIt Ventures’ New York program. Andrew is also a contributing writer to AlleyWatch.com, a leading destination for startup news in New York City.
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.
Among his other investments, Andrew was an early investor in Elliot’s company, HxTechnologies, and brought his angel group in as well.
Managing Director – DreamIt Access
New York, Philadelphia
William Crowder is an active early stage investor, enthusiastic startup advisor, and spearheads efforts to create new opportunities for talented tech entrepreneurs across the country.
William is a partner at DreamIt Ventures, a pre-seed stage venture fund and leading global startup accelerator. DreamIt operates its accelerator cycles in New York, Philadelphia, and Austin. During William’s time at DreamIt, he has worked closely with nearly 60 portfolio companies. He is also the driving force behind DreamIt Access, a groundbreaking effort focused on the successful development and launch of high value minority-led startups.
William also leads the Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, a $20 million early stage venture fund that invests in diverse entrepreneurs and tech startups with the potential to become industry leaders. He has been the lead or supporting investor in backing a variety of high- profile startups including: Loverly, Maker’s Row, Quad Learning, and Reactor.
Prior to these roles, William founded a strategic advisory and business development company that assists media companies in attacking digital opportunities with new strategies, optimized operations, and the creation of new ventures. He previously held strategy and business development roles at leading media companies including AOL and Thomson Reuters.
A self-taught and formally trained “comp sci guy,” William’s business career spans over 15 years working with leading tech-driven companies including IBM, SAS Institute, Alcatel-Lucent, and several others. William received his MBA from Duke University. He also holds BS and MS degrees in Computer Science from North Carolina State University where he was a SAS Institute Scholar and his research efforts focused on the performance evaluation of high-speed data networks.
DreamIt Health – Baltimore & Philadelphia
Elliot is a physician/engineer/hacker turned serial entrepreneur and investor. He is a managing director of DreamIt Health, a program that invests in and accelerates the development of pre-seed healthtech ideas/teams/companies. He is co-founder of Venturef0rth, a campus in Philadelphia for tech startups and an entity dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make it easier for early-stage companies to succeed. He also serves on the Penn faculty where he teaches a crash course in entrepreneurship for engineers and scientists aspiring to create companies that take their tech to market.
Elliot was previously the founder and CEO of HxTechnologies, a pioneer in health information exchange which he sold to MEDecision in May 2009. Following the acquisition, he served as General Manager at MEDecision with responsibility for building new lines of business around health information exchange (HIE), electronic health record (EHR), personal health record (PHR) and telehealth products and services. On the academic side, Elliot is the author and inventor of multiple patents and patents pending. He’s been an oft-invited speaker on the subject of imaging and health information exchange and is the author of numerous peer-reviewed papers ranging from medical informatics to computational neuroscience. He’s been the principal investigator for a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health that funded HxTechnologies in its earliest days and has also led research on the economics of fragmented healthcare delivery nationwide.
An NIH Fellow in the Medical Scientist Training Program, Elliot received an MD and PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine following his work on memory function and Alzheimer’s disease developing and exploring massively-parallel computer models of the brain. He holds MSE and BSEE degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University following work on microchip design.
Jason Hardebeck lives to build. Engineer by training and entrepreneur by calling, Jason is the Managing Director of DreamIt Baltimore. He is the cofounder of the Baltimore Foundery, an industrial-grade campus for makers.
Jason has spent the past 20 years in senior management roles in a variety of Internet software and renewable technology startups. He was the founder and CEO of WhoGlue, a social networking company that he sold to Facebook in 2011. In 2005, he was appointed by Maryland’s Governor to serve as the state’s Entrepreneur in Residence.
Prior to entering the private sector, Jason served in the United States Navy as a nuclear-qualified Surface Warfare Officer. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the U. S. Naval Academy and an MS in Business from Johns Hopkins.
Jason lives just outside Baltimore with his wife, two kids, and a small menagerie. A native Montanan, he spends his free time outside trying to keep green things from turning brown, and inside turning lumber into sawdust.
Patrick is the Managing Director for DreamIt Ventures’ Philadelphia Program. Outside of DreamIt,Patrick is an entrepreneurship lecturer in the Wharton School of Business and a mentor in the school’s Venture Initiation Program. Over the past decade, he has built or helped to build a variety of well-known startups. He has also helped to build a variety of now defunct lesser known startups.
Patrick is the creator, co-founder and former President of Recyclebank which rewards people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals from thousands of local and national businesses. Recyclebank was listed as one of Fast Company’s World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies and was rated as the top Venture-backed Clean-tech Company by the Wall Street Journal. Patrick is also the former CEO of Nanny Caddy, the vending machine for parents on the go (SeaWorld, Legoland, Philadelphia International Airport, etc.).
Mr. FitzGerald was once upon a time an attorney, receiving his J.D. from Fordham University and his B.A from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the father of three young boys and thus, rarely needs to exercise.
Arie Abecassis is an operator, advisor and venture capital investor of software companies. He currently serves on the boards of SeatGeek and Adaptly, both DreamIt companies, and has advised emerging companies in e-commerce, marketing and advertising technologies including iContact, OrderMotion and Transactis.
Previously, Abecassis was President/COO of MindFireInc, a leading provider of SaaS-based cross-media marketing solutions that was recognized by Inc Magazine as one of the country’s fastest growing software companies. He has also been active in venture capital and corporate venturing. At Updata Partners, a $500 million growth equity firm focused on software and technology-driven business services companies, he was responsible for identifying new investment opportunities and building a team to support deal sourcing, analysis and execution. As a member of Thomson Financial Ventures, now part of Thomson-Reuters, Abecassis actively participated in executing inorganic and organic growth initiatives, including equity investments in CCBN, Creditex Inc., Trepp LLC and Financeware. Earlier in his career, he lead business development activities at Marvel Entertainment, Inc., where he helped incubate and manage several business units related to Marvel’s licensing and interactive efforts, and the New York Daily News, where he worked in strategy and business development.
Abecassis is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and earned his MBA as a Beta Gamma Sigma Scholar of New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Mitchell Golner is a Venture Partner with DreamIt Ventures and was the pioneering force behind the DreamIt Israel program. He is a hi-tech business manager, advisor, and angel investor who actively helps with DreamIt recruiting efforts.
In 2009, Mitchell founded Tangramix, Ltd., a strategic advisory firm focused on providing business advisory services to companies in Israel. Previously, he was based in China as the business manager for Zoran’s Consumer DVD business, with over $130M in annual sales worldwide.
With over eighteen years of experience in the hi-tech industry, Mitchell has held various business and technical roles in software, hardware, and systems. He has deep experience in managing worldwide business, developing cross-cultural teams, fostering innovation, and executing new product development from inception through development to sales to customers.
Mitchell is a graduate of the GE/Lockheed Martin Edison Engineering Program (EEP), the recipient of a NASA Virginia Space Grant, holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Virginia.