Meet Your Judges for Tech Cocktail’s Power Hour Pitch Jam
Mar 7, 2013
This Saturday we’re thrilled to be hosting a day full of startup-related festivities, capped of course by the grand ball - Tech Cocktail’s SXSW Startup Celebration sponsored by CEA and .CO.
Leading up to the Startup Celebration is Tech Cocktail’s Power Hour Pitch Jam. Twenty nine of the hottest startups attending this year’s interactive will have 60 seconds to convince a panel of judges why their startup is on the verge of breaking out. Startups will be evaluated on a variety of categories, including Best Design, Most Innovative, and Best in Show.
Related: Your vote for your favorite startup to determine the winner of this year’s People Choice Award.
We are proud to announce the below group of entrepreneurs, press, investors, and tech luminaries as the judges for this year’s Power Hour Pitch Jam.
Erica Berger is an NYC based writer and product partnership director who’s active in the tech, social, environmental, and independent music spaces. She nerds out around international relations, resource management (natural and cultural), and on how technology is constantly changing our world. By day, she’s at news startup Storyful hustling new products, partnerships, and making us well-known as leaders in social journalism. On the side, she contributes to The Economist (where she used to develop new products) and VentureBeat. She recently co-founded volunTech, connecting the smartest folks in NY tech to their local communities. She also likes building community between LA and NYC with 2462(miles). She’s a StartingBloc fellow, the VP of Marketing for the USC Alumni Club of NY, and a member of Forbes 30 Under 30.
Greg Besner has been Founder and CEO of two successful companies in addition to serving as President, COO and CFO for several other successful venture-backed companies. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at New York University teaching a class called “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Greg is currently the CFO of SecondMarket Holdings, Inc. Greg is also the Founder and CEO of PUNCHCASE, a fashion accessories company that he and his partner founded in 2000. Prior to joining SecondMarket as CFO, Greg led a group of private investors in the Series B funding of House Party, Inc., a growth stage digital media company, where he served as COO from 2009-2010. Prior to House Party, Greg was the Founder and CEO of Computershare Executive Services, a SaaS fin-tech company formally known as Restricted Stock Systems, Inc. (“RSS”), from 2000 until 2009. In 2007, Greg sold RSS to Computershare Limited, a public company based in Australia and he remained as President until January of 2009. During his tenure as CEO of RSS, Greg was named the Ernst & Young 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year in New Jersey.
Cathy Brooks’ lifelong passion for communication began well before her first job, ripping wire copy in 1982, and has evolved over the years to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media, from reporting and editing to broadcast management, talent casting, and guest booking. In late 2012 at the invitation of Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh, Cathy took a trip to Las Vegas to visit The Downtown Project. This trip ended up reconnecting Cathy to her life-long passion and interest in canine behavior and training and in early 2013 she moved to Las Vegas to open Downtown Dog House, a dog daycare/boarding and training facility. Other resume data bits from her career include: 12 years as the head of Other Than That, a consulting firm helping companies and individuals navigate complexities of persuasive storytelling; leading business development for San Francisco-based Seesmic; working with global analyst firm, Guidewire Group; booking guests for TechTV, and curating content for LeWeb. To slake her thirst for content creation, Cathy still blogs and also hosts “The Conversation,” a weekly online program focused on how technology is changing our world.
Pamela Castillo is a technology entrepreneur and product designer.
She co-founded Market Publique in 2009 and more recently, Spright.ly. Market Publique pioneered the concept of curated marketplaces back in 2009 and has been featured in Style.com, Harpers Bazaar, Lucky Magazine and countless influential fashion blogs, as well as doing partnerships with exciting startups like Birchbox, ModCloth and NiftyThrifty (launching Tuesday!). Previously, Pamela was Director at Product at Fashism and has consulted for other fashion & lifestyle companies like PlumAlley.co and Chloe & Isabel.
Michael Chasen is the co-founder and was CEO for 15 years of Blackboard, an eLearning software company used by over 20,000 institutions in more than 70 countries, with over 20 million students and faculty utilizing Blackboard platforms on a daily basis. Under Michael’s leadership, Blackboard grew from 2 employees to over 3,000, with 21 offices around the globe offering a suite of enterprise eLearning software, SaaS, and Mobile solutions for education. Michael grew Blackboard to over $620m in pro-forma revenue and went public on the NASDAQ before selling the company in 2011 for $1.7 billion. Michael is an investor and advisor to several companies that are focused on using technology to improve education, as well as several start-up ventures and mature companies across the technology spectrum. Michael has a degree in Computer Programming from American University and his MBA from Georgetown University.
Nisha Chittal is a digital strategist and writer based in Washington, DC. She is currently the head of social media for the Travel Channel, where she oversees social media strategy, campaign development, and execution. Previously, she worked at social media agency New Media Strategies, where she consulted on digital strategy for clients such as Honda, Kraft Foods, Telemundo, and Golf Channel. Nisha is also a freelance writer, particularly on the topics of media, politics, and technology. She has contributed to The American Prospect, Jezebel, Mediaite, Poynter, and Ms. Magazine.
Sloane Davidson is the senior vice president for communications and public relations agencies Lippe Taylor and ShopPR. A longtime blogger and online influencer with special expertise in consumer marketing, e-commerce, nonprofits, technology, and corporate social responsibility, she launched her own blog, The Causemopolitan, in 2009. She was a citizen journalist for MySpace and The Wall Street Journal at the 2010 World Economic Forum and was named a Top 10 Twitter influencer at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative and one of the “Top Women To Follow On Twitter” by Forbes. Sloane sits on the board of She’s The First, a nonprofit dedicated to improving girls’ education in the developing world, and has raised over $1.5 million dollars for nonprofits. A frequent public speaker, she has been featured on CNN, Mashable, Triple Pundit and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Matt Galligan is the CEO & Co-founder of mobile-first news company Circa. Previously he founded SimpleGeo and Socialthing, as well as the philanthropic cause, 1% of Nothing. He’s also obsessed with good coffee, craft beer, and has an unhealthy addition to wearing ties.
Neal Sales-Griffin is currently the founder and CEO of The Starter League, a beginner web design and development school in Chicago. Neal has worked and consulted with numerous startups and not-for-profits across multiple sectors. He has had the privilege of working with OCA Ventures and Sandbox Industries, two prominent venture firms in Chicago. Neal also serves as a board member of the Chicago chapter of International Game Developers Association.
Schuyler Hudak is the Director of Business Development at Topix. She has worked with several startups, including recently acquired Votizen, on building strategic partnerships for growth. Schuyler previously worked extensively in politics and government, most notably serving as a senior staffer to Governor Jerry Brown. She continues to advise many early stage start ups on growth, business development and strategic partnerships.
Niamh Hughes is a Business and Community Development professional with experience working in a variety of start-ups ranging in industry from construction to recruiting to sustainable product design and digital media. Most recently Niamh joined General Assembly with a particular focus on the business needs of the startups within the community. Niamh is also New York ambassador for Sandbox Network a global community of 700+ entrepreneurial young leaders across 60+ countries, a board member of the SXSW Startup Accelerator and an Ambassador for Enstitute apprenticeship program. She is passionate about solving problems, connecting people, entrepreneurship, design, tech, food, travel, cycling, Irish Dance and pineapples!
Don Loeb is a Berkeleyite, proud dad of two boys, dog owner, lover of all things outdoors, Cal fan, and a startup person at heart. Currently, Head of BD/OPs at Storify, a mentor for Techstars and Upwest Labs and an advisor to both Mass Relevance and SmartShoot – via iSyndicate, Yahoo!, FeedBurner, the Goog & Typekit (Adobe). Additionally, producing a feature length documentary about Fred Hersch, one of the foremost jazz pianists of our time.
Liam Martin is Co-founder and CMO of Staff.com a site focused on matching employers with long term remote positions. Liam has spoken extensively on the subjects of remote team management, process design and creating virtual work environments and culture. He manages Staff.com’s 50+ employees virtually and is passionate about finding out how people can work and collaborate better online.
Robert H. McCooey, Jr. is a Senior Vice President of NASDAQ OMX and is responsible for Relationship Management with NASDAQ’s 2,800 listed companies. Previously, Mr. McCooey ran New Listings and the Capital Markets Group at NASDAQ. In this role, Mr. McCooey managed NASDAQ’s new listings efforts domestically, in the Americas and throughout the Asia Pacific region. Formed in 2006, the Capital Markets Group is primarily responsible for venture capital, private equity, and investment banking outreach and works to further NASDAQ OMX’s mission to support their business goals and growth plans. Mr. McCooey joined NASDAQ in December 2006.
Natalia Oberti Noguera
Natalia (aka Ms. Oberti Noguera) is Founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing bootcamp for women philanthropists. The Pipeline Fellowship works to increase diversity in the U.S angel investing community and creates capital for women social entrepreneurs. Natalia holds a BA in Comparative Literature & Economics from Yale. She has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, Dowser, Forbes CSR Blog, ForbesWoman, Mashable, New Prosperity, Reuters Money, TechCrunch, and The New York Times. Natalia was named to the Forbes list “Top 20 Women for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter” and was selected as a Readers’ Pick for HuffPost Tech’s “27 Women in Tech You Need to Follow on Twitter.” Women’s eNews recognized her as a 21 Leaders for the 21st Century for 2012.
Babette Papaj is the founder of BakeSpace.com, TECHmunch Food Blogger Conference and Cookbook Cafe, the first DIY Cookbook Publisher that allows anyone to create a cookbook (ebook & iPad app) for free and sell it in our marketplace.
Jessica Randazza is Vice President at Interference Inc. and The SuperTouch Group, where she leads strategic development for on- and offline branded consumer experiences for some of the world’s leading companies. Focusing in on driving social communication, each unique experience Jessica crafts is built with the promise of creating digital buzz and scaling through word of mouth. With extensions in digital, marketing, social communications, influencer engagement and public relations, Jessica is someone who really gets creative marketing and how to build dead-on strategic campaigns. Her work has included brands such as Showtime, Whirlpool, Kraft, Diaego, American Express, Gawker, Nestle, and Old Navy.
Gwen Regina is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of SGE. Previously, she was a partner of early stage technology investment firm, Thymos Capital and she has had two exits, one of which is iHipo. She is also an investor inPadlet, a Y-Combinator startup. Gwen also sits on the Board of Advisors for the Singapore Innovation & Productivity Institute, Steering Commmittee for the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation Awards 2013, and Board of Advisors for Social Media Week 2013. A frequent public speaker, mentor and judge at various startup bootcamps, events and competitions, Gwen loves meeting founders, developers, designers and scientists across all ages. An alumnus of the National University of Singapore and its University Scholars Programme, Gwen also spent some time in Silicon Valley and is a graduate of the NUS-Stanford University overseas college programme.
Kyle Sandler is the founder and content director for nibletz.com, the voice of startups everywhere else. He is a Tennessee regional champion got Startup America. He is also the creator of everywhereelse.co the startup conference.
Wendi Sturgis serves as Yext’s EVP of Sales & Services. Prior to Yext she was VP of Account Management at Yahoo!, responsible for their 600-person North American region team. Wendi joined Yahoo! as a member of the Right Media Leadership team. Wendi has also held executive leadership roles at Gartner, Scient and Price Waterhouse’s Media and Entertainment practice. She has a B.S. in Industrial Management and Operations Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Zach Ware oversees development of Zappos.com’s new Downtown Las Vegas Campus, is a partner in VegasTechFund and leads development of coworking and urban connectivity projects at Downtown Project. He is also the co-founder of Work In Progress, a network of collaborative coworking spaces in Downtown Las Vegas.
Kathleen Warner serves as the Chief Operating Officer of the Startup America Partnership and is responsible for business operations and management of resources. Kathleen also coordinates a number of strategic activities and initiatives, including the Startup America Women initiative, all focused on heightening engagement with, awareness of and support for high growth startups. Prior to joining the Startup America Partnership, Kathleen served as district director for a US Congressman where she oversaw multi-office district operations and helped develop and implement policy objectives, strategies and operating plans for the district. Kathleen, an attorney, also spent over ten years in the private sector. Kathleen received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. She resides in Wilton, Connecticut with her husband, two children and two dogs.
Andy White is an entrepreneur, angel investor and car nut. As a founder of SchoolCenter, an edtech content management platform he was able to complete the cycle from struggling startup through exit. The company sold in 2011 and is now part of Blackboard, Inc. During the transition he was able to get a crash course on current startup techniques as an investor and the executive director for the seed accelerator program BoomStartup . This TechStars Network affiliate program was ranked one of the top 15 accelerators in the country. His current position as a partner with the VegasTechFund allows him to help empower amazing founders and startups passionate about building community in downtown Las Vegas.