Meet the Judges for Tech Cocktail’s Pitch Jam at SXSW

March 7, 2014

11:00 am

This Saturday we’re thrilled to be hosting a day full of startup-related festivities, capped off by Tech Cocktail’s Startup Celebration sponsored by .CO and CEA

Leading up to the Startup Celebration is Tech Cocktail’s pitch jam. Twenty hot startups from around the country will have 60 seconds to convince a panel of judges why their startup is on the verge of breaking out. Vote for your favorite startup here!

We are proud to announce the below group of entrepreneurs, investors, and tech luminaries as the judges for this year’s pitch jam.

Steve Case

Steve CaseSteve Case is one of America’s best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs and philanthropists, and a pioneer in making the Internet part of everyday life. As chairman and CEO of Revolution, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm he co-founded in 2005, Steve partners with visionary entrepreneurs to build significant, ‘built to last’ businesses. Revolution entities – including the Revolution Growth and Revolution Ventures funds – have jointly backed more than 30 companies, including Zipcar, LivingSocial, AddThis, Lolly Wolly Doodle, Bigcommerce and Echo360. Steve’s entrepreneurial career began in 1985 when he co-founded America Online (AOL).

Aziz Gilani 

Aziz GilaniAziz Gilani has spent the past 15 years focused on software and the Internet. Prior to joining Mercury Fund, Aziz was a senior engagement leader with Infosys Consulting, an early executive at ABB Performance Services, a senior consultant at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, and an analyst at Lotus Development Corp. Aziz received his BBA from the University of Texas where he was a TILF Scholar, and his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management where he was an FC Austin Scholar, Kellogg Board Fellow, and chairman of the Kellogg Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference. In addition, Aziz is a graduate of the Kauffman Fellows Program through the Center for Venture Education, where he completed industry-defining field work in seed accelerators.

Senator Mark Warner

Senator Mark WarnerSenator Mark R. Warner has established himself as a national leader in finding commonsense, bipartisan solutions to many of our countries’ biggest challenges. He played a leading role in efforts to reduce the deficit, fix the mortgage finance system, invest in our national infrastructure, and promote innovation and jobs. Senator Warner has also been a champion for our armed service members and their families, as well as a leader in Congress on making government more transparent and efficient.

From 2002 to 2006, Senator Warner served as Governor of Virginia, where he worked in a bipartisan way to turn record budget deficits into a surplus and recruit 135,000 jobs to Virginia. When he left office, Virginia was recognized as the nation’s “best-managed state” and “best state for business.”

Before his public service, Senator Warner was an early investor in the cellular telephone business. He co-founded the company that became Nextel, and ultimately made early investments in hundreds of startup technology companies that have created tens of thousands of private-sector jobs.

John Lunn

John Lunn photographed by Kevin AboschJohn Lunn oversees the global developer network for PayPal, where he is a senior global director. Lunn spends his time primarily focused on innovation, ensuring that developers around the globe have access to the features and functionality they need from PayPal. Prior to his current work at PayPal, Lunn spent 15 years building systems for payment and fraud detection at several successful companies – in addition to this hands-on work, he has advised many successful startups on their payment strategies.

Diane Tate

Diane BisgeierDiane (Bisgeier) Tate is program manager for Mozilla’s Developer Engagement Program. She previously managed Mozilla’s WebFWD startup program. Before Mozilla, she worked with various startups in marketing and communications roles and served eight years in Charles Schwab’s technology division as a product manager and communications director for the chief information officer. Pre-Schwab, she was an executive recruiter and venture capital associate in Silicon Valley and took time out to get her MBA at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Julien Smith

 Julien SmithJulien Smith is the CEO of Breather, an on-demand space company, as well as the New York Times bestselling author of three books. Two of these, Trust Agents and The Impact Equation, were written with Chris Brogan. The third, The Flinch, has consistently remained one of the top-read Kindle books since it was published in 2011.

Julien has been an author, a CEO, a professional voice actor, a radio broadcaster, and a consultant and speaker at some of the largest corporations in the world, including Google, Microsoft, American Express, Heineken International, and more. His work has also appeared in Cosmopolitan, GQ, CNN, and a host of other publications. His online work has been read by millions, literally.

Jason Henrichs

Jason HenrichsJason Henrichs is the managing director of the Startup Institute and part of the startup ecosystem as a founder, board member, advisor, mentor and investor. Jason is active as a mentor across the TechStars network. He’s previously helped found PerkStreet Financial, Britemoon, and US Genomics. He is an investor in Blacksmith Applications, Blueleaf, Fundly, Helpscout, Seahorse Biosciences, and Zagster. He is also the past president of the Massachusetts’s Service Alliance and advisor to City Year.

Jason Mok

Jason Mok

Jason Mok is a director with Silicon Valley Bank, where he focuses on early-stage consumer Internet, digital media, FinTech, and payments and software startups through Silicon Valley. In his role, he leads a team specializing in banking, debt financing, and making impactful connections for both entrepreneurs and their startups. He also spends time advising on SVB’s payments strategy and solutions.

Charise Flynn

Charise FlynnAs chief operations officer, Charise Flynn oversees the business development, sales, marketing, human resources, legal, compliance, risk customer support, and finance operations for Dwolla – a modern payment network that allows anything connected to the Internet to move money quickly, safely, and at the lowest cost possible. Since joining the team in early 2011, Flynn has played an instrumental role in guiding Dwolla’s impressive growth, raising over $20 million in tier-one venture capital, and overseeing the Des Moines-based company’s expansion to San Francisco and New York City.

Sally Kohn

Sally KohnSally Kohn is one of the leading progressive voices in America. She is currently a CNN contributor and columnist for the Daily Beast. Sally was previously a Fox News contributor, the motivation for her widely-seen TED talk, as well as a regular guest on MSNBC. Sally’s writing has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, More Magazine, Reuters, USA Today, Salon, Politico, Time and many other outlets. Her work has been highlighted by outlets from the New York Times to the Colbert Report to the National Review, and Sally is ranked by Mediaite as one of the top 100 most influential television pundits in America. Sally also works as a communications consultant, providing media and public speaking coaching as well as ghostwriting services to key leaders in nonprofits and corporations.

Caroline McCarthy

Caroline McCarthyCaroline McCarthy is the vice president of communications and content at true[x] Media, a digital advertising company that aims to bring the excitement and creativity of the television commercial to the web. Caroline joined true[x] after spending a year as a freelance editorial director working with both startup and Fortune 500 clients on brand storytelling, event curation, and product launches. She has also worked at Google, leading influencer outreach and event partnerships for Google+, and serving as managing editor of the Think Quarterly brand; and as a journalist and TV commentator for, a division of CBS, covering entrepreneurship and digital culture. She was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30 In Media” list in 2012 and twice to Business Insider’s “Silicon Alley 100” list.

Benoit Wirz

Benoit WirzBenoit Wirz is director of business consulting at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Ben joined Knight Foundation in 2010 and manages the Knight Enterprise Fund, which invests in early-stage media innovation companies that have the potential to better inform and engage people. He also helps advise the non-profits in Knight’s portfolio around issues of sustainability and growth. Prior to Knight, Ben was a partner with US Global, where he invested in and developed energy, manufacturing, and technology companies. Ben earned a BA and MA in international relations from Stanford University and an MBA from INSEAD.

Bob McCooey

Bob McCooeyRobert 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.

Eric Olson

Eric OlsonEric Olson joined Origin Ventures as an associate in October of 2013 after working as an entrepreneur, operator, and management consultant at Tech Cocktail, FeedBurner, and A.T. Kearney, respectively. Eric also led the inaugural implementation team for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s economic growth plan, where we worked on the $320M federal digital manufacturing institute project and several other projects. Eric has been recognized by his peers in the technology industry and was named a member of the Crain’s 40 under 40 class of 2009 while taking home the Illinois Technology Association’s CityLIGHTS award in 2008. Eric received his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and he holds a B.S. in Finance with a minor in Information Systems (magna cum laude) from Bentley University in Waltham, MA.

Jessica Randazza

Jessica RandazzaJessica Randazza serves as Chief Marketing Officer and founding member of OfferBoard. Before joining OfferBoard, Jessica served as vice president & partner for Interference Inc. and The Supertouch Group. Focusing on driving social communication, and developing interactive marketing with technology outputs, each unique experience Jessica crafts is built with the promise of creating digital buzz and scaling through word-of-mouth. Prior to Interference + Supertouch, Jessica helped lead the founding of the social communications team at Digitas in New York. Her work has included brands such as Showtime, Whirlpool, Kraft, Diageo, American Express, Gawker, Nestlé, and Old Navy. Jessica is active in the global startup community, advising for companies in a number of industries. Jessica is alumnus of the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Corey Kossack

Corey KossackCorey Kossack is an experienced entrepreneur and intrapreneur focused on helping other startups and small businesses succeed. He has spent the last 10 years in the startup world bringing to market web and mobile software with experience across e-commerce, SaaS, social, mobile, and enterprise. Corey has been a founder and CEO, early-stage addition to executive teams, and consultant to startups inside and outside of Silicon Valley. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, TechCrunch, and Entrepreneur Magazine. Corey currently serves as the director of startup and investor engagement for Dell’s Center for Entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on building strategic relationships in Silicon Valley on behalf of Dell.

Diane Smith

Diane SmithDiane Smith is an advisor for Mobile Future, rural entrepreneur, author, wife and mom, and advocate. She is a business and social entrepreneur, corporate executive, and attorney with an extensive background in startup companies and new industries. Diane is an angel investor and original member of the Frontier Fund. Diane also counsels startups on their strategies for early-stage sustainability and profitability.

Angelos Angelou

Angelos AngelouAngelos Angelou is the founder of the International Accelerator. He has a long history in helping to build Austin’s entrepreneurial infrastructure and was part of the effort to establish the Austin Technology Incubator and the Austin Software Council (now known as the Austin Technology Council). Angelos is an active angel investor in several technology startups and was also an affiliated investor in fund IV of Austin Ventures. He is the Principal Executive Officer of Angelou Economics (AE), bringing nearly 30 years of experience in economic development and corporate site selection. AE has completed over 600 strategic plans for economic development clients throughout the world and sited over $18 billion of corporate projects.

John Egan

John EganJohn Egan is editor-in-chief and PR manager at Austin-based startup SpareFoot, which operates the country’s largest online marketplace for self-storage. A graduate of the University of Kansas, John is former editor and managing editor of the Austin Business Journal. He’s been a resident of Austin since 1999.


Adam Breckler

Adam BrecklerAdam Breckler brings 10-plus years of website development experience to his role as co-founder and VP of Product at Prior to, Adam has previously worked as a web developer for various Internet startups, including and founded a leading Internet coupon-search portal, Adam’s specialties include new product development, design and branding, web development, and acquisition marketing. When not coming up with product features that will delight customers, Adam can be found posting his snapshots on Instagram.




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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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