BUILD Accelerator

Day 1: CONSUMER, HEALTH, AND WELLNESS Judges

Carol Bramson, MBA ’92

Carol Bramson, MBA ’92

Founder and CEO, Side by Side

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Carol Bramson, MBA ’92

Founder and CEO, Side by Side

Carol Bramson is the founder and CEO of Side by Side, a natural pet food and nutrition company that delivers a custom comprehensive diet for pets. She is also the president and founder of TBG Capital, which provides equity capital and advisory services to companies to facilitate startup, growth and/or acquisitions. Carol earned a BS in finance from DePaul University, and an MBA from Chicago Booth.

Alyssa Jaffee, MBA ’16

Alyssa Jaffee, MBA ’16

Vice President, 7wire Ventures

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Alyssa Jaffee, MBA ’16

Vice President, 7wire Ventures

Alyssa Jaffee is a partner at 7wireVentures where she focuses on investments in digital healthcare and technology-enabled services that empower consumers to be better stewards of their health in today’s changing healthcare ecosystem. Alyssa sits on the board of Ayogo Health and Higi and is a board observer with Zerigo Health, NOCD, and RecoveryOne. Alyssa’s prior experience in venture capital includes her time as an investor at Pritzker Group Venture Capital where she led investments in Bright.md and Tovala as well as worked closely with Apervita, Mingle Health, and AiCure. Additionally, she worked at Hyde Park Angels (HPA), one of the Midwest’s largest angel organizations and Healthbox, an early stage healthcare innovation firm, supporting their accelerator program called the Studio. Alyssa is also a Co-Founder of TransparentCareer, a 2016 NVC winning company focused on helping people make more data-driven career decisions. Alyssa earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from the Chicago Booth.

Michael Kaplan

Michael Kaplan

Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Spiral Sun Ventures

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Michael Kaplan

Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Spiral Sun Ventures

Michael is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Spiral Sun Ventures, a venture capital fund investing in early-stage companies making natural and healthier food, beverage and other consumer products. He is an experienced business and transactions professional. Michael started as an attorney working for national law firms such as Mayer Brown in Chicago, and was employed on the business side for over 12 years at JLL (formally Jones Lang LaSalle), specializing in transaction management, team building and innovation.

Mike Schopin, MBA ’05

Mike Schopin, MBA ’05

Partner, Zenfinity Capital LLC

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Mike Schopin, MBA ’05

Partner, Zenfinity Capital LLC

Day 2: SOCIAL ENTERPRISE + ED TECH JUDGES

Manish Kothari, MBA ’90

Manish Kothari, MBA ’90

Co-Founder, AlphaSmart and Root-1

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Manish Kothari, MBA ’90

Co-Founder, AlphaSmart and Root-1

Manish Kothari is a serial entrepreneur and currently serves as an advisor for several companies. He has co-founded three companies that have developed hardware and software products used and loved by millions globally. Along the way, he has helped take one company public (NASDAQ:ALSM), and has been through three acquisitions (public company buying a public company, private-private, public-private, including one cross-border acquisition).

Prior to the acquisition of Edmodo by NetDragon in 2018, he was a General Manager overseeing Monetization, Business Development and Customer Success. Edmodo is the world’s leading social learning platform for educators, students and parents. Prior to Edmodo, he was a co-founder of Root-1, Inc., whose goal was to make learning much more engaging and effective. Root-1 was acquired by Edmodo in 2013. From 1993 through 2006, he was co-founder and President of AlphaSmart, Inc, an education technology company where he was responsible for overall management of worldwide sales, marketing and operations. During his tenure, he helped build and grow the business from a garage startup to AlphaSmart’s IPO (NASDAQ: ALSM) in 2004, and, shepherd it through its acquisition by Renaissance Learning, Inc. in 2005.

Kenneth O’Keefe, MBA ’93

Kenneth O’Keefe, MBA ’93

Founder, BPOC

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Kenneth O’Keefe, MBA ’93

Founder, BPOC

Kenneth O’Keefe is the Founder of BPOC, a private equity management firm to invest in middle-market buy-out transactions, recapitalizations, and growth platforms exclusively in the healthcare industry. Prior to becoming a founding principal of BPOC in 1996, Ken was an investment banker and financial advisor to healthcare companies. From 1989 to 1996, he worked at First Chicago (now JP Morgan Chase) and a related joint venture.

Priya Parrish, MBA ’09

Priya Parrish, MBA ’09

Managing Partner, Impact Engine

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Priya Parrish, MBA ’09

Managing Partner, Impact Engine

Priya Parrish is the Managing Partner of Private Equity at Impact Engine. Prior to joining Impact Engine, she served as Chief Investment Officer at Schwartz Capital Group, a single-family office investing across global markets. Previously, Priya was Strategy Head at Aurora Investment Management, a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund, and managed product development of investment products that incorporated environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) at Northern Trust Asset Management and KLD Research & Analytics. Priya currently serves as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Strategy and Impact Investor in Residence at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Babson College and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Andrea Sreshta, MBA ’16

Andrea Sreshta, MBA ’16

Co-Founder, Luminaid

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Andrea Sreshta, MBA ’16

Co-Founder, Luminaid

Andrea Sreshta is a co-founder of LuminAID, a company that focuses on innovative solar powered energy products for humanitarian aid and outdoor recreation. Andrea holds a B.A. from Yale University, a Master’s in Architecture from Columbia University, and a MBA from Chicago Booth.

Day 3: TECH: MARKETPLACE AND SAAS JUDGES

Kenyata Martin, MBA ’09

Kenyata Martin, MBA ’09

Managing Partner, Thought Process

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Kenyata Martin, MBA ’09

Managing Partner, Thought Process

Kenyata Martin started his career in Cincinnati where he spent 11 years at Procter & Gamble in progressive product development and marketing roles on brands including Product Manager for the Tampax business, where he has a patent on Tampax Pearl and led the product re-design for base Tampax. On Crest, Kenyata developed and executed the strategy for African American Marketing, where he introduced the first advertising campaign with notable African American dentist Dr. Maria Ashley. He also had two successful stints on the Old Spice business, where he led the product qualification of the body spray re-stage and later played a significant global leadership role on the now famous brand reinvention of Old Spice.

After leaving Procter & Gamble, Kenyata served as Head of Marketing Strategy for Shell Oil, where he was responsible for increasing the marketing capability within the Lubricants’ organization as well as delivering scaled marketing strategies that have direct to consumer impact on both the B2C and B2B businesses. Most recently, Kenyata served as the Director of Innovation for The Nestlé Pizza and Snacking Division, where he was responsible for delivering a new product and innovation pipeline and building a leading-edge competitive capability for the $3 billion group of well-known brands that include DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, and Hot Pockets.

Kenyata earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from Morehouse College and Georgia Tech and his Masters’ of Business Administration at the University of Chicago.

Jonathan Ellis

Jonathan Ellis

Founder & Managing Director, Sandalphon Capital

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Jonathan Ellis

Founder & Managing Director, Sandalphon Capital

Jonathan Ellis is the Founder and Managing Director of Sandalphon Capital. Prior to founding Sandalphon in 2016, Jonathan was a Senior Vice President in Macquarie’s Principal Finance Group group where he was responsible for sourcing, executing and managing investments in a wide range of industries and asset classes including technology, specialty finance, healthcare and real estate. Jonathan was a member of Macquarie Capital’s Restructuring Advisory and Special Situations group until 2009 where he was involved in private equity and debt investing, and restructuring advisory engagements. Prior to moving to Chicago in 2007, he was a member of Macquarie Capital’s Diversified Industrials Group in London and focused on private equity investments in a variety of industries.

Jonathan is also on the Board of Social Venture Partners Chicago, a non-profit group comprised of engaged philanthropists that invest time, expertise and money in innovative nonprofits that have the potential to make meaningful and sustainable improvements within the Chicagoland community, as well as a member of Union League Club of Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago. Jonathan earned a BSc (Hons) in International Management from the University of Manchester in 2006, and a Master of Finance degree from INSEAD in 2011.

Neal Sales-Griffin

Neal Sales-Griffin

Managing Director, Techstars Chicago

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Neal Sales-Griffin

Managing Director, Techstars Chicago

Neal Sales-Griffin is currently the Managing Director for Techstars Chicago, Techstars is a Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars was founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2006 by David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown, and Jared Polis. Through the Techstars Worldwide Entrepreneur Network, founders and their teams are able to connect to other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporate partners that will help their companies grow. 

Previously, he served as the CEO of CodeNow, a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that hosts coding workshops for students from low-income backgrounds in six cities across the US. Before heading CodeNow, Sales-Griffin was the CEO of The Starter League, an institution determined “to teach everyone to code,” with an innovative curriculum and strong alumni connections. He also serves as a coordinator to the non-profit International Game Developers Association (IGDA®). Sales-Griffin lends his mentorship to the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.Sales-Griffin earned his B.S. in Education and Social Policy (with a concentration in Learning and Organizational Change), and his Minor in Business Institutions from Northwestern University in 2009. He currently also serves as a Faculty Coach at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, while also teaching ENTREP 325: Engineering Entrepreneurship for the Farley Center.

Prashant Shukla, MBA ’18

Prashant Shukla, MBA ’18

Vice President, Origin Ventures

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Prashant Shukla, MBA ’18

Vice President, Origin Ventures

Prashant is a Vice President at Origin Ventures, joining the firm as Senior Associate in May 2017. He serves as a Board Observer for Origin portfolio companies 15Five, Everee, Pronto, Measured Insurance, Mighty, and Trala. Prashant started his career at Bain & Company. During his time at Bain, he advised telecom, healthcare, & education clients, but spent most of his time on a large technology client dealing with strategic questions around emerging technologies. After Bain, he joined San Francisco-based startup Metromile in 2012 as the first product manager, building a pay-per-mile auto insurance product. Prashant helped scale the company to over three hundred employees as it took in over $200m in venture capital financing. Prashant holds an MBA and MPP from the University of Chicago, and undergraduate degrees in Economics, Business, and Environmental Economics & Policy from the University of California at Berkeley.

Day 4: E-COMMERCE + RETAIL Judges

Sonia Nagar

Sonia Nagar

Partner, Pritzker Group Venture Capital

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Sonia Nagar

Partner, Pritzker Group Venture Capital

Sonia joined Pritzker Group Venture Capital in 2016. She is responsible for sourcing, diligence and oversight for the firm’s investments in consumer, enterprise and emerging technologies. Most recently, Sonia was vice president of product and head of mobile apps for RetailMeNot (NASDAQ: SALE), responsible for cross-platform strategy and leading an app redesign that earned a 2015 People’s Voice Webby Award for Best Shopping App. Sonia joined RetailMeNot in 2014 following its acquisition of Pickie, the venture-backed mobile shopping start-up she co-founded in 2011. Prior to Pickie, Sonia was a senior associate for Booz & Company leading post-merger integration and growth strategy projects for digital media and retail clients. Previously she worked in product management, investment banking, and engineering roles with Amazon, Goldman Sachs and General Motors.

Venetia Kontogouris, MBA ’77

Venetia Kontogouris, MBA ’77

Managing Director, Venkon Group LLC

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Venetia Kontogouris, MBA ’77

Managing Director, Venkon Group LLC

Venetia Kontogouris is the managing director of Venkon Group LLC, a company that invests in real estate and early stage ventures, with an emphasis on technology and cloud-based services. Current investments include Zumigo, Ruby Seven Studios, Flow Inc., Be Health, Energy Savvy, and Simple Mills. Prior to her employment with Venkon Group, Kontogouris was the senior managing director for Trident Capital, where she oversaw venture capital investing. She was one of the original members and co-managing partner for Funds IV, V, and VI with over $1.5 billion of venture investments under management. During her time at Trident Capital, she was responsible for many successful investments and exits including, Odyssey Logistics, Outsource Partners International, Microland, Advantec, Infotrieve, Sphere, Viant, Daou Systems, Vality, PBN/Taleo, IPro, Invention Machine, and CrossMedia.

Jason Starr, MBA ’07

Jason Starr, MBA ’07

Founder & Managing Director, CompanyFirst

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Jason Starr, MBA ’07

Founder & Managing Director, CompanyFirst

Jason has over two decades of experience spanning operations, technology, venture capital, and private equity. Jason is the founder of CompanyFirst, a venture capital firm focused on investing in and building emerging consumer brands and companies. Before CompanyFirst, Jason was the fund manager at CircleUp in San Francisco, through which he invested in dozens of consumer ventures.

Prior to CircleUp, Jason spent over eight years at Winona Capital Management, a consumer-focused private equity firm in Chicago with over $300 million under management. Before Winona, Jason worked at venture capital firm Opus Capital in Silicon Valley and was a founder or early employee at several high-tech start-ups in Denver including BoldTech Systems, a “Deloitte Tech Fast 50” and “Inc. 500” company that was acquired by Perficient (NASDAQ PRFT). Prior to his entrepreneurial ventures, Jason spent over five years at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) where he was a project manager and software engineer. Jason graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with an MBA and holds a BSBA and MAS from the University of Denver.

Boyede Sobitan

Boyede Sobitan

Cofounder and CEO, OjaExpress

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Boyede Sobitan

Cofounder and CEO, OjaExpress

Boyede is a Nigerian-American mash-up and CEO/co-founder of OjaExpress, an ethnic grocery delivery app that seeks to eliminate barriers in obtaining ethnic foods for the people who love them.

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