AlleyWatch, the largest organization focused on NYC Tech, celebrates the work of these 50 individuals that serve as a catalyst for innovation within the NYC Tech ecosystem.
MEET THE 2019 NYC TECH INFLUENCERS
David Klein is the CEO and Cofounder of CommonBond the platform focused on changing the education finance industry, inspired by Klein's personal experience financing his MBA at Wharton. Without the traditional overhead of conventional lenders, CommonBond is able to offer attractive loans to student loan borrowers in a transparent and straightforward manner through its best-in-class technology platform that not only provides loans but also informs borrowers on their options.
Under Klein's direction, Common Bond has raised over $130M in equity funding and in February of 2019 closed another $750M in lending capacity from Goldman Sachs, Citi, Barclays, ING, and BMO. CommonBond's senior bond offerings maintain a AAA credit rating, providing investors a sense of stability. Since its national launch in 2013, CommonBond has originated over $2.5B in loans and did over $1B in 2018 alone. CommonBond was named one of Fast Company's 50 Most Innovative Companies, as well as one of TIME's 50 Genius Companies. Also, in 2018, CommonBond acquired NYC startup NextGenVest to increase its focus on servicing the needs of millennials
A graduate of Brandeis, Klein started his career as an analyst at McKinsey and spent a number of years in consumer finance at American Express. Klein and CommonBond are tackling the $1.5T student loan crisis head-on with a blend of honesty and technology.
Andrew Rasiej is the Founder and CEO of Civic Hall, the community center for social entrepreneurs, change-makers, government employees, hackers, academics, journalists, and artists all aligned with the shared mission of creating public good through the use of technology. Rasiej launched Civic Hall as a non-profit and is backed by the Omidyar Network, Cognizant, and Per Scholas. In 2016, Civic Hall along with its development partner RAL Partners secured the rights to develop a new campus in Union Square at the old PC Richard site. The 250,000 sq site will house a number of digital workforce development programs to ensure access to training to underserved New Yorkers along with coworking space and conference center. Under Rasiej's leadership, Civic Hall has already inked partnerships with 60+ workforce development organizations in the city to provide curriculum for the center, which is slated to open in 2020.
A graduate of Cooper Union and resident of Union Square, Rasiej is incredibly well connected and a masterful networker; he has advised presidents and respected politicians on the crossroads of innovation and politics. In addition to Civic Hall, he previously served as the Chairman of the New York Tech Alliance and is currently on its board, founded the Personal Democracy Forum, and founded MOUSE. In 2005, he ran for NYC Public Advocate on a campaign that focused on innovation and technology improvements to the city.
Before beginning this storied career that spans over 20 years, as New York's Tech scene's advocate for public good, Rasiej had a number of music-related businesses including founding the ballroom Irving Plaza, live streaming site Digital Club Network, the event series focused on music distribution Plug-In.
Steph Korey is the Cofounder and CEO of Away, the stylish director-to-consumer luggage company. Away was inspired by Away Cofounder Jen Rubio's struggle to find decent suggestions for luggage brands after a suitcase had broken on a trip. Rubio and Korey both worked at direct-to-consumer eyewear startup Warby Parker, Korey managing supply chain and Rubio leading social.
Under Korey's leadership the company has scaled its team to over 200, sold more than half a million suitcases, and raised over $107M from notable investors Global Founders Capital, Forerunner Ventures, Accel, and Great Oaks Venture Capital. The company's valuation at the last raise was $400M.
Away isn't just a luggage company; it's a travel brand that uses genuine storytelling to highlight the experiential nature of travel across several channels including Instagram, Podcasts, and even a book that Korey devised as a preorder gift at launch when the supply chain wouldn't be able to deliver the suitcases in time for the Christmas season at launch.
New York is a city that's built on finance and real estate. The finance industry alone generations in excess of $1T in value every year and the aggregate combined property valuation in the city also exceed $1T. Serious money. Sitting at the intersection of these two industries and technology is Ryan Williams, the cofounder and CEO of Cadre. Cadre is simply a real estate Crowdfunding platform that links developers with capital sources that are interested in investing in the flourishing real estate market.
Williams cofounded Cadre in 2014 with Jared Kushner and past NYC Tech Influencer Honoree Josh Kushner after spending time at the real estate private equity practice at The Blackstone Group. Prior to Blackstone, Williams was at Goldman Sachs working in investment banking. A graduate of Harvard, Williams set out to tackle two of the problems associated with the syndication of real estate investment transactions ñ cost and lack of technology.
While there are several real estate Crowdfunding platforms; most suffer from the problem of a typical two-sided marketplace, where you need to attract both buyers and sellers in a transparent way with quality deal flow. Under Williams' leadership, the company has been able to secure partnerships with some of the largest and most reputable property developers that are listing compelling investment opportunities and also attract high caliber investors looking for such opportunities. The platform is rumored to have already transacted in over $1B in transactions.
The team at Cadre is also ambitiously working on building a second marketplace so that investors do not need to wait for a liquidity event like the sale of a property to realize returns. Williams has raised $130M+ for the venture and is backed by investors that include Thrive Capital, The Ford Foundation, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, Khosla Ventures, General Catalyst, and Andreessen Horowitz. The company has also notably signed a partnership with Goldman Sachs, which has committed to invest $250M in opportunities on the platform on behalf of its private wealth management clients.
Murat is on a first name basis with the entire NYC Tech community. He is the Cofounder and Managing Partner at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, one of NYC's first accelerator programs. The program launched in June of 2011 and is now semi-annual with classes of 12-15 startups in each cohort. The program boasts over 400 mentors, comprises of titan so industry throughout the NYC business community. Notable names in the ERA portfolio include Parking Panda, Machinio, Public Stuff, Sayspring, SquareFoot, and Scentbird.
Aktihanoglu started Entrepreneurs Roundtable, a monthly pitch event where startups are able to present their businesses to investors in a rapid format in 2007. This event series catalyzed the tech community and now is routinely attended by over 600 people each month. Trained in computer science and published author, he is a routine international speaker, working with several governments to advise them on their country's and country startup's expansion plans to the US. Aktihanoglu started his career as a technology working with larger corporates including AT&T, Sony, Panasonic, Logitech, and Pioneer.
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The future of work is changing rapidly and leading this charge is Sarah Sheehan, Cofounder and Chief Experience Officer of Bravely, a coaching platform designed specifically to address the complex issues that arise at the workplace Sheehan is a veteran in the HR space, starting her career at Coach and SiriusXM. A graduate of Virginia Tech, the startup bug hit Sheehan in 2010, initially joining the Gilt Groupe in an HR rolee A conversation with past NYC Tech Influencer honoree Kevin Ryan led her to leave HR and lead a new initiative called Gilt City. Sheehan scaled the operation, building a 65 person sales team that produced $60M in revenue.
In 2017, Sheehan linked up with former Gilt colleague Toby Hervey to launch Bravely, after the two recognized a need for workplaces to address the ever-changing dynamic as organizations scale across borders, geographies while being mindful of diversity and organizational dynamic. Today, under Sheehan's leadership, Bravely has raised $3M and is backed by Primary Venture Partners, Trail Mix Ventures, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and Correlation Ventures. Bravely's platform is being used at some of the world's fastest-growing organizations including Intersection, Venture for America, Evernote, Zillow Group, and Homepolish. In the startup community, we all understand the importance of building the right team, Sheehan's work ensures that we are able to drive purpose for teams and create a work environment that allows people to thrive.
Michael Loeb is one of the first, if not the first, venture builders in NYC. Loeb has been deeply entrenched in the NYC entrepreneurial ecosystem since the 1990s. An executive at Time Inc. he left in 1992 to found the Synapse Group with Jay Walker. Synapse changed the magazine publishing business dramatically by shifting the subscription model to be recurring by incentivizing consumer behavior. At Synapse, Michael cofunded Walker to found Priceline. Synapse was acquired by Loeb's former employer Time Inc. for $800M in 2006, in what Bonin Bough has described as "the most expensive rehire in history". Priceline also ended up going public in 1999 and currently has a market cap in excess of $85B.
In 2006 after the acquisition of Synapse, Loeb formally started Loeb Enterprise and Loeb.NYC, which serves as the incubation lab with the former as a vehicle for non-incubated investments. At the venture studio or "company factory" as Loeb prefers to call it, there are several hundred subject matter experts working out of the offices in midtown as a part of the studio's incubation team. Ideas that are incubated are both internally generated ideas like ScriptRelief, the pharmacy discount card that has over 11M members and was recently valued over $1B and external ideas like startups Penrose Hill, SummitSync, PopWallet, and Mercato, deploying up to $40M in private capital per annum. As Loeb is a noted expert in consumer marketing, most of the companies are direct-to-consumer, B2B, subscription services, tech or CPG products.
Extremely active in philanthropy, Loeb provides a paid internship program for underrepresented college students in tech to work at Loeb, its portfolio companies, as well as notable startups in New York that have no affiliation with Loeb. Lastly, Loeb is the only one of the 2019 NYC Tech Influencers whose summer home appears on a television program. He donates the location fees to charity.
Graham Brown is Partner at Lerer Hippeau along with past NYC tech influeners honorees Ken Lerer, Eric Hippeau, and Ben Lerer. Lerer HIppeau is the most active seed stage investor in New York with 400+ investments, with two-thirds of its portfolio companies calling New York home. Brown manages the firmís main fund ($122M) as well as its Select Fund ($60M), both of which closed in 2018.
Graham has held every role in the venture world throughout his career. At Lerer Hippeau, he started as a Senior Associate, moving up to Principal, and then elected as a Partner in 2017. He joined the firm in 2015 from SoftBank, where he was a Senior Associate after completing his MBA at Columbia. A graduate of Colby College, Brown began his career at Canaccord Capital and worked several years as an Associate at Polaris Venture Partners, a growth stage equity firm, in Boston. Chances are if you are a founder fundraising in New York, you will cross paths with Graham Brown.
Jalak Jobanputra is the Founding Partner of Future Perfect Ventures, an investment firm that focuses on early-stage investments in Blockchain, machine learning, interactivity, and marketplaces. Starting her career in investment banking out of UPenn, she has been investing in startups for over 20 years with investing roles at Intel, New Venture Partners, New York City Investment Fund (leading the launch of NYC Seed and the Fintech Innovation Lab), Omidyar Network, and RTP Ventures.
During her tenure in venture, Jobanputra's investments include exits in Thumbplay, TxZVia, and Outside.in. She has been a strong advocate of blockchain technology and been investing in the space since 2013. In fact, Future Perfect Ventures is one of the founding partners of the Blockchain Center, a private/public partnership to catalyze the blockchain community in New York through events and education.
Jobanputra is an avid international speaker and advisor with expertise in decentralization, women in tech, and socially conscious entrepreneurship. Recently, Future Perfect Ventures was selected by the City of New York to be one of five partners in the city's WE Venture investment initiative to coinvest alongside principal investors in female-founded companies in the city.
Dan Porter is currently the Cofounder and CEO of Overtime, a sports network focused on high school athletics video content. Porter has been extremely active in the NYC Tech scene since the late '90s. He served as the COO of TicketWeb and ran the business during its acquisition by Ticketmaster in 2000 for $35.2M.
A graduate of Princeton, Porter began his career as a school teacher and spent several years on the early team at Teach for America. After the acquisition, Porter ran corporate development for Richard Branson's Virgin Group.
In 2008, Porter joined OMGPOP and served as the CEO. While at OMGPOP, he is credited for developing the widely popular Draw Something, which has been used by over 100M individuals. With Porter at the helm, OMGPOP was sold to Zynga for $180M in 2012. After spending a year or so, at Zynga, heading the company's New York office, Porter left to WME to head up its digital practice.
While at WME, Porter created the firm's eSports practice, fashion network, and venture arm. Porter jumped ship in 2016 to launch Overtime with Zack Weiner. Based in Brooklyn, Overtime has gone on to raise slightly over $35M and is backed by prominent investors in both the sports and venture world including Greycroft, Afore Capital, Box Group, Andreessen Horowitz, Correlation Capital, 645 Ventures, Geoff Yang, Kevin Durant, David Stern, Carmelo Anthony, and Fox Sports Regional Networks executive Michael Spirito.
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