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Announcing: ‘Grand Challenges – The Rise of Startups’ Speakers

Morgan Gress

Managing Director, Global Marketing, 1776

Washington D.C. may be best known as a government town, but there’s an undercurrent of startups tackling big challenges and earning big returns for investors.

Want to figure out how you can impact the world and make some big bucks? Then join us at Challenge Festival’s Monday conference: “Grand Challenges—The Rise of Startups.” presented by CEA

On Monday, May 12, this lunchtime conference will bring together early- and late-stage entrepreneurs to talk about the challenges and opportunities involved when it comes to revolutionizing major industries. These panelists are leaders in their fields and—more importantly—they’ve cracked the nut of making money and solving real societal problems. In other words: We found the world’s doers, and we’re bringing them to Challenge Festival.

Speaker includes executives from Opower and EverFi, two companies that validate one of 1776’s core hypotheses: that solving big problems in regulated industries enjoy huge market opportunities. And even though they started small, both have seen tremendous growth and success against the odds—even going all the way to IPO.

Want to discover how their stories can become your own? You’ll find out at this lunch conference with your emcee for day Chris Frangione of Xprize. And if we haven’t convinced you yet, come for the free lunch and the opportunity to check out 1776’s brand-new 8th floor.

Who is speaking?

  • Keynote by Donna Harris, Cofounder at 1776
  • Tom Davidson, Founder  and CEO at Everfi
  • Sasha Olenina, CEO at WeStudyIn
  • Ogi Kavazovic, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at Opower
  • Tom Mattzie, Founder and CEO at Ethical Electric
  • Sabrina Li, CEO at Coyote Biosciences
  • Rose Broome, Cofounder and CEO at HandUp
  • Evan Burfield, Cofounder at 1776

These panelists range from top executives at companies that have successfully scaled up and made big returns for investors, to startups that are beginning the journey to turn important industries upside down. Plus, Sasha Olenina, Tom Mattzie, Sabrina Li and Rose Broome are all Challenge Cup finalists who will compete in the Challenge Cup competitions throughout the week. Even our own staff members are excited to hear the stories and business-building insights this group will share!

Be sure to follow @1776dc on Twitter and tweet questions using #ChallengeFestival. Read more about our exciting panelists below, and don’t forget to register for the Festival to secure your spot!

Where will this event take place?

Grand Challenges – The Rise of Startups
Monday, May 12 @ 11:30am
1776 – 1133 15th Street, NW Washington, DC

How do I register?

Get your badge right here.

Meet the panelists!

Donna Harris
Cofounder at 1776, @dharrisindc
Donna Harris is a four-time entrepreneur and cofounder of 1776. Before 1776, Donna served as the Managing Director at the Startup America Partnership, where she architected and led the Startup Regions Initiative, which focused on accelerating the formation of vibrant, entrepreneurial ecosystems and connecting the communities into a national startup ecosystem. Donna is a member of the GEW Global Board, a board member of the National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, entrepreneur-in-residence at Georgetown University and an alumna of Springboard Enterprises. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and a MBA from The University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

Tom Davidson
Founder & CEO at Everfi, @tommydavidson
Tom Davidson picked the “CEO” slip out of the hat at a recent EverFi staff party and has yet to be fired by the Board of Directors. Davidson ran for the Maine State Legislature while a senior at Bowdoin College in 1994 and spent the better part of three terms working to bring education technology to students in the Pine Tree State. As Chairman of the Utilities and Energy Committee, Davidson led a successful effort with Governor Angus King to provide laptops to every Maine seventh grader as well as to create a major expansion of the wiring of schools and libraries across the State. After deciding that he needed to tell his children one day that he actually once earned a paycheck, Davidson left the Legislature in 2000 and began investing in early-stage technology companies in the education and social media spaces. He was a Venture Partner with Village Ventures, a network of venture capital firms across the U.S. Davidson graduated from Bowdoin College devoid of any academic honors of any consequence

Sasha Olenina
CEO at WeStudy.In
Sasha Olenina is the founder and CEO of Moscow-based startup WeStudy.In, which helps facilitate study abroad experiences for Russian students. Olenina became an entrepreneur after she had success studying and living outside of Russia in London, New York City, and Valencia, Spain. 

Ogi Kavazovic
VP of Marketing and Strategy at Opower
Ogi Kavazovic is responsible for the go-to-market strategy for Opower’s three solution lines. He works closely with Opower’s sales and product teams to help guide the company’s product strategy and competitive positioning and promotes Opower and its solutions at industry events and conferences. Prior to joining Opower, Ogi was a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners, where he advised Fortune 500 clients on corporate strategy development, with particular focus on the utility sector and Smart Grid industry. Ogi began his career as a software engineer, developing risk and asset management systems for major financial institutions, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Ogi was also one of the lead architects of a “smart field” data management platform for Schlumberger Information Systems. Ogi received his BA and MS degrees in Computer Science from Harvard.

Tom Mattzie
Founder & CEO at Ethical Electric, @tommattzie
For more than a dozen years Tom built big online communities for social impact causes that disrupted incumbents in the space. His work developed innovations that today are best practices—pioneering online civic engagement. He is a widely recognized expert in his field. The New York Times Magazine profiled Tom’s work with calling him “a rising star.” He has raised more than $150 million online from millions of cause-related donors in $5 and $10 chunks.

Tom continues to advise causes and companies in the social impact sector and he serves on the board of the Community Power Network—a network of community-scale renewable energy groups. In addition to pulling together the Ethical Electric team, Tom will apply his deep experience building online audiences to the customer acquisition program.

Sabrina Li
CEO at Coyote Biosciences
Sabrina Li is the CEO of Beijing Challenge Cup winner Coyote Biosciences. Once referred to by Chinese media as “the Steve Jobs of life sciences,” Li was awarded “The Top Overseas Talents in Beijing” in 2012. She graduated from the physics department in Beijing University, and holds a degree in biophysics from University of California San Diego. Li has over 12 years of research experience in synthetic biology and system biology. She specializes in both reagent and apparatus design and owns 14 patents.

Rose Broome
Cofounder & CEO at HandUp, @rosical
Rose Broome believes in the power of technology to create health, happiness, and positive transformation in the world. She is the founder of HandUp, a crowdfunding platform for homeless people and neighbors in need. Previously, as the COO at SuperBetter Labs, she managed the SuperBetter product and team operations, searched for meaning in data sets small and large, and conducted research with academic partners including UPenn’s Positive Psychology Center. At Inigral Inc., Rose pioneered predictive modeling research connecting social network data to student success outcomes for top US universities. She also served as a data manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign forming San Francisco’s 200+ person data team. Rose created or was a core organizer of the following communities: SF Homeless Innovation Meetup, Health Extension Salon, Science Hackday SF, SFSU Association for the Advancement of Secular Knowledge, and SJ Food Not Bombs. She studied Campaign Management at Santa Clara University and has her master’s in Psychological Research from San Francisco State University.

Evan Burfield
Cofounder at 1776, @eburfield
Evan became an entrepreneur when he founded netDecide, shortly after graduating from the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Before he turned 25, he built netDecide into the leading provider of enterprise wealth management solutions for top tier financial service firms. After netDecide, Evan served as the Director of Strategy and Technology for Oakwood Global Finance, where he led the London-based private equity firm’s analyses of new global markets, new business models in financial services, and data-driven investment strategies. In 2006, Evan returned to Washington, D.C. to found Synteractive, a consulting firm that builds innovative social apps for startups, corporations, and government agencies. Evan currently serves on the Board of the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford, dedicated to the study of American history and politics.

Morgan Gress

Managing Director, Global Marketing, 1776

Morgan Gress is the Director of Digital & Brand at 1776 where she drives the organization's digital, marketing and brand efforts — strategizing on how best to a create mission-driven marketing strategy and…