About the Speakers

Valentina Assenova, Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Endowed Term Assistant Professor of Management, The Wharton School

Valentina A. Assenova is the Edward B. and Shirley R. Shils Endowed Term Assistant Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where she is a Govil Family Faculty Scholar, Mack Institute Research Fellow, and faculty affiliate of the Penn Development Research Initiative. Her research and teaching interests center on entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. Dr. Assenova holds a Ph.D., M.A., and M.Phil. from Yale University, an M.B.A. with first-class honors in International Management from the University of Cambridge, and a B.Sc. in Economics with honors from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where she was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and a Joseph Wharton Research Scholar.

Greg Bergamesco, Managing Director, Touchdown Ventures

Greg is a Managing Director at Touchdown Ventures, where he has been leading venture capital investment activity for multiple corporations since 2016, and has completed 20+ venture capital investments across the consumer, media, and infrastructure technology landscape.

Prior to Touchdown Ventures, Greg was a Senior Director of New Business Strategy at Comcast Corporation where he was responsible for identifying, evaluating, and incubating new revenue generating businesses. Greg also spent six years in strategy consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton and PwC, primarily building business cases for various strategic initiatives and leading large-scale business transformations. He began his career as a financial analyst at Prudential Financial.

David Charpie, Co-CEO, Mach49

As Mach49’s Co-CEO, David has extensive leadership experience in Global 2000 firms as well as multiple venture-backed, joint venture, and intrapreneurial startups. He’s known for sparking disruptive growth and fostering an entrepreneurial culture within large companies, in industries including big data, cloud, risk management software, and healthcare informatics.

When David spearheaded his first corporate venture, his career took a significant turn. He built a team within a large organization, instilling the entrepreneurial skills, mindset, and behaviors required to thrive in a fast-paced, goal-driven startup. This experience was transformative — not just for the business, but also for the people involved. David saw how the startup journey impacted his team members, leading them to self-discovery and new career paths. This made a profound impression, helping David realize that leading corporate startups was more than just a job — it was his calling.

Click for full bio

David’s venture-backed experience began at Open Ratings, where he led negotiations with D&B that resulted in data and a B-round investment for the startup. This ultimately led to the company’s successful exit, with D&B acquiring the firm. As Founder and Principal at a strategy consulting firm focused on driving disruptive innovations inside the Global 2000, David also created 4 new solution offerings worth $3.6B in sales opportunities for a major procurement network service provider.

Before joining Mach49, David guided startups for four renowned information services companies: SAP, Partners Healthcare, Dun & Bradstreet, and Healthcare Market Research (a joint venture between CVS and Pfizer). He designed and launched several first-of-their-kind solutions at these firms, including the precursor to the UN / SPSC commodity coding system — the international standard for trade.

At D&B, David founded a supplier information venture that became the company’s 3rd-largest business unit, with revenues exceeding $100M. At SAP, he established Supplier InfoNet, a cloud supplier risk management business that positioned the firm as a leader in big data pooling and B2B predictive performance content. Later, David led the merger of InfoNet with Ariba and its $874B-worth of supply chain transaction data, further solidifying its industry-leading position.

These experiences, coupled with his passion for fostering entrepreneurial cultures within large companies, made Mach49 the perfect fit for David. As one of the firm’s first team members, he has guided Mach49 through substantial growth, launching successful businesses, developing lasting client relationships, and establishing Mach49’s presence in EMEA. He has also overseen the development of Mach49’s Boston office, and more.

Outside of work, David is an avid sports fan, having played baseball and football, and is a keen theater enthusiast — especially musicals. Having met his wife through a high school show they both performed in, music and theater continue to be a core thread within his family, a connection now shared with their four children and eight grandchildren.

With a BS and MS in nuclear engineering from MIT and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, David continues to lead Mach49’s Venture Building practice while staying true to his calling — changing lives through corporate startups. His journey is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship, not just in transforming businesses, but in positively impacting people both personally and professionally.

Stefon Crawford, Partner, GM Ventures

Stefon Crawford is currently a Partner with GM Ventures and has been with the fund for eight years. Stefon has led and supported $200M of invested capital in 50+ transactions. Mobility, FinTech, InsurTech, Electrification and Autonomous innovation have been his primary verticals of focus.

Prior to GMV Stefon spent five years in financial services as an Originator and in Loss Mitigation at Rocket Mortgage. Stefon holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University as well as Executive Certificates in Negotiation and Venture Capital from HBS, Wharton Business School, and HAAS School of Business, University of Berkeley California.

Gary Dushnitsky, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School

Dr Gary Dushnitsky is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School. He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His work focuses on the economics of entrepreneurship and innovation. He explores the shifting landscape of entrepreneurial finance, exploring such topics as corporate venture capital, crowdfunding and accelerators. His research has appeared in leading academic journals, including Organization Science, the Strategic Management Journal and Nature Biotechnology.

Dr Dushnitsky has received several academic distinctions, including the 2013 SMS Emerging Scholar Award, the 2009 Kauffmann Junior Faculty Fellowship and several best dissertation prizes. He serves as the Co-Editor at the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal and a Senior Editor at Organization Science.

Ankur Jindal, Global Head of Venturing, Innovation and Emerging Technologies, Tata Communications

Ankur is the Global Head of Venturing, Innovation and Emerging Technologies at Tata Communications, based in the Bay Area. An alumnus from prestigious IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta, as well as a fellow Mack member partner, he is also on many boards and councils. As a 25-year industry veteran and having lived and worked across continents, Ankur has established deep industry relationships. He has been a strategic advisor to CxOs across different roles ranging from strategy, consulting, sales and customer success, M&A, co-innovation and digital transformation. He is passionate about technology and ecosystems, as powerful tools to enable digital transformation across the industry value chain and transform customer experience across a range of verticals. In his current capacity his team is responsible for leading internal innovation (incubation/venture building, AI/Innovation programs), external venturing (emerging technology exploration, co-innovating with customers and start-up, sandbox for innovators) as well as investments. Range of startups and technologies of interest: AI/Gen AI, connected vehicles / V2X, connected experiences / CX, smart interactive spaces, digital twin, advanced computer vision, Industry 4.0, AR/VR, security/identity, NDN, IBN, blockchain and quantum among others.

Youssef Kalad, Investor, AlleyCorp

Youssef Kalad is an Investor at AlleyCorp, a $600M venture fund and studio backing transformational companies. At AlleyCorp, he helped launch its Impact Investing vertical, where he backs early-stage founders building meaningful businesses that advance social and economic mobility across education, work, health equity, and government. Prior to AlleyCorp, Youssef worked on COVID-19 response for the Governor of New York, tech policy and startup attraction for the Mayor of New York, and product and growth for Uber pre-IPO. Youssef holds an MBA with Honors from the Wharton School and a BA in Public Policy with Honors from the University of Chicago.

Katie Nash, Senior Director, External Affairs, University City Science Center

Katie Nash leads government relations, public policy development, the public fundraising process, and direct regional economic development initiatives for the Science Center. She has 15 years of experience in nonprofit and government public engagement, policy development, program management, PR, communications, and marketing. Before coming to the Science Center, she served as Director of Public Engagement for the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, where she helped launch the Keystone Scholars universal at-birth higher education savings program and helped coordinate the Treasurer’s Task Force on Private Sector Retirement Security. She also held positions at the New York Lottery, the New York State Assembly, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Tereza Nemessanyi, Worldwide Partnerships Lead, Private Equity and Venture Capital, Microsoft

Tereza Nemessanyi leads Microsoft’s presence with startups in New York, helping them go further and faster by leveraging the best of Microsoft. A seasoned media and technology entrepreneur and executive, Tereza’s breadth and depth of experience across high-growth startups and the world’s largest enterprises is truly unique. Companies she has worked with, at senior levels, include PWC, IBM, The Walt Disney Company, Unilever, Symphony IRI, Interpublic Group, and the InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). She was a ground-floor member of a startup team which IPO’d (CETV), and in 2011 she was named one of Forbes “Ten Female Entrepreneurs to Watch.” Tereza is a sought-after speaker (TED, SXSW) and blogger (Reuters, Huffington Post). She holds an MBA from The Wharton School.

Serguei Netessine, Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions; Senior Vice Dean for Innovation and Global Initiatives

Serguei Netessine is Senior Vice Dean for Innovation and Global Initiatives and Professor at the Operations, Information and Decisions Department at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He lived and worked in Russia, USA, France and Singapore.

Prof. Netessine received BS/MS degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from Moscow Institute of Electronic Technology and, after working for Motorola and Lucent Technologies, he also received MS/Ph.D. degrees in Operations Management from the University of Rochester. His current research focuses on business model innovation and operational excellence and he worked on these topics with numerous government and Fortune-500 organizations including Federal Aviation Administration (USA), Government of Singapore, Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Rolls Royce, Comcast, Expedia, ABB and US Air Force. He serves on advisory boards of multiple startup companies and he is an active angel investor. Prof. Netessine also regularly participates in industry and government-organized forums on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, including World Economic Forum in Davos and World Knowledge Forum in Seoul. He was a member of the “Future of the Economy” committee for Singapore Government.

Hari Pujar, Operating Partner, Flagship Pioneering

Hari is Chief Operating Officer of Tessera, as well as Operating Partner at Flagship Pioneering. At Tessera, his responsibilities span across research, manufacturing, program strategy and management and IP. Hari is a global Biopharmaceutical executive with 20+ years of value creation in the biologics and vaccine industry.

Before Flagship, Hari served as Chief Technology Officer of Spark Therapeutics, leading the technical operations, process and technology development and quality assurance organizations. At Spark, Hari was responsible for growing and scaling the company’s cutting-edge technology capabilities for an expanding development pipeline.

Prior to Spark, Hari was head of Technical Development & Manufacturing at Moderna Therapeutics. At Moderna, he built and led the technology and early manufacturing organizations that delivered on supply for more than a dozen clinical programs in a brand-new technology area. Previously, Hari held a variety of scientific and cross-functional leadership positions during 18+ years at Merck & Co in the company’s commercial, R&D and manufacturing divisions, culminating in the franchise leadership of pediatric and adult vaccines representing over $2B in revenue.

Hari has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers.

Laura Plunkett, Executive Director of Startup Engagement and Head of LIFT Labs, Comcast NBCUniversal

Laura Plunkett is an Executive Director of Startup Engagement at Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs. In this role, she bridges Comcast and the startup ecosystem to identify opportunities that accelerate innovation to meet customer needs. Her experience in corporate development—including new market entry, new product/service development, technology commercialization, route to market optimization—enables her to forge pathways to cooperation between Comcast NBCUniversal and startups worldwide. She previously worked in finance and strategy roles with Saint-Gobain, CertainTeed, and more.

Valery Yakubovich, Executive Director, Mack Institute for Innovation Management; Senior Fellow, Wharton Center for Human Resources

Dr. Valery Yakubovich oversees all the Mack Institute’s programs and day-to-day operations. He focuses on bolstering synergy between the research, teaching, and practice of innovation management within the School; fostering dialogue between corporations and academics; and connecting with our corporate and regional partners’ innovation ecosystems.

Previously, he served as the founding executive director of Penn’s Computational Social Science Lab, where he oversaw the development of an innovative IT, data, and institutional infrastructure for large-scale open collaborative social sciences. He has diverse academic experience ranging from leading a national summer work program for university students in the former Soviet Union to conducting research, teaching, consulting, and fundraising at major academic and corporate institutions in the U.S. and Europe. Professor Yakubovich was on the management faculty of the Wharton School for several years, as well as the ESSEC Business School, where he was a full Professor of Management.

Professor Yakubovich holds an MS in mathematics from Moscow State University, an MA in sociology from the University of Warwick, and a PhD in sociology from Stanford University. His research on organizational innovations and social networks has appeared in top academic and practitioner journals, including American Sociological ReviewHuman RelationsOrganization ScienceHarvard Business Review, and California Management Review, and been featured in mass media, including the Financial Times and the New York Times.