Bios

Jason Mandell, Partner and Co-Founder

Jason loves a good story. Ever since entering the world of tech PR 20+ years ago, he’s been fascinated by the constant wheels of innovation that push us all to think with wonder and excitement about what lies ahead. That curiosity led to his co-founding LaunchSquad in 2000 with a mission of helping new and fast-growing companies share their stories with—and change—the world. Over the years, Jason has worked with a countless number of breakthrough companies and technologies, from software and gaming to mobile and clean tech. He’s not partial; if it’s fresh, innovative and disruptive, he’s game.
Jason is relentless about working with his teams to do whatever it takes to take a company from unknown to market leader as quickly as possible. He’s played a key role in helping LaunchSquad grow to 100+ people, and has helped lead the finance and operations of the firm since the beginning. He’s known to use sports analogies (especially hockey) to espouse the merits of team-based thinking and a collaborative, we’re-in-it-together philosophy.
Jason currently serves on the Board of Directors of Hamilton Families, one of the largest homeless prevention organizations in California. He previously served on the board of the PR Council.
Prior to LaunchSquad, Jason spent five years at Schwartz Communications, where he worked with some of the hottest early Internet companies, including eBay and Lycos. In his pre-PR days, Jason interned for Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, delivered pizzas and even sold vacuum cleaners. He has a B.A. in Communications from Boston College

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Jesse Odell, Partner and Co-Founder

Jesse’s passion for PR began at the age of ten, when his mother Jan, a 25-year PR veteran, took him on his first press tour. Since that time, he has developed a fascination with communicating challenging technology stories to the media. Known for his energy and leadership, aggressive pitching style and no nonsense writing, Jesse has secured feature stories for clients in the nation’s most influential business publications, including The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes and Business 2.0, while placing numerous articles in scores of technology trades and broadcast media.

Jesse’s passion and excitement for new fresh stories pervades throughout the firm on a daily basis. Prior to co-founding LaunchSquad, Jesse was a manager at leading high tech PR firm Schwartz Communications, where he led some of the most successful accounts at the firm, including investment bank Volpe Brown Whelan, LoopNet and Digital Impact. Jesse previously worked at Ford Odell Group, a specialty PR firm in the Bay Area, where he ran the IT practice. He has a B.A. in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Brett Weiner, Partner

Brett joined LaunchSquad in mid-2001 as the firm’s fourth partner. Brett’s a talented PR strategist and works hand-in-hand with LaunchSquad clients to craft stories and PR programs. During his career, Brett’s worked with a diverse set of clients, from start-ups to established market leaders, to help create powerful communication programs that define and accelerate their businesses. At LaunchSquad, he also helps drive hiring and new business efforts.

Brett is known for his thoughtful and insightful advice and counsel and his dry sense of humor. Brett’s also a news junkie and still very much enjoys reading old-fashioned newspapers. Originally from the Boston area, he currently lives in the East Bay with his wife Hillary and their three children, Abigail, Hazel and Cameron. Brett is also an award-winning playwright and an avid amateur cook. By amateur, he means he likes to try new gadgets, difficult recipes, odd ingredients, and generally make a royal mess of the kitchen.

Before joining LaunchSquad, Brett was a vice president at PR firm Schwartz Communications. Prior to joining Schwartz, Brett promoted new technologies for Scitex in conjunction with the 1996 Summer Olympics and worked in marketing with Thomson Financial Services. He received a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Emory University in Atlanta.

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Meghan Cavanaugh, Senior Vice President, Talent

Cav joined LaunchSquad in 2008. Since her start at the Squad, she’s played a big role in building the team across three offices and multiple service areas. Cav is often the first and last person applicants communicate with during the hiring process. Besides talent acquisition, Cav oversees the day-to-day operations at LaunchSquad and is committed to making the Squad one of the best places to work. She’s open to suggestions and feedback.

Cav’s work history began at the Jersey Shore where she cleaned houses on Saturday mornings at age 12. From there, she moved on to passing out pretzel samples on the boardwalk, eventually going on to roll and sell the pretzels. By twenty-one, she’d graduated to serving breakfast plates and seafood dinners on a dock. Cav graduated from E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and French. She started her professional career at Reed Elsevier in Philadelphia where she worked in the Editorial and Marketing departments. When Cav arrived in SF, she worked for a tech start-up where she had the opportunity to do a deep dive into the human resources function of an organization.

When Cav grows up, she wants to be a writer. For now, she enjoys asking questions. What is your birth order in your family? When you sit down at the dinner table, how is the food served and at what point do you eat? What was your first job and how did you get it? If you had a dishwasher, how would you stack it? Tupac: dead or alive

Stop typing that introductory email. These aren’t Cav’s interview questions.

Mike Farber, Partner and Founder, Boston

Mike is partner and founder of LaunchSquad’s Boston office. Working closely with the San Francisco and New York teams, Mike is bringing the passion, ideas and energy of LaunchSquad to the vibrant Boston market.

Prior to joining LaunchSquad, Mike was a senior vice president at Schwartz Communications. In his fifteen years at Schwartz he launched scores of companies, guided four clients through successful IPOs and helped many others become acquired. Mike’s experience spans across multiple types of technologies, ranging from consumer to enterprise software to clean technology. He has also represented many services firms that partner with high-growth companies.

Mike helped lead the growth of Schwartz’s San Francisco office in the late 1990s and while there had the pleasure of working alongside Jason, Jesse, Throck, Brett and Gavin. As the communications world began the big changes it is still undergoing today, Mike spearheaded Schwartz’s efforts in offering new services, leading the government relations and search marketing programs. He has also spent time on the corporate side, serving as director of corporate communications at Revenio, a digital communications software company.

Holder of a JD from the University of Pennsylvania, Mike takes particular pride in orchestrating and helping execute the public communications around a recent landmark United States Supreme Court patent case, Bilski v. Kappos. Mike also has a B.A. in political science and communications from Boston College.

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Gavin Skillman, Senior Vice President, New York

With more than ten years of public relations and marketing communications experience, Gavin has an extensive background in the strategic planning and execution of media and industry analyst relations programs for both public and private B2B and technology companies. At LaunchSquad, Gavin leads the agency’s East Coast operations out of New York and manages several client accounts.

Before joining LaunchSquad, Gavin worked for four years at global PR firm Cohn & Wolfe, serving as a media expert and account manager for HP’s Enterprise Services division, Panasonic’s Toughbook notebook computer business, and MSN. Gavin was responsible for managing day-to-day account activities, developing media strategy, and driving business, trade and customer media relations. His efforts have resulted in feature coverage in major business and technology trade publications including Bloomberg, CNET, Computerworld, Financial Times, InformationWeek, Investor’s Business Daily, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

Prior to Cohn & Wolfe, Gavin was marketing director at Thoughtbubble Productions, a start-up digital media agency specializing in broadband content development, responsible for marketing, PR and Web site design. Gavin also served as PR director at Promotions.com, an Internet sweepstakes and promotions company, where he managed internal and external PR teams, implemented media relations and analyst relations campaigns, and developed a comprehensive corporate communications program during a successful IPO.

A graduate of Boston College, Gavin holds a B.A. in Communications.

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Daniel Paul, Senior Vice President, Finance and Operations

Daniel oversees the day-to-day financial activities for LaunchSquad, as well as contributes to the short and long term financial strategies for the firm. His career spans across 25 years of public and private company industry, in addition to Big Four experience. Daniel has held several senior financial, operational and administrative leadership roles with various high-growth Fortune 200, mid-sized, smaller and start-up companies.

Daniel’s career broadly spans verticals including public relations, internet-based services, retail, interior design and architecture, not-for-profit, consumer products, home improvement, manufacturing and wholesaling industries.

Daniel is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, where he earned a BS in Accounting and Business Administration from Duquesne University. He then went on to spend 18 years of his executive career in Chicago, IL prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2011.

Lisa Picasso

Lisa Picasso, Senior Vice President

Lisa is a senior vice president in the San Francisco office, helping lead LaunchSquad’s lifestyle division.

Since joining the Squad in 2009, she’s helped build the company’s consumer practice, working with almost 30 amazing brands that include the likes of American Giant, DreamWorks, Evernote, Fab.com, J.Hilburn and Trunk Club. With an expertise in brand strategy, messaging and creative campaigns, her first love is still pitching a really great story.

In her previous, New York City-based life, Lisa’s PR and marketing adventures spanned the tween accessories market at Dickies and Yak Pak, and book publicity at Oxford University Press. Note: she still misses Brooklyn. (And good pizza.)

Holding a journalism degree from the University of Kansas, Lisa is also a Jayhawk.

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Amy Burkhardt, Vice President

Amy joined LaunchSquad’s San Francisco office in 2011. As an avid reader and writer, she was drawn to the mission of telling compelling stories and wanted to work amongst creative, passionate storytellers. As VP of Human Resources, she’s devoted to helping people with all aspects of their lives at the Squad. Whether it’s hiring, staffing, employee relations, growth and development, or benefits and time off, she’s committed to making each and every member of the Squad feel valued and challenged.

Amy graduated from Bates College with a BA in English and minors in Dance and German. Like most English majors, she spent several years exploring different roles and industries — from selling educational travel to providing administrative and operations support for a research think tank to negotiating book deals as a literary agent — before finding her professional home. Her diverse background of experience informs her approach to making LaunchSquad a truly great place to work.

Amy is a lifelong devotee of the arts. In her free time, she takes dance classes, frequents art museums around SF and is a regular audience member at the SF Ballet. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and dabbles in fiction when she can.

Matt Calderone, Vice President

A vice president in LaunchSquad’s New York office, Matt has led results-driven PR programs for a range of clients including Endgame, Optoro, Clarabridge, Persado, Opower, and StellaService. Matt is passionate about working with innovative B2B companies to tell impactful stories about how technology is changing business and impacting society.

Matt has a diverse range of experience and has also worked with a number of consumer brands including Jet.com, Personal Capital, Beats by Dr. Dre, iLike and McIntosh Labs.

Before getting into PR Matt dabbled in television production, doing stints on the first season of Celebrity Apprentice and The Ultimate Road Trip, a show on the YES Network that followed four fans around to all 162 Yankees games. He graduated from The College of New Jersey with a B.A. in Communication Studies.

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Tessa Greenwood, Vice President

Tessa Greenwood is a vice president at LaunchSquad with a specialty in consumer technology. She loves a great story and feels blessed to work in a role where she gets to discover and share inspiring new narratives with the world. Tessa has more than ten years of experience marketing emerging and established brands, including American Giant, Boots Inc., Diapers.com, Dreamworks, Elizabeth Arden and Trunk Club. At LaunchSquad, she leads up the lifestyle division, where she blends killer media relations with creative content, events and social media to build cohesive communications programs that move the needle in this new media world.

A native Angeleno and graduate of New York University, Tessa now lives in San Francisco where she gets her kicks scouring flea markets, perfecting her backgammon game and planning her next everyday adventure.

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Jen Holmes, Vice President

Jen joined the Boston office as vice president in September 2013 after more than three years at LaunchSquad SF. She has worked with a diverse set of clients ranging from The Exploratorium to Joyent and Topsy, and can banter about STEM education, cloud infrastructure, and social marketing on demand. Jen loves crafting and telling stories about technology’s impact on society, and has a passion for working with companies that are using technology to solve problems in education and personal health.

Prior to joining LaunchSquad, Jen spent six years honing her marketing prowess at WGBH Boston where she handled publicity for American Experience, TV’s most-watched history series, and traveled around the country in search of buried treasure while on the road with Antiques Roadshow. A lifelong music fanatic, Jen got her first taste of PR and marketing when organizing indie punk shows across New Jersey’s finest firehouses and American Legions while still in high school. Jen holds a BA in Marketing Communications from Emerson College in Boston, and takes way too many pictures of her five year old black lab, Lucy.

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Kei Hoshino Quigley, Vice President

Kei is a vice president in the New York office. Since joining LaunchSquad in 2011, she has developed strategic PR programs for consumer and B2B clients from pre-launch to post-IPO. Kei works closely with company executives to develop the story and long-term strategy needed to establish newcomers and to move tech darlings into the mainstream. Her 15 years of experience in communications spans health, marketing and advertising, technology, food, finance and foreign direct investment.

Originally from New York City, Kei swears too much and speaks good German, terrible Russian and acceptable Japanese. She spent a year living in Berlin and a season working on an organic farm before her latest life adventure: being a mom.

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Corey Lewis, Vice President

Corey joined LaunchSquad in 2006 as an Account Associate and returns as a vice president in the San Francisco office. With more than ten years of experience working with growth-stage startups, he assists in leading the company’s B2B practice, working with deep technology companies to tell their stories.

First and foremost a storyteller, Corey got his start as a news and sports reporter after studying journalism at Western Washington University. Corey’s strengths lie in developing content marketing and media strategies, and carefully crafting brand voices and stories. He has worked with a wide range of clients including D-Wave, Amazon, SuccessFactors, Google, MarkLogic, Quixey, Flexport, LinkedIn and Credit Karma.

Corey is passionate about writing, technology, soup dumplings and Vietnamese noodles. He’s still not sure why Drake is so popular but understands that the times sometimes leave you behind.

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Jasmine Moir Firchau, Vice President, Content

Jasmine Moir Firchau brings a decade of experience leading editorial teams at print and digital lifestyle publications. She cut her proverbial teeth in city magazines, then spent seven years at Daily Candy, where she held every editorial position imaginable—ultimately helming the 30-person edit team as executive editor.

Counting herself lucky to have landed her dream job so early in her career, she then moved on to Martha Stewart, where she was the executive web editor, and Conde Nast, where she developed email newsletter programs for Glamour, Self and Lucky.

After dabbling in new and old media, Jasmine realized that what she loved most about lifestyle journalism was the challenge of creating a cohesive voice and point of view—essentially, brand building. She then joined Equinox as editorial director, where she created the company’s flagship media property, Q Mag. With its high-level fitness content and popular videos, Q has become integral to the company’s marketing strategy and is commonly cited as a marquee example of branded content.

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Brian Omlor, Creative Lead

Brian loves telling stories. Of course, they aren’t usually third-person, autobiographical ones, but here goes…

As head of the LaunchSquad creative department, Brian is always looking for cool ways to communicate visually and make ideas stick. Allergic to boredom, his work prior to LaunchSquad has run the gamut, creating content for small start-ups to big brands like Apple and The Food Network.

Brian is inspired by innovation and variety. And he’s surrounded by an amazing creative team who have knack for making him look way cooler and smarter than he is, a fact for which he is very grateful.

Brian also enjoys running, baseball, chess, and collecting vinyl records. He is undecided about dogs.

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Sara Pallas, Vice President

Sara is a vice president and helps lead LaunchSquad’s business technology practice. She enjoys breaking down complex technologies, understanding the business impact and telling stories that move companies from early innovators to market leaders. She has worked with companies including Coupa, Kaminario, Marketo, Okta, SuccessFactors and Zenefits.

“Schulte” (her maiden name) is a native of Palo Alto, CA, and grew up down the street from Steve Jobs and Steve Young, which may explain her early love for technology and sports. In her spare time, she reads Llama Llama books to her toddler (and Goldendoodle), coaches basketball (showcasing her J in the occasional pickup game) and beats her husband in Scattergories.

Follow her on Instagram (disclaimer: lots of goldendoodles + zero selfies) or email her.

Bobby Pierce, Vice President

Bobby is a vice president in the San Francisco office, helping lead LaunchSquad’s consumer practice. He has worked with apparel companies such as Allbirds, Chubbies, and Primary; entertainment companies such as GIPHY, MoviePass, Netflix, Vessel, and Within; and other consumer clients such as Headspace and iCracked. On the enterprise software side of things, he has led clients such as Marketo and ServiceMax through acquisitions and IPOs.

Prior to joining LaunchSquad, Bobby worked as director of communications on two U.S. House of Representatives campaigns.

Bobby graduated from Miami University where he studied International Relations and Art History. When not at work, he’s probably hanging out with his dog, Bodhi.

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Beth Sanzone, Vice President

Beth dreams and lives big and was inspired to jump headfirst into the tech world after hearing Sheryl Sandberg deliver her infamous ‘Ted Talk’. She’s passionate about working with companies that have change-the-world missions and enjoys a good challenge. Beth is known for building relationships and trust with her clients the old-fashioned way and providing candid yet diplomatic advice. She loves to deliver bold, but realizable strategies while also getting her hands dirty delivering results.

Before entering the world of start-ups, Beth spent a good portion of her career in the government most recently as the Communications Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Panama where she helped shape public diplomacy, which included serving as the chief speechwriter for the U.S. Ambassador. Additionally, she was the U.S. Embassy Spokesperson and Media Affairs Attaché in Kabul, Afghanistan during some of the most formative years after the initial invasion leading up to the first presidential election. Before her tour in Afghanistan, she served as Press Secretary for then U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel.

Beth also worked at APCO Worldwide, a global communications firm, located in Washington. D.C. At APCO, she provided Fortune-500 clients as well as non-profit organizations strategic counsel on communication strategy, crisis management, issue advocacy and corporate social responsibility.

Beth was born and raised in Nebraska and still has strong ties to the Cornhusker state. Her husband, son, daughter and English bulldog call Oakland home though and love spending their time together exploring hiking trails, playgrounds and restaurants.

Beth holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Master of Business Administration from Florida International University.

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Mike Schroeder, Vice President

Mike, a vice president at LaunchSquad’s New York office, has always had a passion for innovation and disruption. He began his career at Sirius Satellite Radio, where he worked to define an entirely new industry to a consumer audience. Since that time, he has always kept a keen eye on the horizon, searching for “the next big thing” that will ultimately transform the way we think, live and interact.

“Schroeder” is known for his big-picture ideas and story development, as he has a knack for boiling information down to the variables that matter. He excels at providing direct advice to clients on the strategy that will best align with their business objectives. Mike has been a member of the LaunchSquad New York team since June 2009. Prior to joining the company, he worked with brands including Beats Audio, Monster Cable, Denon, Marantz, AMD, McIntosh Audio, Sirius, and fuse TV.

Mike enjoys being active, and he can often be found playing in pickup basketball games in Brooklyn. A graduate of Fordham University in New York City, Mike holds a B.A. in Television and Radio.

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Rachel Shepheard, Vice President

Rachel is a VP in LaunchSquad’s San Francisco office where she leads a mix of accounts across the consumer and enterprise space. Rachel is passionate about working with mission-led companies and creating rich, story-driven programs that elevate brands and business leaders to new levels.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Rachel has had a varied career that has taken her around the world over the last 12 years. Before joining LaunchSquad, Rachel built and led the strategic sales team for Nearmap, an Australian visual analytics company, and helped expand the business into the US. Prior to that Rachel worked as a publicist for Text Publishing, one of Australia’s leading independent publishers, where she developed and executed strategic media campaigns for literary and nonfiction authors. She has also previously managed a community development program for Global Vision International in Kenya, interned at a small Brooklyn-based poetry press for one hot summer and, in her very first ‘real’ job, helped international academic publishers license their online content to universities in Australia and New Zealand.

Rachel holds a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. in Editing and Communications from the University of Melbourne as well as a half completed M.B.A. from the University of New South Wales, which she hopes to get back to one day.

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Dana Zemack, Vice President

Dana has a special place in her heart for dreaming up meaningful and unexpected ways to tell interesting stories. She first joined LaunchSquad in San Francisco in 2008 and has now returned as a VP in LaunchSquad’s New York office. She brings over a decade of experience working with consumer companies in a huge range of capacities, from strategy to media relations to branding to content marketing. There are two common threads that run through all of her work, and they are story and soul.

She started her career peddling books about witchcraft as a publicist at a new age publishing company before moving on to become a nationally recognized chocolate expert and running her own lifestyle PR practice in Boston. She then joined LaunchSquad and transitioned to the world of technology. Dana was also head of creative services at technology PR firm SutherlandGold before returning to LaunchSquad in 2017.

In her free time, Dana draws comics about her feelings and posts them on the Internet.

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