Investors And Mentors - Oberlin College LaunchU

Investors And Mentors

LaunchU is an intensive start-up Idea Lab and Accelerator designed to successfully launch Oberlin entrepreneurs. Culminating in a public pitch competition before a panel of potential investors on Saturday, February 1, 2014, LaunchU is a platform through which both aspiring and active Oberlin entrepreneurs refine their ventures, develop skills and networks, compete for $15,000 in funding and launch their businesses. LaunchU continues Oberlin’s tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship by launching start-ups across a full spectrum of business, social enterprise, and philanthropic opportunities. The applicant pool is: fully vetted; open only to Oberlin students, faculty, and alumni; includes a competitive application process, rigorous model and pitch coaching/development; and expert guidance/participation from successful alumni, faculty, and investors.


2014 Judging Panel 


Charles Birenbaum ’79

Chairman, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Northern California Office

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Charles Birenbaum is Chairman of the Northern California office of Greenberg Traurig. Previously, he served as Managing Partner of Winston & Strawn’s San Francisco office.

Birenbaum is an experienced labor and employment attorney who focuses his practice on traditional labor and employment law matters, and has wide-ranging experience litigating in state and federal courts. He is an experienced trial lawyer, having tried race harassment class actions, noncompetition trials, unfair labor practice hearings before the national Labor Relations Board, and multiple arbitrations. In the area of traditional labor law, Birenbaum has a broad array of experience in collective bargaining, union organizing, and trust fund litigation for employers in the construction, energy, health care, manufacturing, and service industries.

Charles Birenbaum received a BA in government with honors from Oberlin College in 1979 and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982.


Jonathan Broder ’80

Vice President Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail)

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Jonathan Broder has been with Conrail, a large U.S. freight railroad since 1988. He joined Conrail after five years in private law practice to manage the Company’s regulatory and commercial transaction practice. After CSX and Norfolk Southern acquired Conrail in 1999, Broder assumed additional duties and today manages the Company’s $1.2 billion real estate portfolio, industrial and business development opportunities, government and public affairs, and insurance procurement, while continuing to manage the legal function.

Broder was instrumental in negotiating the transaction that led to the creation of the Highline Park in New York City and authored “Deconstructing New York City’s High Line Park – The How, Why and Wherefore,” Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics, and Policy, Third Qtr. 2012, Vo. 79, No. 3.

Currently, Broder is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, PA.


Eugene Carr ’82

CEO and Founder, Patron Technology

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Eugene Carr is the CEO and founder of Patron Technology, LLC, an 12 year-old New York City-based technology company. Its flagship service is PatronManager CRM, a cloud-based CRM (customer relationship management) system that uniquely incorporates ticketing, subscriptions, fundraising, e-mail marketing, and staff collaboration on the platform. Initially developed for arts organizations and venues, PatronManager CRM is now available to all ticket-selling organizations.

Carr has been an innovator in the area of e-marketing for arts and cultural organizations since 1996, when he founded, an award-winning nationwide arts calendar and a pioneer in online event ticketing funded by and Comcast. Previously, he worked in arts management serving as the executive director of the American Symphony Orchestra from 1991 until he created

Eugene Carr is the author of Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century (2011), and he holds an MBA from Columbia Business School as well as undergraduate degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music.


Norman C. Craig ’53

Emeritus Robert and Eleanor Biggs Professor of Natural Science

Norman Craig is the Robert and Eleanor Biggs Professor of Natural Science, emeritus. He retired from the Oberlin College chemistry faculty in 2000 after teaching for 43 years. Since then, his major activity has been chemical research in cooperation with Oberlin students and professional colleagues in the U.S. and overseas. Research has focused on the exact structures of molecules that reveal subtle effects of electron distributions in bonds. This work depends on high-resolution molecular spectroscopy and advanced quantum chemical calculations.

He has also continued his interest in the history of chemistry with an emphasis on the technical work of Charles M. Hall. As part of this exploration, Craig has studied Hall’s patents and written about them. For celebrating Hall’s key patent as part of the Citation for Chemical Breakthrough Awards in 2009, he organized a symposium on entrepreneurial activity by Charles Hall in the 19th century and by others today.


Edward Fishman ’73

Managing Director, Cain Brothers & Company, LLC

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Since joining Cain Brothers in 1996, Edward Fishman has worked primarily with managed care organizations, hospitals, and physician practice clients on valuations, strategic planning, and mergers and acquisition transactions. He has represented numerous Blue Cross plans in mergers and acquisitions transactions, including BlueCross BlueShield of Massachusetts, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, Blue Cross of Vermont, Capital Blue Cross, and the District of Columbia. Other clients include John Deere, University of Michigan Health System, CIGNA Corporation, ConnectiCare, Innovative Health Strategies, as well as numerous nonprofit Medicaid managed care providers.

In his 27 years of experience in health care and capital finance, Fishman has worked on a broad variety of financing programs and is widely experienced in both capital markets transactions and mergers and acquisitions.

Fishman is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Oberlin College and he received an MBA from Harvard Business School.


Jeff Hanson ’80

President, Hanson Advisors Corp.

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Jeff Hanson has over 30 years of entrepreneurial, advisory/consulting, financial services, and institutional asset management operating experience. As the founder and president of Hanson Advisors, he partners with business owners/founders, investors, board directors, senior executives, management teams, and key individual contributors to design and execute profitable business development strategies, build key strategic partnerships/client relationships, manage transitions of business and operating platforms, lead high performing teams of professionals, and grow businesses/organizations both organically and strategically. He actively invests in, advises, and works with variety of early stage and developing companies.

He also co-founded Milestone Capital Management, an institutional money-management business serving the cash management and technology/service needs of a wide range of investors, including state and local governments, corporations, insurance companies, foundations and endowments, banks, family offices, and other institutional investors.

Hanson is co-author of Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart, a Harvard Business Review “best seller.” He earned a BA in English from Oberlin College and an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.


Chris Hausman’94

CEO, Circ-Cell Skincare LLC

Chris Hausman has more than 17 years of experience in business development, operational management, branding, and strategic marketing. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1994, Hausman helped launch SkinCeuticals, Inc., a company specializing in the research, development, and distribution of cosmeceuticals for skin care professionals. The company achieved distribution through over 4,500 dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and spas in the United States, and in over 35 countries worldwide. He led the company through successive years of meteoric double-digit growth until 2005 when the company was sold to L’Oreal. Assuming the role of General Manager, Hausman presided over L’Oreal’s SkinCeuticals division until 2006. He then served as the CEO of JARC Capital LLC, a small private-equity firm focused on nutrition, health, wellness, beauty, and education.

Hausman currently serves as the CEO of Circ-Cell Skincare LLC, which markets innovative skincare technologies to the luxury spa market. In addition to his role with Circ-Cell Skincare, he currently serves as a Director of Endless Beauty Media, an online resource for everything beauty, and as an advisor to Enlyten, a nutritional network marketing company.


Andrew Klingenstein P’12

Co-Founder, Fairfax Partners LLC

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Andrew Klingenstein has over 15 years of experience investing in and providing legal and business assistance to start-up companies in the D.C. area. For many years, he was a principal and co-founder of Fairfax Partners, a Virginia-based venture capital firm specializing in IT and healthcare companies.

Among his several philanthropic and investment objectives, Klingenstein has an interest in supporting technologies and organizations designed to improve public and private education. He currently serves on the boards of LearnZillion, an edtech company; Literacy Lab, a literacy-focused non-profit; and The Edmund Burke School.

Klingenstein previously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Prior to his tenure as a federal prosecutor, he was an associate at Hogan & Hartson. He holds a BA from Yale University and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law.


Ed McKelvey ’68

Visiting Professor of Economics, Oberlin College

Ed McKelvey is Visiting Professor of Economics at Oberlin College, where he teaches macroeconomics, money and banking, finance, and financial derivatives. He returned to Oberlin, his alma mater, in early 2011 after a 39-year career spent mostly in the financial sector.

After graduating magna cum laude with high honors in economics from Oberlin in 1968, McKelvey earned a PhD at Yale and taught at Williams College (1972-75). From there, he moved to the Federal Reserve Board where he covered nonbank financial institutions and supervised research on wages, prices, productivity, and the capital markets. After a brief stint at Fannie Mae, McKelvey joined the economics department at JP Morgan in October 1983 as co-head of research on US financial markets. In 1986 he moved to Goldman Sachs, where he managed the economic and financial forecast for the US economics team. Twice, in 2009 and 2011, this team won the Lawrence R. Klein award for best performance among Blue Chip forecasters. At Goldman McKelvey also advised clients on the economic outlook, served as desk economist for the equity and the fixed-income divisions, and wrote extensively on issues ranging from housing and consumer debt to inflation and productivity to monetary and fiscal policy.


John Puterbaugh ’91

Founder/EVP and Chief Digital Officer, Nellymoser

Member, Oberlin College, Alumni Council Conservatory Committee

John Puterbaugh co-founded Nellymoser in March of 2000. Nellymoser’s technology is in over 1 billion consumer products such as Adobe’s Flash Player, Xbox Live, Sony PlayStation, and Leapfrog. Before Nellymoser, Puterbaugh was part of the early team at Voxware, Inc., one of the first companies to provide Internet voice chat and real-time streaming solutions for companies such as Disney, Microsoft, Nokia, and Netscape.

Puterbaugh has taught courses and lectured on interdisciplinary topics related to music, computers, cognition, and entrepreneurship. He received an MA from Dartmouth College in eletro-acoustic music and an MA and PhD from Princeton in music and computers. At Oberlin, he was in the TIMARA program and studied music composition.


Daniel Reed

Managing Director, AmFam Ventures

Daniel Reed manages direct investments in early stage companies for American Family Insurance. He has worked as a strategy consultant with the Boston Consulting Group and in the strategy department at AmFam. Reed has experience as a principal in two start-up companies and has served as the board president for a statewide organization providing support for abused children. Additionally, his work history includes hospital administration at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and a career as a professional baseball player with the Baltimore Orioles.

Reed holds an MBA with a concentration in Strategic Management from the University of Chicago and an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.


Joseph Rubin

Founder and Senior Partner, Rubin & Bailin LLP

Director, Executive Training International, LLC

Joseph Rubin is a founder and Senior Partner of Rubin & Bailin, LLP. He specializes in startup ventures as well as international business transactions, and has acted as advisor and principal in the successful launching of numerous businesses in the U.S. and overseas.

He has been a co-founder or member of the Board of Directors of more than 20 companies, in such fields as medical and wellness, biotech, fast food, e-mail technology, real estate, and education. He has authored articles and conducted lectures on international law, on privatization, and he has been a visiting lecturer at The Wharton School, New York University, Rutgers, Fordham, and other universities, and taught at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Rubin received his law degree from Harvard Law School, and his BA, MIA, and MPhil degrees in political science and international relations from Columbia University.


Charles Stack

Founder and CEO, FlashStarts

Charles Stack is the co-founder and CEO of FlashStarts, an accelerator and consultancy for software startups. As a serial entrepreneur, startup advisor, and angel investor, he holds several patents and has founded and invested in many successful (and failed) ventures.

Recognized as a “Top 10 E-Business Innovator” by InfoWorld Magazine, Stack created the framework of online retailing with his creation of the first online bookstore, offered millions of books, comprehensive searching, collaborative recommendations (patented), shopping carts, price comparisons (patented), real-time credit card processing, and affiliate programs. It was acquired by CUC in early 1996 and subsequently by Barnes & Noble in 1998. In addition, he pioneered the concept of web services with Flashline. The enterprise software vendor was eventually acquired by Oracle in 2008, where it remains at the core of the company’s web services platform.

Stack received a BA in Arts Journalism from Kalamazoo College and a JD in Intellectual Property from Case Western Reserve University.


Gay R. Thomas ’82

Co-Director, Wisconsin Network for Research Support

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Following her graduation from Oberlin College with a BA in government, Gay Thomas went immediately to work on Capitol Hill. She spent six years in Washington, D.C. as a Legislative Assistant to Congressman Howard Wolpe. She moved on to serve as Director of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. before relocating to Madison, WI for graduate school.

Thomas received her Master’s in Health Management and Public Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her graduate program, she consulted with Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation, the Wisconsin Association of HMOs, and the Alliance (a cooperative of employers moving health care forward by controlling costs, improving quality, and engaging individuals in their health), in addition to working in a variety of research settings and positions around the UW-Madison campus. Currently she serves as co-Director of the Wisconsin Network for Research Support, an entrepreneurial center based at UW-Madison.


Jim Toth ’02

Angel Investor

Jim Toth has been a venture capitalist since 2006. Most recently, he was a Vice President at Investor Growth Capital, a $1.5 billion venture capital fund based in New York City.  Together with his team, he was responsible for investments in software, internet, and semiconductor companies that have generated proceeds in excess of $150 million.

Toth initially studied violin performance at Oberlin Conservatory, but graduated from Oberlin College with a major in Politics. Upon graduation, he worked at Morgan Stanley for several years, in both the technology and investment banking divisions. He is active in the arts, has several startup ventures, and enjoys mentoring startup CEOs.


Belinda Tsao Nivaggioli ’88

CEO and Chairman, Board of the Avicena Group

Member, Oberlin College, President’s Advisory Council

Belinda Tsao Nivaggioli serves as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of the Avicena Group. Prior to her current role, she served as the Company’s Chief Operating Officer from 2002 to 2004. During her tenure as COO, the company expanded its intellectual property portfolio and built a valuable pipeline of products including several drug candidates for the treatment of various neurological disorders.

Prior to joining Avicena, Tsao Nivaggioli served as Manager of Research and Development for Gillette’s Oral-B division, where she was responsible for new products from development through manufacture. While at Oral-B, she developed and commercialized several oral care products including Satin Floss(R) and Oral-B(R) Floss, the Company’s flagship dental floss.

Tsao Nivaggioli earned an AB, with honors, in chemistry from Oberlin College and a MS and PhD in bioorganic chemistry from the University of Toronto. She completed her post-doctoral research with Dr. Julius Rebek at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Alan Ginsberg 

Chairman TechCity Properties Inc. 


LaunchU also is expanding our network of select investors and mentors (both Oberlin alumni and other active investors/entrepreneurs) seeking unique access to and active engagement with a diverse portfolio of early-stage ventures and entrepreneurial teams. Investor involvement includes: attending the Pitch Competition in Oberlin or via the Internet; mentoring and investing in LaunchU start-ups beyond the competition; connecting through LaunchU in other specific/customized ways.

Interested in getting involved?

Send us an email via our contact page or,
RSVP for the LaunchU Pitch Competition