About Us

Our Entrepreneurship Team

YSpace is York University’s innovation hub creating positive change by fostering a community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers. YSpace is home to YSpace Digital, a suite of virtual programs to support entrepreneurs from ideation to scale mode; YSpace Markham, a physical incubator space located in York Region to support market-ready ventures; and ELLA, Ontario's first accelerator focused on supporting women-led product and service-based businesses.

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David Kwok

Associate Director, Entrepreneurship

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David is a driven leader with an extensive background in strategic planning, innovation program creation, and partnership development. Since joining York University in 2017, David has Co-Founded York University’s first physical incubator space call YSpace in York Region and Ontario’s first Food & Beverage Accelerator focused on growth stage CPG ventures.

In addition, he now oversees the ELLA Women Accelerator program focused on supporting 70 women entrepreneurs to scale and grow annually. Prior to joining York University, David led the transformation of DMZ Sandbox into a renown startup and talent creation hub for Ryerson University. He also co-founded ZerotoStartup, an educational venture focused on creating curriculum for maker spaces upon graduation. He also served as an Advisory Board member for Pledges for Change, a community-based nonprofit focused on youth empowerment through volunteerism.

Olusegun Villasa

BEA Entrepreneurship Manager

Nafis Ahmed

Entrepreneurship Manager, YSpace

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Nafis joined York University in 2020 after spending 5 years with the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University - the world's first incubator dedicated to legal tech. Nafis is a driven leader with a strong background in developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, fueling startup growth, and building communities and has supported startups in various stages of their development across the GTA tech community.

Previous to the Legal Innovation Zone, Nafis was part of the operations team at The DMZ, and was also a Co-Founder of NuLens Innovation, using entrepreneurial frameworks to facilitate innovation projects and initiatives. He is deeply involved in startup and social innovation initiatives through his volunteer activities, and is passionate about supporting individuals pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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Judy Chang

CPG Program Advisor

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Judy Chang has over 20 years of experience in the food industry, with leading multiple businesses with Kraft & Mondelez, and working at the Nielsen Company as a VP in Analytics. She is an intrapreneur, with experience growing two divisions through double digit growth in revenue and fast-growing team to support.

Judy is also the Founder of Pivot Perspectives, a coaching and mentoring company for leaders and entrepreneurs. She is passionate about supporting startup companies to refine their business plans, creating a vision, and developing a high performing and engaged team to lead the charge.

Yanky Li

Tech Program Advisor

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Yanky believes in paying it forward to the startup community, which has helped him become the co-founder of OpenHouseAi. OpenHouseAi is a prop-tech startup revolutionizing the real estate industry by changing how homes are built and sold, leveraging advanced technology previously accessible only to large corporations.

Before building his venture, Yanky helped a fintech unicorn experience tremendous growth through advocating a new revenue stream. He established best practices, implementation methodologies while mentoring a team to deliver. As a Chartered Professional Accountant and a Project Management Professional, he has led many successful projects from all over the world, leveraging technology to solve business problems. He has always been an entrepreneur at heart and is driven by creating an impact for people and advocating for inclusive social change.

Galen Udell

Tech Program Advisor

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After a highly successful 25+ years with IBM Canada, IBM Corp (US), and Belden in the areas of new business development, marketing, and sales, Galen retired to start a second career as an entrepreneur, mentor and angel investor.

Throughout his corporate career, Galen specialized in bringing new products, services, and technology to market; from ideation, to strategy, to marketing, and eventually sales. He has received numerous corporate awards in the areas of new business development, strategic planning, channel management, and sales management. He is viewed as a leader in the IT industry for increasing sales, reducing costs, and improving customer satisfaction through the creation of new business partner programs, sales force automation tools, strategic customer relationships, and industry alliances, and has been recognized as a leader in high performance sales with a focus on customer collaboration, solution selling, and customer ROI.

In 2015, Galen founded Bark 'n Yapp, a marketplace start-up in the pet sector, and Novate Technologies, a consulting firm that helps SME’s leverage new technologies to expand their businesses. Galen now spends his time as the Executive Director of York Angel Investors, an Angel Investor, startup Advisor, and mentor for founders and entrepreneurs.

Bukola Adekanye

BEA Food Program Officer

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Bookie started her career in the Travels and Hospitality and Industry where she worked for over 15 years. She has a knack for Entrepreneurship and started her first business at 13, making and selling Freezies to other kids in the neighbourhood.

Bookie has worked within and outside paid employment to promote Entrepreneurship Development for underserved communities including youth, women and immigrant groups. She also created an information blog- smebizinfo.com for Small and Medium Entreprises, and facilitated collaborations between the public, private and non-profit sectors for Entrepreneurship Development.

Marlina Ramchandran

ELLA Entrepreneurship Manager

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Marlina Ramchandran has over 7 years of experience in building city-based entrepreneurial ecosystems, consulting academic institutes on campus ecosystem development, designing rewards and recognition programs for stakeholders and digitizing entrepreneurial learning content.

She has served on advisory board of Indian Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship’s YUVA Project which aimed at introducing outcome-based entrepreneurship education to 3000 academic campuses in India. She also mentors early-stage startups and is a regular speaker, judge, and panelist for several entrepreneurship events.

Youngmi Lee

YSpace Programs Assistant

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Before joining the team, you have seen her scrambling around the York University Bookstore, working hard to make sure that the students had access to everything they needed for the beginning of the school year. She was also an administrative assistant for the payroll & Records department of York University. Currently, Youngmi supports our work-integrated learning programs as a Program Assistant where she will assist in the organization of workshops and events, processing of financial records, and overall administrative work.

Youngmi has previously enjoyed helping people in need, working in other administrative capacities, and working with children in teaching the Korean language and culture. In her spare time, you will likely find Youngmi playing badminton or travelling the world and encountering new experiences.

Stephanie Simpson

YSpace Northern York Region Coordinator

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Stephanie is the Business Entrepreneurship Coordinator for the YSpace partnership program with The Town of Georgina and East Gwillimbury. As a small business owner herself, she understands the importance of support while starting a business and the benefits of entrepreneurship in growing communities.

She has extensive experience working with businesses through digital marketing and graphic design. Stephanie is motivated by helping others achieve their business and entrepreneurial goals.

Lamisaa Mahmud

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

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For over six years, Lamisaa has been a noteworthy leader in the creative space. She has extensive experience with developing digital marketing strategies for businesses within several industries such as food, fashion and educational, with her most recent experience being at York University. Within her role, she also spent an adequate amount of time mentoring and guiding international students throughout their academic stages by leveraging her own experience as an international student at York University.

Lamisaa brings together her passion for marketing and her desire to help people through creative content on her personal social media channels as a health and fitness advocate. She is highly motivated by helping those around her grow along with her.

Kanishia Mensah

BEA Programs & Events Coordinator

Mary Olabanwo

BEA Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Alina Ali

Student & Community Engagement Coordinator

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Alina is the Student & Community Engagement Coordinator at YSpace Markham. For over seven years, she has worked extensively in academia, developing student led initiatives and building communities that foster innovation, positivity, and inclusion.

Prior to joining York University, Alina worked as a Program Coordinator with Landed for Success, digitising learning content for entrepreneurs and start-ups, equipping them with the necessary marketing tools and strategies for growth.

She is extremely passionate about helping students, the community and individuals around her to succeed in their entrepreneurial journey.

Sudipra Saha

ELLA Program Coordinator

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Sudipra has been a prominent leader in the York University Community for over three years. She has extensive experience working with students and alums of York University. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and particularly women in entrepreneurship.

She worked hard to ensure that vulnerable students have access to education. She has mentored and guided many students within her role at York University.She is a recent graduate with innovative ideas, which makes her well-suited for this role at YSpace – York University’s entrepreneurship hub. Her passion for women's entrepreneurship and her extensive experience accelerating growth through change-making brings her to this role to support women entrepreneurs all over Southern Ontario in their journey to achieving their entrepreneurial goals.

Our Entrepreneurs in Residence

Our Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) will host office hours and provide continuous mentorship and support to your startup journey. Please know that all our EiR(s) have had experiences building and growing their companies. As an EiR(s), they are mentors and a resource to provide advice and guidance but are by no means meant to complete work on your behalf.

Our Technology EiRs

Laura van Wyngaarden

Co-Founder & COO, Diligen

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Laura is an entrepreneur and expert in artificial intelligence and legal technology. She’s the COO of Diligen, a leading artificial intelligence (AI) company transforming the way lawyers review contracts and a pioneer in the Legal Tech space. Laura is passionate about the connection between technology and human work, seeking to identify and explore innovative ways to reduce time and improve the accuracy of human tasks.

Prior to founding Diligen, Laura was the Managing Director of Distility. Laura holds undergraduate and honors degrees from the University of Cape Town and a Masters from Oxford University. She tweets as @lauravanwyn about legal technology, artificial intelligence and the future of work.

Rishabh Varshney

Co-Founder & CEO, Buy with Impact

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Rishabh was previously the CEO of Buy with Impact (acq.), a credit card which let members measure, reduce and offset their carbon footprint from their spending. Prior to BWI, Rishabh was the CEO of Lake Finance, working on bringing multi-asset wealth management to retail audiences. He also worked within the Facebook Messenger monetization team to scale revenue, and was the Chief Product Officer at Bunz.com, a bartering community which scaled to 500,000+ members in 250+ cities globally. Rishabh has been building and scaling teams across financial services, marketplaces and community-driven applications since 2010.

Helen Kontozopoulos

Chief Evangelist & Co-Founder, ODAIA Intelligence

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Helen co-founded ODAIA.ai in 2018, an AI-powered customer segmentation SaaS platform for Pharma companies to make better decisions about their customers. As Chief Evangelist, Helen brings her understanding of artificial intelligence, customer analytics and digital transformation to help sales and marketing teams adopt AI in their work; she's also developing new approaches for how these organizations can leverage data science and AI to achieve competitive advantage.

Helen has been advising artificial intelligence and emerging technology startups since 2014, including within in her own incubator, which she co-founded in 2015: The UofT's Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab (DCSIL). Where she supported students and faculty to commercialize their innovations.

Navin Kaminoulu

Co-Founder & COO, indus.ai

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Over the last 20+ years, Navin has been instrumental in building products & teams at three $20B+ market cap large public companies, maneuvered a turnaround for an early stage mobile application transportation business growing revenues by 500% in 3 years, and launched & sold a venture-backed artificial intelligence proptech to the world’s most widely used construction cloud B2B SaaS business. He is a 3X entrepreneur who has had the privilege of success through resiliency and failure.

He started his career in management consulting, where he was the key business and technology relationship manager for several initiatives helping deliver $200M+ business transformation projects. In 2014, he joined GreenOwl mobile where he directed the company’s hypergrowth leading to a strategic acquisition by Arcadis IBI Group (TSX:IBG). In 2017, he co-founded INDUS.AI, raised multiple rounds of venture capital, built & led several functions including Product, GTM & People ops, and guided the company’s strategic acquisition by Procore Technologies (PCOR:NYSE) in 2021.
Navin currently leads a 9 figure ARR product line at Procore Technologies and has helped scale revenues by 150% in less than 2 years coupled with 2X customer growth. He also maintains roles as a Board Advisor for the University of California Riverside Design thinking program, is an active community member & mentor at StartX (Stanford University’s technology accelerator), and serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence for YSpace at York University.

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Mick B

Founder & CEO, IAmI Authentications Inc.

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Mick Be is the CEO & Founder of IAmI Authentications, Inc. (“IAmI”), an Identity & Access Management cybersecurity company. Being a startup founder of 10+ yrs, Mick advises coaches, and mentors numerous technology-based startups of all sizes and business types. Over the last 2 years, Mick has been an EiR and key member of the YSpace community.

Mick began his entrepreneurial journey after having worked for the financial services and card payment industries as a product marketing executive. Since beginning his first company, he has pivoted twice and now leads a highly innovative cybersecurity company. Mick possesses a very strong knowledge base in business development strategy, marketing, sales, operational management, technology & security strategy, and relationship building/management. He continues to be front and center at the crossroads of advancing technologies and user experiences, with a particular focus on privacy and security.

Areas of expertise and interest include:

• Privacy & Security
• Business Strategies
• Go to Market Strategy

Erin Blaskie

Fractional CMO & Marketing Consultant

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Erin is a fractional CMO and marketing advisor, to startups and scale-ups, with nearly 20 years of experience. Erin launched her company in 2004 and spent nearly 15 years working with scale-ups in Silicon Valley and growing the personal brands of best-selling authors, speakers, and actors. Erin also spent some time working in a B2B SaaS accelerator before joining startup, Fellow, as their first head of marketing hire.

Today, Erin is back to her fractional CMO roots, working with high-growth companies, as well as teaching the next wave of digital marketing professionals.

Elliott Atkins

Co-Founder & CEO, Opilio Labs

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Elliott is an educator and serial entrepreneur. Elliott spent 20 years in sales and sales leadership roles with high-tech companies including Microsoft and Dell before catching the entrepreneurship bug. He started his first business, AddMirror, in 2019 and sold it in 2017 after hitting seven figure sales numbers. His current venture includes a patented smart home platform. Elliott has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and an MBA in Marketing from the Schulich School of Business.

Anita Chauhan

Director of Marketing, Fraction

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Anita is an award-winning marketer with international experience. She is passionate about education, content marketing, brand building and SaaS companies. She is a champion of building inclusive marketing departments and campaigns that can be used to inspire, connect and positively impact consumers. Her focuses include: messaging, positioning, GTM strategy and content marketing.

Anita has managed brands with $100MM+ in annual revenue across AI, tech, finance, lifestyle and end of life categories. Currently, she is the Director of Marketing at Fraction, a fintech company that provides fairer financial solutions to homeowners across North America.

Anita is passionate about diversity and inclusion and has been an advocate for women of colour in tech within the Toronto tech community.

Karen Lau

Co-Founder & CTO, Furnishr

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Karen Lau is the Cofounder and CTO of Furnishr. As one of Canada’s top growth companies in 2020, Furnishr is a tech-enabled furnishing solution for anyone who needs to furnish a room or the entire home. Focusing on operational efficiency and product development, Karen grew Furnishr’s operations to process $4m in revenue and deliveries with a team of 12. Karen is also a proud winner of 3 different startup pitches.

Muhammad Rashid

GM, Mortgage, Properly

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Muhammad is the GM, Mortgage at Properly. Properly is a Canadian real estate technology company that enables homeowners to buy when they find the home they love, move in, and then sell their old home from the comforts of their new one. Properly also offers Canada's most accurate home valuation report - homeowners can obtain a free and instant assessment of their home’s value that is always up-to-date. He is also a former founder with an exit under his belt.

Rohan Nair

Founder, Jointcare

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Rohan is the Founder and CEO of Jointcare, building machine learning tools for surgeons, and a Partner at Chai Ventures, which builds and advises companies in Fintech, Healthcare and HRTech. He was previously Head of Technology at Highline Beta, a Toronto-based VC firm, and has held numerous product and engineering leadership roles in Toronto-based startups.

Rohan’s advisory focuses are recruiting, and building high-performing engineering teams, GTM strategy, and early-stage fundraising.

Brent Stirling

VP of Growth & Sales, Shoelace

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Brent is a growth marketer with experience in performance, brand, design and UX and agency building. Proficient in driving successful full-funnel, end to end, omni-channel campaigns. Has managed upwards of $170M across social and search platforms. Previous stops at Shoelace and Shopify.

Emily Lonetto

Director of Growth, Voiceflow

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Emily is the Director of Community Growth at Webflow – a platform that enables anyone to design websites with no code. Previously she was the Director of Growth at Voiceflow, joining when they were a team of 5 and helping them reach over 85,000+ designers, developers and teams. Prior to Voiceflow, Emily was the second growth hire at Clio, the first at PartnerStack (YC’15) and helped to automate and scale Tilt (acquired by Airbnb, YC’12) through their global ambassador program. In her spare time, Emily is a speaker/advisor, and mentors early stage startups with their growth strategies.

Shubh Sidhu

Leading Growth, ZayZoon

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Shubh is an engineer by training who has spent a career in technology. He started his tech career spending 8 years in progressive roles at Mentor Engineering (later acquired by Constellation Software), 3 years at Rogers in Advanced Solutions, 3+ years building the sales and marketing functions at CovergentIS (top 500 growth company in Canada in 2018), and the last 3 years building the growth engine and team at ZayZoon. Shubh leads Sales, Marketing, Client Success and Revenue Operations at ZayZoon. He is passionate about the role FinTech can play in improving the lives of millions of employees. Outside of work, he's invested in being the best partner he can be, watching his kids be better than he ever could be, laughing with his friends, watching sports and eating chips. He has never met a microphone he hasn't liked.

Our Food and Beverage EiRs

Chris Rodkin

President of BritOn Solutions Group Inc.

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Chris Rodkin, President of BritOn Solutions Group IncChris is a Toronto native who has an extensive CPG based sales and marketing background. A passionate architect and builder, Chris loves the challenge of collaborating with his customers to help them sustainably overachieve and outperform.

Business Strategy | Pricing | E-commerce | Channel Strategy | Category Management | Consumer Research

Julie Bednarski

Founder/CEO at Healthy Crunch

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Julie Bednarski is a dynamic and energetic entrepreneur with almost ten years of experience in the food and nutrition industry. In July 2014, Julie started Healthy Crunch – as a way to satisfy her craving for super crunchy kale chips that were BIG in size and BIG in flavor. With Julie’s ambition for success Healthy Crunch grew to have over 25,000 points of distribution within Canada within the first 2 years in business. Healthy Crunch now distributes their products throughout the world including Canada, USA, Europe, and the Middle East. Since the start of her business, Julie continues to expand Healthy Crunch’s product lines to include coconut chips, trail mix, granola bars, rice crispy squares, chia jam, seed butter, instant lattes, kale chips, and dark chocolate fruit bites.

Business Strategy/KPI | Pricing | Category Management | Sales (Broker/Dist rel’n) | Innovation development | Marketing | Social Media | Financial | Inventory Control | Production Optimization | Co-packing

Iram Blajchman

Founder & CEO of MAAV Inc

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Iram Blajchman, founder & CEO of MAAV Inc, leverages almost 20 years of experience working in all facets of CPG sales to deploy resources that help brands both large and small execute growth strategies at retail. His experience, including leading sales teams for brands like Nivea and Philips, and running go to market strategies for Heinz, allow him to bring a wealth of knowledge to early stage brands, and he takes great pleasure in helping founders understand the marketplace, how to fund growth at retail, and avoid the pitfalls that can prevent brands from achieving their goals.

Business Strategy/KPI | Pricing | Category Management | Sales (Broker/Dist rel’n) | Leadership | Team-building | Negotiation | Retail Strategy and Execution | Commercial Strategy

Sheryl Johnson

President of Strategic Insight Marketing

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Sheryl Johnson is the founder and managing partner of Strategic Insight Marketing Inc. (SIM) a Toronto-based marketing consultancy and advertising firm, with informed expertise to also help clients reflect more mindful diversity and inclusion considerations in all their efforts and actions. Through her company Strategic Insight Marketing, Sheryl channels her 25+ years of business wisdom, agency experience, and personal passion to help clients reflect, engage and include the diverse audiences they serve in a more mindful way. Connecting brands to people and people to brands is Sheryl’s passion, rooted in her strong expertise in research, insights, strategy, execution, and measurement. She is known for re-building brands by turning data into insights and using those insights to action strategies for short-term and long-term growth. Sheryl has helped to build the equity, revenue and profit for a mix of global brands as a senior executive with Fortune 500 companies including Kraft, Kellogg’s, Intuit and Manulife.

Brittany Charlton

Founder of Ohh! Foods

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Brittany Charlton founded Ohh! Foods, a snacking company dedicated to creating tasty, allergen-friendly snacks for all! Since launching, Brittany has bootstrapped the company to national distribution in Canada with some of the top retailers: Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wholefoods and many other Canadian retailers. Developing her own food allergies at 18, led her to creating a world where Inclusive Snacking is possible!

Tara Longo

Founder of The Healthy Butcher

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Tara Longo is an entrepreneur with a deep passion for food. In early 2005, she became a leader in the food industry by opening the first Certified Organic retail store in Ontario called The Healthy Butcher. Over the next 15 years, she expanded into 3 locations in Toronto and Kitchener, and opened an online grocery delivery business. Moreover, she made an impact on how animals were raised, how farmers were treated, and how food was sold in Ontario.

Tara has a business education, with strong skills in finance and operations and has been recognized for her accomplishments several times, including Impact’s Green Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Star Women in Grocer, and Excellence in Corporate Responsibility Award. Tara brings her passion to the business community through various programs and groups working with entrepreneurs to help them succeed.

Daniel Bartek

Co-Founder & President of Iconic Brewing Company

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Daniel is a serial entrepreneur, proven operator and start-up investor in the CPG industry. He was the Co-Founder and President of Iconic Brewing Company when it merged with Ace Hill in 2020 to form Ace Beverage Group (ABG). In his current role as COO of ABG, Daniel is overseeing the operations of one of Canada’s fastest growing beverage makers today. ABG's portfolio of 6 brands with over 50 unique SKUs is generating over $100M in annualized retail sales. Daniel has held many roles throughout his entrepreneurial career but his main focus is on: innovation, early stage financing, supply chain negotiations, and profitability. Apart from his active role in the beverage alcohol space, Daniel is also a founding member of several fast-growing start-ups and serves as an active advisor and board member to help scale his portfolio of companies.

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