An eclectic and impressive gathering of individuals from various walks of life will gather in Philadelphia for the Greek America Foundation’s National Innovation Conference that will take place at the Temple University Performing Arts Center, the historic landmark that was the original building from where the university was founded more than 130 years ago.
In addition to dynamic speakers, two hour-long panels will take place gathering a stellar group of business, science, food industry, academic and education specialists and leaders of social entrepreneurship.
NIC 2018 Speakers
John Roa is a lifelong entrepreneur, technologist, philanthropist and business investor. He has founded and run six technology companies since the age of 14. His largest company, ÄKTA, went on to be one of the fastest growing companies in America in both 2013 and 2014, and was fully acquired by Salesforce Inc. in September 2015.
Outside of business, John is a passionate activist and philanthropist, having been a partner and donor to dozens of non-profit organizations as well as founding and running his own non-profit organization, Digital Hope. Digital Hope focuses on building a digital bridge between international NGOs with high levels of impact but little means of fundraising, and passionate micro investors in America and Europe. Digital Hope successfully executed projects with orphanages, wildlife sanctuaries, schools, anti-trafficking centers, rehabilitation centers, and more, in over a dozen countries.
An avid and adventurous world-traveler, John has found his way to over 50 countries, whether by backpack or briefcase. His travels inspired his passion in photography, resulting in features in publications like National Geographic.
After committing to take a hiatus from technology startups after selling ÄKTA, he founded Roa Ventures, focused on early-stage investments, projects and experiments in lifestyle companies. Initial outside investments included Ellison (luxury eyewear handmade in Greece), The Grand Voyage (designer footwear made in Italy), an unnamed hospitality project in Beverly Hills, and others. He then focused on investments in Mykonos, Greece.
He created a real estate development arm of his enterprise and is currently developing a number of luxury villas on the island, as well as becoming an owner of the largest beach club, and opening a high-end beach retail store. He also spends his summers there.
Roa is also authoring a memoir on his experience of running and selling his latest business, that will be released in 2018.
Although bacterial meningitis took 100% of Elena LaQuatra’s hearing and balance at age four, she didn’t let that hold her back. After extreme rehabilitative measures, including numerous surgeries, Elena now hears with a Cochlear Implant. She attended the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech in Pittsburgh for four years to regain her listening and spoken language skills. She spent her teenage years competing in pageants, winning the prestigious titles of Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen in 2007 under the Miss America Scholarship Organization and placing 2nd runner-up at nationals, and Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA in 2010 under the Miss Universe Organization.
In 2016, she held the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA and represented the state at the Miss USA pageant televised live on FOX from Las Vegas. She was also a “theater kid”, performing in over two dozen musicals throughout numerous states. She danced her entire life, winning numerous awards for choreography as a member of the Mt. Lebanon High School Dance Company and performed as a member of the Mt. Lebanon Percussion Ensemble. In college, Elena made her reality TV debut as a contestant on Greece’s Next Top Model Season 2 and had a pivotal role as a “coach” on an episode of MTV’s “Made.”
She is the Mistress of Ceremonies for fundraising galas nationwide, host and spokesperson for various projects and businesses across the tri-state region, an ambassador to numerous non-profit organizations, and works as an agency-signed model for major companies. In 2013, Elena was the top fundraiser for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s “Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest” program. In 2016, she was named one of Whirl Magazine’s “13 Under 30”, appearing as their cover model, one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 Under 40”, and one of the National Herald’s “40 Under 40”.
She graduated from Point Park University, obtaining her Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications in 2014. Shortly after, she landed her first job as a Digital Video Reporter for Pittsburgh’s online lifestyle and entertainment channel, 4the412 for WTAE-TV. Most recently, she was hired as a full-time General Assignment Reporter and fill-in Anchor by Erie, Pennsylvania’s ABC and FOX affiliate, WJET-TV.
Athan Stephanopoulos is President of NowThis, a millennial-focused news and media company that creates content for the social, mobile generation by informing, educating and inspiring its audience about what’s happening and important in the world right now.
Stephanopoulos oversees all operations of the company, which has more than 30 million social followers and delivers more than 2.5 billion monthly video views across its eleven content vertical, including: News, Politics, Entertainment, Future, Her, Money, Sports, Food and more.
Previously, Stephanopoulos was the Founder and CEO of a Cliptamatic, a social video distribution platform that was acquired by NowThis in 2014. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business in New York City, where he teaches courses on Media Entrepreneurship and Social Media. Stephanopoulos lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
Gus Kalaris is the founder and owner of Constantine Wines, a wine distribution and import company founded in 1986 that has enjoyed a great reputation for premium offerings. Under his leadership, Constantine Wines has enjoyed decades of uninterrupted growth.
Gus, a Greek American, born in Washington, DC is fluent in the Greek language and dedicated to his heritage. Kalaris has received numerous awards and national recognition for his charitable endeavors and serves on many charitable and philanthropic boards including Cystic Fibrosis and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Kalaris founded Axios, a luxury Napa Valley wine brand in 1999 to much acclaim. The success of Axios has spawned the Worthy, Truth, Kalaris and Telios brands. In 2013, Kalaris purchased a home surrounded by over 10 acres of vineyards in Calistoga. His goal is to produce a world class Pomerol-style red blend from the estate under the Kalaris label.
A powerhouse collaboration between proprietor Gus Kalaris and winemaker Bob Egelhoff, Axios is a super premium Cabernet Sauvignon of Napa Valley “cult” status. Axios, meaning worthy in Greek, reflects Gus’ vision to craft a wine of Bordeaux influence that represents the richness of its’ Napa Valley origin. This wine was proudly served at The White House.
Gus’ wines have received top awards and rankings from some of the world’s most discerning wine critics, including 97 points and a platinum award from the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition; 95 Points from Robert Parker, Wine Advocate; 95 points from Robert Whitley; and 91 points from Wine + Spirits.
Peter M. Polydor is the Founder and President of Ergo Holdings, a privately-held group of companies in capital, tech and real estate sectors. He is the CEO of their venture arm Ergo Capital and startup accelerator Ergo Accel which focus on investments in tech and other high-growth sectors. In addition to his work at Ergo Capital, Peter is the Founder of the Eureka Building, a 3-acre tech hub meant to foster innovation and entrepreneurs in Orange County.
As well, he is a Professor of Practice in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Wales and President of Ergo Properties. Prior to ERGO, Peter was Vice President of a cleantech venture capital firm where he reviewed new investment opportunities, accelerated business plans and formed strategic partnerships. Preceding his work in venture capital, he conducted market research at Citigroup, policy research at the US House of Representatives and successfully founded and sold a web-services company.
Further to his work at Ergo, Peter advised the University of Oxford Seed Fund, is a Charter Member of the Canadian C100, recipient of the Greek America 40 Under 40 award, the Power 30 Under 30 award and Founder of Accelerate Greece. He is a former member of the Occidental College Board of Governors, American Hellenic Council Board of Directors and Investment Committee of the MaRS Investor Accelerator Fund. Peter was an Edmonson Fellow at the University of Southern California, received his BA in Political Science from Occidental College and his MBA from the University of Oxford, Said Business School.
Arianna Huffington (via video)
Arianna Huffington is the founder of The Huffington Post, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and the author of fifteen books, including, most recently, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.
In May 2005, she launched The Huffington Post, a news and blog site that quickly became one of the most widely-read, linked to, and frequently-cited media brands on the Internet, and in 2012 won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. In August 2016, she launched Thrive Global, a corporate and consumer well-being and productivity platform with the mission of changing the way we work and live by ending the collective delusion that burnout is the price we must pay for success. Thrive Global provides trainings, seminars, e-courses, coaching and ongoing support based on the latest scientific findings to improve people’s health and increase productivity for both companies and individuals around the world.
She has been named to Time Magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people and the Forbes Most Powerful Women list. Originally from Greece, she moved to England when she was 16 and graduated from Cambridge University with an M.A. in economics. At 21, she became president of the famed debating society, the Cambridge Union. She serves on numerous boards, including Uber and The Center for Public Integrity.
Her last two books, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder and The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time, on the science, history and mystery of sleep, both became instant international bestsellers.
Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt (via Video)
Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic in September 2016. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2013-2016, receiving the State Department’s Robert Frasure Memorial Award in recognition of his commitment to peace and alleviation of human suffering in eastern Ukraine.
Previously, Ambassador Pyatt was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs from 2010-2013. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna, Austria from 2007 to 2010. He also served at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India as Deputy Chief of Mission from 2006 to 2007 and as Political Counselor from 2002 to 2006.
Ambassador Pyatt served as Economic Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong from 1999 to 2002 and as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan from 1997 to 1999. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1989, he has also served on the National Security Council staff, on the staff of Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott and at posts in Honduras and India.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked with The Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank that brings together leading citizens of the Americas. Ambassador Pyatt grew up in La Jolla, California and holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from Yale and B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.
Panel “FOOD 2.0”
Not your papou’s diner anymore, these eight dynamic, innovative food industry professionals have taken the Greek food experience in North America to new heights. With food playing such an integral role in our past, as well as our present and future as a community, we’re expecting a dynamic conversation about breaking stereotypes– not plates– and solidifying the significance of Greek North Americans in the food industry.
Chef Maria Loi
Chef, Restaurateur, Greek food ambassador, author, healthy lifestyle Expert (New York, NY)
Owner and President of America’s Dog & Burger, Co-Owner of TAG Restaurants (Chicago, IL)
Founder and CEO of Souvla (San Francisco, CA)
Co-Owner and CEO of Saloniki Greek, Owner and Founder of Trade and Porto (Boston, MA)
Owner of Mamakas Taverna and Agora by Mamakas (Toronto, ON)
Social entrepreneur, founder of New City Microcreamery (Hudson, MA)
Co-Founder of Finest Roots spirits company (Athens, Greece)
Master olive oil producer and founder of Liokareas Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Mani, Greece (Pittsburgh, PA)
Panel: “Slay in your Lane!”
Four dynamic women who are thriving in the era of the “MeToo movement.” They’ve shattered glass and marble ceilings with their success. How did they do it? What are some of their take-aways for others following in their footsteps? These four women from diverse walks of life and experiences share some surprisingly similar experiences.
Moderator: Fotini Iconomopoulos
Partner at META Modern Health (Core Fitness Chicago), Co-founder at PAWS Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Social entrepreneur, philanthropist and humanitarian, Author, Activist, Founder of Kids Work it Out, The Cuddlers (Detroit, MI)
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni
Dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University (Toronto, ON)
Dr. Angeline Beltsos
CEO and Medical Director of Vios Fertility Institute (Chicago, IL)
In addition to our speakers, two panels will take place, as will a special children’s program called Camp NIC. Click here for details.
See the complete schedule for the 2018 National Innovation Conference here.
For tickets and more information click here.