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About Us

 
 
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Spark is a venture-backed start up run by an experienced team with great advisors.

 

Our Team

 
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Ben West, Founder & CEO

Ben has been playing with fire for decades, delivering cookstoves in the developing world, and reaching millions of people. In 2011, Ben launched EcoZoom, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells biomass cookstoves and solar products, primarily in developing countries. In 2015, Inc. 1000 named EcoZoom one of the fastest growing companies in the US. Ben opened offices in Mexico in 2011 and Kenya in 2013. Today, EcoZoom cookstoves are in 30 percent of all homes in Rwanda. Ben handed off company operations in early 2016 to focus on Spark.

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Steve Owen, VP of Hardware Engineering

Steve has a passion for barbecue and food. He is highly experience with metals in high-temp settings, and spent the last 18 months at a smart cooking startup where he completing proof-of-concept, prototyping, as well as selecting and recruiting manufacturing partners. He has extensive experience in new product introduction and taking consumer products through mass production. Steve spent 2.5 years at Amazon's Lab126 where be brought the 3rd generation Kindle to market, 2.5 years at FanTV, and 6.5 years at SurfaceInk working for customers like Apple, August and Synaptics. 

Advisors

 
 
   Alissa Sears      VP Strategy & Navigation, Christie & Co; Co-Founder, adVenturesAcademy   Alissa is experienced in Strategic Planning, Brand Strategy, Investor Relations, and Corporate Social Responsibility Program Development. She heads Christie & Co’s Strategic Planning and Growth Strategy Sectors and serves as the Executive Director of the Christie CommUnity Foundation. Alissa develops results-oriented strategies for natural products companies and impact investment groups, gourmet food products and outdoor companies, and conservation organizations. Alissa serves as founder, advisor, and board member to several organizations and is recognized as Forbes 25 Most Influential Kingmakers in Consumer and Retail

Alissa Sears

VP Strategy & Navigation, Christie & Co; Co-Founder, adVenturesAcademy

Alissa is experienced in Strategic Planning, Brand Strategy, Investor Relations, and Corporate Social Responsibility Program Development. She heads Christie & Co’s Strategic Planning and Growth Strategy Sectors and serves as the Executive Director of the Christie CommUnity Foundation. Alissa develops results-oriented strategies for natural products companies and impact investment groups, gourmet food products and outdoor companies, and conservation organizations. Alissa serves as founder, advisor, and board member to several organizations and is recognized as Forbes 25 Most Influential Kingmakers in Consumer and Retail

   Brad Otts     Owner, the Forge;    Previously Senior Sales Executive for TOMS   Brad was the Sr. Sales Executive for TOMS from 2006 - 2015. During this time he helped lead TOMS into what has become the fastest growing shoe brand in the world. For the past 10+ years he has been at the ground floor of sales leadership that has helped shape the “social entrepreneurship” movement. He has been a part of guiding, shaping, and leading sales organizations for companies such as TOMS, Apolis Global, Project 7, FEED, Falling Whistles, Kammok, Esperos Bags, CTC International, Rey Swimwear, CRU, and many more.

Brad Otts

Owner, the Forge;  Previously Senior Sales Executive for TOMS

Brad was the Sr. Sales Executive for TOMS from 2006 - 2015. During this time he helped lead TOMS into what has become the fastest growing shoe brand in the world. For the past 10+ years he has been at the ground floor of sales leadership that has helped shape the “social entrepreneurship” movement. He has been a part of guiding, shaping, and leading sales organizations for companies such as TOMS, Apolis Global, Project 7, FEED, Falling Whistles, Kammok, Esperos Bags, CTC International, Rey Swimwear, CRU, and many more.

   Dan Hill     Senior Operations, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Executive; Previously: VP of Operations at Traeger Grills   Dan has 25 years of experience in senior operations, manufacturing and supply chain positions. Dan was Executive VP of Operations at Traeger Grills from 2009 – 2011, and was a key part of their growth from $20M in sales in 2006 to $140M in sales in 2012 before the company sold. At Traeger, Dan cut costs by millions of dollars while achieving 100% year over year growth, as well as improving customer satisfaction and employee morale. Before Traeger, Dan ran worldwide printer manufacturing and logistics for Tektronix-Xerox.

Dan Hill

Senior Operations, Manufacturing, and Supply Chain Executive; Previously: VP of Operations at Traeger Grills

Dan has 25 years of experience in senior operations, manufacturing and supply chain positions. Dan was Executive VP of Operations at Traeger Grills from 2009 – 2011, and was a key part of their growth from $20M in sales in 2006 to $140M in sales in 2012 before the company sold. At Traeger, Dan cut costs by millions of dollars while achieving 100% year over year growth, as well as improving customer satisfaction and employee morale. Before Traeger, Dan ran worldwide printer manufacturing and logistics for Tektronix-Xerox.

 
 Dave Austin   Subscription Business Manager, HP   Dave is the ink Subscription Business Manager at HP. He helped launch the HP Instant Ink supplies subscription business in mid-2013 and scaled it internationally to 250k customers within one year. Now they have over 2M customers and are signing up 30k new customer per week. At HP he is currently responsible for business planning / metrics, managing in-market performance, forecasting, business intelligence, and marketing spend optimization. He has served in various roles within the marketing and business analytics teams at HP.

Dave Austin

Subscription Business Manager, HP

Dave is the ink Subscription Business Manager at HP. He helped launch the HP Instant Ink supplies subscription business in mid-2013 and scaled it internationally to 250k customers within one year. Now they have over 2M customers and are signing up 30k new customer per week. At HP he is currently responsible for business planning / metrics, managing in-market performance, forecasting, business intelligence, and marketing spend optimization. He has served in various roles within the marketing and business analytics teams at HP.

   James Trumbo     Chief Financial Officer, Owen Equipment; Previously: Chief Financial Officer, Traeger Grills   James is a senior financial executive with over 24 years of progressive experience across a broad array of industries.  James served as CFO of Traeger Grills from 2007 to 2010, as well as several other private equity sponsored companies over the last 10 years. James also served for 5 years as CFO of Instrument Sales and Service, Inc., a diversified auto part manufacturer and distributor and currently serves as CFO of Owen Equipment, a leading environmental maintenance heavy-equipment dealer.

James Trumbo

Chief Financial Officer, Owen Equipment; Previously: Chief Financial Officer, Traeger Grills

James is a senior financial executive with over 24 years of progressive experience across a broad array of industries.  James served as CFO of Traeger Grills from 2007 to 2010, as well as several other private equity sponsored companies over the last 10 years. James also served for 5 years as CFO of Instrument Sales and Service, Inc., a diversified auto part manufacturer and distributor and currently serves as CFO of Owen Equipment, a leading environmental maintenance heavy-equipment dealer.

   Sam Mankiewicz     Vice President of Engineering, Healthvana; Previously: Chief Technology Officer, Kiva   Sam was the 3rd engineer and CTO of Kiva for 8+ years where he helped build the systems and team that millions of lenders used to make over $750 million of small, interest-free loans to micro-entrepreneurs all over the world. In that role he honed his skills in growing engineering teams while growing the social enterprise. Sam believes that technology is arguably the most powerful tool in this day and age, and that it’s important we continue to use it to make the world a better place.

Sam Mankiewicz

Vice President of Engineering, Healthvana; Previously: Chief Technology Officer, Kiva

Sam was the 3rd engineer and CTO of Kiva for 8+ years where he helped build the systems and team that millions of lenders used to make over $750 million of small, interest-free loans to micro-entrepreneurs all over the world. In that role he honed his skills in growing engineering teams while growing the social enterprise. Sam believes that technology is arguably the most powerful tool in this day and age, and that it’s important we continue to use it to make the world a better place.

   Surj Patel     Technologist, Entrepreneur - Internet of Things; Previously: CEO and Co-Founder, SmartMocha   Surj Patel is a Portland, OR based technologist and entrepreneur. He is an alumni of the MIT Media Laboratory and Manchester University in the UK. He is also committed to helping Portland, OR entrepreneurs build their companies and expand the Oregon tax base. Surj has a 20 year career that spans Radar Defense, The BBC, Orange Imagineering, OReilly, GigaOM, Sharp Laboratories, Rigado, and his own companies. Surj is a doting father of two and passionate about IoT and realizing Donald Norman's vision of the "Invisible Computer". Surj still codes in secret.

Surj Patel

Technologist, Entrepreneur - Internet of Things; Previously: CEO and Co-Founder, SmartMocha

Surj Patel is a Portland, OR based technologist and entrepreneur. He is an alumni of the MIT Media Laboratory and Manchester University in the UK. He is also committed to helping Portland, OR entrepreneurs build their companies and expand the Oregon tax base. Surj has a 20 year career that spans Radar Defense, The BBC, Orange Imagineering, OReilly, GigaOM, Sharp Laboratories, Rigado, and his own companies. Surj is a doting father of two and passionate about IoT and realizing Donald Norman's vision of the "Invisible Computer". Surj still codes in secret.