Meet the Team
CEO / Co-Founder, James Gwertzman
James Gwertzman is a seasoned technology entrepreneur and executive, with 15 years of experience in the game industry. Prior to founding PlayFab, James started and ran PopCap Asia, headquartered in Shanghai, with offices in Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore. At PopCap, James witnessed firsthand the challenges facing traditional game developers making the transition to games-as-services, and in particular the challenges of building and operating profitable free-to-play games. PopCap China achieved distinction as one of very few western game developers to build a profitable presence in China.
James joined PopCap in 2005 when it acquired Sprout Games, the casual game developer he had co-founded in 2003. He also co-founded console game developer Escape Factory in 2000. Prior to entering the game industry, he worked on server technologies at Microsoft, receiving 2 patents for web personalization work he led for MSN.
Additionally, James is an advisor to Code.org, where he served in 2013 as Chief Evangelist, running the successful Hour of Code initiative which resulted in more than 20 million K-12 students experiencing their first hour-long introduction to computer programming. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a computer science degree in 1995.
CTO / Co-Founder, Matt Augustine
Matt is the original creator and architect of PlayFab, back when it was still a part of Uber Entertainment. He transferred to PlayFab when it was spun out, and continues to oversee all design and engineering of the core services. He cut his teeth at Microsoft, where he worked on several large-scale projects including docs.com, a site for creating and sharing Microsoft Office documents on Facebook, Live Mesh, a product for synchronizing and sharing files and folders in the cloud, and the account system for Messenger and Hotmail, a system that he helped scale from zero to over 250 million users with minimal downtime. And speaking of downtime, he has none. But if he did, it would go directly to his wife and two children.
Sr. Software Engineer, Melissa Benua
Melissa has been a developer for nine years. In that time she’s been a developer, an sdet, Dev Ops, and even a little PM work thrown in for color. She was on the team that launched from Live Search to Bing, took over the Yahoo traffic, launched the Xbox One speech services, and shipped Cortana. In one year, she was responsible both for the biggest increase in Bing’s uptime, and one of its biggest outages. She’s really passionate about distributed computing–every day brings us one step closer to being the Borg (in a good way!). When not riding her Lipizzaner mare, Melissa is introducing her daughter to the world’s best science fiction, or gaming over said daughter’s sleeping head.
Sr. Software Engineer (SDK), Paul Gilmore
Paul has been a game programmer for over 7 years working on MMOs. Past employers include CCP and Goblinworks, with past projects including EVE Online, World of Darkness, and Pathfinder Online.
Business Development, Anthony Jacobson
Anthony was previously Head of Business Development and Publisher Relations at Skillz, the mobile gaming cash tournament platform. Prior to that Anthony was SVP of Business Development at video game publisher Atari where he was instrumental in a wide variety of projects including establishing pipelines of mobile, social, console, and PC titles. Before Atari, Anthony was an SVP at G-Cluster, the first cloud gaming service, which is owned by Softbank. Additionally, Anthony was the founder and CEO of Shanghai game developer, Spicy Horse Games, as well as TMIEC, one of the video game industry’s first production company focused on outsourcing original intellectual property multi-platform development.
Sr. Software Engineer, Siva Katir
Siva has over a decade of experience developing web applications. He has designed and developed several high availability cloud systems to synchronize order and inventory data between multiple companies and retail locations in real time. He is passionate about programming, learning new things and new ways to program, and sharing his knowledge to help other programmers. He also loves travel, exploring the great outdoors, swimming in the ocean, and snorkeling. He plans to add scuba diving to the list this summer. Siva isn’t just a celebrated programmer; as an infantryman in the U.S. Army, Siva was awarded a commendation for saving a truck and its passengers from drowning in a swamp.
Sr. Software Engineer, Calvin Kong
Calvin is a full-stack developer building highly-reliable, large-scale distributed systems, most recently for 6 years at Microsoft on the cloud infrastructure team. He was one of the earliest developers and key contributors for the cutting-edge cloud deployment technology currently used at Microsoft, and is passionate about building technology that makes wild imaginings and little dreams possible, on a massive scale. He’s also quite the pool shark (his team took 1st place in locally, and 16th place nationally), speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese, and is a certified 75th-generation descendant of Confucius.
Executive Assistant/Office Admin, Adrienne MacIain
Adrienne was raised in a bed & breakfast, and thus trained as a concierge, booking agent, hostess, and entertainer from age 8. Since then she’s lived on three continents, gotten a Fulbright and a PhD, and become a pseudo-celebrity in certain areas of Francophone West Africa. But she never lost her passion for hospitality, now applied to making our office a welcoming, efficient and creative space. In her free time Adrienne is a voice-over artist (you might recognize her as Artemis from SMNC), actress (her party trick is accents), murder mystery hostess, and singer in a pop/rock cover band.
Sr. Front-End Web Developer, Jordan Roher
Jordan is a front-end web developer and avid gamer. He strives for straightforward interfaces tailored for their users. While he might be the last person on Earth who can program in ColdFusion, he turned down that rare and rarely lucrative career to work on HaloWaypoint.com and other Microsoft properties. Now his free time involves recabling his living room, slogging through From Software titles, and worrying how many digits to specify when laying out grids in CSS.
Software engineer, Zach Stone
Zach is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University having completed a combined bachelors/masters in math. He’s a third-generation programmer (from both sides!) who has been coding since age 12. He is passionate about using math to solve the weirdest and hardest problems in programming. He has lived all across the US, in Seattle, Berkeley, New Hampshire, New York, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. When he’s not programming, he’s either playing funk on his bass or studying functional analysis.
GM of Europe, Mark Val
Mark is the rare executive who can jump from writing code, to running multimillion dollar online user projects, to collaborating on long-term strategy. Mark built studios for Ubisoft and Unity, while leading departments and pushing limits at UNESCO, Marketel, Cosette, and others. His client list includes Mentos, Air Canada, Cadillac, L’Oreal, Maybeline, Rogers and more than 40 others. He has lived and worked in Zurich, London, Boston, Vancouver, Montreal, Samoa, Singapore, and now Berlin. Mark is responsible for expanding PlayFab into Europe, winning over both developers and partners. When Mark isn’t geeking out over the latest technology, he is testing the limits of his adrenal system via extreme sports.
Sr. Engineer, Developer Success, Brendan Vanous
Brendan fled the world of embedded systems to join the venerable Sierra On-Line as a game developer in the mid-90s, and after 20 years in the industry he’s still loving it. He is extremely passionate about helping developers bring their games to life using PlayFab’s services. He played a similar role at Microsoft where, as Lead Developer in Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Group, he spent 7 years as a key technical representative to developers around the world for networking and Xbox Live, helping them to use Microsoft technologies to solve hard problems and bring new features into existence. In addition to playing video games, Brendan does kendo, and is currently 3 dan. He has also done voice-over and FMV acting for several video games including multiple characters in Shivers II: Harvest of Souls.
Engineering Manager (Dev Tools), Marco Williams
Marco Williams is a full stack developer and has over 15 years of programming experience. He is a nerd at heart, loves games and gaming. He has a passion for game development and has over 4 years of experience building and publishing games. In addition to his nerdy-ness, he loves the outdoors and will jump at the chance for a camping trip.
Mitch Lasky is a General Partner at Benchmark. He has led Benchmark’s investments in and holds board seats with Snapchat, Cyanogen, Hammer & Chisel, EngineYard, thatgamecompany, Meteor Entertainment, Red Robot Labs, and Learnist (formerly Grockit). Prior to their exits, he also held board seats with NaturalMotion Games (Zynga), Gaikai (Sony), and Riot Games (Tencent).
Mitch has spent more than two decades in the mobile gaming, new media and interactive entertainment business. Prior to joining Benchmark, Mitch served as executive vice president of Mobile and Online at Electronic Arts. Previously, he was chairman and chief executive officer of JAMDAT Mobile (NASDAQ: JMDT), which he joined as a startup in 2000, took public in 2004, and sold to EA in 2006.
Prior to JAMDAT, Mitch served as general manager of eCompanies Wireless LLC, a startup incubator. He also spent five years at Activision, the world’s largest game publisher, most recently as executive vice president of Worldwide Studios. Earlier in his career, Mitch practiced intellectual property law, worked at the Walt Disney Company and started a massively multiplayer online game company.
Emily Greer co-founded Kongregate in 2006 with her brother Jim and took over as CEO in February 2014. She led the GameStop-owned company’s rapid rise as a free-to-play web destination as well as the expansion to mobile, overseeing most day-to-day operations, including product development, game development, game publishing, marketing, community and monetization.
Emily has become a leader in the game industry with her presentations on the economics and psychology of free-to-play games and is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences. She was the recipient of the GameChangeHers award for women in gaming in 2012 and was named by Fortune as one of the 10 most powerful women in gaming in 2013.
A serial entrepreneur with a proven track record and skill set that spans game and real-time 3D engine design, software and business development, crowdfunding, virtual reality technology, and web and back-end services development, Bob has been a leader in the software industry for over two decades. Having founded and managed various gaming and game service companies including Uber Entertainment and PlayFab, which spun out of Uber in early 2014, Bob is now onto his 4th company with Envelop VR. Envelop VR is a software company creating new ways for businesses and consumers to use virtual reality as a platform to work, create, and play. A Ph.D candidate at Gifu University in Japan, Bob studied virtual reality in the late 90s, and is leveraging this considerable experience to create enterprise and productivity software that takes advantage of the strengths of VR, producing experiences that are simply impossible in other mediums, all while making it easier to create these experiences. A key feature of the software will allow virtual reality (VR) content developers to work and create content while in their own 3D, immersive environment (VRinVR).
Tim is a Managing Director at Startup Capital Ventures. He serves, or has served as a Director of several of the firm’s investments including PlayFab, Adama Materials, Silvertail Systems (acquired by EMC), TagArray (acquired by MXIM) and TuneIn. He is also a limited partner in Advanced Technology Ventures.
Prior to SCV, Tim led the turn-around of Dali Wireless, founded Hawaii Superferry in 2001 as CEO, co-founded and was President of Grassroots.com the leading political web technology company (acquired by Edelman). He also founded WorldPages, the internet’s first white & yellow pages, co-founded TRUSTe.org, and was the first investor and advisor to Match.com and a Director of Accept.com (acquired by AMZN).
Tim serves as Chairman of Entrepreneurs Foundation of Hawaii, is a board member of HiBEAM (nonprofit), and is an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at the University of Hawaii Association and serves on the selection and mentoring committees of Blue Startups, and the Energy Excelerator. He is a founding Board Member of Reef Check Hawaii and a member of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association (HVCA). In between meetings, Tim is an avid sailor and cyclist.
Tim holds an MBA from Stanford University and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine where he founded the UCI Cycling Team.
Matthew is CEO and Founder of Spare5, an on-demand insights platform that solves big data problems via peoples’ free time. Previously he was the Senior Vice President for Product and Customer Experience at Getty Images. Prior to joining Getty, Matt was the General Manager for Xbox Live, defining its business strategy, product requirements, and leading its subscriptions business and global customer support network. His previous roles include general management, program management, strategy, and business roles in Mobile, Windows, and at Boeing. Matt is a passionate lifetime gamer with degrees from Harvard (AB), Stanford (MA) and Berkeley (MA and PhD); four shared patents; and publications in astrophysics and political science.
Hadi is an entrepreneur and investor, and also co-founder of education non-profit Code.org. As an entrepreneur, he was on the founding teams of Tellme and iLike. As an angel investor and startup advisor, Hadi’s portfolio includes Facebook, Dropbox, airbnb, Zappos, OPOWER, IndieGogo, Bluekai, and many others.
A graduate of Harvard University, Hadi began his career during the browser wars in the 1990s, when he was Microsoft’s Group Program Manager for Internet Explorer. After the release of IE 5.0, Hadi co-founded Tellme Networks. Tellme was acquired by Microsoft for a reported $800 million. Hadi ran the MSN portal for its only year of profit, where he delivered 30% annual growth and incubated Start.com.
After leaving Microsoft a second time, Hadi co-founded iLike with twin brother Ali Partovi, and together they built the leading music application on the Facebook platform. in 2009, iLike was acquired by MySpace where both Partovis worked as Senior Vice Presidents.
Hadi is a strategic advisor to numerous startups including Facebook, Dropbox, OPOWER, and Bluekai, and serves on the board of TASER International. He is also an active angel investor with a wide range of investments.
Find Hadi on social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+.