Movers and Shakers
Meet the people who keep NextStep exciting, respected, and moving forward.
MEET Janne Kouri
In August 2006, Janne Kouri's life changed in a split second. An avid athlete, Janne was participating in a beach volleyball tournament. Between matches he decided to take dip in the ocean to cool off. Like so many times before, Janne ran into the water and dove through a wave. But, it was not like every other time - under the wave this time was a sand bar. Janne hit his head on that sand bar and fractured his C5 & C6 vertebrae. In an instant, he was paralyzed from the neck down. The next thing he remembers is being told by his doctors he has no hope for recovery and he will never walk again. But the real shock was when he was told that there was not a single progressive rehab center in the state of California. After two months in ICU, in order to get the rehab services, he so desperately needed for survival, he had to move 2000 miles away to Louisville, KY.
Janne, and his girlfriend Susan, traveled to Frazier Rehab in Louisville to participate in a cutting edge rehabilitation therapy for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury called "Locomotor Training." For twelve months Janne and Susan lived in Louisville, and under the watchful eye of his therapy team, saw great improvements in his muscle strength, movement, and general health. Unfortunately, his insurance coverage came to an end and it was time to move back home to California. Janne quickly discovered there was not a single community facility in California or in the US that offered locomotor training. He discovered that there is a complete lack of community fitness, health, and wellness resources available to the Six Million people with paralysis-related disabilities in America. Six Million people, that is the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. He wondered what everyone else like him was doing. So, with the help of his family, friends, and the guiding influence of Dr. Susie Harkema - one of the neuroscientists who created Locomotor Training & enhanced Activity Based Therapy techniques, Janne and Susan decided to start NextStep.
Board of Directors
JANNE KOURI, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
President and Founder, NextStep
Janne Kouri, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006, is the Chairman of the Board, Founder and President of NextStep. Prior to NextStep, Mr. Kouri was the North American Director for Sulake Corporation, a global leader in digital entertainment and media. Mr. Kouri was responsible for Sulake’s overall business strategy and management of its property Habbo, a new type of youth brand, which is based on one of the world's fastest growing online communities and virtual worlds for teenagers.
Prior to Sulake, Kouri worked in venture capital and was co-founder of Orchimedia, a mobile gaming pioneer. In 1997, he earned a B.S.B.A from Georgetown University Business School. He also played football for Georgetown and was named the teams Most Valuable Player, an All-American, and was recipient of the 1996 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Award. He still holds the record for most sacs in a career (31.5). Represented by the Guild Agency, Janne is an active speaker including: TEDx, Nexus Youth Summit, The Abilities Expo, Georgetown University, UCLA, USC, and Rutgers University. Janne recently gave the keynote speech at the Stony Brook University School of Health Technology and Management. Janne has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’ “The Doctors,” CNN’s “Human Factor,” HLN’s “Morning Express,” the Discovery Channel, and more. Janne was also the recipient of Brunswick School’s 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award.
Tim Plunkett, Legal Counsel
Counsel, Government Affairs and Litigation at Dentons
At Dentons, Tim Plunkett focuses his practice on commercial litigation and public policy and regulatory affairs.
Prior to joining Dentons, Mr. Plunkett worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the New York State Assembly Minority Leader’s Office on matters relating to the events of September 11, 2001. Prior to his service in government, Mr. Plunkett worked as a technology consultant focusing on globalization and also as an investment banker at Citigroup specializing in Public Finance transactions. He is a member of the Merit Selection Panel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which is responsible for making recommendations on Magistrate judges.
Mr. Plunkett was selected as one of City & State's New York City 2013 Rising Stars: 40 Under 40 and a 2014 Rising Star: 40 Under 40 by The Business Council of Westchester. He is also a Super LawyersRising Star: 2011 - 2015.
Director of Finance at Airware
Chris Colman is the Director of Finance at Airware. Airware provides end-to-end solutions that enable enterprises to digitize their business and turn aerial data into actionable business intelligence.Prior to Airware, Chris Colman was the VP of Finance for Wedge Networks, Inc., a provider of cloud-based security for some of the world’s largest networks. As VP of Finance, Mr. Colman was responsible for the company's financial planning and project analysis functions. Prior to joining Wedge Networks in 2015, Mr. Colman was the Director of FP&A for Cyan Networks for four years before its acquisition by Ciena Networks. Before working at Cyan, Mr. Colman held various finance positions at Reliance Globalcom Services, Inc., Peerlogic, Inc. and Morgan Stanley. Mr. Colman holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University.
President of pac-12 Networks
Mark Shuken is a widely respected media, sports, and entertainment leader with a track record of driving business results at both major established and emerging sports networks. As President of Pac-12 Networks, Shuken is responsible for leading the country’s first national television network to be wholly owned by institutions of higher education.
Shuken brings to Pac-12 Networks two decades of experience in growing revenue, distribution, and overall value for sports networks. His prior leadership roles include running sports networks for major media companies such as Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Liberty Media, and Fox Sports, including having worked directly with many Pac-12 universities.
Throughout his career, Shuken has developed a reputation as an engaging and driven leader with an entrepreneurial spirit befitting the president of a first of its kind sports network like Pac-12 Networks. He is experienced in developing and driving successful strategies in collaboration with key media stakeholders across all areas of the sports media industry, including content, production, programming, distribution and revenue generation.
At Time Warner Cable Sports Networks, Shuken led the creation of three regional sports networks for the Los Angeles Lakers, the LA Dodgers, and the LA Galaxy from the ground up. He was also responsible for crafting the brand strategy and brand identity of the nation’s first Spanish-language RSN. Additionally, Shuken led the management of TWC’s seven proprietary local sports channels, including rights negotiations, development of core strategies, and coordination with TWC cable in subscriber acquisition and retention.
As President and CEO of DirecTV Sports Networks, Shuken led branding, content, cross-promotional, and acquisition strategies to increase asset value and subscriber acquisition. Before that, as President and CEO of Liberty Sports Group, he created and led a stand-alone division of regional sports networks for Liberty Media Corporation, where he significantly increased earnings, resulting in a more than 60 percent increase in net asset value when the division was sold.
Prior to that, at Fox Sports Net Northwest, Shuken was responsible for a significant increase in distribution, ratings, and brand presence, including through innovative programming strategies and partnership agreements with both professional and collegiate teams. For several years, he beat income targets by more than 30 percent annually.
Previously, Shuken also served as President of Rivals Networks, a leading digital network of over 600 sports websites, where he increased gross revenues by 400% and entered into distribution deals with major digital media companies.
A graduate of Santa Clara University, Shuken has also shared his expertise as an adjunct professor in communications at the University of Washington and Santa Clara University. Shuken additionally serves on the boards of two non-profit organizations: the Jim Mora Count on Me Foundation and NextStep Fitness.
Mark lives with his wife, Eliza and is the father of children Sarah, Scott and Steven, and stepchildren Tucker and Estelle.
Managing Director - Pension Strategies Group at Goldman Sachs
Kareem Raymond is a Vice President at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and works in the firm’s Investment Banking Division (IBD). Kareem helps to manage the firm’s Pension Strategies Group (PSG) where he works with corporate clients on managing and mitigating risks inherent in their corporate pension plans through strategic corporate de-risking transactions. PSG was initiated in the U.S. in early 2009 and Kareem has been in the group since its inception. Prior to working in PSG, Kareem worked in the Merchant Banking Division (MBD) where he focused on evaluating, executing and monitoring senior loan and mezzanine principal investments across a broad range of industries on behalf of Goldman Sachs Loan Partners and the Goldman Sachs Mezzanine Partners series of funds.Prior to joining MBD, Kareem worked in IBD in the Consumer – Retail Group where he advised clients on mergers, acquisitions and other corporate finance matters. Kareem originally joined the firm in 2003 as a Summer Associate. Kareem began his career at A.T. Kearney, Inc. where he was a management consultant in the firms Financial Institutions Group and advised leading corporate and not-for-profit entities on strategic, financial and operational issues. Kareem received an A.B. in Government from Harvard College and an M.B.A in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. While at Wharton, Kareem was a Goldman Sachs Fellow and was on the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Committee.
Managing Director at Man Group
Michael Callahan is a Managing Director of Man Group, a global leader in alternative asset management. Since joining Man in 2011, Mr. Callahan has been involved in new business development and product management, as well as servicing existing client relationships. Prior to joining Man Investments, Mr. Callahan was a Vice President at Blackstone Alternative Asset Management, Blackstone’s Hedge Fund Solutions Group. Before Blackstone, Michael was a Principal at Great Horn Capital, a convertible arbitrage hedge fund. Prior to that, he worked at Morgan Stanley and Prudential Securities in institutional research, sales and trading.
Mr. Callahan received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in 1998. He is an active member of both the Economic Club of Chicago and the Chicago Commonwealth Club. He currently serves on the board of NextStep Fitness and Fabretto Children’s Foundation.
Founder and Partner at Memento Mori Winery
Born in Bethesda, Maryland in 1974, Adam is Founder and Partner at Memento Mori Winery (www.mmwine.com) in Napa, CA. He started the brand with two close friends in 2008. The name Memento Mori (“Remember you will die”) is here interpreted in a celebratory vein “Remember to live.” Memento Mori is now of the most sought after Cabernet Sauvignon wine producers in the world. Adam is now responsible for Sales and Marketing of the brand. Adam had previously held management careers in Technology and Construction before is winery project blossomed. He studied Fine Arts at Boston University, where he was also on a full-tuition scholarship as as Division I swimmer. A life-long health and fitness advocate, he still competes in open-water swimming endurance events and has completed Ironman Triathlons. Adam credits his grandfather, Dr. Charles Gordon Zubrod, who introduced the use of chemotherapy for patients with cancer, as his mentor for being involved with charity work; having worked and contributed to over 70 charities in his lifetime. Adam lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife Kristin and their one-year old twins.
Aaron W. Gross
Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Aron Streit Inc.
Aaron W. Gross has been Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Aron Streit Inc., a specialty food manufacturer and distributor, since May of 2004. Mr. Gross is responsible for sales and marketing as well as sits on the three-man management team with oversees all aspects of the company. Mr. Gross has sat on the Board of Directors of Aron Streit Inc. since 2005. Mr. Gross has also been on the management team and Board of directors of Sundance Foods Inc., a specialty foods co-packer, since spring of 2006. Prior to working at Aron Streit Inc., Mr. Gross was a senior account manager at Diversified Financial Concepts, a comprehensive financial services firm, from July 1997 to May 2004. In 1997, Mr. Gross graduated from the Georgetown University School of Arts and Sciences with a degree in Economics where he also was a letterman on the football team for three years.
RICHARD (DICK) HILLENBRAND
Opal Music Labs, Heroes and Villains Entertainment, Hillenbrand Capital Partners
Richard (Dick) Hillenbrand is the founder of RDHII, an independent film and television production company based in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Hillenbrand is responsible for raising capital, hiring talent, and overseeing RDHII's production operations. Prior to RDHII, Mr. Hillenbrand worked in film packaging at International Creative Management (ICM). In 1999, Mr. Hillenbrand co-founded GlobeDrifter, Inc., a web-based travel services company serving the European independent travel market. He served as GlobeDrifter's COO from 1999 until the company was sold in 2003. In 1997,
Mr. Hillenbrand graduated from the Georgetown University School of Arts and Sciences with a degree in English.
Managing Director at Headwaters MB
David is a Managing Director at Headwaters. David is widely recognized for his industry expertise, which encompasses intelligence and national security activities and applied advanced technologies. In addition, David holds unique security credentials that enable him to advise on the most sensitive government transactions. David also serves as a subject matter expert to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on matters pertaining to the financial health of the US defense industrial base and on Pentagon-sponsored technology investments.
Prior to joining Headwaters, David founded Castellum Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank providing advisory services to middle market firms engaged in the national security sector. Castellum Capital served as exclusive financial advisor on several high profile transactions, including large scale corporate divestitures and niche intelligence acquisitions. Prior to founding Castellum Capital, David served as Managing Director of Aronson Capital Partners, where he managed the firm’s buy and sell-side investment banking engagements. While at Aronson Capital, David completed transactions featuring prominent government services and technology firms active in international security, intelligence, and defense, with publicly-traded firms based both in the US and internationally, and with leading private equity sponsors.
David holds a BS from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and an MBA in finance from Columbia University. Mr. Brinkley also serves on the Board of Directors of NextStep Fitness, a California based non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and wellness of individuals living with paralysis.
Founder BottleKeeper, Founding Partner Beachwood Ventures
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional investment firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his exceptionally lovely wife Katie.
Trial Attorney - Championing Rights for Our Communities
Mark is a litigation trial attorney with Bordin Martorell LP, specializing in personal injury and championing rights in our communities. He is also, of counsel, with the Dugan Law Firm, focusing on class actions, mass torts, pharmaceutical and other product liability matters. Mark has more than a decade of experience litigating high-stakes cases in the trial courts, federal courts, and courts of appeal. In 2017, he was honored as an American Association of Justice Top 40 Under 40 distinguished member.
As a principal of Summit Athletes, Mark manages professional athletes and sports professionals. He is a Certified Contract Advisor with the National Football League Players Association and has championed injury settlements totaling upwards of nine figures for professional football players.
Mark earned his law degree in two years from California Western School of Law, serving as a member of the Law Review/International Law Journal. An alumnus of University of Texas at Austin, Mark graduated with honors in two and a half years with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government.
Mark is a former national, as well as world racquetball champion and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He enjoys playing sports- tops on the list are tennis and squash. Mark is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Hebrew. A native of New Orleans, Mark now resides in Redondo Beach, CA, with his wife Katherine.
CEO at Beauty Incubator Group
Mark is a Senior Corporate Executive with more than thirty years of experience in finance, operations, and general business management. Mark worked at philosophy for more than ten years where he served as both the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer. His areas of responsibility at philosophy included finance, accounting, manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, purchasing, human resources, inventory planning, and quality control / assurance. Mark led the business side of the effort to sell philosophy to the Carlyle Group. Prior to philosophy, Mark worked at the Dial Corporation where he held several positions including Director of Finance (Product Supply), Controller, and Corporate Planning Manager. Mark left philosophy to pursue a variety of interests and activities. He currently provides consulting services for a number of small and start-up companies. Mark has both a Masters in Business Administration, Finance and a Masters in Applied Mathematics. Mark has been married for over thirty-seven years and has three children.
Client Engagement Manager, Trace3
Dara Simpson has spent the last 7 years working in the IT industry, for Trace3. Trace3 is a business-transformation partner and IT-solutions provider. She works under the VP for the company’s top-producing team. As an account manager, she is a successful sales representative in charge of opening enterprise accounts, maintaining key client relationships, and growing the partnership with strategic manufacturers. Between balancing motherhood, a full-time career chock full of travel, and her desire to stay active and fit, Dara is a true mom on the go. She writes a blog sharing the challenges of her juggling act to bring inspiration as well as laughter to the super-mom community at large.
In February 2016, Dara ran the LA Marathon, raising $10K for NextStep.
Dara lives in Woodland Hills with her husband, Nick, and their two little girls, Anja and Anika.