Akili Network's Nairobi-based team is an amazingly dedicated and focused group of talented individuals - broadcast scheduling, ad trafficking, sales, marketing, PR, graphic design, video editing, and much more.
We have them to thank for helping launch Akili Kids!
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Akili Network's management team has many years of children's programming, product development, and content distribution experience. Our advisors and Board of Directors make up some of the most capable and experienced leaders in global impact, early childhood education, and television businesses, as well as significant experience in East Africa.
CEO AND CO-FOUNDER
Jeff Schon is a highly accomplished executive in software, Internet, television and educational publishing industries. Before Akili Network, Jeff was President of Massiverse LLC, VP Educational Technology, Scholastic Inc.; President/CEO Grolier Interactive, Inc.; President/CEO Living Books, LP; and VP Production, Hearst Entertainment.
Jeff has produced and directed documentaries for such non-profits as PBS and the National Film Board of Canada. Jeff’s productions have earned numerous awards, including eleven Emmy Awards.
Jeff holds a B.A. in economics from Swarthmore College. He served as Chairman of the Board of St. Stephen’s School in Rome, Italy and is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America New Media Council.
PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER
Jesse Soleil likes to make things, break things, and regularly suffers from “The Innovators’ Dilemma”. He’s founded and co-founded several startups including Akili Network, Massiverse, Spry Marketing Technologies (for Omnicom), Tomorrow Foundry, and TeacherTally. He spent 6 years at Omnicom as EVP, Global Director of Digital supporting agencies in 130 countries for Porter Novelli.
Jesse spent many years as Scholastic, the largest children's publisher in the world, leading adaptive reading technology product development and their businesses for Scholastic Education; consumer R&D for the Lab for Informal Learning; and ultimately eScholastic, overseeinging the $2B company's digital division that included 14 eCommerce stores and scholastic.com.
Jesse also has extensive creative experience designing video games, developing interactive toys, co-creating TV shows and developing original IP that works across platforms.
Gerry Gitonga is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
He has experience in law firm management, managing a legal aid centre for two years, and advocating for recognition and protection of human rights in Kenya. His practical skills include advocacy, legal education and awareness, and in litigation. His specialities are copyright law, entertainment law, and media law, broadcasting law, telecommunications law, and sports law, public policy formulation for the creative sector, advocacy, and litigation.
HEAD OF PRODUCTION
HEAD OF SALES
Eddie Olang is a media sales professional with over 13 years of experience in the Kenyan and East African market, working from both the agency and the in-house sales perspectives. Eddie has spent many years of his professional career in media, first at Scangroup and most recently at Nation Media.
Eddie received his Bachelors Degree in Psychology from The United States International University and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Communications from the Nairobi University.
DEA CONNICK PEREZ
Head of Programming Acquisition & SCHEDULING
Dea has extensive experience in programming, acquisitions, operations and media planning with over 20+ years in both linear television and OTT services, as well as re-branding, channel and block launch expertise. She has launched 11+ networks, blocks and re-brands. Dea's past experiences include executive positions with Universal Kids (formerly Sprout), QUBO and ION Life, Discovery Kids/Ready, Set, Learn on TLC, Cartoon Network/Boomerang/Adult Swim, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite/TV Land.
Dea has deep international and domestic relationships and is also a creative executive with a keen eye for what works in kids, lifestyle, OTT/SVOD/AVOD, documentary and international television and media.
Matt was an early executive and helped build two media/tech unicorns (Marvel Entertainment and ROBLOX).
Matt loves numbers and putting in processes that scale, he is also a huge people person. He has deep relationships across groups at Marvel/Disney, Fox, Discovery, Legendary, EA, ROBLOX, Mattel, and Hasbro.
His range of experience focuses on operations and finance:
* Fundraising. Venture equity and debt. Large Kickstarter campaigns, structured finance (incl. film).
* Finance. VP of Finance and CFO experience, incl. Legal/HR/customer success.
* BD and Launching New Divisions. Prepaid cards, direct ads, licensing. Gaming IP deals.
* Attracting and onboarding talent. Recruiting teams, e.g. quintupling from 20 to 100+ full time employees in two years.
Dr. Neil Boothby
Neil Boothby, Professor and Director
Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child
And Fostering Resilience Program, University of Notre Dame
Over the past thirty years, Dr. Boothby has held a number of senior positions in operational organizations, including as UNHCR’s Senior Coordinator for Refugee Children and Director of Children in Crisis for Save the Children. He also served in President Obama’s Administration as the US Government’s Special Adviser and Senior Coordinator to the USAID Administrator for Children in Adversity, where he led the development of the USG Action Plan for Children in Adversity, which was launched at the White House to guide the government's foreign assistance for vulnerable children in low- and middle-income countries.
As a university professor, Boothby’s research has focused on the long-term consequences of deprivation and danger on child development, and the comparative efficacy of interventions that aim to strengthen the capacities of families and communities to protect young children from harm. He has published extensively on risk and resilience among war and disaster affected children, and is also the recipient of a number of awards for his field work, including the International Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work on child soldiers; the Mickey Leland Award for his work with refugee children; the United Nation's Golden Achievement Award for Excellence in the Social Sector; and the United States Agency for International Development Award for Outstanding Group Achievement for his intergovernmental leadership.
Charles Deull serves as an Executive Vice President and Director of Clark Transfer, Inc. He is also the Co-Chair of the Broadway Green Alliance, which educates, motivates and inspires the entire theatre community and its patrons to implement environmentally friendlier practices. He serves as a director of Ecovative Design, LLC. Mr. Deull previously served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Scholastic Inc. and before that practiced law with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton.
He co-developed and taught courses entitled A Beginner’s Guide To Ending Hunger, and has volunteered for over 40 years with not-for-profit organizations involved in international development. He is the co-author of Working Together; NGO Cooperation in Seven African Countries, a publication of InterAction.
Mr. Deull has also served as Corporate Secretary of The Hunger Project for many years.
Geraldine Laybourne is a serial media entrepreneur. She founded Oxygen Media, a 24-hour cable television network for young women, where she served as Chairman and CEO until she sold it to NBC Universal in 2007. She is currently Chairman and co-founder of Katapult Studio, a technology start-up company for the creative generation.
Geraldine was a cable programming pioneer in the 80’s and 90’s: she led the team that created Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite. She also served as president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks (from 1996-1998) where she ran cable programming for the Walt Disney Company and its ABC subsidiary.
Geraldine was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2020
Kit was a founder and Chief Creative Officer of The Whistle, a multi-platform media company that brings together kids and sports. Kit is one of the team that developed Oxygen Media, a cable TV network for women, where he served as an executive producer, director, and the head of units working in Animation, DV Production, and Interactive Narratives.
Kit founded Noyes & Laybourne, an independent production studio with animator Eli Noyes, engaging in broadcast branding, animation, TV commercials, and kids TV programming. Kit was also Senior Vice President for Creative Production at Tele-TV, an interactive television venture.
Kit is a recognized authority in the area of animation. His how-to volume, "The Animation Book," was republished in 1998 as an edition that covers emerging digital animation techniques. The volume has become a standard text where animation is taught, with over 100,000 copies in print.
Bruce L. Paisner is a senior advisor to Hearst Corporation, one of the world’s leading media and health information companies. For 20 years, Paisner spearheaded the development of Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, the operating group responsible for Hearst’s interests in cable television networks, television production and distribution, newspaper syndication and merchandise licensing; serving on the Boards of Directors of Lifetime Television, A&E Network and History Channel. During his tenure, he also supervised the launch of Cosmopolitan Television Channels in Spain, Latin America and Canada.
A leading spokesperson and advocate for television industry issues around the world, Paisner is President & CEO of The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the largest organization of broadcasters in the world, which recognizes excellence in international television programming with The International Emmy® Award. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Century Association.
Paisner is a graduate of Harvard College, where he was managing editor of The Crimson. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a member of the New York Bar.
He resides in New York City.
Priten is the CEO and Executive Director of the Vanguard Group East Africa overseeing a portfolio of innovative medical and technology companies. He is also the YPO Nairobi Chapter Chair. Priten has extensive experience building successful businesses across East Africa.
Priten has a BBA in Business Administration and Management from the American College in London and is the 16-year Captain of Rhino Charge team, raising funds for the Rhino Ark to protect rhinos from extinction.
Dr. Rafique Keshavjee
Dr. Keshavjee has had about seven careers, mostly in international higher education planning, reform and review. He is senior advisor to the provost at the Aga Khan University and was the Head of Academic Planning for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in East Africa, responsible for the development of the the academic vision and framework for the Faculty. Dr. Keshavjee lead a team of curriculum designers to develop a detailed curriculum plan and also inform key issues in the design and set-up of the FAS. He was also the Program Officer for Central Asia and Turkey for The Christensen Fund, and Director of the Aga Khan Humanities Project for Central Asia.
Dr. Keshavjee holds a PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology. He now spends part of his time writing - first a memoir, now fiction, and occasionally consults in the burgeoning field of higher education and community-based environmental resilience in the developing world.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The Kays Foundation
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