Entrepreneurs / Leadership

Power Moves: Real estate startup Houwzer adds a CFO to its exec team

Plus, leadership changes at Benefits Data trust, African American Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nerd Street Gamers and more.

Melissa Gingrich, CFO of Houwzer. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Email us:

As Houwzer continues to grow, the real estate tech startup has added Melissa Gingrich as its chief financial officer, it announced late last month.

She comes to the company with 20 years of experience in finance through roles with eLocal USA, NXT Sports, Liberty SBF, The Vanguard Group and Guggenheim Partners. Her hiring is a part of the company’s growth plan and expansion into new markets (most recently, the DMV region and Orlando) after a $9.5 million Series A last year.

“I think the common thread throughout my prior experiences is that many of the companies were high growth, entrepreneurial-minded firms. What gets me up in the morning is that innovation, and creation of something new,” Gingrich said. “Houwzer is really nicely aligned with that. I’ve known about Houwzer for a really long time and I’m just so excited to help build out the accounting and finance team, and to join a company that is truly doing something unique.”

Gingrich’s role will help ensure that Houwzer has streamlined scalable accounting and finance processes in place to enable future high-growth trajectory, the company said.

“She’s battle-tested with experience ranging from inception to M&A to big exit,” said Houwzer CEO Mike Maher. “I couldn’t be happier to be adding someone of her background to the team and adding gender diversity at the executive level.”


Benefits Data Trust (BDT), which connects residents of six U.S. states with benefits such as SNAP and LIHEAP through machine learning that supports its call center staffers, has seen three new changes to its tech and innovation teams in the past few months.

Leona Thomas joined the Center City nonprofit as chief technology officer, bringing 25 years of experience and an engineer’s problem-solving strategy, she told in July. Thomas previously worked as COO at AI-focused tech company Wylei as well as the founder of Enabling Investments, LLC, during which time she said she helped establish women- and minority-owned businesses and provided management and technology consulting for corporations and nonprofits.

Leona Thomas. (Courtesy photo)

BDT also announced recently that it had hired Bert Miuccio as director of healthcare innovation, and promoted Macaire Jackson to director of technical services and cloud engineering.

Miuccio was the CEO of HealthTeamWorks before joining BDT. He also worked as senior solutions lead at TransforMED (a subsidiary of the American Academy of Family Physicians) and as CEO of the Center for Internet Security, which he cofounded. Miuccio also previously served as the president of CentraCare, and in executive leadership roles at the Adventist Health System and at several acute care hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Health Association.

Jackson, formerly an information security manager at BDT, was recently promoted to director of technical services and cloud engineering. Before joining BDT in 2019, Jackson served as senior security engineer at Qurate Retail Group; as senior information technology auditor at Comcast; and as senior threat and vulnerability officer, as well as senior systems engineer, at The Bancorp.

BDT also welcomed two new board members — Julius Green, a retired tax partner and regional tax leader for the Philadelphia tax services group at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP., and Zia Khan, who holds the role of SVP for innovation at the Rockefeller Foundation.


Late last month, Donavan West left his post as president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware (AACC).

West held the position for nine months, and said in a statement that the “African American Chamber is literally functioning as a trauma unit during this pandemic. I believe that our chamber has been the best chamber in the country because of the combination of partnerships, resources and the collaborative spirit.”

While an official statement from AACC’s board stated that West resigned, he told the Philadelphia Business Journal that wasn’t the case, without elaborating: “There is a difference in vision in what I was doing with the chamber and for the chamber,” he said.

Read West’s call for action in the face of widespread racial inequity and violence against Black Americans.

Donavan West speaks at an #OnTheTablePHL discussion in October 2019. (Photo via


Gregg Caren, who most recently served as EVP of sales and strategic business development for ASM Global, was named as the new CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB). He joined the organization this spring as the region has continued to grapple with its loss of tourism and events because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Given the current state of affairs and my love for the greater Philadelphia region, I also have a strong sense of civic responsibility,” Caren said in a statement. “The PHLCVB drives meaningful economic impact for our city and region. I’m truly looking forward to contributing to Philadelphia’s recovery efforts by leading the extremely talented team at the PHLCVB and working closely with the partners and stakeholders that help drive our tourism industry forward.”

PHLCVB also brought on Dr. David Nash, dean emeritus of the Jefferson College of Population Health, to serve as its chief health advisor. He will offer guidance to meeting and event planners in accordance with the org’s new PHL Health Pledge initiative, meant to “increase awareness of the destination’s efforts to safely welcome back visitors as Philadelphia gradually reopens for business.”


AWeber’s former senior strategic partnerships manager, Jake Wallace, has left the Chalfont-based (and now entirely remote) email marketing company to become the first head of strategic partnerships at Dallas-based SignEasy, which operates a cloud-based, mobile-first platform to electronically sign and fill documents.

In the new role, he will manage SignEasy partners such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox while bringing new partners onto the platform, a spokesperson for the company said.

Wallace, who will be working remotely from Philly, is also board chair for the Cloud Software Association (and moderates its active thousand-member Slack) as well as a former co-organizer for the Philly New Tech Meetup.

Jake Wallace. (Courtesy photo)


And Brian McElaney has taken on a new role as VP of software product at Nerd Street Gamers, the growing esports startup based in Northern Liberties. The technologist previously worked as SVP of technology at design firm Think Company.

Check out what McElaney had to say about the importance of culture fit when hiring a new dev during a GDG Philly meetup last summer.

Companies: Houwzer / Nerd Street / Benefits Data Trust / African American Chamber of Commerce / AWeber / Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
Series: Power Moves

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