PlayCon 2015 Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Gary Grant


Founder & Managing Director, The Entertainer

The EntertainerThe Entertainer is the United Kingdom's largest independent toy retailer, founded by husband and wife team Catherine and Gary Grant in 1981, when he purchased a local toy shop in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, England.

The Entertainer just opened its 100th store on March 14th.

Jeremy Gutsche


Chief Trend Hunter,

Jeremy Gutsche is an innovation expert, award-winning author, one of the most requested keynote speakers on the planet, and the founder of, the world's #1 most popular trend website, attracting over 2 BILLION views from 100,000,000 total visitors. Prior to Trend Hunter, Jeremy grew a $1 billion portfolio for a bank and today, over 300 brands, billionaires and CEOs rely on his unique expertise to FIND BETTER IDEAS FASTER.

Before his dot-com success, Jeremy studied innovation at Stanford, completed an MBA from Queen's University, became a Chartered Financial Analyst, and graduated as a Chancellor Scholar from The University of Calgary, where he was later awarded Graduate of the Decade. He is routinely sourced by the media, from The Economist to CNN and Entertainment Tonight to The New York Times.

He has been described as "a new breed of trend spotter" by The Guardian, "an eagle eye" by Global TV, an "Oracle" by the Globe and Mail, an "intellectual can of Red Bull" by Association Week and "on the forefront of cool" by MTV.

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Ken Hertz


Founding Principal, memBrain LLC
Senior Partner, Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP

Ken is Senior Partner at Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP, and specializes in maximizing opportunities in a disruptive business climate.  He is a trusted strategic advisor and dealmaker with more than two decades of experience representing entertainment, fashion, sports, consumer products, media and technology companies and individuals.

His clients include a broad array of superstar recording artists and celebrities. Ken also represents best-selling authors, globally recognized speakers, C suite executives and conferences and events.

Ken is also the Founding Principal in memBrain llc, an entertainment marketing and strategy consulting firm. memBrain consults a number of firms engaged in businesses operating in the entertainment content, fashion, technology and marketing industries including global brand clients such as Hasbro, Intel, McDonald’s, MillerCoors, and other global brands.

Prior to joining Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP, Ken was in charge of music business and legal affairs for The Walt Disney Company.

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Marinn Jackson


Senior Vice President, Strategic Accounts
Nickelodeon Group, Viacom Media Networks

Marinn Jackson is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Accounts, at Viacom Media Networks. She is responsible for leading partnerships between Nickelodeon and its top advertisers and forging collaborative partnerships beyond media by becoming an indispensable asset to clients.

Jackson is an 18-year veteran of Nickelodeon. Prior to her current role, she was responsible for national revenue and developing sales and marketing strategies for the NickJr, NickMom, TeenNick and Nicktoons networks, as well as running the Business Development team responsible for securing non-endemic advertisers.

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Eva Lorenz

 Eva Lorenz

Category Leader, Toys & Games,

Eva Lorenz serves as Category Leader for’s Toys & Games store where she is responsible for merchandising, marketing, customer service, and operations; overseeing Toys, Games, Arts & Crafts, Costumes, and Hobby.

With Amazon since 2004, Eva has held various managerial roles within the Home and Garden, Kindle, and Sports & Outdoors businesses. Before joining Amazon, Eva spent 12 years in buying and merchandising leadership roles at Nordstrom, Inc. She holds a BA degree in Business from Linfield College.

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Sujata Luther

 Sujata Luther

Senior Vice President, Consumer Insights
Nickelodeon Group, Viacom Media Networks


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Brian Mariotti


President & CEO, Funko

Brian Mariotti is Chief Executive Officer of Funko, an industry leader in the world of pop culture and entertainment collectibles. Brian’s knowledge of pop culture and passion for collectibles has driven successful growth for Funko for 11 consecutive years. In that time, licensing has been the main focus and major component of the company’s success. Funko currently holds 120 licensing contracts representing over 375 unique licensed properties.

In 2010, under Brian’s creative guidance, Pop! vinyl figures were launched to great acclaim. Over 40 million units have been sold in four short years, and Pop! vinyl is Funko’s anchor product in Toys R Us, Barnes and Noble, Hot Topic, Target, Walmart and many other key retailers. Funko currently has ten very successful collectible lines in the marketplace and has become the one stop manufacturer for all things pop culture.

Prior to Funko, Brian spent a decade designing, developing, and managing high-end nightclubs in the Seattle area. Brian lives with his wife Shannon, his daughter Madison, and two very active dogs. Brian spends his downtime enjoying wake-surfing, Crossfit, and golf.

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Laurie Pressman


Vice President, Pantone Color Institute

Laurie Pressman is the vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, the world’s most comprehensive destination to gain intelligence, insight and implications on the science and emotions of color.

With over 20 years of experience in product development and merchandising for the fashion and home furnishings markets, Laurie recognizes that color is the most powerful communication tool, and as an intrinsic part of people’s immediate visual experience plays a significant role in space design, consumer purchasing decisions and effective brand management.

She is involved in the development of Pantone’s color research and color trend forecasting products and sits on the Home Products Board at Fashion Institute of Technology and the Fashion Advisory Board at Savannah College of Art and Design.

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Jennifer Schubert

 Jennifer Schubert

Vice President of Merchandising, Calendar Club / Go! Games & Toys

Jennifer Schubert is the Vice President of Merchandising for Calendar Club. She is responsible for product selection, merchandising, licensing, store design, in store signage and promotions for calendars, games, toys, and gifts for both Go! stores and

With Calendar Club since 1997, Jennifer has been the driving force behind the growth in games and toys for Calendar Club. She holds a BS degree in Textiles and Apparel-Retail Merchandising from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Parker Thomas

 Parker Thomas


Thomas has built and sold two companies, co-founded a public Montessori charter school and built two airplanes that he flew around the country. He’s currently a consultant helping schools and other learning organizations create maker cultures. In his spare time he makes tree houses, zip lines, drones, boats, pens, knives and anything else his two kids want to make.

He is a co-inventor of Maker Studio, open-ended maker kits that allow kids to dream up new inventions, solve engineering challenges and build their imaginations by using standard engineering components along with repurposed household items.

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Frederique Tutt


Global Toy Industry Analyst, The NPD Group

After graduating in Marketing and Business Management from a Parisian Business School, Frédérique joined global market research firm AC Nielsen in Paris in 1992 and in 1995 moved to The NPD Group to help kick start the launch of The NPD Group’s EuroToys service.

Frédérique moved to the UK in 1997 where she managed NPD EuroToys for nearly 10 years and launched new services into licensing and nursery.

Frédérique, now back in France as Toys Global Industry Analyst is putting her 17 years experience in toys to the service of major key accounts by providing strategic insights and fact-based recommendations to drive business growth.

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Paul Vitale

 Paul Vitale

Senior Vice President, Finance and Operations,
Toy Industry Association, Inc.

Paul Vitale was named Senior Vice President, Finance & Operations at the Toy Industry Association in 2013 after having served as Vice President, Finance & Administration since November of 2007.

Mr. Vitale is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years experience. He has held senior financial positions in both for profit and not-for-profit organizations and spent more than 10 years in public accounting with Arthur Andersen. Prior to joining the Toy Industry Association, Mr. Vitale was Senior Director of Finance for the Greater New York Chapter of the American Red Cross for almost six years.

Mr. Vitale graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. John's University in New York. He is a member of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Financial Executives International.

Mr. Vitale has been a volunteer director since 1995 and treasurer of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Association, a not-for-profit provider of mental health services to children and their families based on Long Island, NY. He also serves on the Audit and Compliance Committee of Catholic Health Services of Long Island, a not-for-profit integrated health care delivery system.

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David Yakos

 David Yakos

Co-Owner, Salient Technologies

Driven by creativity and a background in mechanical engineering, David pursued the world of consumer product design and prototyping. His first designs to hit the marketplace altered the archery industry with award-winning products including product-of-the-year two consecutive years. He then spent 5 years splitting time between New Zealand, Costa Rica, Europe, and other pockets around the world, where he guided youth service projects and expeditions with his wife. As he traveled, creativity never stopped, but rather expanded as the world shrunk and his invention journal grew.

With Bozeman, Montana calling his name, David made his way back home to co-purchase a product design firm, Salient Technologies Inc. Formed in 1998, Salient offers product development, industrial design, 3D Printing/rapid prototyping, marketing renderings and animations and engineering drawings for manufacturing. Named on dozens of patents, he has helped develop countless products for startups and leading brands; from wheelchairs to toys and games; from cryogenic valve technology for NASA, to a prototype-of-the-year as noted by Popular Science.

As an adviser to the board for The Hatch Experience, he couples groundbreaking students with industry leaders as part of a mentorship program. He also is co-inventor of Maker Studio, open-ended maker kits that encourage kids to build out of their imagination by using standard engineering components along with repurposed household items. Living in a log cabin in Montana as a father of three, he continues to be a leader in this creative industry by staying on the forefront of technology, prototyping and product design.

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