As Co-Founder and CEO of Begin, the parent company of HOMER, Neal manages our company’s purpose and vision, sets its strategy and execution plan, recruits talent and manages strategic relationships with investors and partners. Neal has built a team with deep industry expertise across organizations such as Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, Scholastic, Barnes & Noble, Pearson and Mattel. He has helped guide HOMER to be one of the largest, fastest growing and most promising platforms for early childhood literacy and language learning, earning recognition from the Aspen Institute, American Library Association, Education World and National Education Association. Neal is also a Co-Founder of Saavn, the largest streaming service for South Asian music in the world, and a Founding Partner at MEDIA, which builds consumer media ventures in fragmented markets alongside major media companies. Prior to MEDIA, Neal was Co-Founder and President of Simile, a contextual advertising platform in media and publishing. With a B.S.F.S. in International Relations from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University Neal began his career as an Investment Banker in an upstart unit of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette that advised media & telecom companies. His favorite children’s book is Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne.
Stephanie began her career at McKinsey & Company and spent 20 years in the trenches of public education before founding HOMER. She served as the CEO of the New York City Department of Education’s Fund for Public Schools, raising more than 165 million private dollars to support literacy and teacher training efforts in the country’s largest school district. As a management consultant at the Robinhood Foundation, she helped to build 50 award-winning new school libraries across the City. As a Senior Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Stephanie collaborated with school leaders across the country. A graduate of UCLA and the Harvard Kennedy School, Stephanie lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three daughters. Her favorite childhood book is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
As Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, Noelle oversees all of HOMER’s business development opportunities in the US and internationally as well as institutional sales. Prior to HOMER, Noelle was the COO of Speakaboos, where she was responsible for the company’s content and product strategy, building one of the fastest growing catalogs of interactive picture books through partnerships with major publishers and growing Speakaboos into one of the highest- ranking kids apps. Noelle began her career at the American Museum of Natural History, where she managed the Museum’s Corporate Patron Program and developed children’s programming in partnership with corporate sponsors for programs including the Science & Nature Program and Mobile Museums for young children. Noelle believes early childhood education and the environment are the two most critical issues facing our world. She is the Founder of NYC Taps In, a campaign dedicated to banning the use of single use plastics in New York City. Noelle is a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University where she was a John Carroll Scholar. Her favorite children’s book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Stefan Palsson is responsible for the company’s core operations, finances, corporate development and capital raising in partnership with our CEO. Working with a number of startups, in the last 15 years, Stefan has helped them grow from a few people with small revenues to large public and private companies. Stefan goes by Stefan but some people prefer a more “Stephauon” vibe to the pronunciation and it has turned into a hilarious joke at HOMER.
He came to HOMER from Spotify where he worked for 5 years in finance, corporate development and revenue, helping the company go from about 3 million subscribers to more than 40 million. Before Spotify, Stefan led accounting policy and reporting at Pandora. His career began at Ernst & Young in San Francisco where he led engagement mainly in high tech fast growth companies. Stefan graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in Accounting. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and three young children. His favorite children’s book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
A marketing leader, Shilpa’s expertise lies in brand, digital and performance marketing, social media, retention marketing and CRM, as well as e-commerce initiatives around business planning, website design and site usability, merchandising and operations. Previous to HOMER she managed a boutique strategic consulting practice, advising retail fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands on various marketing programs. Through her consultancy, Shilpa had the opportunity to work a number of brands including Rebecca Taylor, Kellwood Company, Parker, Moda Operandi, Tarte Cosmetics, C.Wonder, Natura Brasil, ALOHA, Delia’s. Prior to her consultancy, Shilpa served as the Head of Digital Marketing at Barneys New York where she was responsible for the strategic direction and execution of digital programs to support multi-channel, double digit revenue growth and profitability. Before Barneys, She was part of the founding digital team at Theory and Helmut Lang and she also spent a number of years at Saks Fifth Avenue and American Express primarily in digital marketing, product marketing and advertising roles. A New York City area native, Shilpa graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her favorite children’s book is Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish.
As Chief Product Officer, Rachel is responsible for leading BEGiN’s product vision by managing the product, content, and product design functions. Rachel has spent the last 15 years creating innovative consumer products, both digital and physical—leading two teams to acquisition. Before HOMER, Rachel was Chief Product Officer at Seedling, leading both physical and digital product teams in creating the future of play for kids. Her team created 200+ physical, digital, and blended products during her two-year tenure. They put over 100 products into retail, won numerous awards while competing with Hasbro and Mattel, and created the world’s first augmented reality teddy bear in partnership with Apple stores worldwide. Prior to Seedling, she was the first head of product and design for Pose, a venture-backed social and e-commerce mobile app centered on fashion. After scaling Pose to 4 million organic users, Rachel became the Co-CEO and led the company to acquisition in the spring of 2015. Rachel’s career started in the film industry, where she produced film festivals and worked for powerhouse entertainment companies like WME, CAA, and Media Rights Capital (MRC). Excited by the changing technology landscape, she joined Whalerock Industries (formerly BermanBraun) to launch and run websites for partners like MSN, AOL, and P&G. Rachel has bachelor’s degrees in Theater and Cinema Studies from Oberlin College. Her favorite children’s books are the Nancy Drew Mysteries.
Matt comes to HOMER with 15 years of experience managing software engineering teams. He is passionate about harnessing the power of technology and technologists to build transformative businesses. Most recently he led the majority of the engineering team at ClassPass for a period in which the number of subscribers increased by 700% and where the company achieved a $1B valuation. Before that he was the CTO for charity: water where he led the engineering and product teams. Before that Matt led software engineering teams in the media industry as the CTO of CollegeHumor and as the VP of Engineering for MTV Networks International. Matt has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University and an MBA from Stern/NYU. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. His favorite children’s book is I am a Bunny by Ole Risom.
As Chief Learning Officer, Jody is responsible for leading HOMER’s team of learning design experts to craft an innovative, playful learning curriculum and provide data-driven insights for parents. With over a decade of experience in the children’s media and early learning space, Jody has overseen the development of countless award-winning, play-to-learn products and experiences. She has worked with some of the world’s best-known ed-tech, children’s media, and toy companies, including roles at LeapFrog, VTech, KidKraft, and Mattel, where she has continually advocated the importance of learning through play. Jody has a Ph.D. in Developmental Science, with a focus on children’s mathematical and cognitive development. She has published 18 peer-reviewed papers and chapters and contributed to numerous panels and channels, including CES Kids@Play, Hallmark’s “Home and Family,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Screen Time Summit. She co-founded the Bay Area's chapter of the Children's Media Association, where she also served a two-year term as Vice President and now serves as a mentor for rising talent. She currently serves as Board Trustee for Explo: an organization focused on helping students from grades 2-12 explore the world, develop agency to pursue their passions, and find their future selves. Jody lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two children, cat, and dog. She enjoys training and participating in endurance sports (triathlons, ultra-marathons) in her spare time. Her favorite children’s book is Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.