Meet the OPTIZMO™ Team
The people behind the industry’s leading email suppression management solution.
The best team around.
Since its founding, OPTIZMO has been dedicated to building the most talented, professional, and knowledgeable team that delivers world-class support, while also being a pleasure to work with for our clients. With that in mind, our team is made up of experienced leaders across the organization, with years of experience in digital and email marketing, email compliance, marketing technology, information security, training and customer support.
Khris Thayer, CEO and Co-Founder
Khris is CEO of OPTIZMO Technologies, which he co-founded in 2009 to help companies more easily comply with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 by more effectively managing and distributing their email suppression lists.
Khris brings over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurial and corporate environments, including 5 years working in the venture capital arena, leading research teams and developing strategies to successfully bring various SciTech and Consumer products to the market. His experience prior to OPTIZMO also includes 5 years in the telecommunications field, overseeing design and implementation of fiber networks and long haul data transport systems for both Incumbent utility providers and competitive local exchange carriers. He has built and overseen teams across the business spectrum, including engineering, product, sales, and client services, over the years.
Over the course of his career, Thayer has also been a motivational speaker and developed and launched various mentorship programs. He lives in Austin, TX where he is a supporter and active member of the local music industry.
Fun Fact: Khris is an accomplished musician. When he isn’t busy running OPTIZMO, he is the lead singer and guitarist for Austin-based band, Fallenash. This is not just a bunch of friends performing in their garage for fun. The band released their first album (The Backyard Symphony) in 2015 and continue to play occasional live shows to this day. And yes, their album is available on iTunes.
Grant Fern, CTO and Co-Founder
Grant is OPTIZMO’s co-founder and CTO. He and Khris have known each other for many years and OPTIZMO was their first chance to work on an entrepreneurial project together.
Grant prides himself on being a web developer who is a critical thinker and problem solver in every sense, spending his days creating and implementing new development processes and web applications for OPTIZMO and the company’s clients. Over the course of his career, Grant’s experience with, and passion for, development has helped him take on exciting, groundbreaking opportunities — from building his own custom backend framework to UI/UX development for a variety of SaaS platforms. In addition to development, he is fluent in infrastructural design, server setup and allocation, and the provisioning aspects of deploying web apps from infrastructure to the end-user.
Grant’s 15+ year journey into coding began in the mid/late 90’s and he later self-funded and launched his first company (DynaDesign) in 2003. DynaDesign was a boutique web development agency focused on selling a proprietary, custom content management system (CMS) that Grant had previously developed. In 2009, he used DynaDesign to help co-found and launch OPTIZMO.
Grant is a native Australian, and his development team is based in OPTIZMO’s Brisbane, Australia office.
Fun Fact: Grant is an excellent chess and ping-pong player. Khris noted that he’s only defeated him once at ping-pong and never at chess, during their 10+ year friendship.
Jake Dearstyne, Chief Revenue Officer
Jake is our Chief Revenue Officer and leads our overall business development, sales and client services/support team based in Charleston, SC. He has been with OPTIZMO for over 9 years and was the first person to join the team with our co-founders. Over the course of his career prior to OPTIZMO, Jake has experience in everything from service industry positions to technical recruiting and staffing to sales and on-site activation of interactive campaigns at sporting and music events for brands such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Spirit Airlines.
He holds an Associate’s of Applied Sciences degree in Marketing, Management and Sales from Broome Community College, in Binghamton, NY, and a Bachelors in Marketing from Binghamton University.
An Upstate NY native/adopted Southerner, when he’s not at work you can find him in the gym, cooking, volunteering with various children’s organizations in the Lowcountry, or cheering on Clemson Tiger Football with his wife, Rheney. They also have a Pit bull pup named Huey.
Fun Fact: During high school, Jake had his hair dyed 6 different colors. Unfortunately for us, no photographic evidence of this classic style choice exists today. Since joining OPITZMO, he’s only had one hair color, but we can always hope.
Brian Culp, Director of Sales and Client Services
Brian Culp is OPTIZMO’s Director of Sales and Client Services. He is responsible for global sales implementation strategy, as well as client delivery and retention. So, for many of our clients, Brian is their key point of contact at OPTIZMO, providing an end-to-end customer experience from sales, to new client setup, through ongoing support. He works closely with new clients during the setup stages, providing training on the platform and ongoing support to help ensure they are getting the most value out of the OPTIZMO system and services.
Brian has over 15 years of experience in the software industry where he has held multiple positions across business development, product implementation, and client management. OPTIZMO is consistently recognized by clients for delivering truly world-class support and Brian is one of the keys to earning and maintaining this reputation throughout the industry. He is dedicated to making sure our clients are not just satisfied with OPTIZMO, but thrilled to consider us an important strategic partner for their businesses.
Brian has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics, with a minor in Psychology from Arizona State University.
Brian lives in SC, where he works out of our regional sales office in Charleston, along with Jake Dearstyne. When Brian isn’t hard at work with OPTIZMO (bringing on our next new client or helping a current one navigate the platform), he enjoys spending time with his family and surfing.
Fun Fact: Brian’s nickname is “Nature Boy.” As you can imagine, there’s a story behind it. Ask him about it when you meet him at Affiliate Summit, LeadsCon or some other industry event. As a bonus fun fact: Brian used to have a subscription to Tiger Beat magazine. We’re pretty sure he cancelled it last year.
Dave Prickett, Director of Administrative Operations
As Administrative Director for OPTIZMO for the past 7 years, David has enjoyed growing with the company from its start. He has over 27 years of business development experience in the recycling, energy, casino, marketing and real estate industries. Dave has also owned, operated, and funded seven of his own businesses.
David invests his free time practicing the martial art, Aikido and in building & teaching about natural, affordable, sustainable housing. He has served on the Board of Directors for two non-profits and two for-profit companies, as well. What he’s come to believe is that living the adventure is so much more important than working all the time and just talking about living the adventure.
Fun Fact: David is literally a life saver. On his first day at his first job out of college, it was a company picnic. As he sat at a picnic table with a big group of his new co-workers, the guy across the table started choking. No one else at the table moved. David calmly walked around the table, executed the heimlich and got the guy breathing again. Now that’s how you make a first impression at your new job. Why none of the other co-workers wanted to help is an open question to this day.
Tom Wozniak, Executive Director of Marketing
Tom joined the OPTIZMO team in 2017 and he now heads up marketing, communications, and public relations for the company. If you read the OPTIZMO blog, social posts, email newsletter or any of the articles we write for various industry publications, then you’re already familiar with Tom’s writing.
Tom has over 20 years of experience in the digital marketing arena, having worked for companies across affiliate and email marketing, ad tech, database marketing, and the traditional agency industry. Prior to joining OPTIZMO, he was VP of Marketing at SpotX, a digital video ad server and programmatic marketplace. Tom was also head of marketing at Media Breakaway (parent company of affiliate.com), one of the biggest affiliate marketing companies in the world at the time. He has held past leadership roles with companies like Trueffect, NextAction, Wholepeople.com, and Cahners Publishing, among others. In addition, Tom has launched several successful endeavors in the real estate investment arena.
Tom has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication from Drake University and a Master’s Degree in English from Northeastern Illinois University, as well as studies in fine art photography.
Originally from Chicago, Tom now lives in Denver, CO and is an active real estate investor who also mentors young entrepreneurs. Tom is an avid (some might say obsessive) fitness enthusiast, who you will find in the gym at 5:30 am just about every day, getting his workout on.
Fun Fact: In addition to his educational experience mentioned above, Tom also has a degree from Bartending College. The diploma is proudly displayed on a shelf in his office. Like many advanced degrees, this one was never put to professional use, but Tom can sure make a mean Long Island Iced Tea.
Marc Ulridge, Head of Software Development
Marc heads up software development for OPTIZMO out of Brisbane, Australia. He was a web developer for ten years before finding his calling in building and running top-tier development teams.
Before joining OPTIZMO, Marc spent five years creating and managing three large development teams building successful SaaS products. He joined OPTIZMO in late 2018 to help scale and guide our development capabilities.
Marc’s a stickler for high quality, best-practice development that gives customers bulletproof, highly available systems they can rely on. He’s a big fan of building teams comprised of very senior developers that do things the ‘right’ way.
When he gets a break from work, Marc enjoys spending time with his family and friends – mostly trying to keep up with his two daughters. He also loves Netflix binging and skiing.
Fun Fact: Marc is haunted by a kitchen knife that attacked him twice as a child while he was coring apples. Both times required surgery. We do our best to keep Marc away from sharp objects in the office.
Wendy Huffman is OPTIZMO’s Senior Business Analyst
Wendy is responsible for eliciting client feedback about product enhancements and opportunities. Wendy works closely with our software development teams to understand and document the opportunity space for OPTIZMO and our clients and partners.
Wendy brings over 12 years of experience across several facets of performance marketing. As a product manager for a marketing automation platform, she helped build a content recommendation engine that serves up relevant content via email based on each recipient’s unique browse behaviors and affinities.
Wendy has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, Public Relations, and Advertising from Temple University.
A resident of Pennsylvania, Wendy enjoys finding adventure along the Susquehanna River near her home. She especially loves using her local knowledge to plan and execute memorable experiences for her friends and family.
Fun Fact: In high school, Wendy saw a picture of eight strong women carrying a crew boat over their head and knew at that moment, despite having no rowing experience, that she would one day be in one of those boats. Two years later, she completed a walk-on tryout and earned a spot on the Temple University Women’s Crew Roster!