Meet the StoryFile Team

Stephen D. Smith - Co-Founder & Chairman

Stephen D. Smith is Executive Chairman and co-founder of StoryFile, the world’s first AI Conversational Video platform that brings video to life. 

Stephen is an international speaker and oral historian who specializes in immersive media.

In addition to his role at StoryFile, Stephen serves as Executive Director Emeritus of USC Shoah Foundation, the archive founded by Steven Spielberg to document the Holocaust and global genocides. He is a theologian by training and in that capacity is USC Visiting Professor of Religion, where he researches genocide related testimony.

Stephen has authored several books and has two titles forthcoming in 2022: The Trajectory of Memory and Holocaust XR

Stephen is a member of the order of the British Empire.

Heather Maio-Smith - Chief Visionary Officer, Co-Founder & President

Heather Maio-Smith is an award-winning interactive storytelling pioneer and technology visionary who brings over a decade of immersive storytelling leadership to StoryFile.

In 2009, Heather understood that the future of storytelling lay at the intersection of digital media and ‘natural conversation’ and decided to create it. As a leader in content based technology, she has spoken about Natural Conversation at Microsoft (2017), US Holocaust Museum (2017), Dartmouth College (2018), FoST (2018), SXSW (2019),, M.I.T. (2020), and AI Summit (2020). Heather’s work has been featured in Fast Company, NBC’s The Today Show, The New Yorker, Reuters, CBS Sunday Morning,BBC, and CBS 60 Minutes.

Cecilia "Ceci" Chan - Co-Founder & Board Member

Ceci Chan brings to StoryFile 36 years of investment and strategic experience.

Ceci has developed and funded private equity investments in the U.S., China, and in Europe, in technology, pharma, and crypto markets. Ceci joined the founders as  an active strategist and investor, bringing globally impactful supporters and partners to StoryFile.

Sam Gustman - Co-Founder & Treasurer

For the last 29 years Sam Gustman has engineered and patented technologies for government, education, commercial studios and non-profit organizations.

Sam was a founding member of StoryFile and helped create the technology team. With 16 patents in the area of digital asset management and security technologies, Sam has been working with video and complex media in the areas of preservation and distribution since the early days of the World Wide Web. Sam has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, Library of Congress, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks, Sega Gameworks, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, TASER International, PBS/WNET, the USC Libraries and the USC Shoah Foundation.

Valorie/Andrew “Val” Jones - Chief Technology Officer

Valorie/Andrew “Val” (she/he/they) comes to StoryFile with 20 years of experience in developing technology for real-world applications in entertainment, military applications, and intelligent software solutions.

In 2002, Val began working in cultural heritage at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, using 3D scanning techniques to virtually reunite the Parthenon and its sculptures. They developed new techniques to record dynamic human facial and full-body performance with ICT’s Academy Award-winning Light Stage, as seen in movies such as “Avatar”, “Logan ” and “BladeRunner 2049″. As part of their Ph.D. Val designed new display devices that can show 3D imagery to multiple viewers without the need for stereo glasses, winning “Best Emerging Technology” at SIGGRAPH 2007. They then applied this experience to build the scanning and display pipeline for Dimensions in Testimony, creating the world’s first interactive holographic interview so museum visitors around the country can experience face-to-face conversations with recorded Holocaust survivor testimonies. Val was one of the first employees at Raxium, a microLED startup, where they assembled an R&D lab for 3D capture and display prototypes. Val is named as an author on 22 academic publications and 5 patents covering 3D rendering, displays, and interactive video.

Matthew Everitt - Chief Financial Officer

Matthew Everitt brings years of executive leadership and expertise in brand expansion and scalability.

From 2012-2022, he served in multiple executive roles for the World of Dance organization where he helped build one of the world’s preeminent dance entertainment brands with a hit television show on NBC, over 20 million followers online and live events spanning 25+ countries across the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia. Prior to World of Dance, he served as CFO for multiple ventures with successful exits including the global marketing and PR firm PainePR (sold to Cossette) and media and entertainment firm Vision Entertainment (sold to Great Hill Partners).

Ari Palitz - Chief Creative Officer

Ari Palitz brings to StoryFile 20 years of film production and creative experience, while traversing new  forms of experiential media and narrative as both producer and director.

Over the last 8 years, Ari has been on the frontier of producing and creating some of the most innovative and immersive experiences.. He began with the award-winning VR film “Clouds Over Sidra” shown during the General Assembly at the UN, the first mass audience VR event. Ari’s other productions have premiered at major film festivals  (including Cannes, Sundance and Tribeca), featured at the World Economic Forum in Davos, screened at the White House, and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art’s inaugural program on immersive storytelling.

Sara Shuman - Head of Product Design

Sara Shuman is a digital creative director with over 15 years of agency and product development experience specializing in building, mentoring, and inspiring high-performing digital creative teams.

Sara brings a balance of technical, analytical, and design thinking expertise to every interactive B2B or B2C product design project. She has a strong background in agile, collaborative, and transformational environments, and relishes in using new technology for successfully solving complex creative business problems. Sara is not only an accomplished product design leader, but can also jump in as a hands-on individual contributor in every stage of the design and UX process.

Julia Campbell - SVP Technology Innovation & Strategy

Julia leads high-profile client projects and prototype development that seek to push the boundaries of StoryFile technology.

Julia Campbell has over 16 years of experience developing innovative training applications. She received her Master’s Degree from USC in Communication Management in 2007, and her Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) from USC in 2010. Her expertise includes Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) interview techniques, and instructional design methodologies to improve human performance and inform system design. She has led development efforts to support military training applications in a variety of educational technology mediums to include: online courseware, blended classroom experiences, mixed reality, and virtual reality platforms.

Alana Weiner - VP of Marketing, Media, and Communications

Alana has worked in the media, communications and branding arenas for over 14 years, with experience spanning governmental, nonprofit, and for profit industries.

She is passionate about storytelling across traditional, digital, and social media platforms, and is constantly exploring innovative ways to develop brand strategies for StoryFile.  Since launching her own company AW MEDIA, she continues to approach media in an integrative manner and now uses analytics to guide StoryFile’s marketing and media campaigns.

Glenn Harless - Head of UX

Glenn brings over 30 years of experience with the concept of conversational video, using the earliest iterations of technology to create conversational video scenarios for training and educational purposes.

Glenn is a visionary IT guru offering extensive experience in user experience innovation with a long history of leading the development of diverse technology projects. His core competencies are in conceptualizing and building web-based applications, digital media design and development, and voice-driven interactivity. He has designed and created several ground-breaking conversational voice interfaces, including the world’s first web-based, voice-driven conversation simulation models used by DARPA, Walter Reed, Georgetown University, NASA, the NIH, and the National Library of Medicine.