AerialSphere Leadership

AerialSphere is meeting our amazing challenges with extraordinary talent. Our industry leaders are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in delivering immersive aerial experiences.

Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder

Mike Smith

As CEO for AerialSphere, Mike is responsible for running all facets of the business. Mike Smith is a serial entrepreneur with an amazing track record of building, managing and growing successful companies. Mike also owns and manages Jokake Companies, the parent company for Clarion, Aerial Sphere, and the Stockyards Restaurant.

Along with Jokake Companies, Mike also founded Jokake Construction Company which is a preeminent commercial tenant improvement general contractor with an emphasis on constructing in occupied environments. Mike was the President and CEO of the company until he sold it to its employees in 2010. Mike was also a founder and CEO of Superior Marble, a white marble mining and processing company located 60 miles east of Phoenix. Mike is also a proud alumni from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Chief Innovation Officer, Co-Founder

DJ Vegh

DJ Vegh is an expert in 2D and 3D graphics. A serial entrepreneur, he founded AZ ChopperCam, an aerial photo business using small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAV) equipped with digital cameras, in 2005. His success with AZ ChopperCam led him to found PhotoShip One, LLC in the summer of 2008.

DJ Vegh was an inventor with an entrepreneurial spirit even in his childhood years. As a youngster he enjoyed designing and building things. His favorite past time was building and flying radio controlled airplanes. After he graduated from high school he became interested in video production. He quickly landed a job at a Fox affiliate TV station in Ozark, AL as an assistant in the production dept. Within several years he had managed to work his way up to a Chief Editor/Motion Graphics Artist at a large advertising agency/production house in Mesa, AZ. During that time he became well versed in the art and science of 2D and 3D motion graphics.

During his stint at the ad agency he became quite interested in aerial photography. In the summer of 2005 he founded a small start-up, AZ ChopperCam. AZ ChopperCam began as an aerial photo business which used small unmanned aerial vehicles (SUAV) equipped with digital cameras. He realized that technology advancements in the hobby radio controlled aircraft industry and digital camera industry had created a convergence where the two could be put together.

He maintained his position at the ad agency while working AZ ChopperCam on the side. After he had spent 13 years at the agency in 2008 he decided to leave his full time job to pursue a new business dream. Seeing success with AZ ChopperCam he realized there was a major opportunity awaiting. Until this time in 2008 there were less than four other companies manufacturing camera gimbal systems for SUAVs. The demand for such products was on the edge of going mainstream.

He founded PhotoShip One, LLC in the summer of 2008. PhotoShip One designs, manufactures and sells camera gimbal systems for SUAVs. It has been a major success for DJ having designed and produced over 12 different SUAV related products since PhotoShip One was started. Within 1 year of starting the company DJ had pushed PhotoShip One to become a leader in the industry.

DJ had become involved with 360° aerial spherical photography around the time he founded PhotoShip One. He knew there was something to it that others hadn’t quite latched onto yet. He headed up several design projects at PhotosShip One specifically related to capturing 360° spherical panoramas from SUAVs. For several years he dreamed of specifically pursuing 360° immersive aerial imaging. He had some innovative ideas in ways to develop and use the technology for purposes other than they are currently being used.

In early 2014 he partnered with Jim Todd, a Phoenix, AZ based aerial photographer, and Mike Smith. Together they founded Aerial Sphere, Inc.

Co-Founder

Jim Todd

Jim Todd started Todd Photographic Services in 1990, a tiny start-up born in a spare bedroom and an overfilled garage. His premise was simple: keep prices reasonable, keep service responsive, focus on the customer, and do work you love. It’s been a winning equation for more than ten years, and Todd’s reputation is keeping the dream alive.

Since 1990, Todd Photographic Services has expanded in staff size and in services, becoming a “one-stop shop” for all things visual, but the philosophy remains the same. Todd’s partnership with construction companies, realtors, brokers and other development companies continues to be a cooperative one; Todd’s photography helps to sell land, developments, and other projects. “You have to see the piece of land before you buy it,” says Todd. “I have a unique talent with photography, and I want to help people sell real estate.”

In February 2014, Jim partnered with DJ Vegh, another Phoenix, AZ based aerial photographer and innovative entrepreneur. Together they founded Aerial Sphere, Inc.

Chief Operating Officer

Suzi Shoemaker

With a tendency toward extreme organizational skills, along with years of experience in planning and managing groups of people, sliding into the role of Chief Operations Officer has been a natural fit for Suzi. She joined the Jokake Companies Team in 2015 and helped manage multiple projects in real estate and business, which eventually positioned her to take on the operations of AerialSphere.

Her knack for finding solutions and solving problems makes her an essential member of AerialSphere’s executive team. Suzi is a multi-generation Arizona native. She has a BS in Secondary Science Education from the University of Arizona and a MAT in Physical Science from Northern Arizona University. She is married to her college sweetheart, and they have two college-age children. Her hobbies include reading, photography, cycling, running, fitness, and spending time with family.

Chief Revenue Officer

Ryan Schaefer

Ryan Schaefer directs and leads sales and marketing, business development, partnerships, strategic planning and customer excellence at AerialSphere with decades of experience in both public and private sectors, multiple industries, and degrees in Geography (GIS) and Business Administration from The University of Arizona.

Lead Engineer

Michael Katic

Michael Katic is a skilled software engineer versed in a wide range of areas. From graphics to mapping and onward to web development, Michael has been pushing the AerialSphere technology to new heights. He has built a full suite of tools that incorporate the most powerful frameworks the industry has to offer.

After graduating from ASU, Michael was hired by Microchip Inc. in Chandler, Arizona as a 32-bit graphics engineer. Following that he worked in a fast-paced environment at a local third party casino gaming company where he rapidly created prototypes on a quarterly basis. Later he would go on to work on several grants for ASU as an Academic Professional. There he helped write grant proposals and assisted in the research and development of graphics and mapping algorithms.

Vice President of Marketing

Josh Benveniste

Josh brings extensive experience in developing, marketing and growing companies across numerous industries, including technology, consumer products and construction. Prior to AerialSphere, Josh co-founded the popular mobile babysitting app ZipSit.

Josh was the Co-Founder and CMO of Dr. Soothe, a consumer brand providing hot and cold therapeutic products for neck, shoulder and back pain; Josh sold Dr. Soothe in 2018. Prior to Dr. Soothe, Josh was Co-Founder and Vice President, Operations of Resperion, a global provider of road engineering technologies. Resperion completed numerous road projects across the globe, including the construction of the 390km Kabul to Kandahar highway in Afghanistan. Josh also spent 10 years managing marketing programs in the networking, telecommunications, and software industries for Clarent, Promatory Communications and Virata.

Josh holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Arizona.