When it comes to education, Forbes’ 2018 “30 Under 30” list might be summed up best as the year of the founder.
Most of the 38 honorees (cofounders are grouped together) are listed as entrepreneurs, though their companies—and backgrounds—are rather diverse.
Judging this year’s nominees were Charles Best (founder of DonorsChoose.org), along with Stacey Childress (CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund), Wendy Kopp (cofounder of Teach For All) and Joe Vasquez (codirector at Runway Incubator), himself an “Under 30” alum.
From ambitious founders of community nonprofits to a spoken word poet, here’s a look at who made this year’s “30 Under 30 Education” list.
Nonprofits and Community Engagement
Shaping students into community-minded citizens can be a challenge, but Danielle Hughes is doing just that (26) with her nonprofit Detroit Speaks. Fatema Basrai (27), who served with Teach for America, heads up a San Antonio-area organization, SAISD, that cultivates public education advocates and leaders.
Entrepreneurship in education was a driving force in Elyse Burden’s (28) case. Her nonprofit, Real World Scholars, provides classrooms with the online tools to start their own community-based businesses, which has been used in hundreds of classrooms to date.
Perhaps the same could be said for Allyson Dias (28), who is also leading a nonprofit initiative—but, uniquely, one that encourages students to side-step traditional education. Dias helps direct the Thiel Fellowship, the brainchild of billionaire Peter Thiel, which gives $100,000 grants to students that drop out of college and start their own companies. Jomayra Herrera, 24 also helps spot promising entrepreneurs looking to close opportunity gaps in her role as an analyst at the Emerson Collective.
Ricky Hurtado (28) and Elaine Townsend Utin (27) began their organization, NC Scholars’ Latinx Initiative, with the goal of putting more North Carolina immigrant and first-generation college students on the path to success—already they’ve seen 90 percent of the students they worked with last year pursue higher education. Melissa Lee (28), a cofounder of The GREEN Program, looks to create tomorrow’s future leaders in sustainability through 10-day travel abroad experiences during school breaks.
Recognizing that high housing prices are making it hard for some urban districts to retain teachers, cofounder Jesse Vaughan’s (28) Landed helps educators finance and buy property to establish roots.
And yes, the list made room for one innovator from the public system. Jonathan García (28) has spent his career convincing businesses to fork over cash to the public education system, and has helped rack up more than $20 million in investments to Bay Area schools. He’s now taken his talents to Oregon’s Portland Public Schools as senior director of strategic partnerships and external affairs.
Despite the massive helping of business-savvy founders on this year’s list, there was some room for creativity too.
Many of the creative types honored are using social media to reach large numbers of students and education influencers. Poet and filmmaker Richard Williams (a.k.a. Prince Ea, 29) has created videos that have received about a billion views across social media, where he showcases his spoken word poetry on topics such as social justice and education.
Osmosis cofounder Shiv Gaglani (28) doesn’t work in K-12, or even higher ed, but rather has helped form a company responsible for educating health care practitioners and patients about topics such as the Zika virus via animated online videos.
Tony Weaver’s (23) Weird Enough Productions creates content like short films to foster better media literacy, and fight misrepresentation. Meanwhile, Emily Graslie (28) is the creative mind behind the YouTube breakout sensation, The Brain Scoop, a channel that breaks down materials from exhibits you might find at your local natural history museum.
And in a different vein, Mark Pavlyukovskyy (26), a cofounder of Piper, helped create a DIY computer kit that lets kids build and program their own computer through gameplay.
College and Career Readiness
A champion of the concept of “microtutoring,” where students can get on-demand help on individual topics, Richard Werbe (24) cofounded Studypool, which has worked with more than a million students.
Michael Benko (28) and E.J. Carrion (28) founded an organization that pairs students, including those from underserved backgrounds, with nearby peer mentors via their smartphones, and collects data on how students are using the service to share with schools.
Their approach is similar to that of three cofounders of CollegeVine—Vinay Bhaskara (23), Zack Perkins (22) and Johan Zhang (22)—some of the youngest honorees on the list. CollegeVine also puts students in touch with peers for advice about the labyrinth that is today’s college admission process. Christoper Rim (22) is also devoted to college admissions. But his company, Command Education Group, helps both paying and underserved students gain access to elite colleges.
Katie Fang (26) created SchooLinks, a company that uses “machine learning” and algorithms to help students discover college and career options that suit them—before they get there.
Finally, machine learning company, EquitySim’s cofounder Justin Ling (28) made the list for his work on using technology to remove the bias from hiring practices. Ryan Williams (28), who once worked at Goldman Sachs, cofounded Jopwell, a recruitment service and platform for minority job seekers.
A gaggle of entrepreneurs, building tools for everything from assessments to student loans and storytelling, round out the 2018 list.
Climb Credit cofounder Raza Munir (29) was recognized for his company’s work in getting investors to buy the student loans of those in high-demand fields.
Yoran Brondsema (28) and Thomas Ketchell (29) created Sutori, an interactive timeline and storytelling tool.
Xiaohoa Michelle Ching (27) was honored for work with her company Literator, which provides schools with data about individual student reading performance.
Metrics also inform the work of Andrew Hill (29), who cofounded LiftED, a startup that helps educators and parents track and shape education goals and results for students in special education.
Boasting 50,000 weekly users, Nick Gavin's company built Stackup, a gamified browser plugin that helps teachers understand how students are interacting with material they read.
OneClass’ quartet of cofounders—Jackie Li (28), Maggie Peng (28), Jack Tai (28), Kevin Wu (29)—created a comprehensive note taking and study guide database that now reaches more than two million college students.
Aiming to take the hassle out of manual grading, Arjun Singh (29) cofounded GradeScope, a company that automates feedback for instructors and students.
Finally, a few executives made the cut as well, including Andrew Hermalyn (29), who heads partnerships for online degree company 2U, and has been responsible for bringing some of big names to the platform, such as Harvard and UC Berkeley. Edtech investment professional Hilary Shirazi (29), now at LinkedIn, was a force behind her company’s acquisition of skill site Lynda.com.