By Caroline Secrest
Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list honors 600 young pioneers in categories ranging from “Food & Drink” to “Healthcare” to “Venture Capital.” This year’s crop features 27 Phi Beta Kappa members, all of whom are leveraging their liberal arts educations to pursue cutting-edge knowledge and demystify today’s most confounding issues. According to these innovators, the future is in NASA-grade hiking gear, self-driving cars, and sustainable beer brewing.
FOOD & DRINK
Daniel Honig’s (ΦΒΚ, New York University) Happy Valley Meat Co—a certified B Corp—coordinates between farms and restaurants to ensure the ethical treatment of cattle and the highest quality beef. By collaborating with the ASPCA and maintaining a transparent process, Honig has curated a high-profile client list of restaurants throughout the Northeast.
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
Jordan Nathan (ΦΒΚ, Colby College) founded Vremi in 2015. Less than two years later, the company was on course to spread its 150+ products to a million homes. Vremi’s eye-catching colors and commitment to low prices have allowed Nathan to vastly expand the reach and types of products sold.
Michael Markesbery (ΦΒΚ, Miami University), along with his business partner Rithvik Venna, founded the outdoor gear company OROS. By incorporating NASA technology into their patented SolarCore aerogel, Markesbery’s team hopes to revolutionize the market for durable, high-performance apparel.
As a top legal voice in the emergent Esports world, Bryce Blum (ΦΒΚ, Trinity College-Hartford) founded ESG Law to represent major players such as League of Legends’ Cloud9. Blum is also Vice President at Catalyst Sports and Media, which ushers those in traditional sports into the Esports business.
Ph.D. candidate Omar Abudayyeh (ΦΒΚ, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has teamed up with Jonathan Gootenberg to expand the potential of the genome-editing technology CRISPR. At the Broad Institute, Harvard-MIT, the two biotechnicians have discovered a gene-editing enzyme and developed a new method to modify RNA.
Giffin Daughtridge (ΦΒΚ, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) aims to break the cycle of HIV-contraction by ensuring that those most vulnerable consistently receive the preventative treatment PrEP. As co-founder and CEO of UrSure, he has leveraged $405,000 toward the organization’s mission to monitor patients’ continued care.
Alongside his three co-founders, Eric Conner (ΦΒΚ, John Hopkins University) launched Healthify after witnessing the gaps in healthcare provision for marginalized individuals and communities. Designed to mitigate the social determinates of health, Healthify works with the biggest insurance agencies and smallest social service groups to link 4 million Medicaid recipients with the care they need most.
A Boston primary care physician, Doug Jacobs (ΦΒΚ, Brown University) has shined a spotlight on insurance agencies’ problematic method of “adverse tiering”—siphoning treatments for specific conditions into higher pay levels. In response to his research, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has passed legislation to curb these discriminatory practices.
LAW AND POLICY
Yaniv Barzilai (ΦΒΚ, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill) tracks and quells jihadi movements in North Africa as a U.S. State Department counterterrorism policy officer, having previously directed the Special Immigrant Visa program in Afghanistan. In 2014, Barzilai’s 102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, & the Taliban Survived 2001 was published by Potomac Books.
General Motor’s counsel for autonomous vehicles Allison Drutchas (ΦΒΚ, Davidson College) lobbies for cohesive and comprehensive legislation surrounding self-driving cars and their safe deployment. She has advocated for the legalization of such vehicles in seven states as well as the bipartisan SELF-DRIVE Act.
Jacob Reses (ΦΒΚ, Princeton University) is Director of Strategic Initiatives and Advisor to the CEO at Heritage Action for America. Reses composed the prominent conservative organization’s Presidential Platform Review, analyzing candidates’ positions during the 2016 presidential primaries.
As Head of Mergers & Acquisitions at Kraft Heinz Company, Tom Dadon (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) manages the corporation’s financial planning while strategizing future mergers. Dadon saw the 2015 merger between Kraft and Heinz, which rocketed the corporation into the fifth-largest food company in the world.
Following stints at Morgan Stanley and Hellman & Friedman, Michael Dechert (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) is a value investor at the hedge fund Farallon Capital Management. Dechert manages $500 million in positions, specializing in industrial assets.
MANUFACTURING & INDUSTRY
Aaron Birt’s (ΦΒΚ, Lafayette College) doctoral research led him to utilize a manufacturing technology, Laser-Assisted Cold Spray, to streamline the production of lithium-ion batteries. He co-founded Kinetic Batteries, expanding on this method to reduce both financial and environmental impacts.
Alexandra Petri’s (ΦΒΚ, Harvard University) sharp, humor-tinged political commentary has attracted loyal followers to her Washington Post blog The ComPost and weekly print column. She is the youngest journalist to write her own column at the Post. Her first book, A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, was published by Berkeley in 2015.
Author Jacob Tobia (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) holds many titles—influencer, actor, advocate, television producer, cosmetics icon, lecturer, and more. Tobia’s memoir, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story, is forthcoming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in spring 2019.
Eli Harris (ΦΒΚ, Amherst College) and his three partners co-founded EcoFlow Tech after developing their RIVER portable power unit. Their high-powered, clean technology features flexible charging options for multi-purpose applications—from filmmaking to camping to daily life.
As co-founder of Infinite Cooling, Karim Khalil (ΦΒΚ, Duke University) seeks to curb the planet’s freshwater loss by improving thermoelectric power plants. Infinite Cooling’s patent-pending method retains vapor to reduce water usage by 20%, while simultaneously minimizing water treatment costs.
A doctoral candidate at the University of Washington, Matthew Murbach (ΦΒΚ, University of California-San Diego) co-founded Batter Informatics, Inc. (Bii). Bii is geared toward enhancing energy storage by harnessing the latest insight on battery performance and decay.
Director of U.S. Agronomy with Anheuser-Busch, Jess Newman (ΦΒΚ, Harvard University) consults with Budweiser’s rice, barley, and hop providers to develop sustainable growing practices. Newman’s work led to the brewing corporation’s June 2018 investment in the Rice Stewardship Partnership as a step toward its 2025 sustainability goals.
Yichen Shen (ΦΒΚ, Johns Hopkins University) has cultivated some $3 million in seed funding for his lab research at MIT surrounding nanophotonic innovation. Lux Labs produces solar technology via optical film, while Light-AI creates electrical, rather than light-powered, computer chips.
During her doctoral studies at UCLA, Lauren Sherman (ΦΒΚ, Vassar College) pioneered research connecting social media activity with cognitive response, particularly among teenagers. The results of her work have appeared in major publications such as The New York Times and The Economist. She is currently a User Experience Researcher with Facebook.
Eli Pollak (ΦΒΚ, Stanford University) is CEO of Apollo Agriculture, which promotes farming in small, developing African markets by means of specialized technology such as remote sensing and machine learning. Pollak’s organization currently focuses on optimizing maize cultivation in Kenya to benefit local growers.
Cristina Leos’ (ΦΒΚ, Stanford University) team at MyHealthEd created RealTalk, an app that promotes relevant sex and health education by utilizing teenagers’ own stories. Leos’ doctoral research at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health investigates new ways to protect and promote adolescent Latino health.
Tenzin Seldon (ΦΒΚ, Stanford University) drew from her own life experience as a Tibetan refugee as she co-founded Kinstep, which matches immigrants with entry-level positions at supportive companies. Kinstep aims to protect these individuals from unofficial, often exploitative job markets and help them to secure a living wage.
As a principal at New Enterprise Associates in Silicon Valley, Andrew Schoen (ΦΒΚ, Cornell University) addresses the venture capital firm’s U.S. and China investments. Since joining NEA in 2014, he has directed diligence for 22 companies, while sitting on the board of organizations in fields as varied as gaming development (CCP Games) and Nepalese education (Diyalo Foundation).
Kareem Zaki (ΦΒΚ, Harvard University) is an investor with Thrive Capital specializing in healthcare and financial service companies. Zaki oversaw Thrive Capital’s investment in Morty, a mortgage brokerage company, and Robinhood, which offers mobile and app-based investment services.
Phi Beta Kappa is proud to count these game-changers as members. With degrees in a wide range of fields from music to philosophy, economics to biology, these 27 visionaries prove that a broad education and passion for lifelong learning can shape today’s thinkers into tomorrow’s problem solvers.
Caroline Secrest (ΦBK, University of Virginia) is a recent graduate from the University of Virginia, where she studied Spanish and American studies, concentrating in race and ethnicity. She is currently a communications intern at Phi Beta Kappa’s national office in Washington, D.C. The University of Virginia is home to the Beta of Virginia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Nora Eigenbrodt, National Arts & Sciences Initiative Associate, conducted additional research for this article.