Business Meet the young entrepreneurs who are using new tools...

Meet the young entrepreneurs who are using new tools to solve old problems


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Many of the young founders on this year’s list are also focused on the social and environmental impact of their startups.

Through Amy Fieldman, Alan Ohnsman and Elizabeth Brier

lInflation is high and supply chains are fragile. Old-fashioned companies are adapting their operations to integrate robotics and AI-powered software. Companies want to use technology to make cargo move more easily through ports. And founders design new materials and new products that are more sustainable for the long term.

These big trends are all reflected in this year’s editions Under 30 list in Manufacturing & Industry. The entrepreneurs and innovators here are building companies in robotics, freight, new materials and manufacturing software. An increasing and important trend this year: many of their companies also have a social or environmental aspect.

Twin sisters Neeka and Leila Mashouf, 26, for example, founded Rubi Laboratories to create more sustainable clothing with their pioneering carbon negative cellulosic textiles. “Fashion (particularly textile manufacturing) is propelling us toward environmental disaster,” said CEO Neeka Mashouf, a scientist who simultaneously earned degrees in materials science and business administration from the University of California, Berkeley. A pair of jeans made from Rubi’s fabric, on the other hand, does not consume any water or land, actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere and is biodegradable. Having raised $4.5 million in funding, the startup is now signing trial deals with apparel brands.

Alex Rapport, 27, who studied environmental engineering and entrepreneurship at Tufts, is also focused on the environmental impact of manufacturing. He co-founded ZwitterCo to take advantage of breakthrough advancements in filtration to help companies remove more harmful substances from their wastewater. ZwitterCo’s membranes can process fats, oils and fats and still last for years. The company has raised $44 million in venture capital (deep tech firm DCVC led its Series A) and expects to have more than 1 million gallons of wastewater treatment capacity up and running by the end of the year.

In the meantime, Aarav Chavda and Roland Salatino, avid divers and mountaineers who are 27 and 28 founded Inversa Leathers to make ecologically regenerating leather from invasive species including the lionfish and Burmese python. The duo put their company through Harvard’s startup accelerator and raised $2 million in funding. And Kezi Cheng, a 29-year-old immigrant from Xi’an, China with a Ph.D. of Harvard, co-founded Flo Materials to commercialize a new class of recyclable polymers to enable sustainable plastic production, starting with eyeglass frames.

A number of entrepreneurs on this year’s list are addressing supply chain issues. Former Uber engineers Rahul Sonwalkar and Tanuj Tiwari, 25 and 24, co-founded LiveTrucks to use software to eliminate wasted truck capacity in ports and warehouses. With $3.5 million in funding, they’ve launched projects with Whole Foods and Johns Manville. Kargo founder Sam Lurie, 24, raised $38 million from Founders Fund and others to create smart loading docks equipped with cameras, lidar and artificial intelligence to collect real-time data on inbound and outbound freight. The data generated eliminates waste and labor inefficiency, both lowering prices and increasing sustainability, says Lurye. And Harshita Arora, a 21-year-old Indian immigrant, co-founder of AtoB, a company that offers zero-fee fuel cards and payroll products to the country’s truck drivers — and is valued at $800 million.

Meanwhile on the factory floor Russell Nibelink, Austin Appel and Xiao Yang Kao, who are 27, 29 and 25, started in 2018 to design and develop inspection systems for factories that rely on deep learning technologies. The company has now raised $13 million from GV and Blumberg Capital for expansion. And Iranian immigrant Seyed Sajjadi, 28, co-founder of nFlux, which uses AI to understand all the steps in a manual production process so it can train human operators. It has raised $10 million and counts NASA and the US Space Force as clients.

Other young innovators are using robot technology for new purposes. Jamie Balsillie and Wilson Ruotolo, 28 and 29, are co-founders of Hedgehog, which uses robotics to make high-protein mushrooms and fungi affordable at scale. CEO Balsillie estimates that by automating production, which both reduces labor costs and increases yield, the total cost for a pound of their molds will decrease by 70%. “I am driven to create a food system where healthy food is affordable and the impact on the environment is minimal,” he says.

Basic products are also getting a major upgrade this year by some of our under-30 youth. Frustrated with dealing with menstrual care during athletic competition, Stanford engineers Greta Meyer and Amanda Calabrese, both 25, have reinvented the tampon with a patented coil design that absorbs more evenly and doesn’t leak before it’s full. Since its inception in 2018, Sequel has raised $5 million in venture capital and expects $10 million in revenue next year. Courtney Toll and Anabel Love, 27 and 26, similarly reinvented a common household item – the iron – with Nori because it personally frustrated them. “The hardware industry is typically viewed as a boys’ club, with more than 70% of founders being male,” said COO Love. “Courtney and I weren’t put off by that.”

To find the very best in Manufacturing & Industry, Alan Ohnsman, Elisabeth Brier and I (assisted by summer intern Ethan Steinberg) searched hundreds of nominations submitted online or generated by our own reporting. We then sent the best candidates to our team of expert judges to help us choose the final 30. This year our judges were Aicha Evans, CEO of Zoox; Tessa Lau, co-founder and CEO of Dusty Robotics; and Haley-Marie Keith, co-founder and CEO of Mito Materials and an alum of the 2021 Under 30 list in Manufacturing & Industry.

This year’s list was compiled by Amy Feldman, Alan Ohnsman and Elisabeth Brier. For a link to our complete Manufacturing & Industry list click hereand for full 30 Under 30 coverage click here.

Gallery: Highlights 30 Under 30 2023

20 images


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