BostInno – Meet BostInno's 25 under 25 for 2022 – The Business Journals


BostInno’s 25 Under 25 class for 2022 are company founders, nonprofit leaders, stand-out startup employees and students. The list includes a high schooler who helps students around the world learn public speaking; a university student building a sustainable food brand; roommates launching a microfinance company; and recent graduates who are already leaders in the Boston startup community. 
Here are this year’s BostInno 25 Under 25 honorees:
Elaheh Ahmadi is an entrepreneur, computer engineer and visual and performance artist. Originally from Tehran, Iran, she received her bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.
After completing school in 2021, Ahmadi stayed in Boston to co-found Themis AI last year. She wanted to help companies empower the world to create, advance and deploy trustworthy artificial intelligence. The startup offers an end-to-end debiasing platform to companies that utilize AI in their decision-making pipeline and products. 
Ahmadi also participated in a number of exhibitions and performances during her time at MIT. Most of her work centers on raising awareness of contemporary social issues, particularly topics including intersectional feminism, sexism, racism and human rights.
Since his youth, Michael Brooks always had an interest in finding purpose through his work. Working in Deloitte’s Boston office, focusing on clean infrastructure for companies across several industries, gave Brooks the chance to help build intelligent solutions. 
Brooks also stays engaged with the Boston community outside of the office, rallying volunteers and donors from Deloitte for dozens of community organizations over the last several years. As part of this work, he is a member of the board of directors of United Way, and is the Impact Officer for the Boston chapter of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers.
Northeastern University student Rachel Domb was a firsthand witness to the large amounts of plastic waste the snack industry produces through packaging, and she wanted to make an effective change. 
During her freshman year, Domb founded Rooted Living, a sustainable food brand based out of Boston. Domb is creating a line of eco-friendly, plant-based snacks that use fully compostable packing and substitute ingredients such as nut butter and maple syrup, rather than refined oils and sugars, in foods like granola. She’s hoping to empower consumers to snack in a way that’s both good for them and the planet.
Jordan Elster has supported a lot of startups through the nonprofit Innovation Studio in Boston and Rhode Island. Through his management of programs, including the ReLAUNCH! Program in partnership with the City of Boston and the RI Small Business Support Program in partnership with RI Commerce, he has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs start and grow their business. Prior to joining Innovation Studio, Elster was integral to the opening of Innovate Newport, growing its community to nearly 200 members less than a year after opening, and hosting 175 programs and events.
Outside of Innovation Studio, he is on the celebration committee for the nonprofit Boston Scores and advisory committee of FountainHead RI. He also created a monthly meeting of Boston innovators under 35 years old and is on the planning committee of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Innovation Day. Next up on his list, Elster said he plans to launch his own business in 2023.
These two technologists have a vision to automate waste collection and create a new system of intelligent, convenient and sustainable waste management.
Ian Goodine and Ethan Walko co-founded rStream while completing their master’s degrees at UMass Amherst. They are currently researching and fundraising for the production of an AI-driven system that can sort trash, recyclables and alternative biomaterials onsite at stadiums and universities. The startup is a member of Greentown Labs and is backed by National Science Foundation funding.
While attending the University of Vermont, Calvin Gooley founded (now Boston-based) Cicada –– an innovation-focused marketing firm serving the healthtech, medtech and life sciences industries. Gooley said this work combines his passion for emerging technologies and next-generation products with skills in project management and marketing development. 
Gooley also serves on the steering committee of the MedTech Collaborative. The nonprofit’s mission is to enable collaboration between medtech innovators, support early-stage startups and connect medtech and digital health innovation epicenters across New England.
Erin Kim is only a senior at Phillips Academy. Yet she’s motivated in continuing the fight to raise global awareness about climate justice.
Kim has already founded her own nonprofit and smartphone app, all while volunteering and performing research on pressing topics such as antibiotic resistance. Her nonprofit, Scistainability, focuses on raising awareness across a total of 21 countries on the topic of sustainability. Her app GreenGuide recommends local stores to users looking to purchase items that have less of a negative impact on the environment. With this app she won the 2021 Congressional App Challenge.
Irena King founded Surgicure Technologies Inc., a startup developing a unique medical instrument designed to help burn, trauma, and ICU patients to secure breathing tubes during operations without inducing any facial or oral trauma.
On top of being a CEO, the first-generation Russian American is a Ph.D. candidate in medical engineering and medical physics, with a concentration in brain and cognitive sciences, in the joint Harvard Medical School-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program, as well as a National Science Foundation graduate research fellow.
Northeastern University senior Naren Kolli has devoted his time as an undergraduate to pursuing engineering and entrepreneurship, while working toward promoting social good among his peers.
As a director at the Northeastern University Entrepreneurs Club, Kolli has focused on creating a strong sense of community among the entire Boston student innovation ecosystem. This spring he started the Boston Innovation Hub, a network of over 300 students across Northeastern, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard University, MIT, Babson College, and Wellesley College. He also co-founded and ran Boston’s first intercollegiate entrepreneurship conference last February. Last fall, Kolli started the Dunkin’ Pitch-A Drink competition, which brought student drink ideas to life. Kolli said this was Northeastern’s first venture partnership between a student organization and a company. 
In seventh grade, Jonathan Lei bought a server on eBay for $6 to host websites for himself. Over the last few years, that turned into hosting websites for friends, and then for paying customers. Lei, now a senior at Acton-Boxborough High School, has turned his hobby into a business. 
His startup TensorDock hosts its own servers across 11 data centers from Boston to Singapore and sells its services to customers like funded startups and university researchers. The startup also recently launched a marketplace as a spot for independent hosts’ servers, with a TensorDock cloud built on top, to compete against each other for pricing, uptime and internet connectivity, letting the customer choose the best option for them. Lei also employs Massachusetts high schoolers. Lei said around 12 people worked full-time this summer alongside six part-time contractors. The team includes students from Westford, North Reading, Acton and Littleton.
Melissa Li has a passion for giving a voice to young and underrepresented entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of venture capital fundraising. 
Li is taking some time off from Harvard University to serve as the head of community and partnerships and managing partner at Dorm Room Fund. Some of her work has included creating a talent network to place recent graduate talent at Dorm Room’s startups with hiring needs, revamping internal processes to increase check-ins with founders and building an early-adopters club to connect founders with Gen Z audiences for product insights.
Additionally, Li aims to make venture capital more of a career option to students interested in the path. At the time of submitting her 25 Under 25 nomination, she was the youngest partner at Dorm Room Fund. Li is bullish on bringing more Gen Z voices into the room with her. 
Forge’s new chief of staff, Anya Losik, is key in providing organizational leadership in areas like strategic planning and process improvement for the nonprofit. Prior to starting this new role, Losik personally worked with more than 300 of the 550 total companies Forge has assisted to date. Forge helps companies with physical projects advance product development, manufacturing, and supply chain management — from prototype to scale.
Losik is a graduate of Northeastern University. Prior to Forge, she worked at Indigo Agriculture and was a fellow at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
While a student at Northeastern University, Alex Marley learned how to deal with rejection. He applied and was turned down for venture capital internships and fellowship programs. This only motivated him.
In the summer of 2020, he set a goal to learn as much as possible about startups, venture capital and entrepreneurship. He began working as an electrical engineer at a defense technology startup in MIT’s The Engine, which exposed him to the way early-stage startups operate. He joined clubs like The Huntington Angels Network, Generate and TAMID and even founded his own newsletter. One year later, Marley joined Dorm Room Fund as an investment partner. He’s currently working full time as an engineer at Cometeer, a startup focused on precision brewing and freeze preserving coffee, and manages Dorm Room Fund’s Boston office.
Samantha Johnson is the founder of Tatum Robotics, a Boston-based startup aimed at developing the first independent communication tool to support DeafBlind individuals (people who are concurrently deaf and blind) worldwide. The startup is making a collaborative, anthropomorphic robotic system to sign tactile sign languages. In the startup’s first year, Johnson raised over $100,000 and hired a team to help in developing the first product. Since completing a successful validation with 15 DeafBlind users, the company is now gearing up for pilot studies in the homes of users by the end of the year.
Johnson also volunteers through events at the Deaf-Blind Contact Center, as well as in girls in STEM programs like MassRobotics Jumpstart and as a Northeastern University WISE mentor.
Renee Perkins wants to help businesses throughout New England continue to grow and flourish. 
After graduating from Bentley University in May of 2020, Perkins founded Nantucket Island Marketing to help small businesses across New England with services such as web design, paid advertising, social media management, email marketing, SEO and more. In just two years, Perkins has built up a team of 18 and helped over 100 clients. Perkins said she expects to make $650,000 in revenue this year.
For many people, the pandemic spurred productivity, and Shruti Pokharna was among those who flourished with ideas during that time. The Lexington High School senior founded SpeakUP!, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower students globally to use their voices through camps and workshops. 
Pokharna has worked with global teams of teachers to create tailored curriculums for students of all backgrounds and has successfully reached more than 300 students across the world. She believes that all children have the right to be not only seen but also heard by their communities.
While volunteering at the Y2Y Harvard Square shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness, Connor Schoen, then a Harvard undergraduate, learned that 40% of young adults experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+. At the time, he was in his own process of coming out. Schoen said he gained inspiration and motivation from the resilient residents of that shelter and wanted to give back to this community.  
He and his classmate Tony Shu founded Breaktime. The nonprofit uses transitional employment opportunities to help homeless youth find living-wage jobs and stable housing. Breaktime now has an annual operating budget of $3 million and over the past five years has employed 150 young adults experiencing housing insecurity — 83% of whom are now working and/or in school and 77% of whom are now stably housed. Connor also serves on the board of the National Youth Employment Coalition and was a delegate to the Massachusetts State Democratic Convention this year representing the LGBTQ+ community.
For people who wear glasses, it’s no secret that most eyewear products do little to permanently prevent fingerprints or smudges. Shiv has been wearing glasses for 14 years, and recently decided that she wants to see more clearly once and for all.
Shiv founded Unsmudgeable, a startup creating a permanent anti-smudge eyewear lens coating, in her first entrepreneurship class at Babson College. In its early phases, Shiv said Unsmudgeable is becoming a materials development company that is finalizing its MVP coating, expanding its team, and identifying further vertical market integrations. 
From a young age, Alicia Sibole demonstrated perseverance and an innovation mindset. She started her first venture when she was in seventh grade, making customized stationery boxes and later customized planners. Sibole said she experienced homelessness as a teen and found comfort in her entrepreneurial pursuits — a passion that she followed to Babson College.
Sibole founded her own startup consulting company, ALTernate Solutions, with the goal of helping companies stay goal-oriented, manage their time efficiently and implement systems that promote consistent growth. While studying to finish her undergraduate degree at Babson, Sibole also works as chief of staff for GrowthMatch, one of her first clients, a marketplace company that connects tech startups with consultants that specialize in growth. She also serves as head of operations for LeadersAtlas, which provides leaders with tools to keep their teams connected and engaged.
At home in Hopkinton during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dilzafer Singh became interested in investing in the stock market. As the teen started to crave more information about investing, he found it difficult to get everything he wanted in one place.
Singh, a student at the Groton School, took matters into his own hands and founded Arcafeed, a fintech company that uses AI to cull market indicators relevant to its users’ stock and crypto portfolios. He is actively involved in the stock market and responsible for setting the company’s overall direction, product and strategy. Singh previously served as the post-production manager of the Harvard-incubated podcast Future of Work Pioneers. Singh said he’s also deeply passionate about Hindustani classical musicology and, through his tabla playing, has become an award-winning practitioner of the tradition.
During Kevin Tang’s freshman year of college at Boston University, he realized that most public restrooms were extremely unsanitary, and he wanted to do something to clean them up. Tang co-founded Cleana Inc., a Boston University and MIT hardware startup. The company is creating a product to help prevent dirty seats in public bathrooms and an automatically-lowering soft-close toilet seat for the home. Tang said they plan to test these products with the New England Patriots and Harvard University this year. The startup has raised over $400K from angel investors and grants. 
Tang is also the co-founder of the nonprofit the Athlete Future Foundation, which provides free career advice and support services to Olympic-level athletes. He previously trained in the U.S. Olympic training program for short-track speed skating in Salt Lake City.
Matt Tengtrakool and Hileamlak Yitayew, both computer science students at Harvard University, have spent the last year experimenting with several projects, including with web3 and crypto. This year, Tengtrakool, who is from Burlington, and his roommate Yitayew, who is from Ethiopia, launched a startup to help African technology startups.
The co-founders launched Oban Microfinance to provide access to microfinance firms with low-interest rates in emerging economies, starting with Nigeria. Users on Oban walk through an onboarding process and the web-app recommends the best plan for their needs, including options for personal loans, MSE loans and home loans.
Colby Thomson is looking to change the way that children with disabilities are educated. She founded Entrebuddies, a special education curriculum for entrepreneurship designed to provide students with new opportunities that allow them to gain more independence, confidence and work experience. Over the past year and a half she has worked to expand the curriculum so that it can be easily implemented into schools.
While attending Babson College, Thomson has also helped create and facilitate a curriculum that virtually teaches entrepreneurship to students in Tanzania. She also works at the North Shore Education Consortium’s transition programs and volunteers through Best Buddies.
After embarking on a solo travel journey, Hannah Ung learned the importance of having a way to store extra belongings in a safe and convenient way. Ung launched Boxy, an Airbnb-style storage system that allows city residents to monetize their underutilized living space to college students who seek alternative storage solutions on an hourly, daily, and monthly basis. 
The first-generation Northeastern student was a spring 2022 Husky Startup Challenge Finalist, a venture co-op at The Sherman Center and a 2022 Women Who Empower Awards 2nd place recipient.
Outside of her startup, Ung is an accomplished wrestler who was seeded top 10 in the country at the NCWA Collegiate Championships last year.
Robert Wachen, who studies decision science at Harvard University, has created several startup companies throughout his time as a young entrepreneur.
Wachen’s most recent startup, Mentor Labs, has helped high school students better position themselves for college through developing new life skills and enhancing their extracurricular activities. Students on the platform have won millions of dollars of scholarships, Wachen said. Mentor Labs was recently acquired by Crimson Education. Now, Wachen is the managing director of Prod, a new incubator that has helped Harvard and MIT students raise over $25 million for their companies, where he’s building new apps in the productivity and community space.
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