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BostInno – Meet BostInno's 25 under 25 for 2023 – The Business Journals

BostInno – Meet BostInno's 25 under 25 for 2023 – The Business Journals yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7

The honorees for BostInno’s 25 Under 25 never get older, but it seems they get more impressive each year. The class of 2023 includes a nonprofit leader supporting refugees and immigrants in their entrepreneurial ventures; a high schooler bringing virtual reality to the elderly; a university founder building a platform to connect students across college campuses; and trecent graduates who are already leaders in local institutions like Greentown Labs and Techstars Boston. 
Here are this year’s BostInno 25 Under 25 honorees:
Raneem Al Suwaidani is a 17-year-old from Providence, R.I. who has already punched above her weight class. In October, she pitched her idea for a turnkey food truck concept and won first prize in a national youth business competition held at Times Square in New York City.
The Metropolitan Career and Technical Center student got a $10,000 cash prize for her business concept called “Lilypad.” Lilypad would rent fully-equipped, “digitally brandable” food trucks to up-and-coming culinary entrepreneurs. It would be a low-risk, low-capital way for aspiring chefs to develop restaurant concepts before committing to a brick-and-mortar establishment.
In addition to her cash prize, Al Suwaidani won a mentorship session with Daymond John, the Shark Tank regular and founder of FUBU, the $6 billion hip-hop apparel company.
Shaan Arora and Cory Gill have been hustlers since they started as freshmen at Northeastern University. They are the co-founders of Alia Software, an embedded Shopify app for ecommerce retailers. The app allows shoppers to learn more about the business’ story and products and get rewarded for doing so, helping to increase conversions and sales.
Arora dreamed up the idea for Alia in December 2021 to help his mom tell her own brand’s story on her Shopify store and assembled a team to help him live out the idea. On top of his busy schedule with Alia, he graduated from Northeastern in May 2023 with a degree in computer science and business. Gill is graduating this December from Northeastern with a degree in finance and economics. Both will be working on Alia full-time.
Alia launched this past April and has acquired 42 clients and helped drive more than $130,000 in sales for its clients.
The four co-founders of Great Neck Beverages all became friends in eighth grade at The Fenn School in Concord, and while they went their own ways in high school and college, they would reunite on Cape Cod each year to keep that friendship alive. This year during Memorial Day weekend, the friends also kicked off a business venture, launching their first product, Cape Tide Hard Tea, on Cape Cod.
The team worked this summer’s 85 sampling events, which helped them get in front of customers and tell their entrepreneurship story. By the end of the summer, around 70% of their accounts have reordered at least twice. Cape Tide Hard Tea is available at 105 liquor stores and restaurants or bars on the Cape and Eastern Massachusetts. They’re expanding up toward Boston and hope to continue growing into new regions moving into next year. Cape Tide is also entering its first round of investment fundraising.
Camden Francis, along with his brother Colton, founded the nonprofit Beyond the Crisis to help families struggling with food insecurity during the pandemic. The organization continues to work towards alleviating hunger even after the impacts of the pandemic have decreased.
Francis has spoken about food insecurity at a White House Zoom Conference on hunger, nutrition, and health. He has also discussed his nonprofit during public appearances on the Drew Barrymore Talk Show, PBS, CBS, along with other media channels. Francis also operates a tech company called “Univerze,” a professional networking app. He currently studies finance and business management at the University of Florida business program online.
Megan Gole has always loved fashion, but she’s also long been aware of the lack of sustainability in the industry. Her passion for bringing together fashion and sustainability has led to a few different ventures. Gole previously worked at Starta Ventures and helped consult with a fashion-tech startup on sample sale management for pop-up events. She has also developed a case study for an AR/VR immersion experience for Stella McCartney Falabella bags that won the Fashion Scholarship Fund 2023 Case Study Award. 
Now a student at Harvard University, Gole has launched the startup Fabriq. The consumer-facing clothing recycling platform allows customers to drop off or mail in clothes they don’t wear anymore. The clothes are given to brands and fabric mills to reutilize these materials as fabrics. Then, the consumers get discounts to sustainable brands for recycling their clothes. 
Coming from Russia to attend Boston University, Maria Gorskikh left her home country to look for new, better opportunities. She started up Dream Venture Labs in 2022 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine inspired her to help Ukrainian refugees and immigrants. Dream empowers refugees and immigrants to start and develop their own businesses with the help of more than 130 student volunteers.
Gorskikh won a $10,000 grant for her organization in the BU Refugee Challenge in March. She graduated from BU earlier this year, and is now dedicating her full efforts to the young nonprofit. Dream recently launched its first accelerator program.
By day, Javier Grevely is an investor at Wellington Management. In his free time, he serves as the founding co-chair of BLCK VC’s Boston chapter and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Grevely said throughout his roles and activities, his goal is to help reshape the venture capital landscape and champion innovation and accessibility within the industry. 
Grevely is helping build the early-stage venture capital practice within Wellington Management and recently led or sat on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) steering group and the Wellington Foundation. In his role he is able to deploy capital into businesses led by underrepresented entrepreneurs and drive economic development.
Natalie Hill first came to Greentown Labs during her co-op at Northeastern University. Now, Reena Karasin, Greentown’s director of communications, said her team is convinced Hill will be everyone’s boss one day.
Hill is the first person to serve as digital marketing coordinator at Greentown Labs and manages social media, website, videography and various digital platforms for the climatetech incubator. Hill ran Greentown Houston’s climatetech summit in 2021 as a co-op, creates in-house videos featuring startups and works on boosting their social media reach and analytics tracking.
Boston Latin School senior Piotr Kierner founded the Seniors on Mars initiative in order to bring the experience of virtual reality to the elderly. Kierner came up with the idea after taking his grandfather, who had fallen ill, on virtual adventures.
Kierner has visited senior centers and nursing homes with VR technology, and is in the beta testing phase for his app, which among other features allows seniors to take virtual tours of elderly care facilities. 
Beyond his business and nonprofit pursuits, Kierner is the president of his high school’s chemistry club and Science Olympiad team. Over the summer, he participated in research full time at Harvard Medical School and is working on publishing two neuroscience papers with his professor.
Even before becoming program manager at the Techstars Boston Accelerator, Aidan Kittredge has been working to support startups. She attended the University of New Hampshire where she served as managing director of the Rines Angel Investment Fund, UNH’s student-led venture fund, and student coordinator of the Holloway Prize Competition, a semester-long competition for student entrepreneurs to develop and pitch their startup ventures. 
After graduating from UNH in 2021, Kittredge worked as a venture associate at Gutbrain Ventures and PBJ Capital, two early-stage VC funds in the Boston area. Now, she lends her talents to Techstars Boston, where she supports early-stage founders in scaling their companies. Her goal is to apply her expertise in startups and venture capital to launch her own business one day.
One location that shaped Joanna Lin’s formative years was her parents’ Chinese buffet in Missouri. She said she found inspiration from watching them overcome the challenges of running a restaurant as non-English speakers and people of color in a predominantly white area. 
Lin has founded her own business, Aurea Co. Prints, in which she sells uplifting art for important causes, such as in support of the AAPI community. She also works with yCITIES, where she runs a startup incubator for teenage entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds.
Lin serves as the economic opportunity and inclusion director of the Mayor Michelle Wu’s Youth Council, in which she helps other young entrepreneurs find resources and build networks. She is a student at Boston Latin School.
In 2021, Kirk McKinney Jr. teamed up with his younger brother Jacob and started Junk Teens, a junk-removal and disposal service. Now the business has two dump trucks, a warehouse in Norwood and over 150,000 followers on TikTok.
The brothers have continued working on Junk Teens as they tackle high school and college. Kirk is studying at Babson College and Jacob is a senior at Westwood High School. Even as the co-founders get older, they plan to keep the Junk Teens branding and employ young people. Kirk said ultimately they plan to have other teenagers be able to start their own Junk Teens.
Ryan Myher began his entrepreneurial journey by making a splash in the “no code” space,  making tools that allow regular people to build complex software applications. Myher did this while attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, before dropping out to lead growth at the no-code company V/One. After leaving V/One he sold his media agency called No Code No Problem, which was acquired by former Forbes 30U30 honoree Nanxi Liu and her company Blaze. Myher followed this by co-founding the newly popular blockchain intelligence tool Lore. 
Myher lives in Boston and serves as the COO at Lore, a blockchain intelligence tool. He’s helped the startup grow to more than 100,000 users and land multiple B2B contracts in just three months since launching publicly. Lore has raised $3.2 million from Floodgate, Balaji Srinivasan, SALT and others.
This Boston University student is creating good vibes and intercollegiate camaraderie with Wicked Smaht Comedy, a Boston-based intercollegiate media production company that produces a sketch variety show themed around charities.
Bella Ramirez came to BU from Florida in 2021 and felt a sense of isolation from other schools. She came up with the idea to launch Wicked Smaht Comedy to bring students together and give them experience in the arts. Ramirez took her organization through Innovate@BU’s Innovation Pathway program and summer accelerator. Wicked Smaht Comedy held its first official show in October. Her goal is for the group to exist after her time at BU and serve as a long-term networking space and resource for collegiate artists.
Jake Ross is a full-time student and full-time marketing professional. The Babson College senior is the founder of Build You Marketing, a marketing and PR firm. He helps his clients, who include young founders like Kirk McKinney Jr. and Jacob McKinney of Junk Teens, with social media content, email newsletters, press pitches and more.
Ross said Build You Marketing has worked with over 25 companies in its first year. The business has grown so much that Ross has had to do some hiring, bringing five additional people onto his team. They work with clients across restaurants, tech, entertainment and corporate, including Techstars Boston, The Lanes Bowl & Bistro, and EKOS.AI.
The healthcare data company Intus Care, which raised more than $15 million, was founded by three students at Brown University — including Alex Rothberg, who serves as its chief technology officer.
Rothberg dropped out of Brown to work at Intus Care full time and leads the product management, data engineering and software engineering teams (Rothberg did eventually ‘drop back in’ and complete his degree in computer science from Brown.) Rothberg and his co-founders aimed to improve care for low-income older adults who often have complex care protocols. The company, which was founded in 2019, received first place in the Rhode Island cohort of MassChallenge and secured a pre-seed VC round of $500,000 in March 2020.
Intus Care recently closed on a $14 million Series A led by Deerfield.
Brett Schultz is the founder and CEO of College Connector, a platform designed to help university students socially, emotionally and financially across college campuses nationwide. The platform promotes opportunities both on and off campus and has a marketplace feature designed to facilitate the sales of textbooks, school supplies and other miscellaneous items.
Schultz is a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire studying business administration with concentrations in finance and entrepreneurial studies. He is also pursuing a dual major in sustainability. He has competed and won prizes in various entrepreneurship competitions including the UNH Social Venture and Innovation Challenge, Maurice Prize Competition and UNH Holloway Competition.
Schultz is also leading a team of students in the semifinal round of the Collegiate Wind Competition, in which students are tasked with constructing a fixed-bottom offshore wind turbine, creating a site plan for a hypothetical offshore wind farm and conducting community outreach.
Shaleen Sheth is a social entrepreneur who co-founded the media organization Women Who Win. A graduate of Babson College, Sheth wanted to use her background in entrepreneurship to amplify the voices of women and minority communities. Women Who Win has conducted hundreds of interviews with female leaders across the world. This includes notable Boston figures such as Dr. Reshma Kewalramani, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. 
Sheth is also an advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. She received the Massachusetts Commission for Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders’ Unsung Hero award earlier this year and was appointed as the youngest advisory council member for Saheli Boston, a nonprofit which supports South Asian and Arab survivors of domestic violence.
The three co-founders of Astra Wellbeing all had their own brushes with the hospital system, from surviving severe medical conditions and injuries to seeing their family members serve on the frontlines during the Covid-19 pandemic. These experiences gave the three a personal appreciation for healthcare workers and a glimpse into some of the challenges they face — namely, burnout and turnover.
As students at Boston University, Johar Singh, Josh Bruehwiler, and Taha Moukara founded Astra Wellbeing, an SMS-based wellness platform that they say can improve the wellbeing of frontline healthcare employees through positive reinforcement. One year in, Astra Wellbeing has rolled out pilots of its platform to thousands of employees at Boston hospitals, won Boston University’s two biggest student innovation competitions and been accepted into MassChallenge.
Having grown up on a farm in Vermont, Noah Sorin wanted to bring his passion for sustainability to others. Sorin founded Idori, which stands for “I Dream of Real Impact,” a startup that aims to educate kids about the environment through fun educational content and resources. 
His first product line is a series of plush toys, illustration books and activity roadmaps. Sorin says these plushies come from a fantasy world called Idori where characters like Benjy the Treehopper, Flo the Ocean-Dweller, and Geebo the Puffball teach kids about issues like deforestation, ocean conservation, and air pollution. Idori is also developing a digital playground to further boost early childhood environmental learning, and Sorin has partnered with Boston Outdoor Preschool Network (BOPN) to develop nature-based curriculum for preschools as well.  
Sorin is a senior at Boston University where he shares his entrepreneurship knowledge with his peers as the co-president of the BU Entrepreneurship Club. Idori was accepted into the Innovate@BU Summer Accelerator in 2022 as well as the 2023 MassChallenge Early Stage Accelerator cohort.
Venkat Sundaram founded Andover Alumni Angels (AAA) as a rising-senior at Phillips Academy in June 2022. Sundaram says AAA is the first high school alumni angel investment group. It’s made of Phillips Academy alumni who invest in Phillips Academy alumni-affiliated startups. This summer Andover Alumni Angels celebrated its first anniversary. In its first fifteen months, the group has raised $1.4 million, made 24 individual investments and brought together a group of more than 120 angel investors.
While Sundaram is now a student at The University of Texas at Austin, he continues to lead AAA. He hopes AAA inspires people of all ages to explore angel investing and invest in entrepreneurs and businesses around the world.
Neena Tarafdar is the founder of the Lotus Project, a volunteer organization that pairs Massachusetts high schoolers with Tibetan students for individualized English tutoring and cultural exchange. Tarafdar is half Tibetan and her mom’s side of the family lives in Tibet.
The Tibetan students range from kindergarten to college age. Tarafdar said she wanted to help connect the students, who are often isolated and underserved, with the broader global community. Today, the organization has taught more than 500 classes and has its own English curriculum tailored for students of all levels.
Tarafdar is a senior at Newton South High School where she is varsity captain of the debate team and president of three other clubs. She was also the only high schooler working in the Sherwood laboratory shared by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital this past summer.
When Rediet Merra Tegegne is not working full time at the biotech company Quanterix Corp., she is the head of operations for the Boston-bread sustainable snack company Rooted Living. The startup, founded and established by Northeastern University student Rachel Domb, produces granola that is made of whole-food ingredients and packaged in 100% compostable packaging.
Tegegne was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and grew up in Switzerland and Hungary. She came to the states to study engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and graduated in 2020. In the last year of working with Rooted Living, Tegegne has helped the company expand from a direct-to-consumer online brand to an official supplier for a central BGOOD location at Northeastern University’s dining hall, as well as stocking various stores around Boston and Cambridge. 
Vivek Udaykumar is an international student from India who is working towards his master’s in project management at Northeastern University, while also pursuing his interest in community building. 
After arriving in the U.S. in January, he quickly immersed himself in the startup space. He hosts startup and tech events in Boston with partners such as Techstars, Boston New Technology and Startup Boston. 
Udaykumar is also the lead organizer for Techstars Startup Weekend Boston, which took place in September. It was a hackathon-like global entrepreneurship event and Boston founders and investors networked with entrepreneurs from different countries. He is also developing a platform to unite the Indian community in the U.S. with the entrepreneurship community through events, podcasts, and informative panel discussions. 
Dylan Zajac has been running his nonprofit, Computers 4 People, since he was 15 years old. For four years, Zajac’s organization has been collecting, refurbishing and donating computers to individuals and organizations in under-resourced communities. Computers 4 People also provides programs like computer literacy classes and free internet.
The nonprofit is funded by donations, federal grants and foundations. This year, Zajac, a student at Babson College, participated in the annual Babson Entrepreneurial Thought & Action (BETA) Challenge. Zajac came in first place in the undergraduate category and received a grand prize of $28,000.
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