Forbes selects eight Stanford students and alumni in cleantech for "30 Under 30"
Forbes’ 2021 “30 Under 30” feature includes three current Stanford University students and five recent alumni developing energy- and sustainability-related technologies.
The magazine applauds auspicious achievements in 20 categories, from finance to food. The new “30 Under 30 in Energy” features Stanford students David Mackanic, Nicholas “Nico” Pinkowski, and Grayson Zulauf, as well as alumni Kaitlyn Albertoli, Annie Baldwin, Vikhyat “Vik” Chaudhry and Jay Schwalbe. In the “30 Under 30 in Consumer Technology” category, alumnus Tevon Strand-Brown was recognized for his sustainable mobility service.
All are developing technologies in start-ups covering batteries, wireless charging, carbon-free fertilizer, electricity grid security and sustainable transportation. Five of the six start-ups featured this year received Innovation Transfer Program grants from Stanford’s TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy early in their development, in addition to support from other Stanford programs. The TomKat Center program provides students with faculty and industry mentors, as well as funding.
“The entire Stanford energy ecosystem is the whole package—mentorship, technology experts, inspiration, funding, collaborations—that makes clean-energy entrepreneurship possible here,” said Zulauf.
Mackanic, wrapping up his PhD in chemical engineering under Prof. Zhenan Bao, is the founder of Anthro Energy. His start-up is commercializing materials that Mackanic developed at Stanford for flexible, non-flammable lithium ion batteries. Anthro sells them to wearable electronics makers for now, but the materials’ applications are potentially broad. Besides from the TomKat Center, Anthro has received financing and other support at Stanford from StartX and Cardinal Ventures, as well as from Stanford affiliate H4XLabs.
Similarly, Zulauf is wrapping up his PhD in electrical engineering under Prof. Juan Rivas-Davila. Forbes honored Zulauf and Phyo Aung Kyaw, Dartmouth PhD ’19, who are two of four co-founders of Resonant Link. Their technology could finally deliver on the promise of wireless charging for electric vehicles, medical devices and consumer electronics. The system charges batteries quickly, automatically and at low cost. It could become a major enabler for broad use of electric vehicles by eliminating range anxiety. The technology was developed in part with research grants from Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy and TomKat Center. The course Stanford Climate Ventures helped Zulauf learn how to move his research from the laboratory toward commercialization. With no private capital, Resonant Link is already profitable and has customers in three areas of electronics. This summer the U.S. Department of Energy supported Cyclotron Road chose Resonant Link for participation in its R&D program.
Pinkowski, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering under Prof. Ronald Hanson, and Schwalbe, PhD ’20, cofounded Nitricity. The start-up’s device makes fertilizer at farms from only air, water and renewable electricity. Conventional ammonia fertilizer production–a $73-billion industry–is very energy intensive, uses natural gas a feedstock and is a significant source of greenhouse gases globally. Nitricity's system also avoids over fertilizing, a common practice with other environmental problems. In addition to support from TomKat Center, Stanford Climate Ventures and StartX, the Nitricity team won the Stanford BASES 100K Challenge this spring. Nitricity is also in the new cohort of the Cyclotron Road program. Read about their first field test at a tomato farm this summer here.
Alumni Albertoli, BA ‘19, and Chaudhry, MS ’17, cofounded Buzz Solutions. The enterprise uses artificial intelligence and machine vision systems to inspect transmission lines for fault detection, vegetation management and fire prevention. Its predictive analytics can help electric utilities fix problems before wildfires start. Buzz Solutions seeks to replace the slow and inefficient manual inspections done today by electric utilities, while cutting costs in half. Its processes work whether the visual data is gathered by drones, helicopters, aircrafts or static cameras. The company has raised more than $1.2 million in investments.
Alumna Baldwin, MS MBA '19, was recognized for her work as director of strategy at eIQ Mobility, which helped companies with vehicle fleets analyze driving patterns to figure out which internal combustion engine vehicles should be replaced with electric ones. The start-up's second software product helped companies with EVs to manage their electric fleet and chargers. They worked with 25 large companies, like the utility holding company Exelon, with 80,000 vehicles total, according to Forbes, with clients looking for a path to a 50 percent electric fleet by 2030, for example. In November, Nextera acquired eIQ Mobility and Baldwin moved to Form Energy, which is developing low-cost, long-duration, grid-scale electricity storage to enable a 100 percent renewable power system.
While Forbes recognized the above start-ups in the category of energy, alumnus Strand-Brown, BS ’19, and the OXO team won in the consumer technology category. The start-up lets car owners rent their vehicles for $50 a day to drivers at companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. In addition to the income, car owners can avoid parking fees. The service increases sustainability by making efficient use of cars and lowering carbon emissions. OXO raised a $3 million in a seed investment round led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. “With hygiene measures in place for COVID and cash-strapped consumers, signups surged,” Forbes reported.
Among all the categories, Stanford finished second among universities where winners had studied. Alumni and students were recognized in categories including science, finance, media, social impact, sports, retail/e-commerce, and the food industry.
The second annual Trans-Pacific Sustainability Dialogue met in Seoul to generate new research and policy collaborations to propel energy security and sustainable energy solutions.
"All of us in science are thinking about how we can take climate and clean energy research to the next level." –John Sarrao
Computer vision is an essential technique that can help policymakers understand residential solar usage.