Exclusive interviews with Cornellians who made the lists
Each year, Forbes compiles lists of young entrepreneurs across 20 different industries who are breaking new ground and, as Forbes puts it, “shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries.” Forbes combs through thousands of candidates before selecting the final 600.
In 2019, fifteen Cornell alumni made it onto Forbes 30 Under 30 lists. On January 30, Lou Diamond ’92 (@ThriveLouD) and Iyore Olaye ’16 (@iyorenoelle)—who made the Forbes list herself in 2018—interviewed nine of them. This event was sponsored by the Cornell Entrepreneur Network and Cornell Young Alumni Programs, and more than 500 people watched the interviews live online.
The winners spoke to the hosts from locations across the country and shared their personal journeys with the virtual audience. The interviewees reflected on their time at Cornell, and on how the skills they learned on campus helped them to turn their good ideas into ventures that are helping to transform their industries, and our world.
“One of the biggest challenges is to maintain conviction in your vision and believe in something no one else can see, and yet still remain on Earth.”
—Carolyn Witte ’12, Co-founder of Tia, a women’s healthcare startup
The interviews featured alumni who are finding new ways to generate clean energy, protect our eyes from a screen-filled world, navigate an inscrutable and often unfriendly healthcare system, and help create the future they imagine. These Cornellians are part of the startup generation, and they possess an inspiring sense of empowerment about their own future.
“My name literally means, ‘I have survived a long and difficult journey.’ As Cornellians, we all can say this. I hope that I can help other young alumni to understand that there’s not one path to success. Instead, you can follow your passion and find your own path.”
—Iyore Olaye ’16, Host and 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 listmaker
These successful alumni also shared their personal takes on two big questions facing all new graduates entering the workforce:
- How do you initiate something that you can stay invested in for a significant duration of time?
- How do you find work that has an impact?
Their answers provided insights into how these alumni entrepreneurs have maintained their optimism, crossed disciplines, collaborated across time zones, fully engaged with their Cornell networks, and followed their passion to create successful new ventures.
“If you’re excited about an idea or product, spend two or three hours doing research online and talking to friends and family who know more about the topic. Just go down the rabbit hole!”
—David Roger ’13, Co-founder of Felix Gray eyeware for people who spend a lot of time online