MIT affiliates once again make up about a quarter of the TR100, a list of the world's top innovators under age 35 published in the June issue of Technology Review.
The names of five current MIT researchers and faculty members, 17 alumni and a handful of former research affiliates appeared on the list, which was formally announced at a symposium in Kresge Auditorium on May 23. This is the second time the TR100 has been compiled; MIT had 27 affiliates on the 1999 list (see MIT Tech Talk, Nov. 10, 1999).
The theme of this year's list of innovators was "transforming existing industries and creating new ones."
Named to the list of "100 brilliant young innovators"--who came primarily from the five areas of information technology, biotechnology and medicine, nanotechnology and materials, energy and transportation--were faculty members Christopher Burge, assistant professor of biology; Scott Manalis, assistant professor in media arts and sciences; Vahid Tarokh, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Angela Belcher, who will join the Department of Material Science and Engineering and the Biological Engineering Division as an associate professor in September. Joseph Reagle, a research engineer with the World Wide Web Consortium at the Lab for Computer Science, was also named.
Alumnus Daniel Lewin (S.M. 1998), the 31-year-old cofounder of Akamai Technologies who was killed in the American Airlines flight that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, was honored in memoriam.
Judges included professors John Hansman of aeronautics and astronautics, Joseph Jacobson and Nicholas Negroponte of the Media Lab, Robert Langer of chemical and biomedical engineering, Richard Lester of nuclear engineering, Phillip Sharp of biology and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research; former professor David Baltimore, now president of the California Institute of Technology; and Robert Metcalfe (S.B. 1969).
President Charles M. Vest, in a videotaped welcome to symposium attendees, said, "The fact remains that technology--moving from the best research labs and then out into the marketplace--remains the most significant driver of change in our world. In fact, most economists agree that fully half of the growth of the U.S. economy in the last 50 years is due to scientific and technological innovation. The TR100 is a group who will, over the next decades, be at the forefront of that change."
While moderating an afternoon panel session with four of the young innovators, Metcalfe characterized the "worst kind of entrepreneur--and there is a flock of them here in Cambridge and at various business schools--as wanting to start a company, any company." The type of entrepreneurs he likes are "people with an itch they cannot scratch--people who are passionate, persistent and annoying, like weeds. And they have to be, because the status quo is the enemy."
When asked by Metcalfe to name one of their failures, two of the panelists were hard-pressed to come up with anything resembling a true lack of success. Bill Nguyen, a pleasant 30-year-old characterized as a "serial entrepreneur" who sleeps only three hours a day, evoked a laugh when he named as his failure Onebox, his company that "was among the first to provide e-mail, voice mail and fax access in a single mailbox over a conventional phone" according to the magazine. Nguyen sold the company for $850 million in 2000.
Andy Barrows (S.B. 1989, S.M.), the 34-year-old president of Nav3D, a company whose software merges GPS location information with images from database maps to help pilots navigate safely, said his failure was finishing graduate school. Had he examined his interests earlier, he "would probaby not have gone through the Ph.D. program." Barrows completed Nav3D's software while he was a Ph.D. student at Stanford University.
Technology Review chose two of the TR100 for additional awards. Max Levchin, co-founder and chief technology officer of PayPal, was named the Innovator of the Year. Ethan Zuckerman, executive director and co-founder of Geekcorps, a nonprofit technology volunteer corps, was named recipient of the Technology in the Service of Humanity award.
Profiles of all the people named to the TR100 can be downloaded from the magazine's web site at http://www. technologyreview.com.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 5, 2002.